Once upon a time in Italy…

The sun is setting behind the Ligurian Alps as I call it a day and sip from my freshly-made Aperol Spritz accompanied by a free aperitivo. It’s early March and Spring is about to arrive in one of the prettiest villages in Liguria: Pigna. A labyrinth of winding, narrow lanes and steep steps leads up to the historic centre and church. No supermarkets or high street chains here, instead two small “alimentari” and a handful of local restaurants advertising whatever it is they have on the menu today. It’s the kind of place where time stood still, the kind of scene you remember from long gone classical Italian movies. It’s the quintessential off the beaten path in Liguria!

In the heart of these atmospheric lanes lies my “home”: Liguria Holiday Homes. From the outside the house blends in completely with the local medieval architecture. For all you know, it could be a local family that lives here! The inside however has been completely renovated and converted into a comfortable holiday home. The apparent stone walls in the bedrooms and the staircase give the place a rustic and elegant look, while the luxury kitchen appliances provide you with everything you need for a more than comfortable stay.

I am here to spend some quality time with friends. We enjoy late sumptuous breakfasts in the bright and spacious kitchen and endless aperitivo’s in the cosy living room. After a long walk in the surrounding mountains, it’s good to know the whirlpool bath (with massage jets!) and fluffy towels are waiting!

Liguria Holiday Homes villages in Liguria Liguria Holiday Homes villages in Liguria

As comfortable as the house might be, you’ll definitely want to venture outside. Have an early morning cappuccino at the local bakery, go for one of the most delicious truffle pizza’s I’ve ever tried at “Sul Ponte” or simply wander around aimlessly to soak up the atmosphere of this truly magical place.
There are plenty of walking opportunities for some more serious hiking too. Follow the Via Crucis that leads up from the village all the way to the Chiesa della Madonna di Passoscio. You’ll pass numerous little chapels, stare open-mouthed at the breathtaking views over the valley and simply appreciate the wonder of nature.

Day excursions from Pigna are aplenty. Take a 15 minute stroll up to Castelvittorio or take the car to Apricale, Isolabona and Dolceaqua. Each and every one of these villages will offer you a step back in time, they’ll take you back to an Italy you thought had ceased to exist a long time ago…

villages in Liguria Apricale

If you’re in the area, don’t forget to visit the Cinque Terre: five picturesque villages, linked by a beautiful coastal path! Get your boots ready!

I was a guest of Liguria Holiday Homes during this stay. All opinions are my own.

Off the beaten path in the Cinque Terre

Five picture-perfect pastel- tinted villages on the edge of a mountain slope, the Mediterranean Sea lapping below. This is the Cinque Terre for you: a place where reality is even better than your wildest imagination!

things to do in Cinque Terre

Situated in between Pisa and Genoa, the Cinque Terre are Italy’s answer to the French Riviera. Known for great walking, beautiful scenery and tasty food, the five villages (Monterosso, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore) are very well interconnected by train and walking paths. Most people even walk to all of them in one day! But the slow traveller in me wanted to see beyond the villages, so I decided to stay for a week, camping in nearby Levanto to truly experience a maximum of what this stunning area has to offer! Read on and discover the best things to do in Cinque Terre!

things to do in Cinque Terre Manarola things to do in Cinque Terre Vernazza things to do in Cinque Terre Vernazza

1/ Discover life before tourism

There’s no doubt that the Cinque Terre thrive on tourism nowadays, but not so long ago, the villages were mostly known for wine-making. The numerous vineyards, especially around Manarola, still bear witness to that time and walking through them, with the blue Mediterranean below, is an experience not to be missed! Little details like the old wine  press in Corniglia take you back to a time not that long gone…

2/ Go hiking and get lost

Don’t limit yourself to the walking trail that connects all five villages. Go higher up into the woods and you’ll have the area all to yourself! I attempted the walk from Manarola to Corniglia , but got horribly lost somewhere along the way. Hitching a ride to the nearest bus station I ended up in La Spezia, an overlooked hard-working port town. It is here that I tasted the best food of my whole stay: a delicious plate of “ravioli di spinaci burro e salvia” (that’s spinach ravioli with a sage-butter sauce to you and me) in a local restaurant next to the station.  An experience I would never have had if I would have rushed through the region and stayed on the well-trodden path…

 

3/ Take time for an aperitivo on the beach

Half an hour walk from where I stayed, is the village of Bonassola. Tourism is still very low key here and in September there’s plenty of space on the beach for everyone.  I enjoyed numerous sunsets in one of the bars, enjoying the IItalian “aperitivo” habit, where you order a drink and get a range of snacks with it for free. Reading the local newspaper, do some writing, do some people-watching: life can be blissfully simple in the Cinque Terre!

Cinque Terre Cinque Terre

4/ Experiment cooking with local food

I love camping -in sunny weather that is- and occasionally I like to cook my own food on a little stove, enjoying  a glass of wine and  some cheese and olives as a starter.  There is a lot to be said about going to the local supermarket, buying the local veg and cheese. You get a true feeling of the everyday products that are used, you get new ideas for recipes at home and above all, you get to enjoy the gossip of the Italian housewives!

things to do in Cinque Terre Corniglia

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5/ Discover the hidden sanctuaries

Italy is considered as a pretty religious country and the Cinque Terre are no exception to that.  Churches can be found on the main square of every village, but more interesting are the sanctuaries you come across when venturing into the countryside.  I was accompanied by a few fellow travellers at the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Soviore, but the rest was very much deserted.  As a bonus, most of the sanctuaries offer exceptional views over the surroundings!

The Cinque Terre is a region to be enjoyed slowly! Don’t limit yourself to strolling through the villages, as beautiful as they might be! Take time to immerse yourself in the “dolce vita” and reminisce about how good life can be!

And why not venture inland to discover some of the most beautiful villages of Liguria, with hardly a soul in sight!

Have you been to the Cinque Terre? Or a similar charming region? Looking forward to hearing your stories!