Why did I choose this self-guided Cinque Terre trip? Firstly because I have never been to Italy and after working at a travel company for nearly two years I thought it was about time; those colourful towns perched on the coast seemed an idyllic place to start. Secondly, a self-guided trip sounded like the ideal way to trek the trails at our own pace.
We started the trip with an extra day and night in Santa Margharita to give ourselves some time to relax and enjoy the sunshine, wine and seafood. I’d highly recommend Ristorante Antonio for incredibly fresh seafood and friendly service.
The next day we embarked on our train ride to Monterosso – the only Cinque Terre town with a beach for sunbathing. The trains in Italy are incredibly easy to use with all the ticket machines available in English and comprehensive train timetables online – we used Trenitalia’s site to find our way around. They’re also frequent and punctual which is a welcome change to the UK and you can watch the coastline stretch ahead of you.
Monterosso was exactly how I had pictured the Cinque Terre; colourful umbrellas dotted along the beach, azure seas and colourful buildings with higgledy-higgledy streets. Make sure you amble down into the old town for traditional restaurants and tiny bars to sample limincello and fresh pasta alla Genovese – don’t miss the classic trofie al pesto.
After a day of getting our bearings and enjoying the beachfront cafes and bars we started our first walk from Riomaggiore – a 15 minute train ride away. Rising steeply you’re granted your first view overlooking the tightly-packed town before curving your way around the coast, through vineyards and olive groves, ending your walk at Portovenere. Its castle, originally built in the 1100s, perches on a rocky outcrop and is a spectacular way to end the day’s walk. I’d definitely recommend staying for a few hours to walk the narrow streets and enjoy some local beer and wine. Take the ferry back to get the best view of the Cinque Terre towns – their colourful buildings tumbling down the cliffs like someone spilled a packet of pick ‘n’ mix down the craggy slope.
It was then onto Bonassola which offered us yet more photo opportunities and walks through lush olive groves and cerise pink bougainvillea. Take time to stop in the shade and enjoy some fresh focaccia bought that morning. You can then stop for pizza and Caprese salad when you make it to Bonassola!
The final bed and breakfast on this trip affords beautiful views looking down to the coast and is nestled within lush gardens. We loved enjoying a sundowner here before heading into town where the gelato is, naturally, fantastic.
I’m glad I chose this trip – it’s good to pack in an adventure when your annual leave is low and being self-guided means you can go out of the main tourist season. The notes are fantastic, especially if you’re not an experienced map reader as there are easy-to-follow diagrams. It’s kindled a love for Italy and I hope to return soon to try the Walk of the Gods and explore Positano. Of course I will also enjoy an Aperol Spritz or two when I return!