Cinque Terre

By Isabella Brady

Pronounced “chin-qway tay-ray” this alluring travel destination is as beautiful as its name. Having visited Italy multiple times, this is by far my favorite place to visit for its location, architecture and vibrant culture. At first glance, the city is a collection of warmly colored buildings nestled into Italy’s coastal hillside, however a stay in this sunset-colored village promises so much more than a stunning skyline. 

Located on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a two and a half hour drive outside of Florence, and can be accessed by train or boat. Unfortunately, these picturesque seaside towns are overlooked for their gentrified counterparts. Cinque Terre sees approximately 2.5 million visitors each year; Rome, 25 million. However, visiting the right locations can ensure a much more relaxing stay and an escape from rampant tourists (and tourist traps). Here’s what I recommend, if you plan to visit the seaside gem of Cinque Terre.

Explore! This may seem a bit redundant, but sometimes the excitement of going to a new place can be overwhelming. I recommend getting your bearings by spending some time to take it all in. Whether it’s wandering the cobblestone paths, checking out local shops or grabbing a bit of Italian cuisine to eat, sometimes unplanned wandering can envelope you the most in the culture and create the best memories. 

The Sea: Dating as early as 1056, the seaside town has depended on the turquoise waters since the 11th century. A resource for fishing, the crystal clear waters are likewise amazing for swimming—if you’re getting some Luca vibes, you’re not alone. Similar to Disney’s portrayal of an Italian seaside village, Cinque Terre likewise relies on the fishing industry, which has thrived in the location for centuries. There are also great opportunities to kayak, snorkel and scuba just off the coast. To experience some of the best spots, boat tours are available for swimming, snorkeling and diving with a knowledgeable guide. 

Eats! The great thing about these small Italian towns is the food—there’s no chain restaurants, no escaping it—you get to embrace it. Focaccia is a famous staple throughout Italy, and common to see in Cinque Terre. The light bread is often baked with fresh tomatoes, parmesan and other toppings and paired with olive oil or main courses. Cinque Terre is likewise a seafood lover’s paradise, with fresh dishes such as anchovies and mussels.

Translated to English as the “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre encompasses five villages: Corniglia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso and Vernazza. All of these villages are within walking distance and it takes approximately four hours to walk to all of them. I highly recommend going on some hikes to explore the countryside and visit these towns. In particular, Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Lane is a beautiful hike overlooking the city and the ocean (unfortunately it is closed right now but will be open next summer).

Remote and relatively sheltered, an evening stroll through Cinque Terre is a must. An early dinner watching the sunset and a subsequent walk through the winding paths is an excellent way to enjoy the night life of the city after daytime tourists have left.