Italy had always been on my destination plan for a Europe trip. The main reason was Florence (Firenze), which had been in my wish-list after I finished reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. Later I found out that Florence did not meet my expectation because of the very obvious reason that I forgot to consider when I decided to go there on peak season. Anyway, I also wondered about the taste of “real” pizza and pasta in the homeland and also the famous Venice and Pompeii. Due to those reasons, I made up my mind to explore Italy for 8 days, visiting Venice, Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Rome, and Naples. I used trains to travel between all cities and stayed in dormitory style backpacker hostel, and trying to be frugal on spending. I tried to push the spending on accommodation and eating, and I spent a total of £ 738 (or around 830 euros). The cost already included a round-trip ticket from London to Venice and Naples to London respectively. It was exceeding my budget that time, due to unexpected admission fees for museums and almost famous tourist attractions. For example, in order to meet the famous and magnificent David in Florence, I had to pay around 14 euros and pay another 14 euros to see the the birth of Venus on a different gallery.
Cinque terre means five terrain, which tells about five main spots in the area. Out of five, I visited all of them. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, and one additional (Levanto). The last one was not really worth to visit, it has only a view of buildings with very few tourist activity. The worst thing is it has no trekking part. It was more like a residential place than a touristy place, but if you have spare time you might not want to miss Levanto to enjoy the view. My trip began on Vernazza (the fourth place) to have the hiking trip. When I was there, route between Riomaggiore and Manarola was closed due to safety reason. To walk on the national park, you need to pay 10 euros for a one day trekking card. The trekking card enables you to access all park area, free use of toilet, internet access (well, actually I did not find any accessible Wi-Fi there). Overall, I enjoyed my walk on the national park since the weather on September is perfect for a walk. The only regretful thing is the unavailable route between Riomag and Manarola. During the walk, I got the pass scenic view of a cliff by the sea, small grape plantation, small church, and residential villages. The path is very visible and the road sign is everywhere so you will not get lost. The terrain is moderate, but have some steep terrain on some points. Overall the difficulty is okay, I noticed some elder hike there without any problem though.
Riomaggiore has the nice view of narrow coastal, perfect for sunset. I witnessed a guy proposing to his partner, just before the sun set. What a beautiful time for such a happy event! I tried the famous black ink pasta here as well (had difficulty to find this, like only 1 out of 10 restaurants serve this). My honest judgement was that black ink pasta are overrated. Hahaha. But if you never try it, you should try it to know what I felt when I have to pay for 20 euros for that pasta.
Monterosso is the most liveliest and crowdy amongst all. Nice place to get the sun’s exposure and chilling along the beach. This will probably the most crowdy terre amongst all. It has largest area, a place to sun-bathing, lots of restaurants and cafe, and an interesting marketplace in the alley area. This is my second favorite terre after Riomagg.
My suggestions if you are planning a trip for Cinque Terre:
- Buy a one day ticket for the train between all fives terre, because you will end up travel between each other lots of times. Save you money.
- Start your journey from the farthest village in the morning, and start your hiking journey towards the nearest (Riomaggiore). You can have a lunch break on Corniglia or Vernazza. Almost all stores open after 12 so it is always a good idea to spend the morning by enjoying the trail and later on sightseeing on the stores and restaurants at noon.
- Be aware of the last train toward the town, make sure you do not miss that so you do not have to spend the night in Cinque Terre.
- Wear a proper walking / hiking shoes because you will walk a lot!
Uffizi gallery. Make sure you booked the ticket before you come, or you have to queue. Ticket to be purchased online and then taken at the admission office. There is a time window when you can enter the museum, based on your booking preference. Have to visit because the famous Venus is here. The architecture is also amazing!
Accademia gallery. I went here just to see the famous David by Michelangelo. A must visit palce, you have to see how stunning are the details of the David. Worth the queue and ticket.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella. Had to pay for the admission. Did not really enjoy the visit because it was a typical catholic church and seemed too common.
Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower and Duomo. Had to pay for entering, additional costly tour to reach the top of the tower. Some guys in suits will try to convince you to buy the ‘exclusive’ tour to the tower. Don’t buy it, unless you really want to go to the top. You can go to the less higher tower for free, the view was amazing enough. Pretty close with what Dan Brown illustrated in the book. You will need to pass through a narrow staircase, be aware if you are somehow claustrophobic.
Half day trip. Visiting the pompeii, managed to get a free entry pass (maybe they misunderstood me as one of the participants of a huge tour of Chinese people). But you had to pay for the admission to get into the ruin. Upon entering the ruin, follow the route from the east side then you expect to finish the round on the west. That was the best route, you can start with the common ruin, have a break in the field where you can see the mount Vesivius far away. There was a coffee shop nearby where you can have lunch or a coffee break there. Overall, just a bunch of stones and statues. Quite amazing when you can imagine that those are the places you usually saw in the Romanian era movie. Instead, can go to coastal place nearby because Pompeii is a boring place.
Aside from the other cities stated above, I explored Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and Venice but no special stories to write about.