Cinque Terre Not For the Faint of Heart
Cinque Terre Italy is not for the faint of heart! When I heard there are five little fishing villages, clinging to cliffs over the ocean in Italy, and that these villages were only accessible by hiking, train or boat… I knew WE HAD TO GO! I became obsessed with photos of these stunning, colorful little towns on Pinterest and Instagram, showing them to my kids, getting them excited for our day-long adventure into the protected national park, that is Cinque Terre.
We were staying in an AirBnB villa about thirty-minutes west of Pisa Airport, in a tiny Tuscan mountain village, and when I planned our trip from my computer back home in Oregon, it seemed like a reasonable day-trip. But when I plugged it into my phones GPS, I realized it was more than 100 miles away. No problem I thought, I love to drive and it’s a great way to see the countryside.
Did I mention that it was our fist day attempting to drive in Italy, in our tiny gutless Fiat!? If you’ve never driven in Italy, let me just warn you that it’s exactly how I’d imagine it would be to drive with indi-car racers on back roads…as the ONLY inexperienced driver! It’s mildly terrifying. There are no speed limits, no rules, no one uses signals, and no matter how fast you’re driving there is always a Nono, or truck driver, trying to run you off the road. All that to say, that it was NOTHING compared to driving the last few miles into Riomaggiore (the first of these five villages). There are no cars allowed (and no roads even if they were) inside these towns, but you can drive down a ANXIETY-ATTACK inducing narrow one-lane road to park above the towns. As you make your way down this road be sure to hug your steering-wheel with both hands, because on one side there are no guard rails and the drop is about 1,000 feet off the cliff to the ocean. There’s no room for fear here! If you are prone to vertigo or have a fear of heights just know that pushing past those fears (which I definitely had to do) is well worth it.
This was our view as we began our hike down thousands of stairs into Riomaggiore, it kinda blows your mind.
Mira and Izzy (my adventurous nine-year old twins) lead the way down a maze of hand-laid brick stairs down to the little piazza. There’s so much to see that I stopped every few feet to try and capture it all with my camera, or to point out something to Kanen, my observant thirteen -year-old son. The two of us just kept looking at each other, like; is this real? It’s unbelievably adorable.
I’ve heard that soon Cinque Terre will begin limiting visitors, because the massive annual number of tourist are leaving such wear-and-tear on these fragile villages, so I’m very glad that we made it a priority to make this journey.
The kids absolutely loved exploring the hidden pathways and climbing the rocks that jetted out into the ocean in Riomaggiore. After spending an hour or so taking in the sites we decided to grab a train ticket and head to the next village just a few miles down the coast, called Manarola. This is probably the most photographed village, it’s iconic image of ocean meeting colorful village can be found in just about any list of the most picturesque places on earth.
The one drawback of traveling with young kids is that their attention span has an expiration date, and my one major regret is that we did not explore Manarola more and discover where that iconic view is best seen from. Because when you enter town and walk down to the water, you don’t see much. You stand on a platform and it’s hard to get the entire view. Had we not been starving we could have taken the path that runs along the water to get that photo. But that’s okay, we did have the best lunch ever, at a tiny little restorante. My homemade spaghetti, and fresh-from-the-ocean clams, was to die for!
After lunch we headed up to the hiking trail that connects the five towns. Almost immediately, I knew there was no way my vertigo, and fear of heights could handle it! The kids wanted to run ahead, and jump off rocks, but I could barely look up from my feet! Only chicken-wire stood between us and the ocean, several hundred feet below. I can promise you, I’ve never been so close to an anxiety attack in my life! And thankfully the path was actually closed not far from our starting point, why? Because part of it had FALLEN INTO THE OCEAN! Yeah, that was my signal that we’d had better head back.
But I am sooooooo glad we went. It remains one of our favorite days in Italy, and an adventure well worth taking! Here’s a little photo tour, I’ve also posted many more original photos on my Instagram @SingleMomGlobtrotter be sure to follow and share your stories with us!