The Cinque Terre was one of the first places we added to our Europe itinerary and was one of the places we were both most looking forward to. The five small villages are connected by a series of hiking trails with coastal views and vineyard covered hills. We planned to stay in one of the villages and spend our two days hiking between the towns, eating delicious seafood and possibly swimming in the ocean (weather permitting, obviously). I had read and heard that accommodation was plentiful and easy to find, and online forums gave me dreams of us hopping off the train and finding a local lady at the station with a sign and an open bed in her home. However, our experience in the Cinque Terre was… unexpected. We started our time in the Cinque Terre with two major disappointments.
Disappointment #1: The villages are EXPENSIVE! I am not talking a little over what we have paid other places in Italy, I am talking two to three times more for the same types of accommodation. So, we opted to stay in Levanto, only a five minute train ride from the closest Cinque Terre village. This ended up being a great decision as Levanto is far less touristy, there is a huge beach, and the food is MUCH cheaper.
Disappointment #2: The trails were ALL CLOSED!!! This came as a big blow since that was pretty much what we went to the Cinque Terre to do. We lucked out and even though all the officials said every trail was closed, we ended up accidently finding the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso and hiked it anyway.
Despite not meshing with our expectations, we still really liked the Cinque Terre. It is so beautiful! The water was the same color as on the Amalfi Coast (which I also loved). The coast was rocky and amazing and had it been warmer would have been amazing to swim in. Each town had something special, with Corniglia and Manarola being our favorites. We loved how few tourists were there (comparatively) and we loved finding secluded rocks on the coast to sit, read, and watch the waves. Vernazza and Monterosso were more touristy, but were picturesque and Riomaggiore had the most beautiful marina.
Food was the highlight of our Cinque Terre experience and we ate so many local and delicious foods! We did end up getting to eat seafood, Logan got cod filled ravioli with a real truffle on top and I got gnocchi and prawns. We ate trofie (a type of pasta with some potato for optimal pesto stickability) with fresh pesto and gelato. This region is also known for focaccia and we ate various types of this delicious oily bread everyday, multiple times a day (it helped that it was cheap). On our first night we watched the sunset eating anchovies and sipping white wine right next to the Villa del Amore (one of the closed trails).
The day we left there was a train strike, leaving all the tourists stranded in their home villages. We were lucky to make it to Milan and on to Como, and that the train strike had not happened a day before, or we would have had no way to explore the villages. So despite our disappointments, the Cinque Terre was not an over all disappointment and we hope to make it back someday when the weather is warm and the trails are open.