Cinque Terre

Five slices of heaven

In western Italy lies a paradise comprised of five not-so-secret villages. Famous for their small and colourful houses, they are located between La Spezia and Genoa. They’ve been discovered and cherished by many travelers. In fact, some have liked it so much that they bought properties to revisit as they please. Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the place receives hundreds of photography enthusiasts daily, amateur or professional.

Cinque Terre befittingly means Five Villages in Italian. These towns are called Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. The villages of Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Manarola are more famous than the other two.

The best way to reach Cinque Terre is to travel to Genoa by plane and take the 90-minute train trip to Monterosso. Once you arrive, you can travel between the villages via train – there’s one every 30 minutes. Renting a car is another alternative, however, the roads connecting the villages aren’t very smooth. A more scenic option when travelling between the villages is to take the ferry, the journey is most pleasant in this method of commuting. Every village offers a single parking area, and visitors aren’t allowed to park anywhere else. A day’s parking fee costs almost as much as accommodation.

The most scenic village is – without a doubt – Vernazza. There are two extraordinary views you cannot miss on your travels to Vernazza. The first is witnessing the sunset over Cinque Terre accompanied by a cosy dinner, and the second is seeing the villages from a distance while hiking in the hills and vineyards. Strolling through Vernazza on foot is also delightful; you will certainly be mesmerised by the picturesque scenery peeking at every corner as you roam the maze-like streets of the village.

As for food and drinks, the same theme is present in all five villages; an abundance of seafood. After all, these are fishing towns. But pizza and spaghetti are always on the menu too, since we’re still in Italy. Vernazza’s beach square features lots of restaurants, and all of them are packed with tourists during peak season.

Another captivating village is Manarola, as it was the village that introduced Cinque Terre to the world. Its small and colourful houses are perched atop a high cliff – akin to a giant eagle’s nest – and allow you to have a birdseye view of the coastline. Pun intended. In terms of accomodation, some charmingly Italian houses in the village serve as motels, and some are listed online for booking. There are no five-star hotels in the villages. You can find some 3-star ones but they won’t give you the same authenticity and immersive pleasure that these houses offer.

Manarola’s most popular restaurant is Trattoria dal Billy. Its wonderful terrace, house-made spaghetti and tasty seafood dishes offer an unforgettable dining experience. Honorable mentions include Marine Piccola and Trattoria II Porticciolo. If you visit Manarola during summer you can see that many locals prefer to access the sea via the stairways around the cliff. Diving is also a popular activity in this village.

I photographed Riomaggiore in a mild stormy sunrise, reminiscent of autumn. The streets resembled a movie set, with boats ‘parked’ in front of some houses and colours parading around in every balcony, store-front, & corner. This one is the biggest amongst the five villages. Since its coast is filled with big rocks, it’s best to be cautious when going for a swim. The port of Riomaggiore is perfect for watching (or photographing) sunrises. When leaving, don’t forget to buy Cinque Terre souvenirs and memorabilia from Riomaggiore’s local shops. Corniglia, another village in Cinque Terre, is the only non-coastal town. If proximity to the sea is a priority for you, Monterosso is the perfect village due to its big, beautiful beach.

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