There’s a chance you’ve never heard of Cinque Terre, Italy and I’m almost positive you’ve never heard of Levanto. Cinque Terre are five colorful villages along the coast of the Italian Riviera. While a train connects them, most people make a hiking trip out of it and that sure did tickle my fancy. I was pumped to be able to spend two days hiking along the trails connecting the towns and lounging on the beaches…or so I thought.
I got horribly sick the afternoon of my flight and by the time I arrived in Levanto, I was too weak to walk more than a few minutes without needing to rest. I chose Levanto because honestly, to stay in one of the five villages of Cinque Terre was too expensive by the time I was ready to book an airbnb. If this were a baecation it would’ve been no problem, but $150+ a night for an entire apartment I didn’t even need was too much. Hence me finding a decent hostel in Levanto to call home for two nights. I also found Levanto to be one of the easier places to get to. I hopped on a train from Milan that took me directly there and then walked from the train station to the hostel. No car or taxi needed and to be honest, I don’t know where I would’ve found one. Everyone was on foot and cars were parked versus driving around this small town.
What I Did
Since hiking was out of the question (I didn’t want my dehydrated, malnourished body to be found along a trail) my only other option was to catch a train between the towns of Cinque Terre. The towns are Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Monterosso and they’re all unique in their own little way.
I headed to Riomaggiore first, for no particular reason other than maybe because it was the furthest town from Levanto. I also recalled several photos I’ve seen of this town and to me, it was the most picture worthy for the types of shots I wanted to get. I have to say that getting off of the train and seeing nothing but hill after hill, staircase after staircase was depressing. I could barely walk two minutes on flat ground without having to stop and sit down. Now I had to hike through towns I avoided hiking to? Ugh! Somehow, some way, something stopped me from getting back on the train and just going to Levanto to sit around looking crazy. Was I irritated to later see a path from the most popular point straight to the train station? Yes. But do I regret exhausting myself, hiking ever so slowly through the gorgeous neighborhoods of Riomaggiore and seeing breathtaking views? Hell nah, to the nah nah nah.
After roaming Riomaggiore (and finding the juiciest fresh fruit to keep my stamina up) and seeing that I could physically do it – it would just take a little while longer – I hopped back on the train because it was lunch time. I settled into my seat and thought that if I really wanted to, I could just stop in each city. After the train stopped in Manarola and Corniglia, I looked out of the window thinking there wasn’t much to see, and that the hills were too steep for me to exhaust myself for no reason. I refused to let all of the towns pass me by though, so Vernazza was my next stop.
Vernazza was beyond lively and people were all over the place. It wasn’t hard to see why. It’s one of those lovely picturesque little Italian towns. It reminded me of Murano and Burano, minus the canals. I decided that this would be where I had lunch so after capturing a few shots of the scenery, I sat down at one of the busier restaurants just in time before they ran out of outdoor seating. For dessert I would head to Monterosso.
I ended up not finding dessert that I desired in Monterosso (keep your gelato) but you better believe I found one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my entire life. I may be under-exaggerating. Crystal clear, albeit freezing, blue water with views for days. People were sunbathing for as far as the eye could see whether it was on the beach or on the rocks next to the sand. This town also made for ample people watching which was the activity I took up during my rest periods. My only regret is not being able to lay on the beach, ice cold water and all. Monterosso had such a different vibe and appeal than the other towns but they are all amazing and worth a visit.
What I Ate
When I’m home in the states, unless I’m cooking Italian food, I don’t eat it. When in Italy, I’m scarfing down all the carbs and occasionally putting something green in my mouth. The bread, the pastas, the vino! Foodgasm commencing.
When abroad I find myself eyeballing everything everyone eats. I remember being in London and walking around forever looking for lunch until I saw patrons at a little restaurant, all eating a variation of the same dish. I walked in and told the waitress I’d have what they were having. Italy was no different.
I remember waking up one morning on the hunt for breakfast and noticing that pastries and bread seemed to be the official breakfast. Minutes later I was in a bakery asking for “one of those” as I saw EVERYONE eating this slab of bread. ‘Twas focaccia, my friends. It tasted like the bread used to make Pizza Hut breadsticks. I got the plain buttery version but there are some with toppings and made like pizza. Maybe focaccia pizza is a thing.
I also indulged in my absolute favorite dish that I fought myself to not eat on a daily basis, seafood spaghetti. I can’t describe how amazing it is but all I can say is that YOU MUST try it the next time you’re in Italy. When in Vernazza I gnoshed on a warm seafood salad that was not-so-surprisingly delicioso. One day I got spaghetti ragu just because I didn’t want to be the person who ate seafood spaghetti twice a day. I also made sure to have plenty of wine and hunt for fresh fruit on a daily basis because I like to adult from time to time.
Why You Should Go
Get your ass to Cinque Terre asap because it’s well worth the journey. I would take that eight hour plane ride and 3 hour train ride again and again knowing that Cinque Terre, or lesser known towns such as Levanto, would be the end result. I find myself straying further and further from overpopulated, oversaturated destinations and looking for smaller, slower towns and villages. If you want a break from city living, amazing authentic Italian cuisine, and some of the best wine on earth right at the end of the street…you should probably head to Cinque Terre. Hurry up, the rest of the world is finding out about it too.
Catch up on my previous Italian adventures along the Amalfi Coast.