While I don't want Cinque Terre to get TOO packed with tourists, I'll let you all in on a little secret.. Cinque Terre is a great, I mean the best, place to go for a holiday. In fact, it's gotten Alex and I's stamp of "favorite European city." Yes, it's that good.
Summer is a hot time in Cinque Terre, but it's nice to be able to get in the water and swim. I would never recommend going to Italy in the summer, especially since the apartments are NOT air conditioned, but do go when you can enjoy the water (it's very, very warm).
* I would recommend purchasing the Cinque Terre card while you're there. It includes free train rides between the towns and the walks between the towns.
* Cinque Terre cuisine: You MUST MUST MUST eat the local anchovies (even if you don't usually like them), pesto (would recommend cooking a pesto pasta dish at home -
skip at night at the restaurant), stuffed mussels (a local specialty), wine (of course),
focaccia for lunch (another local specialty - topped with whatever you could ever want,
probably the best thing I've ever eaten ever!)
* Cinque Terre National Park: there are walks between each town. While we haven't done the walk between every town, we did walk between 3 towns. Riomaggiore to Manarola is called Via dell' Amore (the walk of love), the shortest of the walks with the greatest views.
* There are very few hotels, but lots of holiday apartments to rent. This way you have more room, can stay with multiple people if you'd like, and can buy local food and wine to eat in a night or two.
Riomaggiore: the first of the five towns. I stayed there on my first visit. Plenty of holiday apartments to rent, but as with the rest of Cinque Terre, expect a steep walk up hills/stairs. Gorgeous marina, buildings, and a fabulous restaurant, Il Grotto, with the best stuffed mussels I've EVER had!
Manarola: the second town that we stayed in on our latest visit. It has great deep-water swimming, great Italian seafood dishes, and a very local feel. After visiting all five of the towns, I think we made the best decision to stay here. There are plenty of holiday apartments to rent and lots to do - both night and day. Alex's 'favorite gelato ever' was had here - double chocolate... eaten multiples times a day!
Corniglia: Adorable town, but would not recommend staying here. In order to get to get to the town, you have to walk up about 300 stairs.. with luggage. Thanks, but I'll pass. Definitely worth an afternoon visit. The walk from Manarola to Corniglia is about an hour and gorgeous - great views
Vernazza: beautiful town with a small beach for swimming. The walk from here to Monterosso is the hardest of all the walks, but the views are well worth it.
Monterosso: more of a typical beach resort town, but LOADED with study-abroad college students. A bit too crowded (mainly with Americans) for my taste. While I think everyone should see all five of the towns, if you wind up missing Monterosso, no biggie.
the Local Cuisine
gelato, of course
dinner at the apartment - fresh pesto from the local deli & table wine
focaccia - my favorite one
Anchovy al limone, a local, amazing cuisine - we had every day, sometimes multiple times a day
Local, fresh focaccia - deliciousness