Five Towns, One Day? Challenge Accepted.

Cinque Terre is five small beach towns just north of Florence. We had to take three trains to get there, they’re so small and out of the way. All five cities are connected by both hiking trails and trains. Since it’s five different towns, it’s really best to devote a couple of days to seeing them in depth, but Liz and I just went for a day trip. It was working pretty well, until the very end. But more on that later.

Our first sight upon arriving was a train so packed full of people that it was standing room only. Probably really really dangerous. We rode the train all the way up to the last town, Riomaggiore, and worked our way down.


This town has a long, rocky beach and is surrounded by cliffs. The weather was a little foggy, so we got amazing, moody pictures of this town. For a quick snack we got some focaccia with pesto, cheese, tomato, and anchovy. We didn’t stay for long because we were ready to get to hiking!

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This first hike is supposed to be the hardest of the four hikes between the towns. That’s because the trail goes up hundreds of steps and then back down slippery slopes and then back up again, repeating over and over. That being said, we did still see a lot of people foolishly wearing nice clothes on this hike. We got some absolutely amazing pictures out of the lookout points we saw!

Monterosso from above.
The next town, Vernazza.

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The next town was nice, but completely packed with tourists. We went to a friggitoria, a traditional Italian street food place that sell only fried food, and got fried calamari and shrimp, got some fresh juice (mine was lemon, pineapple, and strawberry), and went and sat on the pier and ate before heading out again.


The line to get onto a train stretched shockingly far, but luckily the trail was open, so we hopped on that! This trail, instead of being up-down-up-down-up-down, it was just up for forty-five minutes, then back down for another forty-five. It was a crazy workout!

Vernazza from above.
View of Corniglia! The sun came out in perfect time for this picture.

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By far my favorite city, Corniglia is on top of a hill, which makes it feel all secluded and quiet. Also, there were way fewer tourists here than the last two towns. I got gelato, ricotta and fig and dark chocolate, and we explored the town. That took less that thirty minutes, because it’s also very, very small.

Steps to the sea.



Since Corniglia is at the top of the cliffs, we had to walk down maybe a dozen flights of steps to reach the train. We wanted to hike, but the last two trails were closed because of rocks on them. The next train was ten minutes delayed, which was foreshadowing for what was to come.


Manarola is a one street town, which meant that we walked up that one street and saw the entire town in ten minutes. At this point we realized that the last train to Florence was leaving in an hour, so we needed to pick up the pace. We walked from the highest point of Manarola down the the sea. Then we got some food for the train home; calzones, focaccia with squid ink, tomatoes, and zucchini, four-cheese pizza, and individual bottles of wine made in Corniglia. Once we reached the train station, there was an announcement that the train we needed was FORTY FIVE MINUTES DELAYED. With nothing else to do, we ended up picnicking in the train station.

Manarola from Corniglia.

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When the train finally arrived, we skipped over the last town, Riomaggiore, and took the train to the larger town next to it, La Spezia. From there we got a train to Pisa, which we went through that morning. At Pisa, however, there were no more trains going to Florence that night. That makes sense, considering it was already midnight! The next option was to take a bus to Florence, and that wasn’t leaving until 1:15.

Not to be deterred, we headed on over to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Because when you’ve got an hour to kill in Pisa, you might as well stop there! Pisa was very busy, and some of the streets were filled with locals. We made it to the tower and back before the bus arrived, and Liz even had time to stop and get gelato! So in the end, we made it to five towns. But one was a lot bigger and not associated with Cinque Terre at all.

The bus was surprisingly full for a 1:15am bus. However, it was full of loud, drunk Italians who were sitting right behind us shouting and singing and clapping their hands. It would’ve been the worst ride of my life, but luckily they got off the bus thirty minutes later.

We finally got home at 2:45. Before going home we made a quick pitstop at the midnight bakery. There are several bakeries in Florence where the workers go in super early to start baking for the next day. If you come after midnight and knock on their back door, you can by croissants filled with chocolate, creme, or Nutella for only one euro! So obviously we were going to go.

I didn’t get home until 3:20am, and didn’t fall asleep until around 4. It’s safe to say that this has been the longest and most adventurous day trip we’ve taken all semester!


2 thoughts on “Five Towns, One Day? Challenge Accepted.

  1. Ginny, what marvellous, atmospheric photos. That part of Italy is the one and only part my mother has ever visited and she always talked about it with great affection. Seeing your photos, I understand why. Congratulations to you and Liz for fitting a week full of events into a mere 2 hours. Your stamina and enthusiasm are truly admirable.
    If you like cliff-top views with blue seas below…then the west coast of Scotland is also for you. When?!!!


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