Cinque Terres Fishing Villages

Portifino consists 5 small fishing villages off the coast of northern Italy.
Accommodations:
If you are on a budget, I think the best way to see the 5 fishing villages is to stay in La Spezia at an Airbnb.
If you want to stay at a hotel in one of the villages,  La Torretta in Manarola or Hotel Palme in Monterosso, are more flat of the five villages so these would be the best places to stay when you are hauling around luggage but be prepared to walk up some steep hills. There are no 5 star hotels in these villages but these look like the closest thing you can get to that.

Each Village:

Corniglia: Extremely high up on a hill, probably very difficult to get to with luggage.

untitled-9Manarola: second smallest of the 5 villages. Beautiful sunset, some great restaurants including the “instafamous”  Nessun Dorma. This restaurant can get very crowded, so I would go sometime after lunch, but before dinner. We went around 4pm and stayed close to sunset and we were able to get a good table with no wait.

Monterosso al Mare: Largest of the fishing villages with a proper beach.

Riomaggiore: a small u-shaped village, which is said to be the most photographed village,  few restaurants overlooking the harbor. a few boats in the harbor you can rent or do some trips to the other villages. Also able to swim in the harbor, bring your goggles, it is extremely clear water.

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Vernazza: Beach, boutique shops, and harbour. Doria Castle is here which was used as a look out for pirate raids back in the day

How to get to the villages:

Boat: If you are staying in La Spezia, there is a port with boat rentals that will take you to each of the villages. You can go on the public boat, which I can only imagine will be quite crowded in the high season, or you could rent a private boat with a skipper.

Train: Traveling by train, it is easy to get from one village to the next. There is a central station in La Spezia that takes you straight to the fishing villages.

What to do:

Sentiero, also known as the “blue” coastal trail. This trail goes through all 5 villages. The hiking path is said to have spectacular views and is part of the UNESCO world heritage site. You can start in Monterosso and head south or Riomaggiore and head north. Check out the status before you leave, certain times of the year some of the trails will close down for safety precautions due to landslides.

Food:

Fried cone seafood in Riomaggiore.

Geloato! This can be found in all the villages.

Florence on a budget.

Exploring Florence on a budget is a bit hard, especially when they have some luxurious spots of accommodation, dining and drinking.

Accommodation:
Airbnb is the best way to go when booking on a budget. They have some cool places to rent out for the week, not far from the city center. Also cooking at home, and packing sandwiches for day trips is an easy way to save money. The food in Florence can be pricy, as this is a popular tourist spot.

Dining:
The airbnbs are normally equipped with cooking utensils and basic cooking ingredients, so my advice would be to find a local grocery store and cook at home. Florence is beautiful at night so grab a bottle of wine and enjoy it on the steps of Piazzale Michelangelo where you will see panoramic views of the city.

Things to see:

untitled-4.jpgThe David: Michelangelo’s masterpiece ‘the David’ is in Galleria dell’Accademia. I recommend buying your tickets a few day in advance online, it is a few dollars more, but you get a faster entrance to the museum, than buying your tickets at the door, which can be over an hour wait.

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Santa Croce: The tombs of Michelangelo and Galileo.

Michelangelo’s apartment: If you decide to take the free walking tour, they will guide you down a narrow alley, where you will see the first floor apartment where he use to live.

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untitled-20The cathedral di Santa Maria del fiore: This cathedral is the largest brick dome ever constructed, and built in beautiful gothic architecture. For 10 euro you can climb to the top to get panoramic views of the city. Inside the church is free of charge.

 

The central market: Most of the locals go here to get authentic Italian dishes at reasonable prices.

Activities:
Free walking tour is always a good way to get information when exploring a city for the first time. It gives you an inside of the city’s history from a locals point of view, which is the best way to see a city. This tour is free but it is appreciated to tip at the end. I think around $10 a person is acceptable.

Day Trips:
Day trip to Tuscany: Check with trip advisor if you do not have a car, they have day trips that provide you with a shuttle service and wine tours all included in one price.
If you have a car I would check out some wineries that have a bed and breakfast and stay up in Tuscany for a night, the countryside is beautiful. We went for a wine tasteing and tour at Viticcio, they also have accommodations that we wished we would have known about.