My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Spend a Day in Cinque Terre

2011/03/02by Donna Hull

Updated 05.15.2013

The beautiful coastal town of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, the string of five villages perched along Italy’s rugged Ligurian coast, deserves more attention than just one day. But if you’re a traveler who’s pressed for time, even one day spent exploring the trails that wind beside pastel-colored buildings, rocky outcroppings and secluded beaches that hug the Mediterranean coast will convince you the area is a worthy addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list. And, it’s better than not having visited at all.

When Alan and I toured northern Italy with Claudio Fontana of A La Carte Italy Tours, we requested to stop by Cinque Terre on the drive from La Tavola Rotonda in Chiavenna Landi to Lucca. Yes, it was a bit out of our way, but oh so worth it.

boomer-road-trip-italy-monterosso

Neptune clings to the cliff at Monterosso

From the moment Claudio parked the van in the public parking garage at Riomaggiore, we were smitten. Alan and I daydreamed with travel companions, Jack and Sue, about someday spending a month here in a rental villa. Our baby boomer travel fantasy revolved around hiking the trails, visiting the vineyards and living like a local in one of the cliff-side villages.

Although Cinque Terre is famous for its coastal hiking trails, our means of transportation included a train ride with return by boat. Starting at the station in Riomaggiore, after drinking yet another cappuccino in exchange for the use of a restaurant’s water closet, we boarded the train carriage with fellow tourists—many of them hikers—for the ride through tunnels gouged out of the rock interspersed with views out the window of craggy coastal scenery. One by one, the train stopped at Manarola, Corniglia and Veranzza before we disembarked at Monterosso al Mare, the last of the five Cinque Terre villages.

Reported to be a bit more touristy than the others, Monterosso’s paved beach walk was sparsely populated during our sunny, October visit. But it wasn’t hard to imagine that travelers arriving in the summer would find themselves mingling with a crowd of tourists as they strolled the beach or frequented souvenir shops.

boomer-road-trip-dining-monterosso

Italian seafood

We veered off the pavement to find a restaurant for lunch as the path made its way to the railway station. Seated on the patio of Barabba in White, a clear plastic covering pulled down to protect us from a slight chill, our group enjoyed fresh seafood with a glass of local Vino Bianco. The surf lapped at the sand, a seagull cried and Neptune’s statue, projecting from the rocky cliff, warned off any pirates plying the Mediterranean. A month in Cinque Terre? Where do we sign up?

Later, on the slow ferry ride back along the coast to Riomaggiore, we sat on the open deck watching those same pastel villages passing by in progression as our daydream continued. Which village should be the location for a month-long stay. Did you see that trail leading to the village on top of the mountain? Let’s make that our first adventure.

boomer-road-trip-ligurian-coast

Ligurian Coast

Cinque Terre offers many options for active travelers. Although I can’t advise boomers on the ins and outs of hiking the blue path, Barbara Weibel at Hole in the Donut, offers a first-hand look in her report on Cinque Terre. And once you read Mark’s Cinque Tere hiking article at Travel Wonders, you’ll be hooked too. For more research, check out My Melange’s description of the five towns of Cinque Terre. And Why Go Italy offers a comprehensive guide including things you should know about Cinque Terre.

On October 25, 2011, heavy rains created flash floods and landslides that devastated Monterosso. Rick Steves reports that much of the village has been rebuilt. To learn the latest news of trail openings and construction updates, check out Rebuild Monterosso.

Have you visited Cinque Terre? Did you hike the blue path? Where did you stay? Post a comment. Alan and I are definitely going back.

Click road trip in Northern Italy to read more about our 10-day journey. Use our suggestions to plan your own Italian road trip!


A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 1:51 am

You, welcome. There’s no way that I would go in the summer, just too
crowded. We had lovely weather in October, although it was a little
chilly. Great hiking weather, though. I hope you get to go, Leigh.
It’s a beautiful area that feels off-the-beaten-path, even though it
isn’t.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 1:54 am

Monica, trying to do all of that in one 14-day-trip might be too much.
It depends on how long you’ll be spending in Calabria. Certainly in
October you won’t need to worry about crowds. A long drive up the
Amalfia coast and beyond to the Lugarian coast might be nice. But the
scenic roads (those along the coast) are slow going. You’ll also want
to consider where you will be flying in and out of. Why Go Italy is an
excellent source. Be sure to check there.

Reply

Anonymous
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 9:21 am

One of the most beautiful places in Italy! You must promise me though that next time you go that you hike it! It’s an amazing (and not too difficult) hike! And the photo opps on the hike are even better!!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Sherry, it was very hard for us to be there knowing there wasn’t time
to hike. Just think how many adventures and photos we would have if we
visited for a month. Alan and I are still daydreaming about it.

Reply

Melodie1974 March 3, 2011 at 1:34 pm

I agree with ottsworld. The hike is beautiful and not too difficult. I suggest starting from Monterosso though. The hardest part is right at the beginning. From Corniglia to Riomaggiore, it is very easy so it is nice to keep this at the end when we are a bit tired.

My favorite part of the 5 Terre was leaving the touristy seaside to go deeper in the villages. It was much more fun, there were lots of nice local shops and some hidden restaurants.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Great tips, Melodie. Thanks! Oh how I would love to re-do this
adventure, this time with hiking and exploring.

Reply

Mark H March 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm

One of the finest one day walks in the world with a chance to explore a fascinating village with its fishing traditions, cute beaches, colurful houses, fine food and buoyant people. Wander the narrow alleys and do your best to stay in on eof the villages for a night or two. Outside of the hiking hours, the villages change spirit to more restful and enchanting locations.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Mark, you must have had a wonderful experience with your stay in
Cinque Terre.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 9:59 pm

It does sound great. Maybe one day :-).

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 3, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Beth, I hope I’ve made your travel wish list very long :-).

Reply

Angie Orth March 4, 2011 at 4:14 am

I spent a day in Cinque Terre during a stop on my Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise… what a gorgeous place! It’s hard to take a bad photo there. Loving following your journey!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Thanks, Angie. Maybe next time we’ll both have more days to explore
Cinque Terre. Was your day there an organized cruise excursion?

Reply

Vera Marie Badertscher March 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm

I love that you’ve included 4 good guides to Cinque Terre–Mark, Barbara, Robin, and Why Go Italy (sorry, I should know that name, as well). But anyhow, from now on when anybody needs info on Cinque Terre, they only need to make a stop here. I LOVE that Neptune hanging on the side of the cliff! What a gorgeous place.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 4, 2011 at 8:24 pm

I’m glad you like the extra advice I provided. I want my readers to
feel that they receive good value when reading my posts. Jessica
writes Why Go Italy. Neptune was a fun surprise.

Reply

Anonymous March 4, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Dreamy. I was pregnant when I was there and for this reason alone I think I must go back soon… to do some more of that rugged hiking ;)

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 4, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Margo, you definitely deserve a trip. This time, you’ll be able to
drink the wine!

Reply

firstSTREET March 4, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Great photos! I especially like the cliffside multi-colored building. You are so lucky to be able to travel to so many places. Thanks for sharing all of it!

Reply

Sofia - As We Travel March 5, 2011 at 7:41 am

Looks a-m-a-z-i-n-g… never been there, but I can’t wait to go!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 5, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Walking up the steep village steps would be hard when you’re 6 months
pregnant. Hope you get to go back to Cinque Terre. Maybe this time
you’ll also be able to enjoy the wine.

Reply

Robin March 5, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Thanks so much for including me in your piece Donna. I’m so glad you got the opportunity to visit and it sounds like you had a great time.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 5, 2011 at 8:38 pm

You welcome, Robin. My Melange offers excellent advice for anyone
planning a trip to Italy or France.

Reply

Jack and Jill March 12, 2011 at 12:06 am

We did not get to Cinque Terre when we were in Italy. To our dismay. We definitely have to go back… and considering Jack’s love for anything Italian, we probably will be back real soon :)

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 12, 2011 at 12:13 am

We’d love to go back, too.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
April 18, 2011 at 2:21 am

I’m still dreaming about the food. It was delicious! Good wine too :-).

Reply

John in France August 29, 2011 at 2:18 pm

It sure is one of the prettiest places along the coast. But I went there in June and I have never been so disappointed – there were crowds like Mumbai train station at rush hour, there was litter and filth like I have never seen anywhere in the world, and someone needs to do something about tidying the place. BUT I am sure that if you go there not in summer then it would be lovely – except for the graffiti and rusty fencing!!!
John in France recently posted..Portugal Photo ParadiseMy Profile

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 29, 2011 at 3:33 pm

John, I have read that about visiting Cinque Terre in the summer. We were there in October, the weather was lovely and the crowds were sparse. I’d definitely visit during the shoulder season if I were planning another trip to Cinque Terre.

Reply

Dianna Duncan December 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Loving following your journey! Neptune was a fun surprise. We were there in October, the weather was lovely and the crowds were sparse.

Reply

John Williams
Twitter:
October 22, 2012 at 2:35 am

I had a day there the last week in September. The path was very busy. Who are these tourists though? Oh yes, that will be people like me visiting the beautiful Cinque Terre.
The views are really picture postcard material. I wasn’t impressed with people carving on the cacti and the love locks everywhere, there were even vendors selling padlocks on sections of the path. They are no longer original, they are wasteful and have a big ecological footprint. It is seriously not cool to deface the world with them.
John Williams recently posted..Sustainable Scottish travelMy Profile

Reply

Gabriel
Twitter:
May 29, 2013 at 4:50 pm

What kind of seafood is that? Looks like a nice fish fillet of some sort. Do you remember what it was?

Reply

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