A couple of wonderful things happened in Cinque Terre.
First, the kids LOVED it.
And second, Uncle Jay joined us for part of the trip!
Uncle Jay isn’t MY uncle — he’s the kids’! But the funny thing when you become a parent is you start referring to people the way your kids do. So MY older brother by three years decided to come over and see some of Italy himself. And he brought along a strong dose of dry humor, a bunch of fun, and genuine thoughtfulness.
Before joining us, he asked me what snack the kids were missing most from home. So when he showed up in Cinque Terre, he was packing the goods — Nerds, peanut-butter-filled pretzels, and roasted/shelled sunflower seeds. Go figure. 🤷🏻♀️
We had a few days to get our bearings before Jay arrived. Cinque Terre literally translates to five lands, so there’s a lot to see. The area sits along the western coastline of Italy with five magical towns connected by a quick train ride or a longer journey — The Blue Trail. Scott and I hiked this amazing path several years ago, but the easiest section was closed during this trip and we decided to opt out of the other trails with the kids. There were too many other fun things to see!
Scott and I stayed in Manarola when we first came to Italy and we loved it. This time, we chose an apartment in Riomaggiore and I’m so glad we did. It was a perfect town to stay in with kids.
Here’s a quick overview of the five towns.
Starting from the South, Riomaggiore is the first town along the Cinque Terre train line. We stayed in the town for seven nights (our longest stay of the trip!), so we were glad that the apartment we chose was very comfortable. Except for the steep stairs!
Before arriving, we weren’t sure what to expect from the swimming spot because we’d heard that the only beach was rocky — not sandy. But the very first evening was a wonderful surprise for us all because we hopped in our suits and walked down to discover that the popular beach was great for swimming.
Although we learned a few days later that even at the same time of day, the waves can change a LOT. When we went to the same spot with Jay, the waves were HUGE and not kid-friendly so we just sat on the rocks and let the waves wash over our legs — until one knocked Annie over!
Riomaggiore is a great town and a good choice for families with kids.
Manarola is the next town when you’re coming from the south and I’ll always feel nostalgic about it because it’s the town Scott and I stayed in during our first time in Cinque Terre. It has fun shops, magical twisty pathways, and a picturesque marina that makes it the more photographed of the five towns.
We were glad we didn’t stay here this time around, however, because it doesn’t have a great swimming spot for younger kids. You can definitely swim, but it’s in deeper water without a beach for easy access.
The third town from the south is called Corniglia and it sits up high on the incredible cliffsides surrounding the coast. It’s less busy because of the extra work to get there (after you arrive at the train station, there’s a long set of stairs up to town), but it’s worth the views and the ability to say you’ve visited all five towns! 😁 There’s also a shuttle from the train station that takes you up to the town if you need a break.
If we had to choose a different town to stay in overnight with kids, Vernazza would be it. There’s a small sandy beach right in the marina that’s enclosed and safe so it’s very family-swimming-friendly. But it still has the windy steep walkways through town that creates the charm I love about Cinque Terre. Plus, it has an incredible view from the old Doria castle ruins at the top of the hill in town.
The town with the most beach access is Monterosso al Mare. Scott took the kids there during one of the days I was working and they came back with loud tales of swimming with fish, riding waves, and a nice playground (a rare find in Italy). Plus, gelato. Always gelato.
While Jay was with us, we all went to Monterosso and had a lovely day. Jay and I both spent a little more time on the beach chairs under umbrellas (neither of us particularly like the feel of salt water on our skin), but I did also go swimming with Scott and the kids. They were dying for me to see the fish they’d seen a few days before, and I finally got a good view underneath the waves with the help of Scott’s snorkel mask. (Remember, when you’re traveling light, ALWAYS pack your snorkel.)
Monterosso is the fifth town from the south, and probably the most kid-friendly for families looking to spend a lot of time at the water.
Why I Love Cinque Terre
So here’s the thing. I realize in hindsight that it’s kind of weird how much I love Cinque Terre.
I’m not a beach person.
I hate sand.
I hate salt water.
I’d take mountains over beaches ANY DAY.
But there’s just something magical about Cinque Terre, even in the muggy humid summer. (Though I do highly recommend you go in the off-season instead!)
The hillside towns with their bright colors are gorgeous from photos, but it’s the skinny, twisty pathways between buildings that make me giddy. In my next post, I’ll share one of my morning walks with you, and hopefully it’ll give you a sense of the feeling you can’t capture in pictures of this gorgeous place.
Until then, thanks for following along!