Cinque Terre Travel Diary

Colourful houses nestled in the green hills of Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

After Rome, Venice, and Florence, Cinque Terre was a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the major cities. As incredible as our time in Italy had been up until that point, we were also kind of worn out by the non-stop walking, sightseeing, getting on and off trains, finding our way in a new city with luggage in tow. On one memorable day in Florence, we logged 23,000 steps and I developed blisters—and the next day we still went to Lucca and went on a walking tour there! By the time we departed Florence for Monterosso al Mare, I was desperately craving a slower pace and lazier days, if only to give my feet a break. Cinque Terre delivered just that.

As soon as our train rolled into the Monterosso al Mare station, I knew we were in for something special. The tunnel was pitch black, and then boom. All of a sudden everything was light. Through an archway in the tunnel, we spied the gilt haze of the golden hour illuminating the sky and ocean while waves crashed against the shore. Then pitch black again. Then another archway and more sun sparkling on waves. This continued until we pulled into the station and came face-to-face with the most incredible view of the beach. And this was just from the train station platform! Suddenly I couldn't wait for Cinque Terre.

Our AirBnB was literally a 5-minute walk from the station along the main boardwalk and was the coziest beach-side condo, so getting settled in was easy. We celebrated our first night there in style with a fancy dinner at Miky: There was a covered pasta dish that was flambéed at one point and we'd ordered the "anchovies four ways" appetizer, which sounded small in theory but was so big that the wait staff brought an extra side table to hold the different plates of anchovies. At that dinner, we also met a honeymooning couple from the southern United States, a couple from Ireland, and a couple from Vancouver. It was pretty surreal to go halfway around the world only to run into people from the same town! When we mentioned that we lived in Mt. Pleasant, they even knew the neighbourhood and asked about Dude Chilling Park.

On our first full day in Cinque Terre, it rained heavily enough to close the walking trails between the villages. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we hadn't realized until then how much we needed a lazy vacation day. We slept in, had a late lunch at a restaurant down the road and walked around the town centre before returning to our AirBnB for an afternoon nap and heading out for a late dinner.

Our second full day dawned warm and sunny—perfect for exploring the other villages on foot. With train passes in tow, we hopscotched from one town to the next, walking up to the highest point of Riomaggiore for the views, lunching in Manarola with a view of the colourful houses perched cliff-side, climbing the stairs in Corniglia, scaling the tallest tower in Vernazza. The weather started to take a turn for the worse in the late afternoon just as we'd decided to return to Monterosso. We barely made it back before the thunder and hail(!) began.

As always, travel recommendations are at the end of this post!

Bruschetta and charcuterie at Cantina di Miky in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Posing with pesto pasta at Cantina di Miky in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Closed umbrellas on the beach on a cloudy day in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Purple wisteria climbing a yellow wall in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Waves crashing into rocks in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Local lemons in a basket in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Pale green and pink building in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Gelato in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Closed umbrellas on the beach on a cloudy day in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Open umbrellas on the beach on a sunny day in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
View of colourful houses looking out to the sea from Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Posing with colourful houses on a hill in the background in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Open umbrellas on the beach on a sunny day in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Colourful houses by the ocean in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Down by the docks of Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
View from the top of the tower in Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
Seafood at Cantina di Miky, Cinque Terre, Italy
Golden hour in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy


Hotels in the area are pretty pricey for what you get, so your best bet is AirBnB. Try to stay in the biggest village, Monterosso, if you can. That way if it's raining too hard to venture to the other villages, you can still explore Monterosso on foot and walk along the boardwalk. This was our AirBnB if you want a place that's close to the train station, the beach, and the restaurants. Hubs loved it so much, he kept exclaiming "Thanks for booking such a nice place for us!" on our first night there.


You're by the sea, so seafood is a must! The local specialties are anchovies and pesto that doesn't taste like pesto from anywhere else in Italy (the basil grows differently in Cinque Terre).

We opted for convenience over foodie adventures and admittedly ate at the same two restaurants more than we should have. The first night was our blowout fine dining experience at Miky, which I highly recommend. The rest of the time, we ate at Miky's more casual offshoot Cantina di Miky. Yes, it's touristy, but the service is friendly, the location next to the beach can't be beat, there's plenty of outdoor seating, and the food was good for what it was.


Wear comfortable shoes because you'll likely be doing a lot of walking! Even if you decide to take the train between all five villages in Cinque Terre instead of hiking, you'll likely be going up hills, sets of stairs, or towers for the best views.

We managed to see the other four villages in a single day by buying a day pass for the train, venturing to the furthest village from Monterosso (that would be Riomaggiore), and working our way back one stop at a time:

  • In Riomaggiore, head uphill for the best views looking out toward the water and back toward the colourful houses nestled in the green hills.
  • Manarola makes for the most scenic lunch stop. The restaurant we went to had forgettable food and was a total tourist trap, but it had an incredible view of the colourful houses perched on the rocky hill—you know, that postcard-perfect view for which Cinque Terre is famous. I took a million photos.

  • Brace yourself for the climb up Corniglia's steep steps, from the train station to the main village, and take comfort in knowing that coffee and gelato are waiting at the top.
  • Vernazza has a tower at its highest point that offers sweeping views of the entire village. Definitely worth the effort and the couple of euros' admission.

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