We woke up on our full day in Cinque Terre early and went downstairs to Bar Centrale’s breakfast bar and had pastries and cappuccino for breakfast and planned our day. We had learned from our AirBnB host (who happened to work for the Italian National Park Service) that three-quarters of the Lover’s Trail was closed since the landslides in 2011. She informed us though that there were still plenty of trails between all the towns…they were just much more difficult. We decided to tackle one of those trails, take the train between some others, and hike the one section of the Lover’s Trail that was open.
Our town of Riomaggiore was on the end of the five, so we could work our way from end to end. We started the day by taking the three minute train ride to Manarola. It was a pretty small town and didn’t have much to see, but it was still beautiful. It was one of the two towns that we had read before our trip didn’t have much to do and weren’t huge destinations for tourists to stay. But from here we started a two-and-a-half hour hike through the mountains above Cinque Terre between Manarola and Corniglia.
The beginning of the trail was straight up a hill. Like, really straight up.
We went through olive farms and had extraordinary views looking back at Manarola and looking over a cove to our destination of Corniglia.
The hike went up for a long time before finally leveling out. We were walking straight into a cloud the entire time, and pretty soon we couldn’t see the water anymore.
We walked through more farms and fields and thought about how weird it is that people actually live and work in these hills. We have no idea how they even access their homes. Do they have to do these hikes every day??? Anyway, the hike was great over the hills and through the woods. The further we walked into the hills, the more it started to mist and finally started raining pretty good. Luckily, it didn’t last too long, though, because we had curved back around and started hiking back toward the coast and Corniglia. We figured out that in the two days we were here, it seemed like there were always dark clouds in the hills but it was clear on the coast. The last hour of the hike ended up being pretty slippery because it was downhill and wet, so we had to be very careful. We were happy to see the town of Corniglia!
Corniglia is the smallest of the five towns of Cinque Terre and is also the only one that is not on the coast. It is positioned on the top of a cliff, so a little different from the other four.
We ate lunch at a place looking at the water called Food and Sea bi Daniello Elisa. When we walked up, we greeted the server with a friendly “Bongiorno!” but I think she thought we said “Bonjour!” AKA, French. Soooo, she brought us a menu in French. It was pretty funny. We both took French in high school and college, so we were able to translate the menu pretty well.
After a delicious lunch of some vino bianco della casa, pesto pizza, and foccacia with rocket and soft cheese, we walked down about 1,000 stairs to the train station and took the ride to Monterrosso, the resort town on the end of the Cinque Terre strip.
Monterrosso was filled with college students and would have been a great place to party. Seemed like a favorite destination for college kids studying abroad. One place even offered the “Drunk Ass Bucket.” Seemed like a cool place if you wanted to be at a resort relaxing and be able to spend a little time in the calmer part of the town as well.
The stretch of the Lover’s Trail that was open was the stretch between Monterrosso and the town next to it, Vernazza. We began hiking up the trail and then saw a National Park Service stand on the trail a couple hundred yards in charging 7.50 Euro per person to do the hike. This was one of the activities that we had been looking forward to a lot, but it was annoying that they charged you to hike the trail when three-quarters of it was closed. Oh well, we can only hope that they put that money toward fixing up the trail, but we heard that they’ve basically done nothing to fix it since the landslides.
The hike started out going uphill again, but we kept looking back at the beautiful views of Monterrosso. The hike was very scenic with all the coastal views. There were also TONS of lemon tree farms on this trail, but all the fresh lemons were out of reach.
We passed a lot of Americans on this trail, probably vacationing in Monterrosso, but the most interesting part of this trail was near the end. It was, and this is no joke, a homeless and unloved mountain cat village. Say what? Someone had put up fences and cat houses with food buckets and pictures for the unloved mountain cats. It was kind of sad to look into the houses and see kitty cats asleep, but they obviously are loved if someone set up the village.
We put 50 Euro cents in the collection box to help them out and headed down the hill to Vernazza.
We had originally debated staying in Vernazza when we were booking our stays because it’s very beautiful and has lots to do. It’s pretty touristy, but has some gorgeous views at the marina. There’s also a beach that you access by going through a hole in the rocks. Yep.
We ate dinner at Baia Seracena on the water. Waves crashed around us, and we wanted a sunset pretty comparable to the one we saw over the mountains in Lake Como. We ordered another liter of wine, plus pesto lasagna and a salami/mozzarella/tomato panini.
After dinner, we caught the train to go about 10 minutes back to Riomaggiore. After showering and cleaning up, we went down to Bar Centrale to get WiFi to book our trains for the next day. It was an extremely long and tiring day of hiking, but we saw every one of the towns in Cinque Terre and wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We got up early on this Sunday morning for breakfast once again downstairs at Bar Centrale. We went down to the Coop (the grocery store) to buy souvenirs. We were still worried about having to carry anything we bought on our backs, but there were certain things here that we wanted to buy from this region. We bought some fancy pastas, pesto (because Cinque Terre is where pesto was invented), lemoncello, and some jelly. Then we caught an easy direct train to Pisa, where we would have to change trains to go to Florence. When we were in Pisa, we decided to go check off seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa while we were there. Let’s just say this—if you have luggage and are trying to go see the tower quickly, check your bag at the train station and walk with ease. We carried our bags thinking it wasn’t that far, but it was about a 30 minute walk.
The entrance to the tower was completely blocked by people trying to peddle you their crap, like more selfie sticks, African art, water bottles, etc. The tower is inside of a fence with a big church, and everyone inside was trying to take photos acting like they were holding it up. It was actually very beautiful with lots of intricate columns all the way up, but was a lot shorter than I would have thought.
We walked back through the touristy shops (AKA the whole town since there isn’t much to do there besides see the tower) and caught the train to Florence that left every hour. When we got to Florence, we actually had a pretty easy time finding our AirBnB. Our directions were very clear. In Florence we stayed at our first actual bed and breakfast of the trip. It was called the Strange Uncle B&B, and it sure lived up to its name. It was right next to the leather market, which is huge, so it was good for getting our bearings. We were greeted by the owner’s mother who showed us around the place and spoke in rapid Italian the entire time, even though we obviously didn’t speak Italian. After this, we walked back to the McDonald’s near the train station because we wanted to try it and see if it was any different than the McDonald’s in the USA. The burgers did come out much hotter, but the fries were cold. Also, they charged 50 Euro cents for ketchup!
From there, we went to see the Duomo. It is a massive church that overpowered everything around it. It was so big and colorful. Sadly, there is just no way to describe how intimidating it felt being near that thing. It wasn’t like a skyscraper, but it was just so massive. Thinking back to when this was built, I’m sure the church was trying to exert its power over everything and show dominance, and I can’t imagine what the villagers thought of it back then.
From there, we decided to walk randomly and then found the Uffizi Gallery where the David statue is kept. We didn’t feel like going inside because it was another hour-plus wait for a bunch of money, and there were tons of cool statues outside, so we just looked at those.
We also walked over to the Ponte Veccia bridge, which was just like the Rialto Bridge we saw in Venice, where there were lots of shops selling gold.
Then we climbed up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a beautiful above-view of the entire city, and it was gorgeous.
Our last stop was the San Marco Basilica, another huge and beautiful church. We went inside and it was all paintings and sculptures. Then we went back to the leather market where I bought a really cute coral leather purse. For dinner, we went to the “food market” that we saw next to the leather market. It was in a huge building with tons of bars and food to eat or take home. Lots of tables and chairs and tons of people. It was a really cool vibe, and we talked to a group of American students who were studying abroad.
We had wine, pizza, ravioli, and truffle appetizers. Everything was fresh, and we watched everything get made. It was a super fun, spontaneous night for dinner.
One of our biggest days of the trip was coming up the next day, so we slept hard that night.