BEAUTIFUL CINQUE TERRE
We were nervous about this trip not being kid-friendly enough... but it ended up being one of our most favorite family adventures!
While Cinque Terre may not have all the traditional kid-friendly activities, we filled our days full of hiking, beach going and gelato... which turns out to be a recipe for a great family time.
So let's dive in! I'll go through each city and what we ended up doing in and around each city.
The Cinque Terre- literally meaning "Five Lands" is a coastal area within Liguria in the northwest of Italy and comprises five villages: Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
We flew into Genoa and took a train down the coast to Monterosso Al Mare. The train was a beautiful ride and it was right at sunset to add to the magic. No matter where you fly into, Italy is so well connected. You can use Trainline to book your tickets, or use the kiosk at the train station.
Monterosso is the biggest of the five towns. There is the old town section south of the train station, and the newer town north of the station. We loved staying in the older section as it really captured the quaintness of Italy and of Cinque Terre: really small, winding streets with people eating outside and socializing.
Things to Do:
Beach! There is a large beach on the new side of town, and a smaller beach on the old side of town. We spent time at both and loved it. In October, the water was quite cold- but the sun is wam and it was lovely to play in the sand. I don't know about your kids... but our kid could play in the sand for hours and she was her happiest when we let her do just that!
Hike to Punta Mesco. This hike was unique because from this point, you can see all five towns down the coastline! To find the trailhead, walk through the new side of Monterosso and then follow the signs to Levanto. Up on the mountain, there will be a fork that will lead you to Punta Mesco or leading you onward to Levanto.
Hike to Vernazza. This is probably the most famous section of trail within Cinque Terre because of the amazing view of Vernazza. I would hike from Monterosso Al Mare to Vernazza and not Vernazza to Monterosso Al Mare, as I think the views are better. It is one of the longer hikes and will probably take you around 2-3 hours... but it is worth it! And remember- you can always take the train back to your accommodation if you're tired after a day of hiking!
Short hike to St. Assissi statue. It's just a quick walk up the hill between new town and old town Monterosso to get some great views and to marvel at the St. Francis of Assissi statue on top.
Hiking Tip- Make sure you check this website before you head out on a hike. They are frequently doing work on the trails between towns and it is updated in real time to let you know what is open and what is not. One day the trail to Vernazza wasn't open... but the next day it was!
This town was one of our favorites! It's just gorgeous and picturesque at every turn. The view from up above from your hike from Monterosso is incredible, and the view from the opposite side if you hike on to Corniglia is equally amazing.
Things to Do:
Get gelato at Gelateria Il Porticciolo. This was hands down the best gelato we had all week. It was SO creamy!!
Focaccia sandwiches at Lunch Box. Still dreaming about these. Their lunch rush gets busy so you may have to wait.
Sunset dinner at La Torre. We kind of stumbled upon this location at just the right time. We ended up watching the sun set over the ocean as we ate our food. I remember the food being good... but the sunset made the whole experience amazing!
Have a family photoshoot! This was one of the best and unique things we decided to do. We hired a photographer through Airbnb experiences and it was professional, quick, and affordably priced. Would definitely recommend this to everyone! Click here for the experience.
Hike to Corniglia. Another beautiful hike through the Cinque Terre National Park coastline. Lots and lots of stairs! Just when we thought we couldn't go anymore... there was the cutest little restaurant along the trail with food and the most delicious lemonade slushies and other cold drinks. Bar Il Gabbiano- You have to stop here!
Disclaimer- We were there at the very end of the season and a lot of restaurants and places were closed for us. So although I have several recommendations for Vernazza, unfortunately I don't have a lot of food recommendations
for the other towns!
Out of all the towns, we spent the least time here. We hiked here from Vernazza after an already long day. We got gelato here, admired the views, and then took the train back to our accommodation. This is the only town that doesn't have access to the water ferry.
Travel Tip- The town is a hike up a lot of stairs from the train station to the town. All the other towns are same level as their train stations
so just be ready for that!
Another beautiful town on the coast... I just can't get over it! Did you know that all of these towns are Medieval? But back in the day, they weren't colored! It was somewhat of a ploy in the 60's to color the town beautiful colors to attract tourists... and attract it did. Cinque Terre can be quite busy during the summer months and it can be hard to find space on the trains during the busy parts of the day.
Things to Do:
Hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore. If the lower route is open, it's a quick and level walk along the coast. If the lower route is not open (remember to check the hiking website linked above) then you can take the higher route. It is straight up and straight down from Manarola to Riomaggiore- but the views are incredible!
Swim in the harbor at Manarola. This was such a fun spot! There were a lot of swimmers of all ages jumping off of rocks and into the water. The water was a bit too cold for us, so we mainly people watched. We sat here for nearly an hour watching all the fun!
Keep walking past the port and up the hill on the other side of town for some great views, and for some play time at the playground on the top.
If you have time, get in the queue at Nessun Dorma- a quaint little restaurant with great views of Manarola. You can't beat the views, unless they seat you on their very last table and then you have a great view of some dead grass... like we did!
Travel Tip- Trains are definitely the easiest way to get from town to town,
but you can also take the ferry for a low cost "by sea" experience.
We stayed here for a few days at the end of our trip and love, love, loved this town. They call it "houses on the rocks" and for good reason- this city goes straight up! Everywhere you go is walking up hill and our Airbnb had the steepest indoor stairs I've ever seen.
Things to Do:
Take a cooking class. Liguria is where pesto originated and we learned to make pesto from a master with his famous family recipe. It was a great experience and literally the best pesto we've ever tasted in our lives... and WE made it!
Watch the sunset from Castello di Riomaggiore. Grab some gelato, and take a walk to this spot to watch the sun set. You won't regret it. It's incredible.
Walk past the port and around the cliff to discover a small rocky beach; Riomaggiore Beach. We kept our sandals on and played to our hearts content on this lovely beach. Stacking rocks was also a fave.
Take a sunset boat ride to end your time in one of the most beautiful places in the world! We again booked with Airbnb experiences- but can also find the same type of excursion in Riomaggiore and Manarola by the port.