Cinque Terre is my jam

We left the city on the sea, Venice, after just a couple days but still felt like we accomplished enough.  Venice is a manageable city in a short amount of time.  Although next time I would like to make it to Dodges Palace and the island of Burano.  Somehow Burano had been off my radar until my friend Kara mentioned it as a place she visited with her husband on their honeymoon just a couple weeks prior.  After she told me about it, I researched it and this image popped up.











So yeah.  For sure next time.


We rose early and began our somewhat daunting task to walk ourselves and bulky luggage through Venice to the train station.  I had a skip in my step because we were off to Cinque Terre (and because Peter dragged my luggage the whole way).  Somehow I knew I would love Cinque Terre.  A roommate I had in Santa Barbara, Erin, had always raved to me, “When you get the chance, you have to go to Cinque Terre.  It’s 5 villages on the sea and you can hike to each one while being surrounded by the most beautiful scenery.” It just sounded like a place designed specifically for my needs.  Hiking next to the sea.  Small manageable towns.  Italian landscape and not to mention Italian food.  That was over a decade ago and I still hadn’t made it, but had never forgot what she told me.

I always feel a little sorry for Peter on these travel days because he would take it upon himself to take care of all the girls.  Lifting our luggage, organizing the tickets, constantly keeping an eye out for us making sure all the boxes were checked.  Typically after big travel days, I would find him asleep early from being exhausted by the day.  I am seriously so lucky.

This particular travel day came with more stress than what I would think is typical or usual.  After what happened next and for those that remember our “drama in Genoa“, I have started to wonder if train transportation is just inherently dicey.

The day started off smoothly.  We showed up early for our train in Venice.  Plenty of time to find our seats and situate our luggage.  All is good.  All is calm. We sipped our espressos.  Our train was headed to Milan where we had over an hour layover before our next train that would take us to Sestri Levante then to Vernazza, the village in Cinque Terre we were staying at.

Here is an example of Peter organizing the day and why he tends to retire early after these travel days.  He started looking at the time and realized our train was going slow, so slow that he was getting worried we were going to miss our connection in Milan.

“We’re supposed to be a lot closer to Milan at this point” he said roughly half-way through the trip with a worried tone.  ”No way.  We are fine.” I replied and went back to reading my book.

Minutes continued to tick away and the time for our connection in Milan kept getting closer.  Missing our train  would be problematic.  We had assigned seats for the next train, another connection, and the host of our Airbnb was meeting us at a specific time and place and we didn’t necessarily have a way of getting a hold of her.  Besides all that, missing your train then figuring out the details of what to do next with four people and multiple connections is just a big pain.

When we had about 10 minutes before our next train was leaving Milan and we were still on our train from Venice, I jumped on the worried board with Peter as he quietly explained the situation we were in with my Mom and Becky.   A few minutes later we found ourselves in Milan with a mere 7 minutes to spare.  In those minutes we needed to find our new train and its associated platform and then board before the conductor closed the doors.   Peter frantically scanned the departure board and of course discovered our departing train was on the opposite side of the enormous Milan train station.

“Lets hurry” he said, and obediently we were off.  Peter leading the pack.  I held up the caboose.  Pun intended.  I ran from behind as I watched my family swerving in and out of tourists while lugging heavy suitcases.  It’s funny now, but it wasn’t then.  Peter jumped on the train while we handed him one by one our suitcases till everything in our possession was piled on the train.  Within a minute of us being safely on the train, it started moving.

There was just a bit more stress as Peter lifted our luggage onto the racks in our shared train cart.  The other passengers had thought the cart to be empty (who boards in the final minutes , right?) so had spaciously spread out their luggage in the racks.  These passengers, ignoring their inconvenience, stared onwards as Peter had to maneuver around their suitcases with our four bags. He managed to finally get everything organized, ourselves seated and we all let out a collective sigh. We had made it.

The rest of the way was pretty painless.  My Mom and Becky did get up at one point to use the toilet.  When they came back they were in a little shock regarding the condition of the facilities and the fact that human waste is dumped through a hole and straight onto the train tracks.  Laughingly aware of the situation I reminded them that they are Alaskans and that I know both of them have seen much worse.

As we approched our stop at Sestri Lavante, Peter took down all the luggage from the racks and we diligently stood at the train door ready to get off with now plenty of time to catch our next and final train.  The train stops.  The door doesn’t open.  I push a botton.  Door sealed shut.  I push it again.  Nothing.  The door is without a doubt not going to open for us.  At this point we have no idea how long this stop is, just that we need off.  We see people walking on the platform clearly able to exit from other doors. Panic sets in.

The next logical move is to try another door.  We started to head down the train aisle to the opposite exit.  This was an issue because the other travelers had decided to leave their luggage outside their train cart in the aisle.  In other words there was piece after piece of luggage blocking the small walking aisle of the train.  So four frenzied people (us) started to climb and/or jump over other peoples property while simultaneously trying to catapult our own suitcases over the objects blocking our way.  The craziest part – and I still get annoyed thinking about it – the owners of the luggage just watched us do it.  Didn’t offer any help to move their stuff that was clearly blocking the way.  It was as if they believed we were participating in some sort of spectator sport and were there for entertainment purposes.  This task proved to be futile.  The four of us were in the middle of the obstacle course of suitcases when the train started moving again. We were defeated.

Dumbfounded, mainly by the people on the train not so much the door that wouldn’t open, we took a few deep breaths and plotted our next move.  We figured at that point our choice was to get off at the next stop and figure things out from there.

A young couple came up behind me and the guy asked the obvious, “shoot, were you guys trying to get off?” After answering his rhetorical question we exchanged pleasantries.  He and his wife were on their honeymoon.  They lived in Scottsdale.  We talked about U of A and how Peter and I both lived in Phoenix a long time ago.  I asked them where they were headed and they collectively said, “Cinque Terre.  The next stop.”  The next stop was Monterosso, the furthest village North in Cinque Terre.  The village right North of Vernazza where we were staying.  Just like that, our luck had come right back to us.

Sidenote: Cinque Terre has what they dub the “milk run train” which connect the five cities and travels north-to-south throughout the day. Connections to this train do not show up if you are booking online from Trenitalia, one of the big national train companies. So when booking, the system we thought the only way we could get to Vernazza was through the direct train from Sestri Levante (where we couldn’t get off) when in fact we could get off at Monterosso and then connect to the “milk run train” in quicker time. Live and learn.

We got off the train in Monterosso with the people from Arizona and within ten minutes were on the local milk-run train to Vernazza arriving an hour early.  Turns out Peter was able to get in touch with the host of our Airbnb and she agreed to meet us at the station an hour early to show us our flat.  Ultimately it was a good thing the spectators on the train trapped us with their luggage.  We showed them.

Cinque Terre is another area that can be challenging to find a good rental. We were there in a busy time of year and people book way in advance.  Additionally, most places for rent are small making it difficult to find a place that would comfortably accommodate four people.   I managed to find two separate bookings that put us renting the bottom and top of a house in Vernazza.  Peter and I stayed in the lower part and Becky and my mom rented the top.  It was perfect.





We ended up staying in Vernazza because it was our only choice when we were booking. Literally.  We couldn’t find any other Airbnbs nor hotels that were connected or that could sleep four people.  Although when we were booking we didn’t necessarily have a preference, in my opinion, Vernazza was the best place to stay so we got lucky with our already-made-for-us decision.

As I was researching all the villages I found a blog that referred to Vernazza as the “beauty queen” of Cinque Terre and how incredibly photogenic the village is.  That is saying a lot considering the entire area is incredibly picturesque.  The other reason this ended up being the best village for us was due to trail closures The only trails that were opened were, Vernazza-Montorosso and Vernazzza-Corniglia meaning it was the only town you could hike in either direction without having to get on a train.  But honestly I don’t think that you can go wrong staying at any of the five villages.  It is so easy to get everywhere.  You can hike or even quicker, hop on a train.

After relaxing for a bit from our train trauma we hit the town for pizza.  It took precisely 5 minutes to get from our flat to the end of the village.

We sat down at a sea-side restaurant’s patio, Pizzeria Vulnetia.  It was a lovely early evening as we sat enjoying our wine, but then realized it was over an hour since we had ordered.  Then we noticed the tables around us that had arrived later were happily eating pizza.  I attempted to discuss this with the waiter who couldn’t be bothered.  More time went by, no food.  Finally the waiter emerged and set down what ended up being really delicious pizza.  After finishing our food, the check turned out equally challenging to retrieve from him.  I was ready to give him some negative feedback on Trip Advisor.  When he finally did deliver the check he then decided to create dialogue in which he despondently relayed to us that his daughter lives in California with his ex-wife and how hard it is that he never sees here.  Then he pet my head.  As he walked away I noticed he had a tattoo across his back, “Only my daughter can judge me.” I decided to leave out the negative review not being his daughter and all.

On the way home we stopped at Gelateria Vernazza.  Every night we either went here or Gelateria Da Satlin.  Both being delicious and as always a delightful nightcap.

The next morning started early with a hike from Vernazza to Monterosso.  Peter sat this one out to catch up on work.

Before our hike we sat down at a cafe a stones throw from our flat,  II Pirata delle.  This place is worth mentioning because the men running it are two twin brothers with not just the same look but the same sense of humor.  We saw them frequently during our three night stay because we had to pass the restaurant every time we were coming and going.  That first morning we became friends with the first brother we met as he told us stories of his wife “Angelina” leaving him for “Brad.” Once he discovered I live in California he sang, “wish they all could be California…girls.” He also taught us about Italian eating rituals: light breakfast of espresso and pastry, big lunch of pasta and meat, light dinner.  After that encounter, whenever we walked past and regardless of which twin would be outside he would stop what he was doing and call out, “Come by for dinner” or “You need a shoulder rub after your hike?” or “Come in for limoncello.” Peter thought his humor was off.



We began the 3.5 km hike on a sunny warm morning.  Right from the start we were in awe of the views.  Below is a picture of Vernazza taken at the beginning of our hike.









The hike wasn’t too strenuous but I wouldn’t call it easy either.  There are narrow paths only fit for one person so if another hiker was coming from an opposite direction you had to cling to the side of the hill as he or she passed.  There were also narrow stairs which could only accommodate one-way traffic.  You can see an example of this below.  Did I mention my Mom is scared of heights?



After clearing the 700 steep steps near the end of the hike we pulled off to the side of the trail to let a group pass by.  We were upholding good hiker etiquette.  While we were doing this, however, I glanced over and noticed some hornets flying around. I traced their flight directly to a hornet’s nest which coincidentally was right above my Mom’s head.  I made the decision not to call attention to the nest because we were stuck where we were so I felt my mom was better off without this information.  Ignorance can be bliss, right? And can’t hornet’s sense fear? The hikers finished passing us and just then my Mom noticed the nest.  Swiftly and quickly she charged down the trail.  For the rest of the hike we swore hornets were in our hair and on our body. My Mom felt I should have told her about the nest instantly.

The following pictures were taken along the way.


















































The following pictures are of Monterosso, the northernmost village of Cinque Terre and the end of our hike.

































Once we finished our hike we walked around for a bit and stumbled into a restaurant, Fast Bar, where we shared quite possibly the best bruschetta ever.  It could have been the long hike that made it so delicious or that it was flavored with pesto. It was a treat.

Peter texted me while we were enjoying our snack that he made reservations at Enoteca Dau Cila in Riomaggiore.  Debating the time we had between now and then Becky and my Mom decided to take the train back while I decided to hike back.  I was cutting it close but I was up for the challenge.

Physical strength tests are my favorite.  Always have been.  When I was in junior high I broke three records in P.E. class, most consecutive pulls up, longest time to hold a pull up, and fastest mile.  In highschool I nearly passed out running across the finish line to place 10th in the regional cross county race to qualify for State.  In college I lead my sorority to victory in a three on three basketball championship to claim an enormous trophy and bragging rights for a fraternity contest, Derby Days.  I did push ups at my wedding on a plank held by our groomsmen.  That tenacity has never left me.  I do realize my energy could probably be served in better areas of life.  I digress.

My goal was to do the 1.5 hour hike in an hour.  I started off aggressively walking, then running.  I would blow past hikers, who were at a leisure pace enjoying the views,  and feel compelled to say, “I’m trying to see how fast I can do it.” With a reply, “Good for you.” I would answer, “I don’t recommend it.”

After charging the hike and taking those 700 steps uphill, I finished it in 45 minutes.  This picture was taken at my arrival back in Vernazza.














That night we took the train from Vernazza to Riomaggiore the southernmost village.  Our dinner reservations at Enoteca Dau Cila were set just after sunset at a restaurant on the water,  We were able to walk around and take in the beauty before we sat down to enjoy our dinner. It was fun for Peter to be in Riomaggiore as it was the city he stayed during a trip he took when he was 19. Not realizing one needs to book in advance in Cinque Terre, he was forced to sleep on the beach after failing to find accommodations.

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We enjoyed another delicious Italian meal, well except for me.  I ordered Sea Bass.  I think I was attempting to try and cut back on the carbs because there had been so many carbs in my life at that point.  Fish typically comes with the skin on it in Italy which isn’t my favorite.  From then on out I just went for the pasta.  Italy is not the time nor the place to decide to try and be healthy.  Who was I trying to kid?




The next day we grabbed a pastry and coffee at the twins place and off we went to hike:


This hike is the longest at 4 km but easier than Vernazza to Monterosso.  It takes about the same amount of time, maybe even a bit quicker depending on your pace.  There isn’t the steepness or the crazy number of steps like the other hike.  It was another incredibly beautiful day with clear blue skies and crystal blue sea.  Combine that with exercise and like my title says, Cinque Terre is my jam.  I loved every minute of it.


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Here is the view of the village of Corniglia from our hike.





When I mentioned before it probably doesn’t matter where you stay in Cinque Terre, I will say that Corniglia would be my last choice.  It’s the smallest of the villages and to get there you have to take 33 flights of stairs totaling 382 steps.  If you have luggage this would be a huge pain.  Not to say Corniglia isn’t worth checking out.

Next up we took a train to Manarolo.

Here is a candid after taking the aforementioned 382 stairs to the train station.

















In Manarola we snuck a quick bite. Becky and my Mom were now fairly obsessed with bruschetta since I had introduced them to it in Venice so they split that between them.

Manarola was a village I could have spent more time exploring.  We were a bit pressed for time because we wanted to enjoy the sunset back in Vernazza and had made the collective decision to hike back home from Corniglia.

Here are a few pictures taken in Manarola.

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We took the train back to Corniglia to hike back to our home base of Vernazza.  Below is a picture capturing our triumphant finish.













As we got to the end of the hike we noticed a hill top, sea side restaurant that we decided to duck into and treat ourselves to an alcoholic beverage.  The high sun blazed down on us as we sipped our drinks and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done.

Next we divided and conquered for our dinner plans.  We had decided to grab pizzas to go, walk down to the water to enjoy it, and take wine with us. Peter walked back to our flat to grab a bottle of wine and a wine opener.  Becky and my mom went to a market to buy a bottle for themselves while I went to the pizza joint and put our order in.  We all reconvened at the pizza place.  The great thing about Vernazza is its modest size. While I was ordering pizza, my mom and Becky were next door getting the wine and Peter was five minutes away at our flat.  It’s so convenient.

These dinner plans ended up being one of the best things we did on our entire trip.  We ate pizza, drank wine, while sitting outside at our own seaside made restaurant.  It was fabulous.














We watched the sunset behind a landscape of Italian rolling hills topped with pine trees.  The perfect amount of clouds allowed for the night sky to turn from bright blue to hues of pink and orange.



We had an entirely unobstructed view of the best of natures beauty, until this occurred.

















I swear Becky, myself, and my Mom regressed back to junior high school as we giggled at the man showering in his speedo in the glow of the sunset.  Only in Italy.

So my friend Erin was right.  Cinque Terre was thoroughly enjoyed.  Loved it. I would certainly go back and highly recommend it as a vacation destination.

Up next, back to the the magical land of Florence to end our whirl-wind Italian adventure with Becky and my Mom.

Thanks you so much for reading.  I have been getting so much positive feedback from friends and family lately.  It inspires me to keep doing this. Thank you for that.

PS We LOVE comments on the blog.  We will have this forever as a keepsake.  It will be fun to remember who was along with us for the ride.





  • Becky Lessley

    Jaime, I don’t even know where to start. I read this with cup of coffee in hand and kept laughing and laughing and remembering and remembering. First off, your mom and I were not just shocked by the bathroom conditions on the train, we were horrified!!!!! The train hadn’t even left the station the first time we wanted to use the potty. We were NOT going to pee all over the train tracks right there at the station. It just seemed so uncivilized, so we waited until we had been on the road for a few miles. We do have some decorum.

    When talking about us NOT being able to get off the train and then trying to leap over the luggage, you neglected to mention that I lost my purse. Thank God I realized it before we got off at the next stop. You kindly went back and retrieved it from that mammoth pile of luggage blocking the aisleway. What were those people thinking??? So rude of them!

    And, yes, Vernazza was the best. And I am still pissed that you beat your mom and I back from Monterosso when we took the train, and you hiked. You are such an animal!!!

    The picture of Rosemary hugging the wall is priceless!!!!

    Now about the 33 flights of stairs to get to the train in Corniglio. It wasn’t so bad going DOWN to the train. But, as you well know, I did NOT like having to go back up. I wanted to take the road. I was overruled. And that is fine. I did it, but I think it put me in a very dark place. Thank God for the cocktail overlooking the sea at the end of the hike back to Vernazza.

    And, finally, the guy showering in his speedo was the BEST way to end our trip there. We did giggle like little girls. Thanks for the memories!!! Cinque Terra was incredible!!!!

  • Aprille

    Fast Bar! When I was a young lass I had a summer romance with a bartender from Fast Bar . . . Don’t tell Chris or he may never want to visit Cinque Terre with me, and it is spectacular! :)

  • hahaha, that is awesome. I wonder if he waited on us. I won’t tell. xoxoxo

  • Becky, thank you so much for the recap. I now understand why you ordered a Long Island Ice Tea. It was the stairs! Thanks so much for the comments. So glad we had this adventure together.