Cinque Terre is a group of five fishing villages (Monterrossa, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore) strung along a beautiful section of the Mediterranean. Although these towns are relatively easily accessible by train, there are very few roads, and thus the entire area is pristine and romantic. A well-marked foot trail – hundreds of years old – winds from village to village, through olive orchards and vineyards, several hundred feet above the ocean. Making the hike from one end to the other is a must. For the full hike, take the “milk train” from wherever you’re staying to either the northern-most village (Monterosso) or southern-most village (Riomaggiore) and hike the other direction. (Monterosso is the most developed and has a good-sized beach, so if you plan on swimming at the end of your hike, start at Riomaggiore.) For more information about Cinque Terre, go to www.cinque-terre.it.
WHERE TO STAY
We arrived in Vernazza on a Sunday afternoon without reservations. On our way from the small train station, an elderly woman named Giuseppina approached us and asked – in Italian – whether we needed a room. We did, and it was a hit!
Villa Giuseppina. #9 Via Gionvani Battista, Vernazza. A fully-equipped two-level apartment that easily sleeps four. (The second level is a loft… not a lot of headroom!) You’re likely to find Giuseppina at the market on the main road (Prodotti Tipici, #19). If she’s not there, ask for her.
WHERE TO EAT
Trattoria da Sardo. Via Roma 60, Vernazza. Good, simple Italian fare. Up the main road, towards the train station.
Ristorante Gianni Franzi. Piazza Marconi, Vernazza, Just off the main square, down by the water. This place was really delightful, and each dish was better than the next. Excellent fish, fantastic trofie al pesto (a Cinque Terre speciality). The waiter suggested a great Sicilian wine, the name of which we foolishly forgot to write down, and we’ve never been able to find it. Magical.