Its namesake National Park is, of course, a jewel in the Mediterranean, and anyone who hasn't been there should definitely plan a trip to the famous five villages. But if you want to learn something new about the area and the National Park, you should look at our tips below. We took the exit for Deiva Marina and drove to Corniglia looking for interesting tips for foodies and wine lovers. The five fishing villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare are the main attraction, but we chose the Vendemmia (wine harvest) as the time to go and visit the countryside.We travelled straight through the lush slopes past the golden vineyards with steep terraces that lead to the sea along cliffs Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast, that seem to extend its arms into the deep blue water of the sea below. Because it is challenging to grow grapes on the rocky, steep terrain in this area, winemaking is sometimes referred to as a heroic endeavor. Expect the wines from this region to be a little more expensive, because everything is done by hand, from the vineyard to the bottle, which is fascinating in and of itself.
A tour of the vineyards of Cinque Terre
Despite the sometimes-dominant tyranny of the elements, the region enjoys a relatively temperate climate, and the mountains offer enough protection from the extreme cold of the north and too high temperatures from the south. The land on which the Cinque Terre wine is cultivated has always been naturally exposed to the saltiness of the sea, to solar heat but also to abundant rainfall. The roughly one-meter-high stone walls that surround the wine terraces cause the sun to reflect on the dry wall next to the vines, hastening the ripening of the grape.
A tour through Cinque Terre's vineyards is a visual feast with the steep cliffs, white beaches, and blue sea in the background. Early autumn is the best time to travel there by car because, especially on a quiet weekday, few locals will object to your desire to stop for photos at every turn, even if you slightly impede local traffic. The 25 km long road meanders from the Deiva Marina exit to Monterosso, the first settlement in Cinque Terre, not something you want to do when your back seat passengers have queasy stomachs. But, on the plus side, there is a restaurant in every village where you can eat local fresh fish and sip from the locally produced white wine.
Before descending to look over the lovely tiny harbor of Levanto, the Strada Provinciale 41 takes you through sleepy Ligurian villages like Piazza, Passano, Castagnola, Foce, and Reggimonte. You can get to the Cinque Terre national park's border by continuing to follow the signage outside of the village to Vernazza. This time we decided to limit our excursion to the village of Corniglia, at which point we turned upward to the Santuario.
The local wines
Although some producers add a Vermentino grape, the Bosco and Albarola grapes make up the majority of the wine that are allowed to carry the label of Cinque Terre.
At the Cantina Cinque Terre, the cooperative where the Cinque Terre vineyards collaborate to promote their wine, you can find wines that are crisp and light with notes of wild flowers and citrus, as well as more robust varieties with complex combinations of herbs like sage, lemon peel, and intense minerals.
But the Sciacchetrà, a dessert wine (pronounce shahk-eh-TRA), is what the area is most proud of, made from the same grapes, but only the best fruit is chosen from the vineyards nearest to the ocean. The grapes will be spread out on mats to dry after harvesting, sometimes for several months. Even though there is little output, the best bottles offer a flavor that is evocative of honey, dried apricots, whipped cream, and hazelnuts.
Tips for hotels in Cinque Terre
The villages are all close to one another, therefore I advise picking a location you can use as an easy starting point for your excursions. The largest of the five, Monterosso has most of the hotels. While some of the streets in the Centro Storico are accessible by car, the majority of the hotels are in a pedestrian area. There are a few B&Bs and rental units in the smaller communities.
Although it is located just outside of Monterosso's center, Hotel Porto Roca boasts unimpeded views from every one of its balconies and patios and offers a shuttle service to and from the train station and parking areas.
On the other hand, La Terrazza sul Mare is situated close to the center and the beach. The location and scenery more than make up for the small size of the rooms. The bed and breakfast accommodations in the Cinque Terre settlements range from very basic to quite upscale. Donna Barbara is located in the charming town of Vernazza, close to the harbor.
Tips for restaurants
It is rare to have a bad experience while eating in Cinque Terre, but that really goes for all of Italy. A catch of the day of fresh fish, as well as various regional pasta dishes and local delicacies, are always available on the menus of the tiny trattorias. Visit Enoteca Dau Cila, which is close to the harbor; it's best to make reservations if you wish to eat alfresco. Pasta with anchovies and sea bass is one of my favorite dishes or try whatever they offer in the way of seafood on the menu. They have a fantastic wine list as well.
I suggest Trattoria del Billy in Manarola for black pasta with clams and filled mussels. Its well worth the walk down to the village!
Tourists and locals alike frequently purchase a platter of fried anchovies and a glass of local wine at Osteria a Cantina de Mananan in Corniglia. I advise making reservations in advance if you don't want to wait for a table, especially if you're traveling with a big group.
There is basically only one restaurant in Vernazza where you should eat; this is the best location in Cinque Terre, perched atop a rock above the water, not because the food is better than in any of the other places, but you cannot beat the view. The Ligurian cuisine at Ristorante Belforte is traditional, with the specialty being Marinara mussels cooked in garlic, parsley, and white wine. In Monterosso al Mare, I can suggest San Martino Gastronomia, which not only serves tasty regional fare but can also provide food for a picnic on the sand if you like. Try the upmarket Ristorante Miky, which serves freshly caught seafood and handmade pasta, for a fancier dining experience. Don't miss their unique chocolate dessert.
Go to the Cantina Sociale di Cinque Terre for a good wine tasting
The wine tasting room is located in Groppo, above Manarola. You leave the highway from the center of La Spezia (follow the signs for the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore, Manarola).
Opening hours in summer
From April to October and December: Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday and public holidays from 9 to 12:30 and from 14:30 to 19 h.
Opening hours in winter
January, February, March and November: Monday 8am-6:30pm, Tuesday and Wednesday 8am-1:30pm and 2:30pm-6:30pm. Sunday and holidays CLOSED.
Book your tour at least three days in advance, indicating time and number of participants. A Sunday tour is available by appointment.