Italy is just a quick hop on a plane from London- and starting the second week in Europe, we got up early and caught a flight from London to Genoa, Italy. About 2 hours and 50 euros later- and we were taking our first breath of Italian air.
Something you may not know- my husband is half Sicilian- so Italy was definitely on the list of places we want visit. We are planning a trip to explore more of the country by itself on separately but I was so excited to be able to squeeze in 3 days in Cinque Terre this trip.
Cinque Terre is the ‘5 villages’ and I might add 5 of the most amazing little coastal villages.
The villages are built on the sides of the mountain, overlook the ocean and are surrounded by beautiful landscapes and are painted the most delightful shades of warm mediterranean colors.
We stayed in the most charming little town of Riomaggiore which is the bottom of the 5 villages. This photo above is the view from our bedroom window. These are all just iphone snaps- I haven’t even downloaded the big camera photos yet.
By the time our train arrived it was after 4pm- which was perfect for wandering Riomaggiore when the travelers were all starting to wind down a bit for the afternoon.
I loved the incredible amount of charm and character the old buildings- and the local folks had.
From shutters on the windows- to the laundry blowing in the breeze- to the Italian music playing in the shops- it was enchanting.
We rented a house/apartment right in Riomaggiore which overlooked the sea and was incredible. The house was 4 levels- with spiral staircases to get to each level and there were balconies on two of them- this one was just off the kitchen.
After exploring a bit, we picked up food in the village and climbed the steps back to our little home away from home for the evening.
I slept like a rock that first night- I always sleep well by the water and listening to the ocean was so relaxing.
Something I will share more about in a separate post is about staying in a house rather than a hotel. We only stayed in a hotel 1 night out of the 2 weeks we were in Europe- and I highly recommend renting a home or apartment. One of the best things about where we stayed in Riomaggiore was that we were literally right in the village and able to experience what it is like staying right there in a home. We shopped the local markets each day for fresh veggies and cooked our breakfasts and dinners there- aside from picking up fresh made focaccia bread – which was so delicious.
In the morning, we got up early and went out climbing and exploring. Each of the villages in Cinque Terre are built on hillsides- so there are A LOT of stairs. I believe each day we were there, my phone app said we climbed over 110 flights of stairs a day- and my app is usually about 1/3rd less than my husbands even when we are out together doing the same exact amount of mileage – so I take that number as being low.
There are stairs everywhere- nooks and crannies and little alleys to explore around every corner.
That led to the most amazing old architecture and views again and again.
We stayed in Riommagiore and hopped the train and explored each of the 5 villages over 2 days.
And honestly, I could probably do a blog post on each one separately because they were so enchanting – I probably took 100 photos in each one.
If you are going and want to stay in the most accessible, least amount of stairs and most – I would say ‘modern’ of the cities- Monterosso is the top spot. It had a ton of shopping and restaurants and a lovely beach area where we plopped for an hour and soaked up that Italian sun for a bit after lunch.
We also rode the train down to La Spezia- which is a large town below Riomaggiore. We had a fun laughter filled stop in a local market – which was a larger one more like the size of smaller markets we have in the U.S.- where the little markets in the villages are small- one room type markets.
We probably spent about an hour in the market looking for each item, googling what some things were and trying to pretend we were locals and totally knew what we were doing.
BUT…we did not understand how the market worked with weighing and tagging your own produce and fresh pastas, cheese, etc and we might have gotten yelled at before the cashier realized we had no idea what we were doing haha.
Between us speaking little Italian and her speaking little english- I am sure we looked like deer in the headlights as she tried to tell us what we did wrong.
And in a random light bulb moment (it happens on occasion haha) I said to my husband
‘ I think she’s saying we need the number for the produce so she knows what to put in the register…’ and a kind Italian gentleman behind us in line nodded a big yes.
I was like ‘YES!!!I can do that!’ and ran off to find the numbers- and he chased after me with our produce and fresh pasta to help (because I forgot to bring it with me to weigh it haha)
He also spoke very little english- but his smile was so kind and we both laughed when I said
‘We don’t look anything like tourists, right?’
Those moments and experiences with the local folks – beyond the most incredible part of our trip. And the two places we found that were in Italy and in Roquebrune, France- which I will share next.
A few things to note if planning a trip:
Cinque Terre is a very popular spot for tourists- we lucked out because the villages were not too busy until it was the weekend. So plan accordingly for your visit if you don’t like to ride the train like a sardine or rub elbows with everyone walking through the alleys.
Most of the local residents in Cinque Terre speak english and are happy to help if you need anything.
Outside of the Cinque Terre area, we met a lot of people who spoke very little or no english -and pair that with us knowing mostly conversational or basic question/answer Italian and well- it was not the easiest – but also know that a smile can break that language barrier and they are very kind and understanding.
No way around it- if you are going to explore Cinque Terre, stairs are a big part of it. We saw older folks as well as younger folks climbing them- and they do have rails – so just take your time.
A bonus though? I have been no pasta and low carb for several months but being vegetarians in a fishing village- our options were slim. We cooked and ate pasta, bread and cheese literally every day while in Italy. ( so bad- but so good) And we both actually lost weight- over 5 lbs each. I know it wasn’t the bread haha- I am sure because we did so much climbing and walking each day- so each step might be a bonus if you are trying to lose a few pounds.
It was wonderful and it is a place that I think is so special and charming- we really enjoyed it. Coming your way next- the medieval village in southern France that we both absolutely fell in love with.