Italy: Traveling Cinque Terre with a dog. A good idea?
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Some associate them with colorful houses, a spectacular coast and Italy, as if from a picture book. For others it is tourist hell: the Cinque Terre. And you know what? Both are true. Nevertheless, I have visited the Cinque Terre twice and each time it has stolen a piece of my heart.
- About the Cinque Terre
- arrival and locomotion
- The right accommodation with a dog in the Cinque Terre
- How long should you stay in the Cinque Terre?
- What you can experience in the Cinque Terre
- Hiking in the Cinque Terre
- A perfect day with the dog in the Cinque Terre
- Summary and tips
About the Cinque Terre - Italy
Cinque Terre means five countries or five towns. The five colourful, picturesque villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are spectacularly carved into the steep slopes of the Ligurian Riviera. The region has just 7000 inhabitants and is protected as a national park. Incidentally, this means that nothing may be built or changed here, which is why you will find absolutely no structural errors or large hotel complexes here. Wine is still grown on the steep slopes today, even if this is only occasionally done professionally. The vineyards of the Cinque Terre are among the steepest in the world.
Of course, the Cinque Terre is no longer an insider tip, at least since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And of course that always attracts people who just want that one photo. But I was also able to see the Cinque Terre from a completely different side. And that's what I want to talk about today. But first I'll give you a little overview of the Cinque Terre.
The villages of the Cinque Terre at a glance (from north to south)
Monterosso is the first of the five villages and has a special feature: it is the only place with a sandy beach. It's one of those typical Italian beaches - with colorful umbrellas and loungers. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to go to this (private) beach with your dog, but we discovered a beautiful small public beach behind the harbor that was also accessible to dogs. Incidentally, Monterosso is also the largest village and accordingly not quite as picturesque as the other places.
There is much debate about which village is the most beautiful. Many choose Vernazza. Vernazza is close to the sea and has a wide harbour. Viewed from above, Vernazza looks like a colorful headland. My tip: Be sure to walk the hiking trail from Vernazza to Corniglia, it's the most beautiful section.
Corniglia is my personal favourite. Unlike all four other villages, Corniglia is not directly on the sea, but perched high up on the rocky slope. By the way, very few tourists come here. Corniglia cannot be reached by boat and many (!) steps have to be overcome when arriving by train. The town center is small and cozy and has countless cafés - some with spectacular views.
Manarola is one of the postcard villages, and the most spectacular pictures are taken here, especially at sunrise. Manarola nestles elegantly in the rocks and seems to flow into the sea. Worth seeing!
Riomaggiore is not at all dissimilar to Manarola, this village is also particularly spectacular in the hillside. Manarola and Riomaggiore are actually connected by the via dell'amore, unfortunately this simple hiking trail is closed due to the danger of collapse. You can still easily get from place to place by boat, train or via an alternative hiking trail that leads across the vineyards.
Cinque Terre: how to get there and how to get around
We were traveling by car on our trip to Italy with our dog. And you should know that it is rare for tourists to get lost in the Cinque Terre by car. Normally this is not necessary at all, so the five villages are all easily accessible by train or boat. And since only narrow pass roads lead through the Cinque Terre, driving here is really adventurous. When traveling with a dog in the Cinque Terre, the car has great advantages. On the one hand, the higher mountain villages can hardly be reached by public transport and, on the other hand, you have everything you need with you. And with a dog, it is not uncommon for you to be out and about with a little more luggage than without. By the way: Once you are at your accommodation, you hardly need a car, if at all, since you can now experience almost everything on foot. But more on that in a moment.
Getting around the Cinque Terre at a glance
Cinque Terre by train: The train connects all the villages with each other and with the surrounding region (La Spezia, Levanto). Dogs are allowed (muzzle required). Very crowded during the day. Costs are for a regular trip. The Cinque Terre Card includes free train rides.
Cinque Terre by car: Should only be used if you have your accommodation in the Cinque Terre. Otherwise access restrictions apply. Roads are sometimes adventurous, it takes a lot of time for short distances. e.g. B. Corniglia-Monterrosso about 35 min (5 min by train). Parking spaces available (often slightly above the towns and subject to a charge). Attention: There is no gas station in the Cinque Terre!
Cinque Terre by Boat: Speedboats run between 9am and 6pm from Levanto to La Spezia, stopping at every location except Corniglia (no port, only accessible by train or on foot). A day ticket costs from 30 euros (15 euros for children), single journeys cost 12 to 22 euros, depending on the route. Dogs are allowed with a muzzle, as on the train. Attention, there is no sun protection on the deck. Better stay downstairs with a dog.
The Cinque Terre Card
The Cinque Terre Card Treno (train card) costs 18.20 euros (day pass) or 33 euros for 2 days and 47 euros for 3 days. There are discounts for children, families and seniors. With it you can use all trains on the Levanto - Cinque Terre - La Spezia route, as well as all hiking trails, free of charge and without restrictions.
There is also the Cinque Terre Trekking Card. It costs 7.50 euros per day or 14.50 euros for 2 days and is only valid for the fee-based hiking trails (stages Monterosso - Vernazza and Vernazza - Corniglia). The other trails are free.
Traveling in Italy with your dog: The right accommodation with your dog in the Cinque Terre
In order to experience a perfect Cinque Terre holiday, you need above all the right accommodation. I have already mentioned that there are no large hotel complexes. But there are numerous holiday apartments and the so-called agriturismo, i.e. farms that also serve as holiday accommodation. In the Cinque Terre, these are particularly often small, family-run wineries. We have decided on an apartment. This was not in one of the main towns of the Cinque Terre, but in one of the mountain villages that are hidden in the slopes above the Cinque Terre. The largest and most accessible of these villages are:
- San Bernardino
Strictly speaking, these villages are also part of the Cinque Terre, because each mountain village can be assigned to one of the five main towns as a district. The advantage of accommodation in the mountains: tranquility and breathtaking nature. Almost no tourists get lost in the villages. "Real" life still happens here. At the same time, the villages offer spectacular views of the mountains, the sea and the colorful villages. By the way, we looked down on Corniglia from our balcony.
Incidentally, when we were in the Cinque Terre for the first time in 2018 (at that time without a dog), we decided on a holiday apartment in the center of Corniglia. This also had a balcony with spectacular sea and village views. During this holiday, a somewhat more remote and therefore particularly dog-friendly accommodation in Italy was particularly important to us.
How long should you stay in the Cinque Terre?
In fact, one of the biggest problems of the Cinque Terre is the large number of day tourists. Whether cruise tourists or round travelers, many people hardly take a day to explore this beautiful corner of Italy. And so it happens that around noon whole masses are literally swept into the towns and have already disappeared again in the evening. So if you have planned some time, it is really easy to get to know the Cinque Terre far away from this mass tourism. We were there for ten days, but you should definitely not plan less than four to five days.
What you can experience in the Cinque Terre (with a dog).
There are of course the five towns (from north to south) Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each place has its own charm, which is why it is really worth visiting each and every one of them. And you should do this early in the morning and in the evening. In the early morning, the streets are still empty and the air is fresh. Only a few delivery vehicles meander through the narrow streets and bring fresh groceries for the cafés, restaurants and supermarkets. In the evening, on the other hand, you can watch the most spectacular sunsets in Italy. Although it is no longer quite as quiet as in the morning, there are no longer any masses of people in the villages in the evening either. At noon, however, you should refrain from visiting the places. One day it's unbelievably hot (especially in summer) and you really can't imagine how many people are crowding through the streets all of a sudden.
Fortunately, there are completely different things to do in the Cinque Terre at lunchtime. I better admit that at that time we mostly sat on our balcony and took in the fantastic view. Incidentally, Frieda particularly enjoyed these quiet hours and looked for a shady but airy place, which fortunately our balcony offered. If you want a little more action, you can visit wineries, take easy walks through the forested mountains or enjoy fantastic food in the small cafes of the mountain villages. You can also take part in cooking classes where you can learn how the region's traditional pesto is made.
Activities in the Cinque Terre at a glance:
- visit villages
- Visit cafes/restaurants
- Beach (Monterosso)
- wine tasting
- cooking classes
Hiking in the Cinque Terre (with dog)
And then of course there are the hiking trails of the Cinque Terre. Most people are familiar with the Sentiero Azzurro (also known as the Blue Path), which is considered one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world and connects all five villages (although some sections are currently closed due to the risk of collapse). Incidentally, hiking on the Sentiero Azzurro is subject to a fee. Tickets cost 7.50 euros and can be bought directly at the hiking trail. Alternatively, you can get the Cinque Terre Card for 18.20 euros, which also includes train travel. But there is also a huge network of (free) hiking trails that (surprisingly) are overlooked by almost all tourists. Here you hike on lonely paths through the mountains of the Cinque Terre and cover no fewer meters in altitude than on hikes in Switzerland. In summer you should not do these hikes - especially with a dog - in the midday hours.
The most beautiful hike in the Cinque Terre (with dog)
I would like to particularly recommend a hike to you. The hike on the 507 trail. You can do it as a circular hike with a start and end point in Corniglia or choose the neighboring town of Vernazza as the end point. So you walk north from Corniglia up a vineyard until you are in the mountain plain of the national park. The landscape could hardly be more varied: you always have a fantastic view back to Corniglia and the sea, you pass vineyards and olive groves until you finally walk through a forest that is almost reminiscent of a tropical jungle. Once you have reached the highest point, you now descend a few meters in altitude again. You now arrive in the mountain village of San Bernadino, which towers spectacularly over Corniglia and has a fantastic little restaurant right next to the village church. Let the friendly owners advise you, so you can get incredible bruschetta, focaccia or traditional rice cakes freshly prepared according to your taste. You should also try the house wine, which is produced directly in the Cinque Terre. It will be difficult for you to tear yourself away from this place, but now it's back to the coast. The path first goes over a vineyard and then steeply down. Now you can either keep right in the direction of Vernazza or go left back to Corniglia. The last stretch leads over the Sentiero Azzurro and is considered (in both directions) to be one of the most beautiful sections of the trail. The hike is around 9 kilometers long in total, with an altitude difference of 560 meters. So it's a full blown mountain hike.
A perfect day with the dog in the Cinque Terre
Hopefully I have now been able to tell you something worth knowing about traveling to the Cinque Terre. That's why it's now time to give you an insight into a (from my point of view) perfect day in the Cinque Terre vacation. And here the first ones will already contradict me, but for me a perfect day starts early. And really early. So we left around six in the morning to walk a section of the Sentiero Azzurro and to visit our favorite town in the Cinque Terre - Cornigila. At six in the morning the air is still cool and the light somewhere between pink and blue. From our accommodation, you could go straight down a slope and onto the hiking trail. This meanders now always along the coast. Our mountain village was enthroned above us and the view was always on our destination, Corniglia.
Corniglia just woke up when we arrived after about 45 minutes. We strolled through alleys, took countless photos and finally looked for a café for breakfast. After all, the morning is perfect with cappuccino, croissants and focaccia. But since Corniglia has more than just a pretty café, breakfast quickly turned into breakfast shopping. And before the sun really mercilessly bangs from the sky, we bought the most important groceries for the coming days in the village shop and made our way home. The way back is much more strenuous than the way there, so you'll be happy if there's a shower and a shady spot on the balcony in the holiday apartment. And since we are on a perfect day, a visit to our favorite restaurant in the village in the afternoon could not be missed on this day. Later we went again with the dog on a fantastic hiking trail in the hinterland before the evening was spent on the balcony. Doesn't sound like mass tourism at all, does it?
Summary: Tips for a trip to the Cinque Terre with a dog
- Get up early: morning is your best friend
- Looking for accommodation in the mountains - preferably with a high quality of stay (doesn't cost a fortune, by the way)
- Go hiking - and not only on the Sentiero Azzurro
- Visit all the villages - each one is beautiful in its own way
- Eating out: The food is best and inexpensive in the mountain villages
My Italy highlight on Instagram
By the way: On my Instagram channel you will find a story highlight about our Italy road trip in July 2021.
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