Words don't do this place justice.
It's honestly got to be, without a doubt, the most beautiful place on the planet.
I'd heard of Cinque Terre through some high school friends who traveled there and after googling it, immediately put it on my "must visit" list. I realized though, in telling people the cities we were visiting in Italy, many hadn't heard of Cinque Terre.
It means "the five lands" and it's 5 small and ridiculously quaint towns nestled in the cliffs. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. The big "thing" this area offers, is the ability to hike from town to town along challenging but beautiful trails. Trails are hit or miss (there IS an "easy" path but various paths may be closed at any given time for repair) but as long as you're willing to put in a work out, there's always an option.
We stayed in Vernazza- which has the largest harbor, and was my favorite.
We arrive Friday afternoon and were grabbing a snack in the piazza when we heard our names, looked up, and see Dan and Jamie- two friends of Matt's from college.
We had plans to meet up with them Saturday night for dinner when we realized we were going to be there the same time. Dan and Jamie are living in London right now for Dan's job. We were also meeting two of M's other friends from college who were planning to be in Turkey the week before we were headed to Vernazza, and happily extended their trip to meet up with us.
SO, after bumping into those two, we made dinner plans for Friday night as well.
Dan and Jamie were staying in Riomaggiore, so they trained over to us and the six of us met up for dinner in the piazza in Vernazza.
We were up early the next morning- er- Matt was.. he went swimming with Tony and Gina and I slept a bit before wandering down myself to take some beautiful sunrise photos of Vernazza.
We grabbed a light breakfast and got our hiking gear on in preparation for our morning hike to the next town with Tony and Gina- Monterosso.
Of course I made friends along the trail:
We made it there in about an hour and enjoyed a lunch of focaccia, pesto, prosciutto, and a hard provolone. It was the most simple and amazing meal EVER. The pesto there is just..magic. Genoa, just north of Cinque Terre, is where pesto was invented.
After Monterosso, we took the water taxi to Riomaggiore where we kayaked for a few hours further south along the coast. Sea kayaking wasn't as bad as I imagined (the kayaks are longer and built for it)- and we parked on some rocks and swam for a while too as a break.
We kayaked back, picked up our gear, and hopped on the train back to Vernazza for some naps before dinner.
For dinner we took the train back to Riomaggiore to meet Dan and Jamie for dinner at a restaurant Dan spotted on the very top of the hill. After our hike and kayaking I thought the stairs may kill me but OMG the views, and the INSANE melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi was totally worth it.
We had champagne and toasted to Dan who was celebrating his 30th birthday that day.
It was one of the most memorable and amazing days of my life. Honestly.
The next morning we relaxed in our village and walked around before catching a train back to Rome to stay at our airport hotel before our flight the next day.
Cinque Terre should absolutely be on your short list of top destinations.
Ack, take me back. I need some pesto.