3 nights program in Cinque Terre

If you have never had a chance to visit this beautiful part of Italy, here is a handy 3 days program to make the most of the 5 villages included in the Cinque Terre, with its seaside and its surrounding nature.

Fly into Genova in the morning and take the train to your booked accommodation (around 2 hours journey). We personally stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the southern of the 5 ‘lands’, and it felt the most alive at night time, with plenty of bars and restaurants open until late despite being a tiny town.

Even if its main attraction ‘La Via dell’amore’ (a beautiful seaside terraced pathway between Riomaggiore and Manarola) has been closed for a few years now due to an important landslide (they are hoping to restore it in a couple of years), there is another beautiful walk starting from the center of the village and going up on top of its little castle to then walk down a pathway not far from the train station with enchanting views on the sea that leads you back down to its picturesque harbor, followed by its beach.

RIOMAGGIORE

 

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The following day we purchased a 24 hour Cinque Terre card for £16 which includes all trains between the 5 towns at any time (hop on, hop off), all buses within the little towns and the tickets to access 2 beautiful hiking pathways who have an admission fee to preserve its nature. This card is also available for 48h or 3 days but to budget at best we used trains and pathways all on the same day.

In fact we took the train from Riomaggiore to Corniglia. There we waited for the bus from the train station to avoid going up the over 300 stairs to get to the main village (Corniglia is the only one which has no harbor as it is on a higher level than the sea). From there we started walking on this breathtaking pathway between Corniglia and Vernazza (90 minutes hiking on average – Normal charge €7). If you are wearing appropriate shoes and are in good shape, it is quite accessible. The pathway then continues from Vernazza di Monterosso for another 120 minutes roughly, where without the Cinque terre card you would have to pay a new admission fee of €7 (for a total of €14 without the convenience of this special ticket).

TREKKING VIEWS BETWEEN CORNIGLIA AND MONTEROSSO

 

We arrived in Vernazza for lunch time and discovered probably our preferred village among the 5 (even if Manarola is a good competitor lol). Vernazza is really charming as you get a beautiful view on its 2 old towers when you arrive by hiking from Corniglia. Yet, the other side with its small main square, its’ harbor, it’s tiny beach and its castle is a real wonder as well!

VERNAZZA

 

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We walked around, relaxed and had an ice cream until the hottest hours of the day were over and around 4pm we resumed our hiking towards Monterosso. We met a very unusually funny lemonade and Limoncello seller half way through the 2 villages (the typically cheeky Italian style ‘businessman’!). We arrived in Monterosso around 6.30pm and run straight to the beach to have a bath in the sea to refresh ourselves (Monterosso is the only town with sandy beaches). Then we had a DELICIOUS dinner at Il Piccolo Diavolo restaurant with excellent seafood! We finally caught the train home around 10.30pm (it feels very safe to travel in between the villages even at night time and there are trains every 20 minutes – In fact they call it the ‘Cinque Terre Tube’!).

MONTEROSSO

 

The following day we decided to see everything from the sea, as a boat trip was really a must to discover the area in a different way. We had also been advised if we had spare time to visit Portovenere which is located further south from Riomaggiore and despite is not part of the denomination ‘Cinque Terre” is really a must. It cannot be reached by train but only by bus from La Spezia or by boat from La Spezia or Riomaggiore. So around 10am we caught a morning train from Riomaggiore back to Monterosso, the northern of the 5 ‘lands’ and there we bought a ferry ticket Monterosso – Portovenere for €18. It was so beautiful to see all the villages from the sea, a completely different prospective!

Ferry boat views

In Portovenere we arrived around lunch time (it takes 80 minutes to get from Monterosso by ferry) where we relaxed and even took a dip in the sea just in front of the famous Byron Grotto! If you have more time at disposal there are lots of things to see in the area as just in front of Portovenere there are several islands, a bit like Bournemouth and Poole with the Isle of Wight, so there are lots of  boat trips to go around those islands and see them closer or some people just go on the other side to relax on its beaches. But beware, the last ferry back towards Cinque terre is unfortunately at 5pm and no later. For £13 you get back to Riomaggiore o Manarola. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in Manarola as it was the only town (with Corniglia) we had not visited yet.

PORTOVENERE

 

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Manarola turned out to be such a charming little town! Less alive then Riomaggiore as the upper part only has houses and nearly any bar or restaurant (they are mainly concentrated around its harbour), but much more countryside, surrounded by beautiful vineyards all around the side of the mountains where it is located, with such a relaxing vibe as if we had stepped into a painting!

MANAROLA

 

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The following morning we only had half day left before returning home, so we took a train from Riomaggiore to Manarola, had a little wander in its vyneyards and then took a bus to Volastra a small town located further up between Manarola and Corniglia, from where there is a free hiking pathway to get to Corniglia (it took us 2 hours due to the heath). There is a free track between Manarola to Volastra, as well but it’s tougher to do and we did not have enough time so we cut it short with the bus service. We really enjoyed the trekking there as well and arrived in Corniglia around lunch time. We walked around enjoying the sea views from a higher level, even if we felt it was the most touristic of the 5 lands.

CORNIGLIA

 

 

As usual I hope you will enjoy this program from my personal travel guide for the budgeting ideas and the precious local information I am sharing here with you!

Brittany in my childhood memories

I know Brittany very well. My mum was born and raised over there and I spent every single summer holidays in the area until I was 18. I remember my grandparents country house with that huge garden where I could play for hours (ironically sold in the late 90s to an English man and his wife who I am in contact with twice a year by Xmas wishes and birthday pictures of my kids). And I know by hear the streets of the little main town (Quimper) where my mother grew up and returned to once a year to be closer to her parents and siblings since she lived in a foreign country for her (Italy, where my father is from and I was born and raised).

 

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Perfect summer family holidays in Spain

In the last few weeks I have been finalizing our next summer trip to Portugal at the end of August and whilst I plan it I am immediately taken back every single time to our amazing holidays in Spain last year as the setup will be very similar this year too.

First of all I should say that our trip to the Mediterranean coast was a very special one as it was my dearest aunt who gave me the touristic guide to go and visit that part of Europe: that is the last thing she gave me the last time we met. She had bought it to go and travel there when she would be retired. However her life had planned otherwise: only a few months after she stopped working she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given a life expectation of 4 to 5 years only. She gave me her guide book in February 2015 as she knew she only had a few months left to live at that point so she would not realise that dream, as many others. She passed away in August 2015 and a few week later I booked our summer holidays for 2016 to go and visit those places on her behalf, holding her in my heart and seeing everything through her eyes too. Our holidays there were such an unforgettably beautiful time of our lives that we felt as if she had managed to make us one last gift even if she was not alive anymore: she inspired us for such an amazing trip that would bring us joys for the years to come every time we would remember it…

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Autumn in New York

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I struggle to believe it’s been over a year already since our trip to New York at the end of October 2015. I often catch my mind wandering in a corner of Central Park or admiring the view on Manhattan’s lights from the top of the Empire State Building. Only recently I finally ordered the print of the 160 selected pictures from the thousand my husband and I took during that epic holiday, for us to go through those images again and again as in a dream, exposed in a lovely photo album that we keep like a coffee table book. That was a trip that will definitively remain in our hearts for ever.
When my younger aunt (who was more like a mother to me) was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September 2011, with a ‘death sentence length’ of 4 to 5 years maximum, I did not think it twice: I took the first Eurostar train with my 3 months old son and my husband accompanying me (as currently in between jobs) and we spent 4 weeks with her in Brittany to encourage her with the first chemo treatments that would have bought us some time. Since then, I would regularly book our ferry tickets and we would visit her twice a year at Easter and Halloween, no matter what, not an hesitation in our minds, not ever a budgeting cut into account.

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48 hours on the Amalfi Coast

If you like the seaside, good food and hiking as much as I do, then the Amalfi Coast is definitively the place to visit! The mountains called Monti Lattari which are part of a natural reserve arrive straight on the sea in this beautiful land with spectacular little towns built on the sides of those cliffs. I discovered Amalfi for the first time in September this year. I had planned to go to Salerno to see a gig of my favorite band when I was a teenager. Since it was on my 34th birthday and I find that beautiful places heal my soul and help me to cope with the family routine of washing up / dropping kids at school / going to work / ordering the grocery / ecc, I decided to give myself a mini break of 2 days and visit the area before going to the concert on the Friday night. It turned out that the trip to Amalfi itself was even more worth it than the gig! Here are my suggestions when you visit the area.

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A day trip to Paris

Paris was my beloved aunt’s city. She actually lived in Melun (which is only 1 hour away) for over 30 years so she would get to spend the day in Paris every time she could. Everything I know about this beautiful city, she made me discover it. That is why as part of my grief journey (courtesy of my husband as a birthday present) I decided to return to Paris for the day on the 18th of February 2016, on my own, dedicating all my thoughts to remember her and how much she meant to me whilst wandering around the same streets she would have walked along when she was still alive.

It was an extremely cold day, it started snowing in the morning and the sky was so grey it seemed to feel miserable. I felt really inconsolable at first. And then I passed next to a charming shop and entered it attracted by its windows. I got myself a lovely kitchen towel with a very old style French pub advertisement printed on it. All of the sudden I remembered my aunt would recommend me to be joyful and lively, the mood of the day changed completely by then and I really made the most of it, forgetting all self pity which had tried to get in the way!

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