Want to visit Florence and Tuscany, but are afraid of the damage to your wallet? For a beautiful side trip from crowded and expensive Firenze, take a little detour past Pisa,
and hit the gorgeous seaside villages known as Le Cinque Terre – the five lands. This is an area in the province of Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, which consists of five villages along the coastline that are connected to each other only by footpaths and train tracks – no cars allowed.
It is easiest to reach this area of Italy by train – about a 2½-hour ride from Florence. And although you’ll have to make transfers in the cities of Pisa and La Spezia, the beauty and tranquility of the villages is well worth the effort. Weekends are crowded with tourists – both foreign and Italian– so for a crowd-free trip, traveling during the week in spring or fall is best.
We arrived into the train station of the village:
Monterosso al Mare (“Monterosso by the Sea”) to a clear blue sky, with the crystal sparkling water of the coast beneath it. The screams of joy and laughter echoed over the rocks from the little Italian ragazzi (kids) playing merrily in the Ligurian Sea.
Monterosso is the most popular of the five villages, due to its large and beautiful sandy beaches, along with its cute old town section filled with shops and gelaterie (gelato shops). In Monterosso, we spent some time looking in the little shops and having a typical Ligurian lunch: anchovies with lemon, linguine with clam sauce, and spaghetti con pesto. Liguria is the area where pesto originated, and having an order at every meal is an absolute necessity.
We digested our lunch by lying with the locals on the small public beach near the ferry dock for about two hours, getting bronzata – tanned. Be sure to bring your own beach blanket and umbrella if you plan on lounging in the shade. The price for two lounge chairs and an umbrella is usually about twenty Euros ($25-30) on the portions of the beach that are roped off as privato (private). The public beach was such a great way to pass the time in the afternoon (we sat on our airplane blankets from our flight over). The water was like a magnificently refreshing bathtub and the company of villagers chit-chatting during siesta time was great background noise to the calm sea.