On our second day in Tuscany, we piled into the car for a multi-hour drive to Porto Venere. While not technically part of Cinque Terre, Porto Venere is an equally beautiful and less-trafficked medieval fishing village situated just south of the five towns. The village’s picturesque harbor is lined with brightly colored houses, and the narrow medieval streets lined with shops lead up the hill from an ancient city gate to a castle. There’s also a church located high above the harbor with amazing views of the Riviera. If you’re ever visiting Cinque Terre, this lesser-known little sister is definitely worth a detour.
From Porto Venere, we drove through narrow, winding roads high atop the cliffs to Cinque Terre. After a somewhat terrifying drive, we arrived in Vernazza. While Monterosso and Corniglia are situated high above the water, Vernazza’s town center is more or less at sea level. We ate an indulgent lunch of fresh seafood, pesto pasta, and a liberal amount of wine at Ristorante Gambero Rosso, looking out at the crowded harbor and small, pebbled beach of this vibrant coastal village. After lunch, Andrew and I found ourselves following some locals through a small cave labeled “do not enter” and stumbling onto a gorgeous, secluded beach. We then popped in and out of the shops with my mom and purchased some colorful pottery pieces to take home with us before continuing on.
I wish we’d had time to explore all five of the towns, but our last stop was Corniglia, towering high above the Italian Riviera. Corniglia is the ‘quieter’ middle village, sitting 100m-high and surrounded by vineyards. It is the only Cinque Terre settlement with no direct sea access, although steep steps lead down to a rocky cove. Corniglia is characterized by colorful four-story houses and breathtaking views of the water.
I was disappointed not to return to my beloved Monterosso – but maybe that shimmering memory of my sixteen year old self basking in the Italian sun and swimming in the glittering riviera is best left untouched for now.GET THE LOOK: