I’m back with the third and final part of this series focusing on weekend escapes from Livorno or Viareggio. This article follows on from why you should plan a weekend escape to Florence and Siena or a trip to Bologna or Rome? and features Cinque Terre and Porto Venere.
If you haven’t visited Cinque Terre yet, then this is your sign to go. The Cinque Terre is a beautiful compilation of 5 rainbow-coloured villages spread out along the stunning Ligurian coastline. The villages themselves are absolutely stunning, but the dramatic hiking trails take this region to a whole new level. If hiking isn’t your thing, then there is a dedicated train service linking these villages.
Porto Venere is considered the sixth village in the Cinque Terre, but it’s totally cut off from the rest. It sits on a peninsula looking out to sea. The best way to access this beautiful gem is to drive, hike or take the bus from La Spezia. Because of this, the village is much quieter than the others, and one of the most picturesque too, in my opinion.
Riomaggiore is the most southern village on the Cinque Terre and has origins dating back to the 8th century when Greek refugees moved towards the coast. This village is also where many people start their hike across the landscape. There are several routes, but we have tried and tested trail 351. It’s certainly not an easy hike, but the views are well worth the many steps you will take.
Perched high on the rocks 70m above sea level, Manarola is the most romantic and charming of all the villages. The picturesque village features beautiful multicoloured houses, a tiny marina and boat ramp, and a minuscule piazza with plenty of seafood restaurants. Manarola is surrounded by vineyards famous for their sweet wine – Sciacchetrà.
Corniglia is the only village without direct access from the sea – to reach it, you must climb 377 steps, to be exact! No, I didn’t count them, somebody else did! Corniglia is an ancient Roman village whose history is rooted deeply in agriculture, which is clear, as it’s encircled on three sides by vineyards and orchards.
Vernazza is simply stunning, and it’s widely considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy. One of the best ways to arrive at this village is by sea as you really get to enjoy its beauty.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest village and is split into two parts marked by the medieval tower of Aurora and joined by a short tunnel or footpath. The old town is characterised by the ruins of the castle, narrow medieval streets and hundreds of colourful houses. The newer part of town, Feigns, is dominated by the symbol of Monterosso ‘The statue of the ‘Giant’ which represents the god of the sea, Neptune.
Restaurant selection for Cinque Terre
Ananasso Bar (Vernazza) – This is one of my favourite spots in Cinque Terre, it’s right on the seafront in the centre of the village and serves the best pizza and pinsa (a local dish), plus it’s not that expensive. They also make an excellent Aperol along with other types of Spritzers!
Miky (Monterosso al Mare) – I love this restaurant, its interior is beautiful and they have a small terrace overlooking the street! The staff were excellent and so happy to see us after covid and to make it even better the food was incredible. I would say this is a great mid-range treat and you get a lot for your money… I highly recommend the salt-crusted sea bass… delicious doesn’t cover it.
Nessun Dorma (Manarola) – This place is excellent! You can’t book, it’s a first come first serve kind of place, it’s super busy but it’s so worth the wait. I would recommend the Burrata and a selection of the Bruschetta’s… they are to die for! It’s worth noting they have an app which marks your place in the queue and notifies you when your table is ready. Using it is 10x much better than spending 2.5 hours in the queue. However, at least you can now wander the village… but it is definitely worth the wait.
Restaurant selection Porto Venere
Trattoria Della Marina – This is one of my top choices. They serve the most amazing seafood pasta, my favourite is the vongole. I love this place as it sits on the front overlooking the marina and it feels so local, you could spend hours here people watching.
La Chiglia – This is also excellent, it’s a little more upmarket than the Trattoria above but they serve excellent seafood too. In all honesty, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the restaurants in Porto Venere as it’s a hidden gem in itself.
If you’re looking for something different or a quick lunch these two focaccias have you covered and they are so good warm; Batti Batti Friggitoria (Vernazza) and Forno de MÄ (Porto Venere).
You must visit Corniglia – It’s one of the best spots to watch the sunset over the ocean! And Bar Terza Terra di Cadario Alison, has the best views (and Aperols).
The best way to see the Cinque Terre is to hike or take the dedicated train service. We have done a mixture of both. I wouldn’t recommend driving as the roads are tiny and parking is limited. It’s quicker to access each of the villages by train.
Porto Venere, on the other hand, isn’t part of this train service. Taking the bus from La Spezia is one of the easiest options. Driving is also recommended but parking can be tricky in the summer. We spent 20 minutes walking uphill to the car after a big lazy lunch… not for the faint-hearted.
*Look out for my next article which showcases the ultimate Tuscan road trip, featuring the most spectacular towns you didn’t know existed and their best restaurants from local fares to fine dining establishments.
Head to Superyacht Content Travel to discover more European destinations.