Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare, Italy – June 2014
Cinque Terre, beautiful nature, flat oceans, hiking, steep little towns – awesome. We took the train to Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare, and made our way to the old town trough the tunnel where we once again got lost for a short while, but luckily found our accommodation. The town was alive as it was a public holiday and it was amazing to stroll all the narrow streets seeing beautiful old buildings, a bit battered because of recent mud floods.
Cinque Terre stands for 5 towns. Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiori. They are all joined by train as well as hiking routes. We stayed at Monterosso and did as many of the hikes we could. Unfortunately only the hike between Monterosso and Vernazza was open, but when we got to Vernazza we saw a lot of people doing the hike to Corniglia, so we followed and it was great and perfectly safe. Unfortunately we did not have time to do the inland hikes as we hear they are the best. I must say it is a great feeling to say we hiked in Italy… but it was beautiful, not too difficult, except for the hundreds of narrow steps, amazing views of the ocean. The best feeling is coming up the hill, going around the corner and, wait for it, there it is! A small town, steep pastel colour buildings, in the middle of nowhere, excited to go explore!
We visited all 5 of the towns, be sure to do that when you are there. You buy a one day hiking/train ticket. That allows you to use the train between the towns as often on the same day as you want. At Vernazza we had a quick morning snack and coffee as a stop-over between hikes. We went to Il Pirate de Cinque Terre. We really enjoyed the twin brothers and the food. I hear many people get offended by them, but we had a good and fun experience. The bruschetta with the tomatoes and basil was fresh and coffee strong, what more can you ask for? It was good.
When we arrived at Manarola, we hiked to Corniglia and then took the train there, we were dead hungry and went to search for the famous Trattoria dal Billy with its amazing view over the mountain and the ocean. We found it and to our surprise they were quiet so we got a very nice seat outside with an amazing view. The food was good, but guess our expectations were too high as we found it average compared to our supper at L’Osteria (will write about them in the next paragraph). At dal Billy the service was okay not too great. Will go back for the setting.
Back at Monterosso we ate at L’Osteria. The food was amazing, fresh it literally excited us and was a joyous experience eating it (funny I know). We ended up spending the whole evening there, eating pudding drinking wine, absorbing the city in the evening. They seem to be part of the restaurant next door, both family run, we enjoyed the older owner and his huge personality, such fun. I had the fresh sea bass of the day – was our best meal in Italy and my husband had the best pudding, the home-made monterosso cake, scrumptious! If they weren’t closed the next day we would’ve gone back!
We also ate lunch at La Cantina del Pescatore. A very sweet shop, seems to be run by very friendly husband and wife. They make their own pestos, Limoncello – all delicious. We had a bruschetta (massive) and focaccia. Both delicous and tasty, very enjoyable, loved the basil pesto on the focaccia. They gave us a free shot of their home-made limoncello – it was the first absolutely delicious limoncello we had in Italy. We bought ourselves a small bottle at a retailer to try it out and it was disgusting, tasted like cough syrup. While La Cantina’s was fresh yet sweet, amazing taste. So we ended up buying a bottle of their green limoncello (try it) it is even more fresh than the normal sweet yellow one. You can also taste different wines of the region here.
The beaches at Monterosso are beautiful, the sand is a bit deceiving however. Was funny, back here in South Africa we are used to very soft white sandy beaches, while at Monterosso it looks soft, but it is rocky, shelly, hard and it pokes you if you walk bare foot. So we had a good laugh at this surprise as it was a little less idyllic than we pictured. We loved spending time at the beach in the middle of a holiday with many tourist attractions and sight-seeing.
The towns are beautiful. You can walk around in circles and just watch the buildings, the steep shapes, alley ways, steep steep stair cases. Stunning views of the ocean. At night the city is beautiful with the lights. Go sit against the harbour wall (there will also be no wind) at old town Monterosso and watch the city, you can even take a bottle of wine and take-away calamari. You MUST eat seafood here. You will have enough pizzas and pastas throughout the rest of Italy. You will need something fresh with no carbs.
We stayed in the old town of Monterosso, all the restaurants we loved most were here, it is small, with its own little beach, it has character and is close to the start of the hiking trails. We would definitely recommend staying here.
The only thing we longed for was ice-cold water. Our accommodation’s fridge did not work well and the shops either do not have water in the fridges, or the ones in the fridge never reach cold temperature. So we had to get this from the restaurants. Could not believe how we craved cold water!
We loved this part of our trip (as every other part) and would go back any second!
If you ever travel to Italy please do ask if you have any questions, there is so much to write about perhaps there is something else I can give a tip on.