Last updated 7 February 2021
An impulsive decision to head to the Cinque Terre was a fortuitous one. Faded, colourful buildings ended abruptly in sheer cliffs dropping down to blue, endless sea. The villages were awash with visitors, all hiking, eating, drinking and laughing, but early in the season this added to the festive vibe.
We stayed in the sleepy village of Deiva Marina, home to two emus – gifts from an Australian visitor. Clearly built for more tourists than had come, some of the coastal development had ceased during the recession and never quite restarted, leaving the marina half completed, the shops still empty shells.
We revelled in the quiet, having drinks in a bar with limited English but generous snacks and lying on the warm, pebbled sand. In between, we visited a different seaside town each day.
The west coast of Italy was stunning, the fishing villages tucked into little hills, the sea disappearing into the sky. The Cinque Terra National Park was spectacular, filled with wildflowers and hidden paths through the trees.
Due to the recent rains and mud slips, we took Trail 6a between Monterosso and Corniglia, stopping in Volastra (not one of the five) along the way. A longer walk than we had planned, we took in the views of the villages from high above and lost ourselves in colourful blossoms, hillside vineyards and bubbling streams. There are more direct trails if you want to see to all of the Cinque Terre villages in one day.
Getting to Corniglia later than planned, we took in the last two towns by train, ending with local wine and a beautiful seafood risotto in Monterosso al Mare. It was a heady night fuelled by exhaustion, limoncello and dramatic clouds.
Perhaps inevitably, we missed the early train back to Deiva Marina. Instead we helped an older American couple, struggling with credit cards and Italian, buy their tickets, and spent the time chatting with them about travel, language and the joys of retirement (for them, not us), while they sipped Chianti from a broken coke bottle.