My first traveling tip is about my motherland, Italy. To be precise I was born in Carrara, Tuscany, but the Cinque Terre is not far away from there.
I have spent so many summers gazing at the colorful and happy houses, that I think it is such a shame not to share this experience. Anyone who is planning a trip to Europe should try to visit this magical place.
But what are the Cinque Terre exactly? Well, they are a 12 km long village compound on the North West (sorry Kim ..) coast of Italy. The compound is formed of five villages (from south to north), namely Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.
Together with Porto Venere (a village adjacent to Riomaggiore), the Cinque Terre – with their beautiful landscape and steep vineyards, are an Unesco World Heritage site.
It is very important to know that they are not accessible by car, so in case you hit the road and travel around Italy (like I enjoy doing sometimes) I recommend staying in Porto Venere, which is a beautiful site, and is accessible as well. At Porto Venere´s port you can take ferries to different destinations, including a round trip to all of the five villages, Genoa and Portofino (these two cities are worth a visit but only if you have the time for it).
You should definitely take one of the hiking routes as well as go for a wine tasting, eat original focaccias, pasta with homemade green pesto, and swim in the crystal clear waters (some parts are very rocky due to the nature of the landscape, make sure you have some good sandals with you!)
For your stay, I can heartedly recommend the Grand Hotel Porto Venere. A historic building with 54 rooms welcomes you at the gates of the old town. The location is perfect, the small but modern rooms are comfortable, and the breakfast is rich, with a big assortment of both Italian and American fresh goodies.
I personally loved having breakfast on their big terrace, with a view over the port and the old town. The terrace is chic and romantic, even though you do get one or the other surprise visit from sweet birds looking for something to eat. Don’t give them anything by the way; if you do the y won´t go away, I am talking from experience. I had one who visited me during breakfast for five days straight, I called him Jimmy J In the hotel the staff speaks fluent English and German on top of Italian of course.
I used their gym, too. A nice option in case of rainy days, but if you would like to go for a run I would recommend to do it on Portovenere´s “Lungomare”.
Going forward to where to eat… well let me start by saying “take care” ! In this region the Aperitivo is amazing! By going out for a beer or an Aperol Spritz, you don’t only get the drink, but also a complimentary snack, or rather a huge plate with mini pizzas, capers, focaccia, olives, chips and many other local specialties. So if you are planning to go out for dinner take your aperitivo way before that! (trust me, you don’t want to miss out on dinner and you don’t want to miss on the aperitivo either).
What I suggest you do is have a good breakfast, have an aperitivo sometime in the afternoon, then take a little walk, go to your hotel to shower and then go to dinner. You can have one or the other snacks in between of course because well, what is a vacation in Italy without your Gelato?
So let´s move to dinner, and personally I think you should dine in Porto Venere, place where you should also stay at.
Don’t be fooled by the good looking restaurants on the promenade, they might be ok, but the real deal is somewhere else. Believe me, if you want a taste of authenticity go to “Portivene Un Mare di Sapori”.
This is a tiny, cozy, family run restaurant on a side street, which serves pure freshness. I would recommend you order some typical dishes, and fish. During our last stay we went twice in a row.
In case you want to try it out don’t forget two things: one is to reserve a table and two is to eat sea food! You will be delighted!
Have you been to the Cinque Terre already? Email me your experience, would be great for next time I go!
Ps: here are the links to the hotel and to the restaurant, and remember September is still a good time for hiking in the Cinque Terre!