Cinque Terre is an easy 1.45 minute train ride from Florence.
On the way, we stopped in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. MK’s face as she saw the tower was hilarious—she had always wanted to see it and was even more pumped to learn the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of the huge cathedral in Pisa. We took the classic picture, marveled at how the tower is still standing today, and made our way back to Pisa Central train station to catch a train to Cinque Terre. We were in Pisa for exactly one hour and couldn’t tell you any more about the city.
Cinque Terre is another UNESCO world heritage site, which we have become very fond of. "Cinque Terre" is literally translated as 5 towns—Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. We stayed at a tiny B&B in Manarola, La Toretta Lodge, with great views of the colorful town.
Unfortunately sometimes when a location is labelled a UNESCO world heritage site, it can ruin the charm and natural beauty because of the tourism spike that follows the label. Cinque Terre was labeled UNESCO in 2000 and since then over 2 million tourists visit every year. As a result, the coastal walk that connects the five towns has been deteriorating. When we visited, the entire coastal walk was shut down. This was a bummer but didn’t stop us from hiking the higher hill paths!
Hiking Cinque Terre is so much fun—but definitely not for the faint of heart! The climbs are tough with paths rocky and narrow at points. We have done our fair share of hiking this trip and really loved it. Walking along and seeing another colorful town come into view was picture perfect. We hiked from Manarola to Corniglia to Vernazza in 3 hours. We had planned to continue on to Monterosso but our hike was unfortunately cut short by the rain!
That evening, we decided on a whim to head to the famous Splendio Hotel in Portofino for dinner. Portofino is an hour train ride from Cinque Terre, which feels like nothing to us at this point. The colorful town of Portofino reminded us a lot of the French Riviera (they are only 100 miles apart, after all!). The town was small and beautiful and had some great shopping!! We finished the night listening to Splendo’s piano player, who wears a sequin jacket and puts on quite the show (as recommended by Big Johnny, Pat and Carmel O’Brien).
Cinque Terre is definitely for the adventurer. You get the beauty and wonder of seeing colorful Italian coastal towns with the fun and adventure of hiking and trekking. If we were to come back, we would probably do the reverse - stay in Portofino and do a day trip to hike the five towns of Cinque Terre.