By Rachel Primé
Rome is an obvious must-see if you visit Italy – it’s an exquisite city with an unbelievable amount of history. The juxtaposition of the 2,000-year-old Colosseum amidst the hustle and bustle of modern day Rome is nothing short of incredible. Experiencing the art and antiquity housed in the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica is truly a spiritual experience. Not to mention Italian food, which I am salivating just thinking about. While I could talk about Rome all day, I’m actually here to lead you off the beaten path, several hours northwest of the well-known capital, to five coastal villages known as Cinque Terre.
Perched cliff-side on the Italian Riviera coastline, Cinque Terre consists of five small fishing villages overlooking the sea. The towns feature adorable multicolored houses and vineyards with arguably some of the best views in the world. The villages are not accessible by car; walking around you’ll find that your modes of transport are narrow pathways, cobblestone, and stairs.
The hike through all five villages is pretty treacherous at times – steep and rocky with no railing to hold onto. It gets a bit frightening when the sun is setting; you’re quite literally on the edge of a cliff, and you have no idea how far away you are from the next village.
The trek is difficult but so worth it. Your reward is breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean, mountains, and villages. I would recommend starting the hike in Monterosso al Mare (the last of the five villages), early in the morning so you have a chance to stop and enjoy each village along the way. At the end of the hike, my boyfriend and I took the train back to Monterosso al Mare, where we were staying in an Airbnb.
The Food and Wine
There aren’t enough adjectives to describe how delicious the food is in Cinque Terre. I ate the best fresh pesto pasta, crunchy focaccia bread, and sweet gelato in the world. Cinque Terre claims to be the birthplace of pesto sauce, so that’s a must try while you’re there. And I can’t forget the wine! Cinque Terre’s local wines are mostly whites, which I was a little disappointed to find out as an avid red drinker – but seriously, these whites are GOOD. The wines range from light to full-bodied and I found most of them to be extremely drinkable with no funky aftertaste or headache the next day.
Enoteca Internazionale is a great place to go before dinner for a wine tasting and appetizer, or after dinner for a night cap and dessert. We went twice during our three-day stay in Cinque Terre. They have a large selection of wines, liquors, cheese, charcuterie, and desserts. As a note, wine “tastings” in Cinque Terre are not samplings but usually full pours.
It was drizzling on our last day in Cinque Terre, so we decided to spend the day shopping for gifts and drinking wine. We stumbled upon Buranco Agriturismo, a lovely winery in Monterosso al Mare. For a very affordable price per person, you can try a variety of local wines paired with snacks like olives, fresh bread, pesto, and bruschetta while enjoying beautiful views of the mountains. The owners are hospitable and attentive, taking the time to explain where the wines come from and how they are made.
My trip to Cinque Terre was absolutely magical. I was far away from any commercial development, enjoying the rugged outdoors, eating amazing fresh food, and sipping delicious local wines. As a city girl, it was such a great experience to slow down for a few days and have a chance to appreciate the beauty and culture of Cinque Terre. If you are planning a trip to Italy, I couldn’t recommend Cinque Terre enough.