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For people that really want to go here – have you considered the Amalfi Coast instead? Cinque Terre was rather a disappointment, very tuned to college-aged backpackers, run down, lacking much personality. It’s much prettier from a distance (which I do recommend). It’s also worth branching out into the surrounding towns – more info below.

If you go:

Think hard about how much you want to hike. The “easier” coastal sections washed out in 2011/2012 and (as of 2020) have yet to be fixed. Elevations between the towns can be very significant. We walked the Riomaggiore>Manarola section, and then shifted to the trains.

Of the towns themselves: Riomaggiore skip, Manarola skip, Corniglia was the cutest town and is probably where I’d stay, if not in Vernazza, which had good swimming. Monterosso al Mare has a very different feel, traditional Italian beach town with a promenade. Further north we had better food in Framura, which is connected to Levanto by a 6 km flat bike trail. Levanto is a skip. We saw many ferry boats, which might be a nice way to see the area (in particular take the boat to Portovenere). We also loved the upper road through the national park, SP51.

Lodging:

  • *Costa de Faraggiana, an agriturismo in the hills above Levanto, was pleasant enough. The owners are lovely and it’s a nice place with some drawbacks. No restaurant, faces the hills (no ocean views), pool shaded by afternoon, rooms have tiny windows. They’re very accommodating about driving you to the train station. I think being out of the chaos was a good call, but I’d find another place that has a better placement on the hill (maybe this one? https://www.sestaterra.com).

Food:

  • *Miky’s, a classic in Monterosso al Mare, is a bit tired and impersonal. Food was good, if a bit stodgy and over priced.
  • In Corniglia, we had a good lunch at **Trattoria La Lanterna, in one of the central squares. 

Articles:


Framura

We had a great dinner at **L’Agave in Framura. Out of the way, with great harbor views, this is a newer option that’s very precise with the food. Almost entirely seafood. This town is much quieter (not really a town at all) and very proud of the bike trail that was just put in along the old train tracks.


Portovenere

The Cinque Terre has fewer historical sites worth exploring than its southerly neighbor, ***Portovenere, a coastal town so closely related that it falls under the same Unesco World Heritage site designation. We drove, but there are multiple ferry options there. Then stroll past colorful houses crammed shoulder-to-shoulder along the waterfront en route to the Chiesa di San Pietro. This striped 12th-century church appears to have grown organically from the rocky peninsula where the crashing waves of the Mediterranean meet the Gulf of La Spezia. Afterward investigate Byron’s Grotto, a natural cove nearby named for the 19th-century English poet who, according to local lore, swam from here to San Terenzo across the gulf, over four miles away. (We liked this town, and liked swimming in the local bay and having a leisurely lunch. Churches are impressive. Driving through La Spezia is not, which is a skip except (potentially?) the massive naval museum).

Food:

  • **Locanda Lorena (Portovenere): this place is tired, but it’s rather magical regardless. From the dock in Portovenere, a boat drives you right to the restaurant, for a feast of seafood overseen by the original chef (40+ years and counting?). The views are awesome, it’s definitely for the tourists, but it’s fun.

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