Finally, the sea!
where we hike and eat fish
After a long day of hiking, we were finally on the street back to our apartment when Kelt turned to me and said, “It just smells good here.”
Sea salt, fish, oil, and the breeze rolling off the terraced vineyards, combining all of the scents. Cinque Terre.
I had been to this area before, when I was about 10, with my family. It was definitely more touristy than I remembered—thanks to its “discovery” by Rick Steves—but the area has remained both beautiful and charismatic. And, it smells good.
We stayed in Corniglia, which has been called “the locals town.” Staying here was worth the 377-step climb you have to take up from the train station to the compact town center. Our apartment had the most beautiful views, and each morning we gazed out over the bay sandwiched between the terraced cliffs.
Our hosts, Simone and Donatella, were born and raised in the town and gave us amazing recommendations. We tried Il Pirun, a restaurant in town, and had the most fantastic, fresh fish followed by complimentary homemade amaro shots since we knew Simone.
Cinque Terre is a perfect place to see that special combination of both wild and managed landscapes that is so prominent in Italy. In one direction there are wild, sharp cliffs leading to a dizzyingly blue sea, and in another there are carefully crafted terraces, covered in vineyards and vegetable farms. These terraces have become characteristic of the region, but of course they are man-made. On our hikes between the villages, we would snake along them, admiring the meticulous stonework that keeps these award winning vineyards in place.
Similarly, the trails have been used for passage between villages for far longer than they have been tourist hiking trails. The steepness is no joke—you won’t forget that you’re hiking on a cliff. The views are abundant—as are the places to stop for a spritz, vino bianco, or a limonata.
Cinque Terre is more curated than I had remembered—I would skip the first gateway town of Riomaggiore, if I were you. The area is also fairly pricey, too—5 Euros for a 2-minute train ride!). But despite that, Cinque Terre was a top destination for me. Everyone we met was incredibly warm. From the shopkeepers of the Lisa Market (best Focaccia and pesto around) to the old man who yelled directions to us when we were clearly lost.
The pace of life was something I would never tire of. The experience of hiking through a lush Mediterranean forest, up over a terraced vineyard, covered in dust and sweat, and then to be greeted by a staggering view of a cliffside pink-and-yellow village and striped umbrellas. Tornerò presto!