Ah, Cinque Terre. I don’t think any other place in Italy will ever have my heart quite as much. This is where Robert proposed! It’s where we got to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the big tourist cities. It’s where I became a bride!! And it’s one of the most beautiful places you can imagine.
I can’t remember how I heard about Cinque Terre — that may be a credit to my Frommer’s book! I’ve always been enamored with those seaside villages that you see, like the Amalfi Coast. But starting in Venice, there was no way we could get all the way down to Amalfi without missing out on extra days in places like Florence and Rome. Since Cinque Terre is just two trains away from Florence, it worked perfectly for us to spend two and a half days there.
In my heart, I had hopes that Robert would propose here. As we were planning, it was obvious that this would be the most relaxed, uncrowded leg of the trip, as well as the most picturesque. 😉 I HAD HOPES! But after our first week in Italy was coming to an end, I was getting worried! So I set my mind on relaxing and just enjoying the “5 towns.”
From Florence, we took a fast train to La Spezia, then took a small local train into Corniglia. Corniglia is the middle town of the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. It’s also known for being the most quiet since it’s the only one that’s not down on the water. From the train station, you have to walk up a little hill, then up 382 steps into the town center. When we arrived, we didn’t have our Cinque Terre pass that includes all the trains and shuttles you want to take, so we hoofed our carry ons up the stairs. We were cranky about it, I won’t lie to you. Butttt with views like this . . . we couldn’t be but SO mad. 😉
Homes are built right into the cliffs. I feel like that would terrify me, but if I could see that gorgeous blue water every day . . . who could turn it down? I was trying to trespass here, but Robert was scared.
He stayed up there while I was trying to decide if an angry Italian would be mad if I was on his/her stairs.
Corniglia only has 140 permanent residents. It quickly became my favorite place.
I really enjoyed taking pictures of Italian cats. You’ll see!
That’s the tunnel in the mountain that we came from!
The biggest marvel in Cinque Terre are the terraced vines growing on the cliffside. I read somewhere that the fact that these vines thrive like this is a natural AND manmade wonder. It’s intricate, and it’s wild to see very elderly Italian men navigating the edges of the mountain like goats. Sure-footed and practiced. Amazing.
It’s crazy to see cacti growing wild. These were HUGE!
There are no dryers in Italy. Just clotheslines. 🙂
There are lemons everywhere. EVERYWHERE. It’s another reason Cinque Terre is my favorite.
On our first half day in Cinque Terre, we wandered around Corniglia, then spent HOURS at this little terrace cafe waiting for the sun to set. The views from this little cafe were amazing, and the menu was perfection!
We enjoyed Spritz, wine, prosecco, bruschetta, and toasts. Come to find, all this delicious food was made by two guys who had nothing more than a panini press. It was a little slice of heaven.
Y’all. This is the last morning I would wake up as Robert’s girlfriend. 🙂 This is my last breakfast as his not-fiance! Our AirBnB hosts work at a little cafe, so breakfast was included. They remembered by nut allergy and always had a plain croissant and yogurt ready!
We found another Italian cat on the 382 stairs. 🙂
On our first full day, we took the train to the northernmost town, Monterosso al Mare. According to all my research, this is the most popular (and expensive!) town to stay in because it has the best beaches. I don’t know if you can tell, but the beach is SMALL! I’m sure this town is booming during the summer months, but here, it was pretty quiet. It’s definitely more . . . commercial.
As soon as we saw this big ol’ boulder with people sitting on it, I knew I had to get up there!
We climbed up and up to this old monastery (I think!).
This is a lot of my view when we travel — following Robert. He leads, I follow. I stop to take photos, he waits patiently. I run to catch up, we continue. 🙂 It works for us.
These are my views from the top of the boulder!
But he followed ME to the top of this boulder!
A sweet, fellow tourist took some photos of us. Our last photos as boyfriend and girlfriend. EEEEEEEEEKKKKK!
From here, we started a grueling, 4 hour hike to the next town, Vernazza. It was . . . scary . . . from the start. I kept thinking about how Cristiana mentioned landslides. It freaked me out! There were roughly 1 million stairs, handmade stairs. I think this hike only takes 2 hours usually, but we made some stops . . . and you know, one BIG stop. 😉
This house was for sale! We looked it up and imagined ourselves living there. 🙂
Around another scary, narrow turn in the path, we could finally see our next destination: Vernazza!
I think in this moment . . . Robert was psyching himself up to propose. And waiting for this German couple to leave. Can you BELIEVE where he’s sitting?! It’s a straight drop from there. STRAIGHT. Down.
Anyway, even though this view was beautiful, I didn’t want to keep standing here. Like I said, the trail made me nervous, especially when we stopped and I could see the trail ahead. It made me anxious to see how close to the edge we would have to be walking! So, I didn’t want to stop long — it made me feel panicky. I kept saying, “Ok, let’s keep going, I need to keep going!” But Robert insisted on taking a selfie. I knew that was slightly abnormal — Robert doesn’t like selfies!
While I was taking this photo, Robert was setting up his phone to record our proposal. PROPOSAL!
I could hear Robert behind me fumbling around in his backpack. I turned and saw that he was setting up his phone on a rock. To record us. I knew. I KNEW it was about to happen! But at the same time, I was afraid it wouldn’t. So I focused on the waves breaking on the rocks. I still think it’s the most beautiful sight, the way they crash and turn white and foamy.
Of course, as Robert was getting ready to come up to me, this girl all by herself came and stood next to me, admiring the view. I can’t blame her. But she stayed so long. Robert kept waiting, and I kept watching waves. Finally, she left. Robert came over and wrapped his arms around me. I was FREAKING out. FREAKING OUT!
He got down on one knee, even on the rocky cliff. 🙂 Somehow, while all this was happening, not another soul came through the trail. We had it all to ourselves.
Even though this was only my placeholder ring, I loved looking at it. Robert worked hard designing the ring himself, but he let me make some final decisions, and I got my real ring when I got back from Palm Beach!
This is my favorite photo in the world. Pure joy.
Eventually, we had to keep walking! We were talking about when he talked to my dad, when he told his family, how his sister tracked my stand-in ring down the morning we left, etc. And BOOM! We happened upon a cat habitat! We found that adorable because Robert’s mom loves cats and takes care of a bunch here in Orange. When we saw this, I said, “OMG there’s a Kathryn in Italy!!”
The wire here is to keep hikers like us from getting clobbered by falling boulders. Nice, right?!? Can y’all tell why I was nervous??
Vernazza is a beautiful little town with a natural harbor.
This tower was used to look out for pirates . . . I think.
We found another comfy spot to watch the sunset . . . as FIANCES!!
This is us being fiancés. 😀
And this is me waiting for Robert to take a real selfie with me.
On our last full day in Cinque Terre — and first full day as fiancés — we took the train to the southernmost town, Riomaggiore. It’s so beautiful that it hurts my heart to look at it. I miss it!
This is the most accurate depiction of how Robert feels about me taking his picture. 😉
There’s this beautiful little path called Via dell’Amore (way of love). It connects Riomaggiore and Manarola, the next town. It changed both towns when it opened — suddenly, you could get back and forth quickly and easily, so everyone’s social lives grew tremendously. 🙂 UNfortunately, there was a rockslide back in 2012, and it was still closed when we were there.
Since the paths were all closed, we took the train to the next town, Manarola. I was so excited to see this one because it’s the gorgeous town we could see from our terrace bar in Corniglia. It felt like the party town to me! There was music and bars and people lying in the sun.
This is why one of the paths was closed. WOMP!
In Manarola, on top of the hills, you’ll see one of the largest Nativity scenes in the world. Every year on December 6, they light up all these statues along the vines. It’s a really cool story, so we had to see them up close.
Robert was trying to find out if we could walk the trails anyway — some people were! But I felt super freaked out by the landslide stories. I wish we had tried it anyway, honestly.
Here’s one of those spry Italians I was talking about.
After enjoying the views from the top of Manarola and hitting some shops and gelaterias, we settled in for one last sunset in Cinque Terre.
The next morning, we would wake up stupid early for a VERY early train to Rome. Robert’s only request when I was planning was to spend a solid chunk of time in Rome, so we did! And that’s next. 🙂
Our AirBnB — If we ever go back to Cinque Terre, and I hope we do, I want to stay with Cristiana again!
Terza Terra — I will dream of their views and their Limoncello drinks for years.
Bar Pan e Vin — This is Cristiana & Stefano’s place where we had breakfast each morning. When we stopped in on our last night to say bye, they sent us off with croissants for our early train. True gems.
Osteria a Cantina de Mananan – They’re a tiny restaurant that’s big on seafood! This is where we had our engagement celebration dinner, and they sat us at a little table with another couple. I thought, “Oh, that’s not so romantic,” but we ended up having wonderful conversation with this sweet Danish couple! It made the night that much more special to get to chat with such nice people. 🙂
Other Parts of Our Trip & Other Travel Posts!