I have been to Italy once – visiting Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa and Vatican city – which was a memorable trip. But this trip to Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Milan definitely tops the cake with its exotic villages surrounded by oceans, lakes, mountains and postcard views.
After doing a bit of research on Cinque Terre villages (comprising of 5 beauties) and Lake Como, I decided to book my flights to Milan which turned out to be the closest location to both Cinque Terre and Lake Como. There were direct trains (via Trenitalia) from Milan. Decided to stay couple of days around Vernazza, which was one of scenic village in Cinque Terre. There were trains connecting to all five villages or there are also options to hike from one village to the other. I went around for one day in Lake Como, roaming around in a ferry and visiting Bellagio, Varenna and the picturesque towns. I didn’t spend much time in Milan and only visited the Duomo cathedral and of course, had some good Italian food. Overall a perfect vacation for five days and would love to walk you through the memories of my Italian sojourn.
Handy Tips before planning:
- Train fares from one Cinque Terre village to the next are quite expensive as it is 4 Euros one way, it might be better to get train pass for one or two days which you can use for unlimited rides.
- Make sure you carry plenty of sunscreen lotion, loose clothes as it gets very hot during summer.
- Its best to plan during spring/autumn (Feb to May or Aug to Oct) as the weather is pleasant.
- Lake Como can be planned by ferry: half/full day covering Bellagio, Varenna and other towns around.
Monterosso – I started quite early from Milan to spend as much time in Cinque Terre. Monterosso was my first halt and I should say it was heaven. And it wasn’t too crowded when I went over. Monterosso is the biggest and the oldest of the Cinque Terre’s villages. It is divided into 2 parts: the old and the new village. The biggest beach of the entire coast is situated here, because of this it is the most visited town; but I got lucky! A long walk around the town keeps you engaged with ancient history and beauty.
Vernazza – After spending half of my day in Monterosso, I took the train to the next village Vernazza. It is perhaps the most beautiful of all the Cinque Terre’s villages, even though in 2011 it suffered the most from the famous flood. In the village there are a large number of restaurants, bars and other facilities where you could try nice Italian pastries and ice creams. You get a beautiful bird-eye’s view of the village and the coast that everyone can enjoy from Belforte tower (Entry fee 1.5 Euros). My first day ended here and I had the most satisfied day with a lovely sunset and sweet dreams.
Manarola – Woke up early the next day to soak in the morning sunrise in Vernazza. After a sumptuous breakfast, continued my venture to Manarola. I liked Manarola the most of all five villages for its beautiful cliff perched with colorful houses surrounded by blue heaven. Ocean views were stunning as I walked around the village. My camera was filled with stunning pictures 🙂 Manarola is Cinque Terre’s 2nd smallest village, yet it packs all of the charm and charisma.
Riomaggiore & Corniglia – I decided to take the trek from Manarola to Riomaggiore which was just about 30 mins walk. The town climbs up along the ridges overlooking the sea and it is characterised by the typical stone houses with coloured facades and pastel designs. Lastly, I visited Corniglia which was located on the top of a panoramic hilltop and it features fantastic panoramic views, an intriguing history and delicious white wine after a steep hike. Cinque Terre is linked by a network of paths that offer the best opportunity to truly enjoy the unique landscape.
The easiest way to reach Lake Como is via Milan. I caught the train from Milan’s central station, Milano Centrale to Como. Known for northern Italy’s dramatic scenery, it’s set against the Alps. Lake Como has been a popular retreat for wealthy people like George Clooney, who has a nice mansion here. It’s known for jaw-dropping natural beauty, elegant old villas and the scenic towns surrounding the lake. Do check out Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio, which offer great views. Until you visit this place you won’t know how dreamy and mysterious the place is. There are slow boats, fast boats and private boats as well as funiculars to head up the hills and also a slower bus system. I took the ferry ride going to Varenna first, a sleepy traditional fishing village that makes for a perfect base to explore greater Lake Como. Then I went to Bellagio, located on the triangular section that divides Lake Como into an inverted ‘Y’ and boasts elegant shopping arcades along the harbour. I got a one day pass that was 15 euros and visited the towns of Varenna, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Lenno, Menaggio and Cadenabbia (totally worth it!)
As I said earlier, I didn’t spend much time in Milan as my trip was primarily focussed on Cinque Terre and Lake Como. But I made sure to visit the Duomo cathedral in Milan. It’s the world’s fifth largest Gothic cathedral, which took over six centuries to complete and is located in the heart of the city. I loved the walk leading to the cathedral along Galleria Vittorio Emmanuale mall which has the big fashion brands. While entry to the Duomo is free, there is a small admission fee to visit the roof, where you can inspect the cathedral’s many statues, and gargoyles and admire tremendous views of Milan.
Until next time!