Excerpt from the book:
The Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is a unique environment of terraced slopes cultivated with vineyards and held together with human-made stone walls.
The Cinque Terre is not for everybody: many Italians dream of going on vacation to New York or Los Angeles and go there, but have never been to the Cinque Terre. The same should be valid in the opposite way. You don’t have to love these rugged villages just because they are now famous. There are hundreds, if not thousands of equally impressive Italian towns, in the mountains, at sea, or in the middle of Italy. Many of them aren’t famous as the Cinque Terre, and maybe not as unique, but are worth visiting anyway.
Therefore, please, don’t leave a stupid comment on the Amazon reviews saying that the Cinque Terre are overrated: maybe they are now a bit too famous compared with how I saw them the first time I went fifty years ago. At that time, only a limited number of Italians and, maybe, Europeans knew of their existence.
It was a small world for a privileged few. I was surprised when, with my girlfriend, had to go to a restaurant owner to rent a room for the night, then climb an endless flight of stairs to get to the place: I loved it, but you don’t have to, if you prefer something different then don’t go to The Cinque Terre, they are not for you.
The same restaurant owner now rents more rooms. He calls them “Hotel,” but the arrangement is still the same; you have to climb an endless flight of stairs to get to the rooms.
Don’t complain either if the information on the places where you can stay is limited: there are very few possibilities of an overnight stay, and I included almost all of them.
The second part of this guide has a list of trails paths that you can walk or mountain bike along; it includes places where you can rent the bikes, including the electric ones.
The third part of the guide is about the cuisine of the area, with a description of the influences of the different nearby zones you have a list of local recipes. When connected to the internet, you will have access to the recipe and will be able to try to replicate at home one of the specialty dishes you had the fortune to taste while visiting. It will not be the same, but at least you can try it!
Arriving from La Spezia, the first village is Riomaggiore, it dates from the early 13th century, and is known for its historic character and the wine, produced by its vineyards.
Riomaggiore has a small beach and a pier framed by tower houses, and one or two roads where people go and hang out, but you can find most of the life at night at the Bar Centrale.
Riomaggiore is the most southern village of the five Cinque Terre.
There is a small and tiny rocky beach that is clean and peaceful. It has a shower in the summer and another one closer to town by the boat landing.
|What to do and see in Riomaggiore|
Fossola Beach: Small pebble beach immediately southeast of the Marina
San Giovanni Battista Church: visit in the upper part of the historical center of Riomaggiore this church, built in 1340.
Santuario della Madonna di Montenero: about one hour walk up from Riomaggiore on SVA (formerly No 3) or 593V trail.
Kayaks and Watersports 5terrediving. It +39 0187 920 011, with scuba, snorkeling, and kayaks, is the only Diving Centre in the Marine Protected Area. It is an ideal reference point for both the beginner and expert aquatic enthusiast of any age. Its office is down the stairs and under the tracks via San Giacomo.
Shopping in Riomaggiore
Galleria D’Arte Schiaccheart Via S. Giacomo, 51, +39 0187 760 056. The gallery showcases contemporary art and gives opportunities for emerging artists to showcase. In the gallery, you will see paintings and also sculptures, ceramics, gifts, and jewelry.
Nightlife in Riomaggiore
Bar Centrale Via Colombo 144, +39 0187 760 075. It offers “nightlife” at any time of the day, with 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi with a drink. During the day, it is a shaded place to relax with other travelers. At night it offers the youngest set the liveliest action.
Enoteca Dau Cila Via San Giacomo, 65, +39 0187 760 032. It is a counterpoint to wild Bar Centrale, with its mellow jazz and Brazilian-lounge ambiance. It is down at the tiny harbor.
Where to eat in Riomaggiore
Restaurants in Riomaggiore
A Pie’ de Ma’ $$ – $$$ Via dell’Amore 55, +39 0187 921 037. It’s where you want to be for the sunset. The views are spectacular! Be sure to check your table to see if it is self-service, but no big deal to go to the counter for vino and berry.
Ripa del Sole $$ – $$$ Via de Gasperi 282, +39 0187 920143. Excellent establishment above the town. It’s one of the few with reasonably priced house wines from the local Coop. Order any of the seafood dishes. Come early and be seated near the window of a wonderful view over the bay.
Veciu Muin $$ – $$$ Via Colombo, 83, +39 0187 920 487. Bustling restaurant, but you will be able to get a table if you ask and wait. Nice pasta and fresh tomato salad.
Il Pescato Cucinato $ Via Colombo 199 | Friggitoria, +39 339 262 4815. A perfect snack to take away and enjoy wherever you want! From deep-fried calamari to anchovies, and even vegetables and pieces of marinated fresh fish.
Accommodations in Riomaggiore
Several agencies with English-speaking staff and email addresses are on the main street. Each of them manages some local rooms for rent, each with its quality and specific amenities – so be careful to get a complete picture of the room before you commit:
Riomaggiore Reservations Via Colombo 181, +39 0187 760 575. They offer 12 rooms and 15 apartments, some air-conditioned, and free Wi-Fi at the office.
Edi’s Rooms Via Colombo, 111, +39 0187 920 325. for reservations: +39 0187 760 842. Edi manages 20 rooms and apartments. Some rooms have air conditioning, and some involve climbing many steps, reserved with a credit card. They also rent three pricey rooms of their own.
Room rentals and hotels for Riomaggiore
La Scogliera Salita Castello 174, +39 334 619 4505. This seaside vacation apartment lies a 4-minute walk from Riomaggiore railway station, 15 minutes’ walk from Via dell’Amore, a pedestrian street overlooking the sea, and 3 km from the village Manarola. The bright, relaxed, 2-bedroom apartment features parquet floors, a wood-paneled kitchen, and a sea-view balcony, as well as satellite TV.
Locanda del Sole Via Santuario 114, +39 0187 920 773. The hotel is very convenient. It has secure parking near the old town and a good 5 minutes walk to restaurants, trains, or boats. It has seven modern, basic rooms with a shared and peaceful terrace—Free Wi-Fi in common areas.
La Baia di Rio Via Telemaco Signorini 178, +39 338 981 6364. The hotel’s location in the village is ideal. You can hear the waves and not the people at the bars in the village center, though you are very close. The noise increases dramatically, walking back 20 to 30 meters along the same stretch!
Hotel Locanda Ca Da Iride Via Del Santuario, 162, +39 0187 920 462. It’s up on the hill in Riomaggiore, with amazing views. It’s a friendly family-run hotel, clean, hospitable with an incredible breakfast spread to fuel you to hike the incomparable scenery.
Due Gemelli Via Litoranea 9, +39 0187 920 112. You can have a balcony that overlooks the breathtaking ocean, that alone is worth it. A comfortable bus ride into town, and then you are off and running.
Sol Levante Via Telemaco Signorini 354, +39 0187 186 0403. The rooms are clean and very well kept. The location is close to the train station and the marina, where all the main shops/restaurants are.
Hotel Villa Argentina Via Alcide De’ Gasperi 170, +39 0187 920 213. The rooms are very comfortable, have both air conditioning and a ceiling fan. The breakfast is top-notch with an excellent selection of food. The laundry service is also fantastic and not very expensive. The balcony (shared one) has fabulous views and a perfect area to socialize while having a quiet drink.
Locanda dalla Compagnia via Santuario, 32, +39 0187 760 050. The location is good, just up from the train station. It’s not too far to roll your suitcase, and it’s clean. However, this is not a B&B – only coffee in the morning, and that’s it!
Cinque Terre Villa Via de Gasperi, +39 941 330 4090. Tranquil Cinque Terre Villa, a peaceful vacation rental step from Riomaggiore’s centuries-old castle, has cliffside views of the Mediterranean Sea. Expensive, but with a great panorama.
Cinque Terre walking trails
The best way to explore the Cinque Terre is to walk the extensive network of trails, mainly based on the old “mulattiere,” the mule roads that connected the villages. They were the only way to move between them before the State train company built the tunnels in the 1920s.
The sentiero (trail) number 2 runs near the coast, the Alta Via delle Cinque Terre (High Trail of the Cinque Terre), and runs from Portovenere’s ridge and reaches Levanto. It starts at zero sea level to touch the 800 meters above sea level and returns to the sea level, all in about ten hours.
Several other trails run from the coast to the villages and locations in the interior, up to the mountain’s ridge.
Wear good walking shoes; the paths can be slippery in places from loose rocks or trickling streams; avoid hiking during lousy weather (check the forecast before setting out).
Be sure to bring water: there’s none along the way, and wear a hat and sunscreen.
Early Start: Trail number 2, the blue trail, gets frustratingly crowded. Going can be slow in parts, as you wait on the most narrow sections for people coming toward you to pass. To avoid the worst of the crowds, go very early in the morning, and avoid being out when the trails are busiest, from roughly 10 am until 4 pm.
Trail number 2 – Sentiero Azzurro (blue trail)
(Sentiero Azzurro – Blue Trail along the coast overlooking the sea)
Walking time: 5-6 hours
The most popular way to enjoy the Cinque Terre on foot is to follow Trail number 2 (the Sentiero Azzurro, or “Blue Trail”), including four individual paths along the coast. You can walk the entire route in about six hours, if you take short breaks—although many hikers prefer to spread the course out over a few days at a strolling pace, stopping to enjoy the towns along the way.
Liguria Food and Recipes
There is a saying that he who eats pesto never leaves Genoa, the stronghold of this delicious sauce, rich with the flavors of fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and cheese. Traditionally, the ingredients are put in a mortar and pounded with a pestle until a smooth sauce emerges. Pesto is famous throughout the world, but small-leafed Ligurian basil, grown in herb gardens buffeted by sea breezes, is arguably the best in the world.
Authentic Ligurian focaccia is not the pizza-like bread they enjoy in America. As Liguria’s salty air and humidity make it difficult to bake good food and keep it from spoiling quickly, the Ligurians devised a loaf of bread that can be eaten hot out of the oven. This unleavened, thin, flatbread is usually topped with olive oil and salt, and in some areas, sage, cheese, or onions.