Julie Travels: Cinque Terre

Hi everyone! I am excited to be back to blogging after a month-long break to travel to Europe.  I took my Girl Scout troop to Iceland, Italy, France, and England for two weeks. This trip was something they’ve been working toward for two years, and it was wonderful! At the end of the two weeks, the girls headed home, and Chelsea met me in Iceland for another week.

It was a wonderful time abroad, and I’m looking forward to blogging all about it over the next few weeks and reliving the memories. This week, it’s all about Italy! Today I’m sharing all about our experience exploring the villages of Cinque Terre. So, let’s dive right in, shall we?!

After a brief stop-over in Iceland (I’ll be sharing all the Iceland details – my time with the girls and my time with Chelsea – later!), we made our way to Italy. We left Iceland on an afternoon flight, and landed in Milan close to midnight. We stayed at a Holiday Inn close to the airport, and for convenience purposes it was perfect. There was a shuttle to/from the airport, the hotel was super clean, and they offered a free breakfast; we missed out on this benefit since we had to leave so early for our train, but the hotel staff kindly set out coffee and pastries for us to take to go. The train (which we were taking the next morning), departed right from the airport, so we took the shuttle back to the airport the next morning, and headed for Cinque Terre.

Side note: now that I’ve actually been to this airport and been through the whole experience, if Milan was ever just a stopover again, I’d actually choose the Sheraton, because it was connected to the airport, so you could bypass the shuttle all together and just walk to/from the hotel.

We rode the Italiarail train from Milan to La Spezia, where we got a Cinque Terre train day pass. Cinque Terre was definitely my favorite spot of the whole trip. I love it so so much! Cinque Terre means five towns, and it’s a string of seaside villages, each very unique and each equally charming. I can’t wait to go back and spend at least a week there – probably not in August (it was hot hot hot and crowded), but for sure some other time – hopefully soon!

We stored our bags in La Spezia at the train station for the day (€5 per bag, and totally worth it to not have to carry our bags with us), then hopped on the Cinque Terre train and rode it to the farthest village, Monterosso, to work our way back through the day.

In Monterosso, we had lunch at a little restaurant that we found down a side street (no clue the name of it – whoops!). It was delicious, and because it wasn’t on the main street, it wasn’t crowded which was perfect for our group.

The pizza was amazing, and it was so nice to sit in air conditioning for a bit. πŸ™‚ After lunch, we made our way down to the water. I was so in love with the rows of matching beach umbrellas – it looked exactly like I had imagined it would – so dreamy!

We had hoped to reserve a beach umbrella, but it was August and the middle of the day, so they were all sold out. Note for next time – get there early to reserve a spot. You can’t just set up anywhere on this beach if you don’t have an umbrella, so we found a spot on some rocks and set up there for a bit so everyone could swim. Monterosso is the flatest village of the Cinque Terre, making access to the water the easiest.

After swimming, we packed up and made our way to the train to head to the next village, Vernazza. Vernazza was less crowded than Monterosso, which was nice. We spent some time exploring the little shops and taking in the gorgeous scenery.

Vernazza was so charming (how many times will I use that word when talking about Cinque Terre?!), and I loved the backdrop of the pastel buildings with the brightly colored boats on the harbor.

Our final village visit was Manarola, which was my favorite! When you get off the train, it feels like there’s not really anything there, but you turn a corner and go down some steps and suddenly you’re making your way past rows of shops and restaurants all leading down to the water. Manarola had an amazing swimming cove (a must do on my next visit!), charming shops, and delicious gelato (admittedly, this is the only place we ate gelato – I’m sure there is great gelato in each town). Because of the layout of this village, with homes and shops dotting the cliffside, it felt the least crowded of the three villages we visited. I loved it!!

After our time in Manarola, we hopped back on the train to La Spezia, picked up our bags, and got on a train to Florence. The day went by way too quickly!

I loved everything about Cinque Terre. One day was definitely not enough, and I had my eye on all the little hillside cafes, wishing I’d had time to sit under one of their umbrellas and stare out at the Mediterranean with a glass of Prosecco and focaccia (I read that focaccia originated in Cinque Terre). I would also love to hike between the towns – there’s a trail that connects them all. And, of course, I want to explore the two villages we didn’t get to, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. Corniglia is the only village set above the water, which results in fewer tourists. It is also known for fine wine – hello, yes! Riomaggiore is the biggest of the five villages and acts as the unofficial capital of the area.

So basically, I’m already planning my next trip there πŸ™‚ Have you been to Cinque Terre? If so, what do you recommend? Favorite restaurants? Favorite hotels??

Can’t wait to share more of our time in Italy with you this week!

Party on!
JW

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