Cinque Terre. I had not heard of the UNESCO World Heritage sites before the trip – though upon arriving to see them I recognized the post card picturesque colorful cliffside villages. Hiking between them is stunning end to end – but it was spending the days laying on the pebbles by the crystal clear water that I enjoyed most.

We took the high speed train from Florence to Pisa Centrale (we decided to skip the “Leaning Tower”) and on to Framura. Catching glimpses of the villages and the sea from the train I was excited to be back by the water. Booking a hostel last minute we settled on Perla del Levante as it was cheaper than staying in one of the 5 villages. Arriving to the train station – there was nothing. Not a soul in sight and I had only the haziest memory of the hostel being a short distance from the train station. A shuttle driver stopped briefly at the station and ignored me after I asked if he spoke English. Frustrated, Liam took his backpack and set off up the stairs to see if he could find it. I waited at the station 15 minutes… 30 minutes… 45 minutes…. I was starting to get a little concerned but decided to sit and have a bite to eat and enjoy the flowers. Just as I take a bite a car pulls up – Liam calling out to me from the passenger seat looking a little worse for wear. Putting our big suitcases in the car and driving up the hill – I could see why. It was 625 stairs from the station to the hostel – in the heat with no water I was glad we didn’t try and lug the bags up. Once we made it to the hostel it was a breath of fresh air – stunning views out over the water, a big outdoor sitting area and very kind staff. Turns out, the shuttle was the way to go – just check the times before you arrive and ask for the hostel in Ravecca!

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We ditched our bags and headed directly to “Spiaggia Torsei”, the beach by the train station. Grabbing a beer at the café on the way, we went for a dip in the crystal clear water and fell asleep on the pebbles. Heading back up the stairs, we hiked up to Setta and grabbed one of the best pizzas I have had so far on the trip (I think I have an addiction to Quattro formaggio).

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The next morning we set out to explore the villages – taking the train from Framura to Monte Rosso. The quaint village side town was one of the most touristy with long beaches stretching dotted with sun beds and umbrellas. We were more interested in getting off the beaten bath so we set out to hike to the next village, Vernazzo. Heading up to the trail (a day pass for the trails and the trains is 12 euro per person. Make sure to wear appropriate footwear, bring water and sun protection) there is stunning views back over the beach and the city.

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The hike to Vernazzo took 2 hours and was definitely not for the faint hearted – but the views are worth every second. We cooled off with some granite (think slushies) and sat on the boardwalk.

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We wanted to see as much as we could so we took the train to see the rest of the villages. I can’t put into words how stunning all of the villages are – every shot looked like it belonged on a postcard.

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We finished the day in Rio Maggiore, grabbing dinner at La Lampara – we couldn’t resist trying the fresh seafood. Taking the late train from Rio Maggiore, we caught a beautiful sunset, silhouetting a cliff side restaurant.

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We met a fellow traveler at the hostel, Donny, who had just studied abroad in Switzerland and had already explored Cinque Terre. He took to a local beach cove near Framura. You can lay out on the rocks, go cliff jumping or just float and enjoy the feeling of the waves lifting you as they enter the cove. We took the go pro with and some amazing photos swimming with the fish.

Aside: to get to the cove, follow the road from the Framura railway station through the tunnel, take the ramp on the right as you exit the tunnel, head past the cafe, up the stairs, through an old railway tunnel (stop off and check out the viewpoint in the middle) and down the stairs on the right at the end of the tunnel.

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We finished our time in Framura by hiking up to Costa to grab dinner. It felt like we were climbing a mountain. The town had all the charm of the 5 villages, an even better view and none of the tourists. We grabbed dinner and on our way back down stopped to enjoy and incredible sunset.

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Next Stop: Milan

Written by Aimee C