Along Italy’s coastline are 5 charming villages collectively known as Cinque Terre in the Ligurian region of Italy. Here one can enjoy being cut off from the outside world and get a real sense of a small town. Reaching these villages is difficult by car, as a result we were only able to visit the 3 of the 5 villages. It’s also worth noting that this location is one of the many in Italy that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. They do have a highly connected railway system that we took at the end of the day.
On the way we saw breathtaking views of both the coastline and hillside vineyards necessitated by the terrain in the area. Our tour guide Johnny told us about the difficult process of making wines in these areas! We decided we needed to try their signature wine!
We started our day trip in the Province of La Spezia and arrived at the first town, Manarola, by bus and walked down the only road in the town (residential alleys no withstanding), enjoying the view of the older but well-maintained buildings. We had lots of great views of the bay and the rock formations along the shore, which are apparently a popular swimming location as we saw people swimming out to the rocks to climb onto them.
From there we took a ferry to the next town, Vernazza. This town was a little larger than the last and seemed more tourist-oriented with more restaurants and stores. We tried some excellent gelato from Gelateria Vernazza, a small bottle of wine along with some of the focaccia bread that the town was famous for. All of it was pretty good but the gelato again stood out. There was a small beach here for swimming, and I mean small, maybe 20 people could lie on it comfortably.
We again boarded a ferry to take us to our final and largest village for the day, Monterosso where we spent the remainder of our time. This one had a larger port and a train station, making it more accessible to the outside world, and from what we understood it has a fair-sized hotel as well. Our local guide showed us around and pointed out some of the fruit trees grown in the area, the steepness of the roads, and the many stairways needed to accompany the terrain. She joked that just walking to and from work every day was enough to keep someone in shape. She was great, she even joked that she has a boyfriend in every town haha!
We had our late lunch in this town and went to an excellent restaurant Johnny recommended, Il Piccolo Diavolo, ordering stuffed mussels and stuffed anchovies. Both meals were amazing, though we both liked the anchovies more.
After lunch we walked around downtown and visited both of the long-standing churches in the town which our local tour guide pointed out to us. Apparently one had been used for funerals and some other services and the other for regular mass. We visited the latter first and saw some well done sculptures while further resting our feet from all the walking we’d done. After that we went to the other church (which was literally next door) and paid a Euro each to walk through the back where there’s a short tunnel. There wasn’t too much that was interesting but we weren’t entirely sure what everything we saw was for, either way it was an entertaining look back in time to see all of the older sections of the church.
After looking at the churches we took some time to visit the shops, most of which had the standard products you’d expect for a tourist clientele. We didn’t really find anything that screamed for us to buy it. From there we met up with the group again and took the train to meet the bus, skipping the final two villages in favor of going to a vineyard in Montecarlo Tuscany for dinner of course wine!
The Fattoria Il Poggio vineyard staff gave us a walking tour of some of their farmland and explained the surprisingly intensive way to make olive oil. She showed us some of the older equipment that they used in the past. Now I understand why the higher quality oil is more expensive! After the tour we were treated to an multi-course dinner and sampling of the 6 different wines that they made on-site (3 whites and 3 reds)! My personal favorite being one of their stronger reds. For dinner they had a pasta, anti pasta to pair with their amazing olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and various cured meats. To conclude dinner, they also allowed us to try the extremely strong Amaro liqueur. They suggested dipping the biscotti to pair with the drink. Then to really cap off a great night they even tempted us to try the even stronger Grappa (served in a plastic cup, similar to the ones at the dentist)! Just a whiff of the drink allows you to gauge that it’s probably 50% alcohol.
On the plus side all of the wine and other spirits lifted everyone’s mood enough for dancing! Just outside of the dining hall area there’s a patio where we all danced with some giant Saint Bernard dogs casually traipsing around. Somewhere out there our travel companions have a video of us probably looking silly dancing. We made sure to buy 2 containers of the premium olive oil before leaving! (1 as a gift and 1 for ourselves.) We can’t wait to use this for an upcoming special occasion! The jovial mood continued as we hopped on the bus and it turned into a party bus! Stefano set the lights to flash on/off while driving us round and round that small rotary on our way home. Johnny also blasted some 80s music (presumably from his personal playlist). Most notably we heard “Do Fries Go with that Shake” – George Clinton. Of course more dancing ensued until we retired back to Montecatini!
Rating: 4.5/5 ★★★★1/2