I’m handing over to the witty and worldy Vanessa Morrish now, for our very first contributor post! We are so lucky to have Vanessa on board as she’s traveled to an amazing 109 cities and 28 countries in her short life so far, and has agreed to recount her past and future experiences and tips with us on this site. I love how Vanessa’s passion for the world and all the humour she sees within it shines through her writing, and I hope you will enjoy reading about her travels as much as I have.
My mum left home in Scotland when she was 16. By the time she was 21, she was embarking on a round the world trip that saw her working for the UN in Switzerland, busing across Europe, making it through a Russian winter, sleeping on Persian rugs in Iran, running out of money in Hong Kong and ending up in Australia. I wish my stories were as impressive as hers, but travel does so many things beyond getting a great tan or a postcard to send home. It helps you understand people, if only a little better. It makes you grateful, sometimes envious. It makes you think and sometimes it makes you feel really small. But the best thing of all is, that at the end of the day, it’s your adventure and what you make of it is totally up to you.
For my first post I shall begin with my trip to Cinque Terre in Italy…
Some of the best pesto even known to man – tick
Scenery so beautiful you need to stop for several ‘moments’ – tick
Gelati so good you simply must have nine scoops in one day – tick
The Cinque Terre is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The combined beauty of these five villages [five lands], set upon the rugged coastline of Italy’s north/west is so breathtaking, it almost hurts. Not only did I taste some of the best gelati of my life, I reached an all time eating rock bottom when I ate half a jar of pesto with a plastic spoon at the airport because I couldn’t take it on the plane.
But I digress. Let’s start from the beginning with the stuff you probably want to know.
You can’t directly fly to the Cinque Terre, so I’d recommend flying into Genoa and catching the train to La Spezia from there. It’s a couple of hours and in between 20-30 euros. La Spezia is the main station and you need to switch there to get to your village of choice. I wouldn’t recommend spending any time in La Spezia, it’s kind of like the Cinque Terre’s fat, ugly cousin that doesn’t wash regularly enough.
Now, where to sleep. I stayed in Riomaggiore which is slightly larger than some of the other villages. Monterosso is the largest of all five and but if a tiny (and I mean tiny) village feel is what you’re after Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola are for you. Like the whole of Italy, accommodation borders on expensive. I stayed in a ‘pension’ type place, sharing a room with some American exchange students, it was about 25 Euro a night. It was fine, it even had a balcony overlooking the village where I spent a sunset eating more pesto from the jar.
The idea of the Cinque Terre is to walk from village to village. Some people choose to catch a train. Unless you’re old or unable to walk, only idiots or the obese would choose to do this. Sure, the walk is hard in parts, but the view is more than enough to make you forget about the heaviest of wheezing. A good idea is to walk to Monterosso (the most northern village) and then catch the train back. Or, depending on how much time you have, spread the walk over a couple of days. I’d recommend having lunch in Vernazza, there’s also a small beach there. The next bit of the walk is probably the hardest, so it’s good recharge with more pesto and gelati.
After you’re done with the villages, catching the boat to Portovenere is also a great day trip. It’s not technically part of the Cinque Terre, but it’s still beautiful and worth a visit. For lunch, make sure you explore the cobbled streets rather than settling for the touristy places along the water. Hidden in the maze are some amazing local bakeries with cheap and delicious pizzas.
All in all, you don’t need to spend long in the Cinque Terre. I’d say three days is plenty. But like everything, it depends on how much time and money you have. To see more of Italy, spend a day in Genoa on the way and a day in Bergamo on the way back. That’s if you’re flying back to London. Bergamo is a gorgeous fortified city and for once, it’s a town worth travelling to the Ryanair airport for.