Disclaimer: Thank you to ACLA Apartments for hosting us as your guests. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely our own.
First Off, Why Should You Visit Cinque Terre?
Everyone loves going on vacation, but we all have different notions on what that looks like. Some like being outdoors, others prefer cultural immersion and experiencing local foods, while most just want to sit back and relax on a sandy beach. All present their own unique charm, but it’s rare to find a place that encompasses them all. On our recent trip to Italy, we discovered a region known for its unprecedented beauty, dazzling sunsets, rocky coastlines, pristine beaches and striking cuisine… and that region is Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre has rapidly climbed the ranks as one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe, and it’s easy to see why. Hugging the Ligurian coastline of the Mediterranean, Cinque Terre is a string of five centuries-old fishing villages along the Italian Riviera; commonly known as: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola (our personal favorite, but we’ll get into that later) and Riomaggiore.
Each town is a cornucopia of color, with pastel hues of pale pink, beige, burnt orange, salmon and soft yellows, you can’t help but feel enchanted by each village’s unquestionable charm. Nothing compares to the sweeping vistas before you, with the shimmering clear waters of the Ligurian Sea below, lush green vineyards at every turn, and powdery blue skies above, it’s obvious why Cinque Terre lures in thousands of visitors each year. Over the next few paragraphs, we’ll dive into this wondrous place, touching on history, lodging and best things to do so that you too can enjoy and understand what this national park has to offer!
What is the History of Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre dates all the way back to the 11th century. Deemed an Italian treasure, and increasing in notoriety, by 1997 UNESCO had recognized Cinque Terre as a place of worldwide importance to cultural and natural heritage.
Built on the Ligurian Sea, fishing was a vital part to everyday life and the survival of each coastal town. Given its location, seafood became a major part of local cuisine that still remains prevalent today. The mountainside terraces also proved to be quite fertile, allowing farmers to cultivate olives and grapes that would later be turned into world class wines and delicious oils.
In addition to the fruitful landscapes, each Cinque Terre town also entices visitors with its rich historical past begging to be explored. Monterosso hosts Neptune, a colossal statue damaged by the war. Vernazza is home to Doria Castle, a 12th century fortress that offers incredible scenic coastal views. Corniglia and Manarola each possess a 13th century gothic style church and Riomaggiore contains a centuries old castle, one of the most important historical edifices still present in Cinque Terre.
Over the past few centuries, people have built colorful homes and terraces on the steep hillsides. At first glance it’s bewildering how these buildings remain perfectly balanced on each cliffs edge, sitting high above the sea. A cluster of pastel colors intrigue you with their very conception and architectural existence, yet dazzle you with their beauty and engineering splendor.
Paths, trains, and boats connect each village, along with a complex network of hiking trails. Visitors can take a ferry between towns or kayak their way across but the coastal walks are most renowned, offering guests some of the best coastal hiking trails in the world that should not be missed. We’ll delve into that later but it’s worth multiple mentions. For now… let’s move onto lodging to help you better enjoy your stay.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre?
With so many great places to stay in Cinque Terre, it can be overwhelming which to choose, but we’ve found the perfect Cinque Terre accommodation with ACLA Apartments in Manarola.
Why Manarola you may ask? Well, Manarola was our favorite of the five Cinque Terre towns. Built upon rocks towering 70 meters above sea level, we found Manarola to be one of the most romantic and charming communities in all of Cinque Terre. There is a tiny harbor at the base of this adorable town, accompanied by a small boat ramp that most utilize for sunbathing in the warmer summer months. Surrounded by a plethora of pastel colored houses bordering the sea, this tiny fishing village is idyllic for any Cinque Terre stay and ACLA Apartments offers seaside lodging that can’t be beat.
Each apartment has rooms and a balcony overlooking the sea. Set upon steep rock spurs, you have an unobstructed panoramic view of the entire town below. There is a faint scent of lemon, thyme and rosemary in the air as vineyards cover nearby terraces, and the soft breeze of the Mediterranean kisses your lips. There's no place better than this to call home.
We had the pleasure of staying in the Bulwark 2 Apartment, a beautiful 1 bedroom, 1 bath Cinque Terre accommodation located on the top floor of a larger villa. Perched literally on a jagged cliffs edge and tightly hugging the Ligurian Sea coastline, you are offered a unique intimate view of the villages small inlet and harbor, that jets directly out into the endless expanse of the shimmering sea.
With a full kitchen, containing every cooking amenity one would ever need, we looked forward to cooking local pastas each night, accompanied with the world famous pesto rosso sauces native to the Cinque Terre region. Our apartment was four levels; The first floor enclosed the kitchen, toilet and shower. The second a queen size bed with ocean views. The third an outdoor patio with a square table and four chairs (our personal favorite for sunsets), and the fourth a sundeck with two lounge chairs for sunbathing on a beautiful day.
We didn’t want our stay to end: This apartment had the best view in town (honestly, it was better than any view offered by the surrounding hotels in Cinque Terre), we found ourselves not wanting to leave. Each night we’d eagerly anticipate the sunset with an aperol spritz in hand, happily watching as sailboats and fishermen passed by in the distance, while locals and travelers alike enjoyed the last glimmer of sun below, swimming in the cove and cliff jumping off the steep rocks nearby. It was a sheer delight to see.
The apartment’s location could not be beat. With easy access to public transportation and the gorgeous hiking trails in the hills nearby, the doors of adventure were wide open for us to explore. We chose to hike during the majority of our stay and will share with you our suggestions on how to navigate the narrow cobbled streets and alleyways to access some of the best coastal hiking offered in the world.
What Should You Do?
Our recommendation is to HIKE!!!
Cinque Terre offers exceptional hiking trails that connect each of the five fishing villages. There are literally dozens of trails to choose from. The one key piece of advice we can offer you however, is to research prior if a path / route is open. Some of the more famous paths like Via dell' Amore (Lovers’ Lane) which once connected the picturesque towns of Manarola to Riomaggiorare are closed for repairs until Spring of 2021, but we found the majority of red and blue paths to still be open in all other areas.
From Manarola you can follow the red path to Corniglia. You’ll start by slowly hiking out of the main town square, winding your way towards a narrow rugged path of stone stairs, that will then lead you up the mountainside towards a small village nestled upon the hilltop. From there you’ll follow the path as it weaves you through olive groves and vineyard-covered terraces. The hike is approximately four hours round trip, but you can always take the train to your end destination if you find any trail to be too vigorous. You can hike for several days from town to town or hike at your leisure to experience the unprecedented coastal views. You set the schedule, so do what feels best for you!
If hiking doesn’t suit your fancy, opt for one of the many Cinque Terre beaches. The largest beach can be found in Monterosso, with white sand, turquoise waters and beautiful rock formations at its coastline. This beach is the perfect place to kick back and relax if you’re in the mood to soak up some rays and have a more chillaxing day.
No matter who you are, Cinque Terre is a fantastic place for you. With its rich history, beautiful sights, and multitude of hiking trails, you can easily spend weeks discovering every corner of this majestic national park. Whether you want to explore all five towns, relax on a pristine beach, or just spend your days enjoying the local cuisine (aka eating copious amounts of gelato), you want to choose a location that suits your needs and desires. Out of all the places to stay in Cinque Terre, we can guarantee from first hand experience that ACLA Apartments can provide just that, serving as the perfect match for you, your family, and all the Aperol Spritzes along the way!