Ah, Cinque Terre… “Five Lands” (along the Ligurian coast). What is it about houses perched on cliffs that make them so charming? I had to find out. Only 2 hours away from Florence (where I was based), I felt that I had to at least check it out for a day. So I booked a trip with Smart Trip Europe.
On Saturday, I met up with a small group at Santa Maria Novella Station just before 7 in the morning. We boarded the “luxury coach bus”, which we shared with a slightly larger group, and made our way to the city of La Spezia. From there, we made our way to our first stop, the town of Manarola.
Upon reaching the fisherman town’s centre, we were given time to walk around and/or get breakfast by ourselves. I and a few others chose to walk to the docks. The town’s coast is outstanding! The colourful houses on the rocks just above the clear turquoise water make for a beautiful postcard-worthy photograph. While it was difficult to stop myself from jumping in the inviting sea, I had no trouble snapping a quick photo; because it was early, I didn’t have to squeeze my way through groups of tourists. What a way to start the day!
It was a different story in Riomaggiore, our second stop. Though the town is definitely picturesque, the crowds of tourists made it difficult for me to enjoy the scenery. That didn’t dampen the mood however. Two new pals and I found ourselves a nice spot for brunch at a terrazza just above the main street – perfect for people watching 😉
After brunch, it was time to catch up with the rest of the group. We took another train to the beachtown of Monterosso al Mare. There, we had 3 hours to spare. My new friends and I used them wisely: we walked along the shore, walked up a path for a bird’s eye view of the coast, then picked up smoothies at a beachfront bar, dipped into the Mediterranean sea and laid in the sun. Some R&R were in order.
At about 16:10, we met up with the rest of the group, caught the train back to La Spezia and made our way back to Florence. Along the way, we were treated with the sight of (what we first thought was snow) marble in the mountain range. I though it was a nice way to end the trip, connecting back to Florence (and its art – think marble scultures).
Overall, imagine a day of exploring, relaxing and gettting to know people. That’s what, to me, going on a trip with Smart Trip is like. As a traveller on a budget, I always look for the best experience-to-price ratio. When I knew I was going to be in Florence for a few days, I looked for day trips to Cinque Terre and other towns but was surprised to see how expensive they can be, even for larger scale tour groups (which I find normally cheaper). When I stumbled upon Smart Trip, designed originally for students on a budget, I knew I had to book with them. For 45 Eur per person, they provide a comfortable transportation from and back to Florence, 2 friendly guides, train tickets (to travel between towns), and enough time to explore each of the 3 towns in Cinque Terre freely, without feeling rushed. I definitely recommend.
Smart Tip: Don’t try to squeeze in all of the 5 towns in one day.