You can be a pigment in the colorful canvas of Cinque Terre

Inside Italy’s five most famous seaside villages…

Italy is an enigmatic lady. She flaunts varied sides of her split personality with equal elan…chic (Milan), arty (Florence), sophisticated (Bellagio), luxe (Capri) to innocent (Varenna), rustic (San Gimignano) or religious (Vatican), romantic (Venice). And if you’re looking for unspoilt and laid-back, there’s Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh). The cluster of five seaside villages stayed hidden from public eye for years, but are now  on every Italy-lover’s wishlist, and for several good reasons. No statues, monuments, museums and street performers here…just the sun, sea, rocky beaches, food, and unadulterated Italy. As its been since centuries.

Settle into the old-fashioned coupe of the compartment in the train that runs from Florence to Monterosso via La Spezia. Can you remain settled as you catch glorious glimpses of electric blue sea through arches of all those tunnels? Flash of blue, flash of blue…gone. Its a spectacle riding along that coast…don’t waste it snoozing!

We chose Monterosso as our base for two practical reasons: oversized suitcase one and oversized suitcase two….weighing roughly 20 kg each. Follow our league if you don’t do low maintenance that well. The uneven stone steps and narrow steep mountain roads of the other villages will challenge the Hercules in you. Pick one of the many family-run hotels, preferably with a view of the lapping aquamarine waters. Some extra glee is always welcome.

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There are trains and ferry boats to see all five villages. Fixed times of the day. Buy a day pass for all five? Oh yes! Next boat slot ten minutes from now? Sure! Make a mad race to the pier, arms flailing, panting and jump aboard. There are halts for a few minutes at each village, you can hop on/hop off as per choice. Ride the Ligurian sea waves with wind in your hair. Head for the last one, Riomaggiore, and make your way back stopping at each of the others. Sshhhh! Let your ears fill with the sound of the waves broken by that adorable sing-song Italian chant by the ferry staff at every stop…Vernaaatza (Vernazza), Corneeeliah (Corniglia) Manarollllah, (Manarola) and Riomaggggioray (Riomaggiore). Music to the ears!

Keep your eyes glued to the six-mile long northern Italian coast…that emerald green landmass kissing the aquamarine blue seas aptly designated a Unesco World Heritage Site to preserve its natural and cultural wonders. Is that multi-coloured spray of paint over that deep ravine? Nah, that’s the first of the dramatic quintuplets…a profusion of pastel houses ending in a rough and rocky cove filled casually with fishing boats. Lively colors to guide fishermen home in the sea mist? Or just another reflection of the essential Italian-esque, like its people, language and food? Maybe both. High above the villages, generously vibrant vineyards swamp steep terraces. Adventure hikers dot the cliffside trails linking the villages. Blend into the canvas of color, dissolve into the rainbow hues from Monterosso to Riomaggiore…five times in a row.

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Same peach-pink-lemon complexion, but each with a distinct persona of its own. Rough-hewn Riomaggiore with its narrow inlet where boats jostle through to a rocky embankment and a steep flight of stone steps from the sea to a narrow path along a rocky cliff-face leading to the village. Dramatic Manarola with its curved upward path circling the hill, promising incredible views of the sea and the village. Hotspot for camera-tripod enthusiasts, especially when the evening lights start to twinkle and create pure magic. Charming and quiet Corniglia with 400 zigzagging steps leading from the train station to the harbour-less hilltop town, where less than 300 live. Vivacious Vernazza with its castle ruins, an ancient church, a natural harbour and even a snazzy promenade. Resort-like Monterosso with a historic centre hiding two lovely churches and crooked lanes decked with lovely arches and inviting shops.

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Siblings with shared genes. Dipped in the same sauce of lazy, laid-back seafaring life and traffic-free charm of centuries-old traditions…untainted, unglamorous, unpolished. Not a branded store in sight, just authentic local-made produce. Welcoming trattorias with fresh Italian and Ligurian specialties like aromatic pesto and focaccia. Bruschetta with ham and cheese, pesto, tomato, or olive paste. Artichoke pizza. Basil spaghetti. Huge slices of soft bread. Spinach and cheese stuffed ravioli doused in basil sauce and pine nuts. Swordfish with diced tomato, olives, capers. Wine to savour. Tiramisu to swoon over. Is that food or is that religion? Eat / pray to your tastebuds content.

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Old men chatting in the afternoon shade near the pier…they’ve probably been replaying this routine since decades. Store owners interacting warmly with shoppers over cheerfully displayed fares. Laundry fluttering outside green shuttered windows of modest homes with ‘less than modest’ sea views. An exuberant red-aproned owner-waitress of a tiny cafe singing and dancing without inhibition as she serves two solitary customers. Just another blissful, sunny day earning daily bread (or focaccia).

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Dive into a life that’s filled with the joys of simple things. Stroll up and down the streets adorned with chipped paint buildings, solve flavour dilemmas at artisanal gelato and pesto shops, indulge in retail therapy in quaint boutiques, perch on parked boats draped with blue-white striped covers, daydream on the froth-edged aqua beach and lounge on the age-old rocks lining the coves. And when the soft golden rays of the sun stream through the cloudy horizon, casting a silvery beam across the navy sea, feel serenity flow gently through your veins. Cinque Terre…Dolce vita!

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Italy's five villages promise sun, sea, rocky beaches, food and unadulterated slice of life.

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92 thoughts on “You can be a pigment in the colorful canvas of Cinque Terre

  1. Being Italian, it’s awful that I’ve not yet made my way over to beautiful Italy! Cinque Terre is on the top of my Italian Travel Bucket List; the vibrant colours and gorgeous seaside are so captivating!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We should really exchange notes. It seems that we have been visiting the exact same places. Cinque Terre was my absolute favorite destination in Italy. While the landscape, the multi-hued villages, and the sea was amazing, my most lingering memory of Cinque Terre is that of fried anchovies, eaten straight out of a paper cone in Riomaggiore.

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  3. One of the places I want to be with my camera. I have heard that there are some charges for bringing a professional camera and tripod. Have you heard of it?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always get jealous every time I saw people or friends posting about their trip in Cinque Terre. I really really love to see this place in flesh. Your photos are stunning and watching it made me want to see it as soon as possible. Happy travels! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Visiting Cinque Terre would be a dream come true. I love how you described it! I’m not much for monuments, street performers and museums myself, so this is right up my alley. Just give me a beach and I’ll be fine 😉 I’ve never seen a coast like this .. being from the east side of the US. Absolutely beautiful!

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  6. Love the title, Punita! This post is a feast for the eyes. There’s food, seaside villages, and colorful houses. I like how you travel. You always want to go deep. I’m just astonished it didn’t seem to have that many tourists there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Finally some original photos of Cinque Terre!! We’ve all seen the beautiful sunset shots taken from the hill but your post is honestly the first time I’ve seen photos of the streets and foreshore and… they’re beautiful! Also loving that mental image of the ferry staff chanting out every stop haha

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  8. Monterosso is one of the best places to lodge if you want to visit Cinque Terre, good choice! We also enjoyed Manarola, you’re right that from the top of the hill the views of the village and the sea are breathtaking!

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  9. Sounds like a beautiful authentic taste of Italy. I love how you describe the lush tastes and landscapes that form the Cinque Terre – undoubtedly the most photogenic place in Italy! I remember the tiramisu being just the very best! I love how the old folk sit around in the shade and chat every afternoon 😉

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  10. Cinque Terre comes across as a picture post card perfect place. Its vibrant colours are the stuff of instagrammers’ dreams. We missed going there in spite of traveling to Florence and Pisa. Hope to get there next time. But I have heard that nowadays it gets crowded with tourists and there are some smaller towns nearby where one can stay.

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  11. I think Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful and colorful places on this planet. Although I’ve never been there, I’m so eager to visit someday.

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  12. I really love the photos from Cinque Terre simply proving how beautiful and colorful this place is. Well, Cinque Terre was indeed a must visit place for everybody for it has lots to offer from their delicious foods to the beautiful views of the sea, and the beauty of Cinque Terre even at night; indeed a picture perfect place. Can’t move on with the views of the village and the sea, so breathtaking!

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  13. Your descriptions make Cinque Terre come alive. What I love about these small villages is the village life. The old men getting together in the late afternoon and chatting away, as you describe. I want to visit, but not in the peak tourist season.

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  14. Ooooo yes Cinque Terre wasn’t on my radar until just recently and now I am literally dying to visit! I love the way you describe life there. It sounds more like just being a part of the daily life of the locals rather than being a tourist in an foreign land. And the food looks and sounds absolutely divine! Definitely on my 2018 bucket list!

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  15. Cinque Terre is so fascinating. I have already fallen for it after seeing the vibrant colors and beautiful shore in your pictures. Now for sure, it is on the top of my Italian Travel Bucket List. I wish we make this place before it gets too touristy.

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  16. I really wish we had had time to visit here when we were in Italy. It is so stunning and charming at the same time. I could walk around all day stopping for the occasional espresso:)

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  17. I used to call this area “home” and cannot help getting nostalgic when I see pictures of Cinque Terre or Liguria in general. Unfortunately, Cinque Terre has become very touristy but locals still know where to find their essence. Hope that you enjoyed the pesto and focaccia (or fugassa, like they call it in Genovese dialect): once that you have tasted the real stuff it does not taste that good anywhere else. Good choice for Monterrosso 😉

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  18. I’m always seeing pictures online of Cinque Terre and I’m always wishing to go! The colors, the beach, and the views all would be things I’d enjoy! Who doesn’t? Your pictures really capture the beauty and I’d also want to visit all 5 stops. We’re traveling Asia now, so hope to make our way to Europe and hopefully stop here!

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  19. The Cinque Terre is one of my most vivid travel memories – we stayed in La Spezia and walked the route to the end, then catching the train back to our accommodation. It was packed with people, but the walk was one of the most incredible I’ve done in my life – the villages are like fairytale excerpts and when you reach them it’s like having stepped into the pages of a book! The food here is definitely a religion – your shot of the Tiramisu has me aching for one!! So glad you enjoyed your time here 🙂

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  20. This is one place that I wish I had taken out time for. It is interesting to note how one can tour those. Single pass for 5 destinations and the mad rush definitely says something about it. I would definitely like to be a pigment of color in the canvas of Cinque Terre

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  21. Food and fun. It sounds so wonderful. I love the tale of the old men chatting by the sea. That captures the essence of the region well. The pictures are stunning, but I agree that I’d want to take up a vacation spot in a more flat town. There are so many steps. I know I’d get a good workout visiting all the Cinque Terre.

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  22. What a colorful place, is Cinque Terre! We have been to Italy a while back and sadly enough, Cinque Terre was not our itinerary. Tiramisu is one of my favorites. I can empathize with you on managing suitcases. During our Europe trip last summer, the nice cobbled hilly roads broke the wheels of one suitcase 🙂 .

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  23. Gahhhh! Your photos are so lovely, vibrant and colorful. I’ve never been to Italy, but have been to the countries all around it. I’m hoping that I get there sometime in 2018, and you’ve just convinced me that Cinque Terre is a must-see!

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  24. Exploring the coastal villages of Cinque Terre by ferry sounds just about perfect! Unfortunately, I have not been to Cinque Terre, I always tell my friends there are too many amazing places to visit and explore in Italy, it is hard for one to plan the perfect itinerary, given the short amount of time we have. I have to go back, I’ve been reading about places such as Cinque Terre, Sorrento and Amalfi Coast so much, I need to make another trip to enjoy all of this coastal beauty!

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  25. How those colourful buildings manage to stay firmly perched on the rocks beats me! Those coastal towns wedged on the cliffs are amazing to explore. I think it would be great to spend a couple of weeks walking, eating and drinking with friends.

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  26. The Cinque Terre looks absolutely gorgeous… it’s been on my list of places to visit for a long time. I love the way the colorful house cling to the hillside. The food sounds amazing… when you were describing it my stomach started to rumble. I love pesto!

    Liked by 1 person

  27. We love visiting here and your photos made me feel like we were back enjoying wine and seafood. Our favorite town to stay in has always been Manarola, but you’re right, if carrying heavy luggage it might be best to stay in Monterosso. Thanks for the memories.

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  28. Cinque Terre has been on my “need to” list for so long, it is truly a stunning place ❤ ❤ ❤ I also just love the image of the old men down by the pier – exactly where they've been forever!

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