I arrived in Italy with one main thing at the top of my to-do list: Cinque Terre, meaning “five lands,” which lies on the Italian Riviera. I figured a day trip from Florence would be my best bet as I didn’t have too much time in Italy, and though most were pretty expensive, I finally found a fairly budget Cinque Terre day trip with Smart Trip, a cool new company targeting study abroad students, but also perfect for budget backpackers such as myself.
The tour started early, and I arrived at the bus a little before 7am, easily spotting the guides in their bright orange shirts. The group that day was coincidentally all girls in their early 20s, and I met a couple of fellow California girls that I ended up hanging out with for most of the day. After a two-hour busride catching up on missed sleep and taking advantage of the free wifi, we reached the first town of the day – Manarola.
As our first introduction to Cinque Terre, Manarola was absolutely stunning, and we were fascinated by the lifestyle of the village people. We marveled at the simple houses tucked away into the hillside and the uneven stacks of colorful buildings. We had an hour to explore the town on our own and wander along the alleys of cobblestone streets and up and down tiny staircases of uneven stone. Though we’d previously been groaning about the early start, it ended up being great as we beat all of the crowds that showed up later.
After our hour, we met up with our guides, and hopped on the train to the next town, Riomaggiore. We also had an hour at this village, which was more than enough to walk the main street and even dive in to the clear water for a swim. Our guides also explained that the houses in Cinque Terre had all been painted different colors so that the fishermen could easily spot their houses when out at sea and make sure their wives were doing their duties. Pretty sexist, but I do love the result!
The last town on the tour was Monterosso, the largest village, where we’d have about 3-4 hours to explore or chill out. We had the option of hopping off the train early at Vernazza and hiking to Monterosso, which I decided to do with the other California girls. The hike from Vernazza to Monterosso took us about an hour and a half and though it cost 7,50 Euros entrance, it had some spectacular views of the two towns and rows upon rows of terraced vineyards clinging to steep seaside cliffs. Since the Smart Trip tour allows so much free time at Monterosso, I’d highly recommend doing this hike if you’re up for a little workout – it’s absolutely worth it!!
Plus, we arrived in Monterosso and still had two free hours to reward ourselves with pizza (with pesto, which originated in the Liguria region where Cinque Terre is located), relax on the beach with gelato, and refresh ourselves in the sea, which was still warm enough even in October.
Overall, the Smart Trip Cinque Terre day trip was perfect, as it wasn’t so much of a “tour” but allowed us the freedom to explore the various towns ourselves. The landscapes are beautiful with the little villages tucked into the mountains adjacent crystal clear glittering water, and it’s hard to resist the charm of their seaside promenades and quaint alleyways void of cars. Cinque Terre well exceeded my expectations, and though it’s touristy is something that absolutely should not be missed in Italy.
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌
*NOTE: Though I was a guest of Smart Trip, all opinions are honest and my own.