I have two rules when it comes to traveling. The first mentioned in my previous posts is rain and museums/churches go hand in hand. It simply means when it rains, I will hide in the churches or museums. Pretty self-explanatory, huh? Trust me, if you stay in a city for more than 3 days, at least one of them will act out.
The second is if I can’t pronounce the name of the place I’m heading to properly, I will join a tour group because I always have this nagging inkling that something crazy would happen. For instance, I practiced saying Cinque Terre until my tongue got twisted to no avail. What came out of my mouth was a messy mix of Italian, English, Vietnamese and maybe Spanish (?) that I didn’t even understand what I had just said. It was extremely absurd, so as rules have it, I booked a tour.
HAHAHA, I got you!
No 24 years old and 16 years old who have the guts to travel almost half way around the world on their own for a few weeks much to their parents’ dismay will make up an excuse that silly to join a tour group. The truth is Cinque Terre or the Mediterranean sea for that matter has always been on my bucket list.
Before I embarked on the trip, I googled until my eyes bled about how to best explore Cinque Terre. As with anything and everything online, the opinions go both ways. Some say “on your own, without a doubt” while others suggest the tour they participated in.
Being a young semi-adventurous 20-something, I have never been a huge fan of guided tours. I used to think that they are boring, cookies-cutter and strictly catered to either the elderly or lazy tourists. For the purpose of full disclosure, I still think that way on rainy days. LOL.
However, my experience with tours usually has proved otherwise. Last summer, I went to Cambodia on a tour and had some of the most interesting encounters ever. I still touch base with some of them occasionally, which is pretty uncharacteristic of me given the short span of the friendships. I thought to myself: “why not this time? We will have been in Italy on our own for almost a week by then. Let’s do something different.” One tour that consistently came up during my due diligence stage was Cinque Terre Trek by Walkabout Florence company. (Note: I have absolutely no tie with the company whatsoever. This is not a PR post, sponsored content and what have you. I’m simply recounting my experience as a traveler who was on the tour. So…don’t worry :))
In my opinion, there are a handful of places on planet Earth where words become redundant and pictures don’t do their beauty justice. Cinque Terre is unquestionably one of those. For that reason, I’ll keep this post short and sweet and let the photos do most of the talking. I’m sure y’all like it better that way too.
Still, if you’re not exactly familiar with what all the fuss about Cinque Terre is, please let it briefly introduce itself HERE. Then if you want to know what the Cinque Terre Trek tour covers, THIS is your friend.
We were able to bank on our youth and paid discounted prices for the tour. That is you aren’t considered adult unless you’re over 27. Two things about the tour that I was very fond of are punctuality and professionalism. Our guides were Julian and his younger brother Alex. They are American Italian, have been living in Florence for a number of years thus quite enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the area. The itinerary gave ample time to explore and get a good feel of each of the five towns.
Manarola was the first stop and gave us a glimpse into what would be expected the rest of the day: stunning ocean views, colorful nooks and crannies and an array of quaint shops and boutiques.
It was a short train ride from Manarola to Corniglia. I myself don’t like trains a lot, but seriously with window views like this, I think I can train my life away. Corniglia is an incredibly charming town. My Mediterranean dream finally materialized. I have been dreaming about it for the longest time. Seafood appetizer at the restaurant that is said to have the most authentic pesto in town. It was beyond sumptuous. Bias alert though because I was quite hungry when it happened.
My most favorite pasta in the entire world is pesto, which happens to be Corniglia’s specialty. This one was simply out of this world and hands down the best pesto I have had so far in my short 24 years of existence. My mouth is watering very hard as I’m typing this. Another reason why that pesto was the pesto of a lifetime was these breath-taking views. Try imagining savoring a flavorful pesto with warm, caressing air and one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world in sight. That is the kind of lunch you would never want to end.
The next town on the list was Vernazza. The walk from Corniglia to Vernazza was the heaviest because it was mostly hiking up and down on rocky and narrow stairs. I can’t stress the importance of having really, really good shoes enough. Nike’s or Adidas or New Balance is the perfect choice.
For me, the hiking was a cake simply because I have been doing intense cardio or lifting everyday for a long time. Fret not, it’s not the prerequisite for the tour. I’m positive most people can make it. If you’re short of breath, you can take a break along the way. The only thing is the timing is usually between 12PM and 1PM, so if you hike on a scorching hot day, it might be a challenge. Three essentials then are: sunscreen, sunglasses and hat.
The reason I’m pretty sure that almost everyone can make it is we are rewarded with stunning views like these along the way. I remember being so electrified by the sight of the vast, translucent emerald green Mediterranean ocean that I didn’t feel one moment of sweat or fatigue.
Here we were at the town of Vernazza finally. This town was a tad more crowded than the others most likely because people can take a dip here in the ocean and there are a good number of restaurants and gelato shops around.