If there is one place you can visit in Italy for beauty, I would say visit the five towns of Cinque Terre.
After leaving Milan in the morning, and spending the afternoon in Genoa, we knew our next stop and we wanted to make sure we were fully rested for the day ahead. So we spent the evening at a service station and woke up feeling refreshed.
Before we explain our journey through the Cinque Terre, I will give you a bit of background. It is a coastal route that goes along five towns – these are: Monterosso al mare, Vernazza, Carniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each town has its own history to go and visit, along one of the most beautiful coastal routes you can do in Italy.
Not all towns can be visited via car, so we couldn’t see all of the towns with us having the boys, but I would recommend that if you are wanting to do all five towns, stay at one town and then use coastal route train line so you can go to all five.
Monterosso al mare
This was the first town that we drove into and you can start to see the beauty of the coast straight away. This one is easy accessible by car, there are zone traffic areas, but only on the Main Street, so I would suggest to park either at the car park at the top or near the shore there is a large car park you can go to.
We parked at the bottom and started our walk, the first thing we could see is the Monterosso giant. This is a rather large statue of Neptune hanging over the beach and is a magnificent one at that. There is a lot of damage to this statue, due to storms and ww2, but you can imagine how it would have looked in all of its glory.
We walked past the giant and up the coast a little further, where you can see some beautiful views of the coastal route and the other towns in the distant.
We moved back down the hill and towards the town. We went later on in the year so was a lot queiter than usual but I can imagine how busy it gets during peak tourism. It was nice to walk along the street following the coast as we went. There is a tunnel which you pass through to enter the main town and this is when you discover the small streets and colourful buildings. You can feel the atmosphere walking through the streets, with all of the fresh smells of the markets and shops. We passed the church which was a beautiful one and you can enter for free (though I would recommend leaving a donation). Inside is a lovely example of a church with the attention to detail being perfect.
Once we finished walking around, we decided to head back to the car and get some food on the way. We stopped off at a cafe were we got a slice of pizza (you can’t turn down pizza) and a bread called focaccia. This is a thick bread with olive oil but you won’t taste bread nicer or lighter, so I would recommend trying this bread, especially in this region as this is were it originated from.
Once we had a quick bite to eat, we made our journey to the next town.
Vernazza and Carniglia
Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to these towns by car so this was a distant view when driving. The downside to driving is some towns you can’t get to, whether it is because of zone traffic, or just lack of parking, but there are also good points to driving. We got to drive from Monterosso al mare through the mountains and enjoy the views along the coastal route. Although we couldn’t see all of the towns in person, we got to see views that only the locals see on a daily basis. Driving this route isn’t the easiest, it’s very windy and thin, with cars coming from all directions, but if you are confident enough the views are worth it. So with us seeing these two towns from a distance, off to the next town we went.
We parked up at the top of the town, as you can’t drive any further, and made our way down to the main town. Soon as you start walking you can see why this place is visited. The streets are small and windy, with shops on every corner, and people singing from the local winery’s. We made it to the coast and the views started to come into place. We walked up the side of the cliff face (and wondering why it was so busy) we made it towards the top and turned around. And that’s the view. The view you always see, the multicoloured houses climbing up along the cliff face with the waves hitting below. After standing there admire the views for a few minutes, we started to make our way back to the car. Now do you remember me saying we came down to the town? Yes this is were we had to go back up, and it seemed a lot steeper and daunting this time round. We finally all made to the top and back to the car for a well deserved drink. This is also the downside of driving, the train station is at the bottom and involves no climbing.
This is the last town in the Cinque Terre and again with the lack of parking and zone traffic areas we couldn’t make it the whole way down. We got to see the town from a distance and it looked like another beautiful one.
After a along day, we decided to just relax and do nothing for the rest of the day………oh wait no we decided to visit a small city called Pisa – I’m sure you will need us to explain what is there.
After seeing the views of the coast, our next destination was Pisa. We were going to leave this until the next day but we decided to drive there and see what we could visit in the late evening. We got to Pisa and it was still relatively early evening, so we parked up just outside of the city (again they have zone traffic areas so be careful). We didn’t know much about Pisa, except the leaning tower, so we decided to walk into the centre and see what we could find.
The leaning tower
One of the first things we came across was the main attraction of Pisa, the leaning tower. In all of the pictures it always looks like the leaning tower is on its own with nothing around. This turns out to be not true, and instead is based in a square amongst other historical buildings. It is situated in cathedral square, so we walked around to see all of the beautiful perfectly straight buildings. We then walked around the leaning tower and it is strange to see it in person. Even though you know it leans and you’ve seen it lean, you don’t realise how much it actually leans until your actually there, and yet is still stood up.
This square is very busy with everyone doing the famous thing to do (yes we did do the typical keeping the tower up pose), so once we took our picture we moved on to see what else Pisa had. We didn’t venture very far, around the outside of the square there were a lot of restaurants and bars with a view of the leaning tower. Further than that we seemed to hit just streets with not a lot down them. We may have not given Pisa a chance but it did just seem that the main attraction is the tower and money wasn’t put anywhere else but the square. I hope that one day we get another chance to visit and it may change my view on this.