Fact: Cinque Terre, Italy is the reason that the word “breathtaking” was first introduced into the English language. Ok…so we aren’t 100% sure that is a “fact.” Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 (cinque) towns that span the Ligurian Coast of Italy, just about 2.5 to 3 hours from Florence by train. From towering cliffs, to rocky coast, to beautifully colorful homes and buildings, Cinque Terre is a must see!
If possible, try to visit Cinque on a weekday. Students, tourists, and even locals tend to head toward the coast on the weekends.
If you head to Cinque from Florence or Pisa you’ll likely arrive around lunch time. A great way to start the day and fuel up for a day of adventure is to grab a nice lunch on the water. Manarola and Vernazza both boast a handful of restaurants that sit on the coast and offer patio dining. Our best suggestion is to ask your server what his or her favorite dish is and try something new. Cinque is known for amazing seafood, so eating healthy is also very easy! We enjoyed a nice lunch at Gianni Franzi where our server suggested fresh butterflied prawns and spaghetti con frutti di mare (seafood spaghetti); both of which were excellent choices. (Note: In Cinque, as in many parts of Europe, your seafood will not be fileted. Expect to see an eyeball or two.)
If we could list Da Eraldo as all 5 reasons to visit Cinque, we would. This tiny restaurant the size of your bedroom is host to some of the best plates in all of Cinque Terre. We again took our servers suggestions and enjoyed Da Eraldo’s infamous antipasto, thick pasta Bolognese, swordfish with vegetables and the Cinque Terre Ventua wine. The antipasto is hands down the best antipasto Europe has to offer.
Yes…that’s Parmesan cheese in a sea shell!
YES…THAT’S PARMESAN CHEESE IN A SEA SHELL!
Da Eraldo is quite difficult to find, but definitely worth the effort. If you’re lucky enough to find it, make sure to grab a table and enjoy what might be one of the best meals of your life.
*Note: Da Eraldo opens at 18:30 and fills up quite quickly as they only have 5 or 6 tables. Try to get there about 17:30 or 18:00 and enjoy some wine and apertivos across the street at Enoteca da Eliseo. This magical part of town will literally make you feel like you’re in Italian Disneyland.
This is not for the faint of heart. The hike between the towns can be quite strenuous, especially when it is 90+ degrees with high humidity. A few bits of advice for the hike:
After the hike you’re going to be sweaty….very sweaty. Nothing will feel more amazing than taking a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea! The sea can be a bit chilly, but it feels amazing! We spent hours in the water just floating and enjoying the beautiful scenery.
You’ll notice people swimming in many parts of Cinque, especially at some points just past Manarola, but we have found that the best swimming and most beautiful views are found in the cove of Vernazza.
If you’re up for more aquatic adventures, you can rent stand up paddle boards, boats, and kayaks out of many of the towns. Again, we are partial to Vernazza because this town offers all of these options.
Be sure to read more on how to plan a day trip to Cinque Terre