Cinque Terre + Portofino

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I think we can all say that visiting the beautiful Cinque Terre is no big secret to the tourists. It looks like that quintessential postcard you send to your Mum to prove that you are not always getting shit-faced on holiday.

But like any tourist destination, the timing of your stay is crucial. Going between July – August you are faced with fanny pack central and the blatant reading of ‘A Guide to Cinque Terre’. If you can compromise with the cooler temperatures (I mean a balmy 25°c) then go in September and October to escape the crowds.

 

Cinque Terre Train Day Pass

Can be purchased from the tourist information centre which is located at the La Spezia train station for €12.

What is included in the day pass?

  • Unlimited use of the trains between Levanto and La Spezia.
  • Access to hiking tracks

If you have limited time in Cinque Terre, the most convenient way to get between villages is by train. Frequent trains run every 10 minutes.

The Villages

I’m sure everyones order of preference will differ but this is how I would rate the villages of Cinque Terre.

  1. Manarola
    What a stunner! My friend and I headed to the top of the hill for a glass of vino at Nessun Dorma which overlooks the village. The landscape was absolutely breath-taking.
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  2. Vernazza
    I can see why Vernazza is usually people’s favourite. You walk through the village to reach the harbour where you can sit on the rocks and admire the colourful buildings. Take a walk up to Castello Doria, the tower that overlooks the village and then grab a bite to eat at La Torre for a €10 pesto pasta.
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  3. Riomaggiore
    We were told that Riomaggiore had delicious seafood cones. When we arrived, we were pretty disappointed with the amount of grease that lined my mouth for the whole evening. We had to go to A Pie’ de Ma’ and wash it down with a glass of wine, cheese, pear and honey. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise because we also managed to catch the amazing sunset.
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  4. Corniglia
    Corniglia is unique compared to its neighbouring villages as it sits on top of hill surrounded by grapevines. Although Corniglia has its characteristics, I found it lacked that ‘wow factor’. Also to reach the village from the train station you need to either take multiple steps up the hill or wait for a shuttle bus.
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  5. Monterosso
    Monterosso is far more developed than the other villages and lacked beauty compared to the others. I would recommend walking along Fegina beach to see the giant statue of Neptune, it was incredible.

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Walking the Tracks

Riomaggiore to Manarola
PARTIAL ACCESS From the train station to the bar in the middle of the track. (Expected to re open in 2018)

Manarola to Corniglia
CLOSED (Expected to re open in 2018)

Corniglia to Vernazza (approx. 1.5 hours / 2 miles)
I walked this track in reverse as we had lunch at La Torre beforehand in Vernazza.

Vernazza to Monterosso (approx 1.75 hours / 2 miles)
I regret not walking this track as the view looking back on Vernazza would have been spectacular!

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Accommodation on a Budget

So it can be quite expensive to stay among any of the five villages, so if you are wanting to visit on a budget, I would recommend staying in La Spezia or Levanto.

La Spezia
Being well-connected to Cinque Terre it only takes 10 minutes on the train before you reach Riomaggiore.

If you are seeking a nice place to grab a glass of wine in La Spezia, head to Kadensky 900. Every time we ordered another glass of wine the nice staff brought out a complimentary antipasti. We were completely stuffed after two generous platters of cured meats and bread! If you are searching for somewhere for dinner, go to Vicolo Intherno for a seafood linguine.

Levanto

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Our friends had stayed in Levanto and told us about this amazing railway tunnel, now converted into a 6km cycle/pedestrian pathway. The path begins in Levanto and leads through Bonasolla to Framura. At the end you will reach the Framura marina which is accessible by elevator, here you can go for a quick swim before cycling back to Levanto.

Because we were visiting in the low season, we struggled to find anywhere to hire bicycles until we found the sweetest old lady at Hotel Nazionale. She was a bit hesitate to hire the bikes out to non-guests but we managed to sweet talk her and hire them for €5.

This was definitely a hidden gem!

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DAY TRIP FROM GENOA TO PORTOFINO

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As the trip was a bit last-minute, the accommodation in Portofino was through the roof! Instead we decided to day trip from Genoa. It wasn’t all bad as the train took 30 minutes from Genoa to Santa Margherita and then from there we jumped on a bus to Portofino. You are able to walk from Santa Margherita to Portofino too. It is a 5km journey.

Portofino is just what you would expect…bright coloured buildings and people dining on the waterfront sipping a glass of vino. We had heard about a short 30 minute walk to the lighthouse so we came prepared with a picnic. It was a nice walk but the terrain wasn’t really suitable for a picnic and there wasn’t much of a view.

It was super achievable to visit Portofino in a day, so if you aren’t a high-roller I recommend making the trip from Genoa to save some cash.

Wine Stop in Genoa: It’s a little hidden and hard to find but Nuvelle Vague  is a quaint underground wine bar. With shelves and shelves of books you feel like you are in a secret library. It also has a vast selection of Italian wine and it only cost €7 for a glass of vino and antipasto.

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