Is Cinque Terre on your honeymoon destination wish-list? It is definitely one of the most dreamy, must-visit places in Italy – and the world! Uncover this romantic location (and a few handy tips) from someone who’s been there done that; Australian photographer, Ben Yew, below…
I travelled to Italy a few years ago and have covered nearly every major city or town, from the Amalfi Coast to Milan before heading back. I was able to experience Ravello, Capri, Sienna, Florence, Venice, Rome and many other smaller towns along the way. However, as my schedule was really tight, I missed a few towns on the west coast – the iconic Cinque Terre and surrounds.
This year, I finally got my chance to return! I captured a destination wedding in a place in Florence called ‘Il Salviatino’ which was amazing! Afterwards, I made time to travel.
Most of the images here I captured with my phone, except for a few with my camera and drone!
I’d heard a lot about the Cinque Terre, how amazingly stunning it is and yes, I can confirm, it wasn’t overrated – it was the real thing!
In order to get there, I stayed in La Spezia, very close to the train station. This made it easy to continue my travel to the Cinque Terre and other major cities from La Spezia, especially as my next destination was Nice in France. Staying at La Spezia seems to be the best choice as I personally don’t really like to keep moving accommodation and find it to be time wasted just checking in and checking out! I prefer to leave my luggage in one place and travel light with my backpack.
My Italian Airbnb host at La Spezia
I love Airbnb because it gets lonely sometimes travelling alone (sometimes travelling to an unknown place, even with your partner, can still feel isolating) and this way I get to experience how the locals live, eat and go about their daily life. It’s nice to find someone with whom I can have a chat and even give me great suggestions for my trip!
My host, Manuella, invited me for dinner and prepared a few dishes (all Italian), which was amazing. This also meant I was able get to know her quite well. Although, I struggled trying to understand her (because I can’t speak Italian and she can’t speak English) – we were both glad her daughter was an excellent translator!
They highly recommended visiting Portovenere, which is around a 35 minute bus ride from their place in La Spezia. It wasn’t on my list to see, however, I planned my way around the Cinque Terre and added Portovenere as my final stop before heading to France.
Cinque Terre (Italian for Five Lands)
I started at Monterosso al Mare, then visited Vernazza, skipped Corniglia, Manarola and ended at the furthest town Riomaggiore.
This was my first stop because it was the further-most among the five locations. It was relaxed with many tourists and locals sun-baking, swimming and walking along the main street. You can easily find many shops and restaurants around here as well. I was glad I started from Monterosso as, although it was beautiful, I didn’t find it to be jaw-droppingly amazing! As a side note: the train journey straight to Monterosso was handy as I was able to see a glimpse of the other four towns along the way!
Vernazza is THE place to be! It’s a stunningly gorgeous landscape. After squeezing onto the train with hundreds of people, I stepped out from the station to a sea of heads…tourists everywhere! Unfortunately with iconic locations during peak season, it is always busy.
Colour is everywhere in Vernazza, with small cafes and shops dotted around. Walking through, I finally got a glimpse of the ocean and then – looking back towards land – it’s just like the postcards I’ve seen. But so much better in real life!
On a personal note, whenever I visit a place, my first stop is always to look for shops selling postcards. Not to copy the image, but to give me a rough idea of where I need to visit next and where the best location for photos may be. You can google images online, but for me, a local postcard or art from the shops are my best guide. That’s my secret tip for finding the perfect backdrop to all those couple selfies you’ll no doubt be taking.
I love wandering aimlessly and there are millions of editorials written about Vernazza – and the entire Cinque Terre. However, I love to choose to wander aimlessly at first and then look for places that I may have missed. What I’ve discovered after all my travels, is that the journey is what makes it amazing. If there is a straight route from point A straight to point B, that’s easy. But the experience means so much more when I get lost along the narrow alleys and meet some people along the way. Experiencing the journey gives me another perspective on life. I learn so much more by getting lost and finding hidden gems along the way. Plus it’s a bonus to experience the new by wandering hand-in-hand with your new husband or wife.
It is a bit smaller and more compact than Vernazza, but it does have its own vibe. I feel that there is a lot more fun for adventurous people who like to swim and climb up the rocks! The walking path to get a higher view is far easier than that in Vernazza. I know it’s contradictory, but it is very similar to Vernazza but slightly different at the same time. Hard to put into words, so I’ll let my images do the talking!
This was my last stop for the Cinque Terre because it’s the closest to La Spezia and I believe it’s the smallest compared to the others. It is quite similar to Manarola, only smaller and slightly different in terms of the landscape and views. I chatted with some tourists sitting on the rocks as we all waited for the sunset. *Important tip: as I was waiting for the sunset on the rocks at Riomaggiore, there were so many couples and groups of people who had bought pizzas, seafood, beers and Champagne to enjoy while watching the sunset! I didn’t know to do this and I should have bought myself a pizza from the main street before I found my seat. The main street is a short walk up from the station, with quite a few nice seafood and pizza takeaway restaurants that look and smell delicious! Make sure you get your food first otherwise you may miss the romantic sunset if you have to walk back and wait for you food!
I am so happy I was able to cover the Cinque Terre in two days, but if you’re pushed for time, you could cover it all within a day. However, I wouldn’t recommend it as it would be far too rushed and you may not have the experience to soak in the sun, the view and the lifestyle of each town!
That’s my bucket list task done (and hopefully some honeymoon inspiration for you).
Now, with the extra time I have left, I’m off to Portovenere!
Portovenere – the hidden gem!
With so much tourism exposure for the Cinque Terre, Portovenere isn’t getting enough attention and is extremely underrated! At my accommodation, my host’s daughter had left me a postcard on my table saying, you must visit Portovenere! She was correct, it is very different from the Cinque Terre and amazing! I’m so glad I listened to my Italian host and made my way there.
Being a photographer, I am not as good with words as images, but the view is breathtaking; especially from the top of the hill. I found it quite interesting to see people sunbathing on the side of the road on the rocks. Unlike Monterosso, there isn’t much space for sunbathers or beach-goers on the shore – so people simply find the space they can (alongside the road too!) I didn’t capture any images of this phenomenon as I find them intrusive, but you’ll get a shock to see people just meters away from the road.
Images speak louder than words – one place to check out has this pasta curtain!
And here’s my pesto pasta on the go, which I ate after gelato!
What inspired me for the next stop in Portofino was something I remembered from many years ago. I had stumbled upon a very artistic movie that wasn’t great (it included quite a bit of nudity and sex scenes; what you see in some European movies). The movie is called “Beyond the Clouds” and is a collection of short stories, where the stories change with each of the various locations around Italy. What had caught my attention at the time, was the locations in which they had filmed the movie – one being Portofino.
Aside from the wonderful views and locations in the movie, I also recalled seeing my favourite actress Sophie Marceau (a famous French actress) walking around Portofino with another famous American actor, John Malkovich. Seeing this gave me the sudden urge to book my train ticket straight away from La Spezia to Portofino! I think it’s about an hour’s train ride away and it was certainly worth it.
Portofino was really nice, similar to Cinque Terre but a bit more upmarket. It has high end retailers similar to Capri, with lots of big yachts, boats and some smaller cruise ships a bit further out – but it’s not as swanky as Monte Carlo! Nothing like adding a little extra glamour to a romantic holiday. The walk was easy, not much of a hike, but that’s partly because I didn’t go all the way – just high enough to capture the photo I needed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my travels as much as I have reminiscing and writing it all down!
Here are a few travel tips from along the way:
- Buy a day pass for the Cinque Terre train for Euro 16.00. I bought each trip for 4 Euro each on the first day – silly me! I didn’t do my research, so I ended up paying a lot more.
- If you are staying along any of the Cinque Terre, a swim and/or a boat ride would be amazing!
- To capture great photos, avoid peak hours where there are thousands of tourists all crammed up in a small area or train with selfie sticks everywhere! The best time is either early at the start of the day or late where you can also watch the sunset.
- To make longer lasting memories, find some new tracks on Spotify! It doesn’t have to be Italian – but could be! This means each time it plays, it will bring back awesome memories from your time at the Cinque Terre!
- Obviously, try not to forget your sunscreen, cool sunnies, hat and to always hydrate. But, even if you do forget one or all of the above, you can always purchase everything there.
- Don’t start buying your souvenirs early as there are always more later – which also means less to lug around. Plus you can always find cheaper and more variety at different spots!
Ms Zebra Says: Having travelled personally to the Cinque Terre and Italy in general, it really is such a magical place! I’ve watched the sun set in Riomaggiore (with pizza!), laid on the beach and walked the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. Ben has captured his time so well and definitely has me wanting to book another ticket back stat! There’s no better (or romantic) place for a honeymoon if you’re considering being over that side of the world. Thanks Ben!
Thank you Ben for sharing your story. To find out more about Ben Yew please visit the website.
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