We had a magical 8 days spent throughout Tuscany but now it was time to see the gorgeous Italian coastline. Follow along in our travel log as we head due west to the picturesque Cinque Terre.
Day 10 : The Tuscany region will forever hold a near and dear place in my heart. The slower pace of life, the long lunches and the endless hillsides of wine country leave you with a greater appreciation of their culture and a full belly. It was time though to dip our toes in the Ligurian Sea and get a taste for the coastal scene here in Italy.
We packed up the car and headed west for what we knew was going to be a hilly, curvy drive down to the sea. I need to give a ton of praise to my father who did 90% of the driving while we were in Italy and these roads ARE NOT easy to navigate. They are tiny, narrow, steep and unforgiving but he conquered them with the utmost patience. I often was his navigator because car sickness was imminent if I sat in the back. We had quite a few laughs over the trip, but I think we made for a successful duo!
Upon finally reaching the bottom of our scenic drive we had made it to Monterosso al Mare, the most northern of the five cities in Cinque Terre. If you are unfamiliar with the Cinque Terre, it literally means Five Lands. It starts north of La Spezia and begins with Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and finally Monterosso. All of these seaside villages are perched on the cliffside and offer incredible views as far as the eye can see.
Back to our arrival in Monterosso. Our hotel, Villa Accini, was situated only a block or two off the main road in front of the ocean. Unfortunately, anything going away from the ocean means it’s going up. I wish more than anything in the world that I had a camera my Dad’s miraculous ability to turn up the steep driveway and eventually park the car at the hotel. He had clearance of maybe 4 inches on either side of the car and he managed to do it without a single scrape! From talking to other guests that week, others weren’t so lucky.
This is a cute, charming pink Villa that we absolutely loved. Everything was clean, updated and they served a lovely breakfast each morning. The best part was how close it was to the main parts of the village and restaurants. I’d highly recommend staying here!
They had blooming rose bushes all over the property and the only room you see with a balcony, yeah that was my room!
After we dropped off our bags we had lunch at a little ristorante at the bottom of our driveway where we feasted on pizza and 2 more bottles of wine. After that drive, we were raising our glasses in a toast to my Dad!
Wine Bottle Count : 37
We mustered up some energy for a walk through Monterosso and stopped for a tasting of local white wines and their native Sciacchetrà wine. I should have done a bit of research into the Sciacchetrà wine before ordering a whole flight. It’s a sweet wine typically paired with desserts or cheese that has been made for generations upon generations in this region. Let me just say, it wasn’t for me. It was a VERY sweet dessert wine that just wasn’t my thing. I tricked my Dad into switching flights with me only to watch him suffer through it. Maybe it was the Sciacchetrà, but Dad and I ditched the group and walked back to the Villa for a pisolino (nap).
Waking up refreshed and ready to go, we walked back towards the main village to find dinner. We stopped along the cliffside at this remarkable restaurant, L’ancora della Cortuga, perched right on the edge of the sea. We got lucky and they were able to squeeze us into a table last minute. If you plan on wanting to dine here (which you should), then I’d recommend making a reservation.
The meal was absolutely delicious, but it couldn’t help but be overshadowed by the gorgeous view we had of the sun setting. We nibbled slowly, ate many courses and sipped on 2 more bottles of local red wine. It was the perfect first night in Cinque Terre.
Wine Bottle Count : 39
Day 11 : The best form of transportation throughout the Cinque Terre is the train system. You can get around by boat or on foot as well, but do not plan on driving by car (don’t even think it’s possible). We grabbed a day pass train ticket to take us down to Riamaggiore and work our way back up.
Stay informed about the train systems on a daily basis because they often go on strike for a 24 hour period of time. This happened the following day and puts a major influx of people on the ferry’s.
Each of the five villages have their own unique scene, culture and character about them. It’s worth checking out as many of them as you can. Upon debarking from the train we walked uphill to explore the surroundings. Without meaning to, we ended up walking up & up until we came to this beautiful clearing with gorgeous panoramic views. From here you could see the hiking path that could take you from village to village. We didn’t do it simply because it was already late morning and the sun was intense!
We hopped back on the train to the next village, Manarola. This is an incredibly beautiful town that you most likely have seen photos of. You first walk down towards the marina where there are people swimming in the cove’s pools of fresh water, lounging on rocks and jumping from the cliffs. We were quite warm and kicking ourselves for not wearing our swimsuits underneath. Of course, we wanted to see the views and it looked like a great little place to eat perched up on the cliffside so …. as you guessed, we walked up.
We ended up getting a table at the little cafe with white umbrellas (as seen in above picture) called Nessun Dorma and munched on fresh panini’s, ice cold water and for some reason, I ordered a Corona. It just sounded so refreshing with how hot we were (after 2 sips I was over it)! After cooling off, it was back down the cliffside to catch the train again.
There is never getting enough of these views. Each time you walk another 10 feet up the view changes and you end up snapping another 10-15 pictures until you reach the top and you see everything in all its glory. It’s simply stunning.
We decided to skip Corniglia which is perched on a hilltop and head straight to Vernazza which is the region’s most picturesque town. It contains a natural harbor where more locals own boats than they do cars. During the summer it’s congested with throngs of people, but nothing stops us from finding a table along the waters edge and sipping on some local white wine. It’s here that you force yourself to slow down, appreciate the coastal culture and embrace where you are.
Wine Bottle Count : 40
We opt to ride the ferry back to Monterosso and kick back for the short jaunt up the coastline to our “hometown” village. The only agenda we had on our minds was a quick walk back to our rooms to change into our swimsuits for a refreshing, much needed dip in the sea.
After cleaning up for dinner, we walked down to another restaurant, La Taverna, right near our Villa and indulged in a 3 hour, delicious feast that resulted in 3 bottles of wine consumed. Since we were on the coast of a seaside village, I had to try an array of seafood. We started with an appetizer plate filled with oysters, mussels, clams, octopus and sardines. Best part, we all LOVED it! We followed it up with our typical order of fresh caprese that was heavenly. I thought I’d be brave and order a fish entree but was a touch taken back when it arrived with it’s head, skin, scales and bones all intact. There’s one rule I lived by for this whole trip, no heads or eyeballs on my plate. Thankfully, since my Dad ordered something similar, the waitress must be accustomed to people not knowing how to maneuver this fish in front of them, she deboned it, removed the head and served up a delicious fish with vegetables.
It’s one of those restaurants where you feel you can sit and stay awhile and chat with locals or the waitress about life here in Monterosso. We laughed over sips of Limoncello, ordered an assortment of desserts and just lived every minute of being there. It really was a lovely evening spent outside on their street side patio.
Wine Bottle Count : 43
Day 12 : The plan for our final day in Cinque Terre was to do a whole lot of nothing! Monterosso is known as the “beach town” and we set out to do just that. For just 20 euros you can rent a 2-seat cabana on the beach with an umbrella and park it there all day. We got there first thing in the morning so ours was nestled up to the waves rolling in.
The thing about the Ligurian Sea is that it has such a high salt content that once you lay on your back, you float. My Dad sure loved this feature! At one point, Sean ran up and bought two bright yellow inter tubes which took us 30 minutes to blow up with our mouths. We carried those out to sea and floated the day away. I had to pinch myself that I was swimming in the Ligurian Sea off the coast of Italy!
You can just about imagine what time of day it is! Yep, it’s time for an apertivo at a cute little beachside restaurant along the boardwalk. We munched on light appetizers and enjoyed 2 bottles of Rosé. Life was good.
Wine Bottle Count : 45
A quick shower and change of clothes and we were off to make the most of our last day here in Monterosso. We headed back towards the restaurant perched along the cliffside the first night and stopped for some mojitos at this little place right before it. No joke, you walk down this tiny set of stairs that leaves you nestled on the side of the cliff with panoramic views of the sea. I could stay there forever except that it was quite warm.
Back on foot again, we walked further into the town only to find an Artisanal Pesto Lab! If there is one thing you need to know about Sean is that he LOVES pesto. This was such a cool little shop that makes the pesto in house and have plenty of samples to taste. I encouraged Sean to indulge and just by a bunch to take home!
The gentleman from the shop recommended we walk down the street to dinner at Páe Veciu. It’s small, it’s local and it’s so ridiculously good. By the end of our dinner, the place was packed with people, the noise was humming and you instantly felt at home.
Wine Bottle Count : 47
While sitting at dinner we noticed throngs of people marching in line down towards where the water would be. After we finished up, we ventured over that way only to find that there was some sort of celebration happening throughout the community of Monterosso. People would light tea candles, place them in cupcake liners and hand them out for others to make a wish, say a prayer for someone and then let it go in the ocean. This group of little kids would walk them past the cresting waves to ensure they stayed lit. I was so moved by this experience and certainly said a little message to my Grandpa who’s family hailed from Italy back in the early 1900’s. At that moment, I truly felt connected to him.
Much to our surprise, after hundreds and thousands of candles were set to sea we were given a beachside fireworks show! I sat next to my Dad watching these beautiful explosions in the air and was almost moved to tears that this is where my life has taken me and how fortunate I was to experience it.
For more of our Italy vacation, check out my posts from —
Keep Living a Stylized Life.