There are no words, no images even, that could eloquently express the love that I have for Cinque Terre. I’ve been to Italy three times now but I wasn’t introduced to Cinque Terre until my second trip. The charm, the character, the people, the wine! I fell in love with it all and always vowed that I would come back and did, ten years later. This time, I brought my husband.
My favorite of the five villages has always been Riomaggiore… a small village valley in the Liguria region of Italy. Its shoreline resides on the Mediterranean’s Gulf of Genoa. It is the first of the Cinque Terre peninsulas that one meets when traveling north from La Spezia. It’s quirky, historic, and on the edge of a cliff. Oh and the sunsets?…. sublime. Riomaggiore was first documented in the 13th century. Many believe it was created for the safety and protection of its local people. The homes hang vibrantly off the cliff-side and often contain small spaces that lead up to four floors each. Due to the cliffs, the town consists of hundreds upon hundreds of stairs. There are a few elevators but most were damaged in various storms so if you go to Riomaggiore, be prepared to walk.
The village is divided into two main areas- the fisherman’s village below, near the bay and the community village that is located above. Both contain a colorful aray of homes. According to Wikipedia: “The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. This way, they could make sure their wives were still home doing the housework.” Hilarious.
Color aside, many have made the cliff-side a unique part of their home’s architecture. We met a man named Michaelangelo who invited us in for an afternoon espresso and biscotti. He then gave us a tour of his home’s four floors. Each floor showcased the cliff itself, as one of its four walls. You could smell the earth and rock within. It was a beautiful feature. His fourth floor was a roof-top garden, where he could easily and organically cultivate his meals and catch up on the local gossip (since all of his neighbors could often be found within their own roof-top gardens as well).
- Pack Light! I can’t say this enough. Bring nothing and then shove that nothing into a tiny bag that you can throw over your shoulder. Trust me. You do not want to lug anything through those streets/ staircases. You’ll thank me later. Don’t do it. Just pack light.
- For a fancy night out, try Enoteca Dau Cila. The food is amazing and it’s a great place to stare longingly at the sea while enjoying your favorite beverage. It’s priced a bit higher than other restaurants in the area but well worth the view.
- Bar Centrale is a great way to meet the locals. Located near Via Colombo St, it is the most centrally located and most active bar in the area.
- Go shopping at the local markets and cook a few meals. There are only a few markets within Riomaggiore, 2-3 small ones but they’ve probably been there for generations. It’s a great way to taste the local gardens and support the people. It’s also a great way to keep your budget down.
- Apartment vs. Hotel or Hostel– Rent an apartment! Rent an apartment with a kitchenette and a balcony. We found that apartments for rent were considerably lower in cost than your average hotel. Additionally, they usually come with more character, culture, and views. I like to cook so this was a must for us. We went through Tripadvisor to book all of our rentals but really, any travel-booking site will have vacation rentals available. I highly recommend that you start there.
- If you have a car, park it in La Spezia and take the train or bus up to the villages. Parking is a pain in the A** in Cinque Terre, especially during peak season. So why stress? You’ll be walking everywhere so park it in the main town and leave it behind for a few days.
- Explore! There is a ton of hiking, walking and exploring to be done here. I highly recommend starting at the top of the main road, to the village above, and then working your way down to the fisherman’s village, by the bay. There is so much history to explore along the way- The Church of San Giovanni (built in 1340), The Castellazzo of Cerrico, The Church of the Confraternita and The Oratory of San Rocco, to name a few. It’s a great way to get a different perspective of the town. Once you’ve walked the village, you can then walk to its neighboring villages. The coastal walking path from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the “Via dell’Amore.” All of the Peninsulas are all connected and make for a fabulous day of hiking.
I loved our balcony so much that I decided to make a time-lapse of it. Often, I could be found working on that balcony. I could be found reading, writing and then enjoying a light breakfast. On the morning of this time-lapse, I decided to wake before the sun.
So far, there is no corporate development within Riomaggiore. There is no Starbucks, no McDonalds, no fast food of any kind! People know each other, their families, and the businesses they run. Dining out, takes time and is completely social. I highly recommend this cliffside village to anyone who is looking for something new, something culturally different, something quirky yet beautiful. Cinque Terre has been a recurring love for me and it will definitely continue to be. I will no doubt return to its rocky shores one day, again and again, until I’m wise, old, and gray. Who knows, maybe we’ll be gossiping from our rooftop garden ourselves one day.
We spent so many hours on the top floor of our cozy apartment, overlooking the bay from our balcony. I loved this apartment so much.
Shortly after sunset, men can often be found eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the female tourists that stroll by.
I love this pic of Joe… We are but small fish in a huge Italian pond.