Cinque Terre: 5 Must-See Hamlets to Complete Any Italian Adventure

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sea with buildings

As fate would have it, I would end up at the Cinque Terre on my Italian adventure thanks to a chance meeting with a couple on the train from Rome to Florence. My original plan was to go to a coastal town of Rimini on the Adriatic sea, but the couple I met on the train convinced me otherwise. They were a Czech girl and a Sicilian guy, who both happened to be obsessed with salsa dancing and had been going to salsa dance marathons all over Europe. I told the Sicilian guy about my plans to go to Rimini and he told me bluntly that that place was shit, and that I should go to Cinque Terre instead. He knew what he was talking about. Cinque Terre was stunning.

sea and plants
Cliff view from one of the Cinque Terres

Just over half way through my excursion in Italy, I reached the Cinque Terre (the ‘Five Earths’), which are a set of five hamlets etched into the cliffs over the Ligurian Sea in the heart of Italy. I had no idea what to expect, and I was blown away.

train tracks
Train tunnel entrance next to the sea

A single train line from La Spezia tunneled through mountains and clung to the edge of sheer cliff drops as it chugged along. The train went right into the start of the five hamlets of Cinque Terre. This was the first and only place where I met Americans posing as Canadians that had sewed Canadian flags onto their travel backpacks, which I found quite amusing.

a beach in Cinque Terre on my italian adventure
Monterosso, one side
a beach on my Italian adventure
Monterosso,  the other side

Out of the five hamlets of Cinque Terre, Monterosso was my favorite. It happened to be one of the only places with a decent beach.

a beach with people
Beach at Monterosso,  on a sunnier day

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Next to Monterosso was the hamlet of Vernazza and there was a deceptively ‘short’ hiking trail between the two. If you take the route from Monterosso to Vernazza it happens to be mostly uphill.  I found that out the hard way after drinking five Birra Moretti’s on the beach. What I thought would be a 30-minute hike between hamlets turned out to be 2.5 hours, but the views alone, especially of Vernazza, were worth it.

view of village on sea
View of Vernazza from up top


Taking a break on the hike

In the hamlet of Riomaggiore, the first of the Cinque Terre’s, I found the best calamari I had in my life. A street vendor gave me a large cone with big chunks of freshly deep fried calamari with lemon that set off a seafood explosion in my mouth. It was so good I immediately bought the second cone.

Delicious calamari

I actively seek out street art in all the places I travel. There was nothing worth writing home about on the train lines or the buildings in the Cinque Terre, but I did happen to find some cool rock paintings.

painting on rocks
Rock art, Cinque Terre

I only had four short days in the Cinque Terre region while basing my stay out of the nearby town of La Spezia. I definitely could have stayed longer, but it was nearly summertime aka high time crazy tourists everywhere season in Italy. There was not much accommodation available anywhere for my meager backpacker budget. Nevertheless, I left with fond memories of one of the most beautiful areas of Italy. I’ll be back for my next Italian adventure.

sunset on beach
Sun over Monterosso



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