So, the morning of our 7th day in Europe, we got up at 3am to catch our early morning flight to Milan. Even though I was exhausted, I was really excited because my (long distance) boyfriend was going to join us for a week in Cinque Terre and Florence, our first two stops in Italy! Italian food is one of my favourite cuisines, so I was really excited for 2 weeks of Italian food! Unfortunately, one of my ankles was in a lot of pain, funnily enough not the one I rolled in Faro. I think I was using my other ankle too much to alleviate stress from the rolled one, so in turn it became injured. Super annoying! When I looked up the symptoms, I think it was just some mild ankle tendonitis, and everything just said to let it rest and ice it. I was a little sad because I really wanted to hike in Cinque Terre, but I decided to rest and take the train in between the towns instead, as we had rather intense hikes planned for the rest of the trip and I wanted to be in good condition for those.
Day 7: Milan
We landed in Milan tired and sleepy, and the weather definitely reflected that too. There was a steady drizzle all day, so it was quite damp and unpleasant. From the airport, we took a bus to the central train station in Milan, where I then met up with my boyfriend. Milan was mainly just a transit stop for us to get to Cinque Terre, as flights here were really cheap, and you could take a train to one of the towns of Cinque Terre quite easily. We didn't stay here too long because I've heard there isn't too much to do here, and it's mostly a fashion city.
The first thing we did when we got into the city was drop off our bags, and then getting lunch! We went to Piz, a very popular place for pizza. When you first arrive, they give you some sparkling wine right away before they bring you to your seats. They only have three pizzas on their menu, marinara, margherita, and a white pizza with chives. I really liked the white pizza, the chives went really nicely with it. Afterwards, we went to the cathedral, but the rain in combination with my injured ankle made me quite lethargic, and I didn't really see much besides that.
After killing some time in the Mcdonalds across the cathedral, we finally headed to the main train station to go to Monterosso. We had booked the trains ahead of time, although for regional trains, the prices usually remain the same. The train system in Italy is quite useful, although not always on time. But the trains are quite for getting in between cities, and not very expensive either.
When we arrived in Monterosso and settled in, we had dinner at a place called Miky, which is in the Michelin guide. The food there was really nice, I had a truffle gnocchi that was really tasty, and my boyfriend had black ink risotto with some ricotta cheese, and it was delicious! It wasn't cheap, but nothing in the area is cheap since Cinque Terre caters completely to tourists, but it also wans't ridiculously expensive. We were there right before closing, and I think before the tourist season really ramps up, so we didn't need reservations, but I can imagine that it's quite busy during normal hours.
Something to note is that in Italy, it is common to have a 'sitting fee' included with your meals, especially when you sit down to eat rather than just grabbing something to go. When this is included in your bill, it covers the complimentary bread that you usually get, and service as well, so it is not necessary to tip.
Day 8: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia
After a good night's sleep, our plan was to check out the other small towns in Cinque Terre. Unfortunately, my ankle was still in pain, so I couldn't hike with my friends as I didn't want to risk injuring it more. Instead, my boyfriend and I took the trains in between the cities. You can buy a pass for a couple days that gives you access to both the trails and the trains. I think each train ticket is around 4 euros, and the Cinque Terre pass for two days is around 30 euros. We bought our tickets on the second level of the train station, it wasn't very clear but once you're there it should be easy to find the tourist centre where they sell the tickets.
We had a pretty lazy morning since we were not hiking, and we went to one of the grocery stores to buy some parma ham, cheese, and bread for breakfast. Then we walked around Monterosso a little before taking the train to Vernazza.
In Vernazza, we had lunch at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. We had a starter of prociutto with melon, and then I had a really flavourful seafood risotto. We also had Aperol Spritz, which originates from Italy! There are many delicious restaurants in the area, I don't think I was disappointed once in Cinque Terre!
Afterwards, we got some gelato from Gelateria Vernazza, even though it was kind of raining. It kept raining on and off all day, but never really strong enough to have to duck for cover. After that, we took the train to Corniglia. From the train station, you can walk up a bunch of steps to get up to the city, otherwise you can take a shuttle that is included in the Cinque Terre pass. Unfortunately, it started raining again in Corniglia, not really enough to need an umbrella but enough to be unpleasant. We briefly walked through the city and tried some lemon slush, but since it was raining we took the shuttle back to the train station and headed home.
In the evening, we ate at Restorante L'Ancora della Tortuga. We chose to eat here because they are in a secluded part of town with outdoor seating overlooking the water, it was really lovely and romantic, although a little pricey like everything here. I ordered a lobster pasta, and my boyfriend ordered tuna steak, and we had a lovely meal by the water.
Day 9: Manarola, Riomaggiore
The next day, we headed to Manarola, with a plan of heading to Trattoria dal Billy immediately. This was recommended by someone, and I read online that it would be hard to be seated without a reservation, and we really wanted a seat on the patio so we were aiming to arrive right at opening, at 11:30. Luckily when we arrived, there weren't many people there yet and we were able to get a seat with a beautiful view of the sea and the hilly city! We ordered stuffed mussels as a starter, and then their lobster pasta for two. My goodness, the lobster pasta was to die for, it is the best pasta I've ever eaten in my life. The pasta didn't have too fishy of a taste, and was mixed in with the lobster roe, and the spaghetti was just perfect as well. I really really recommend going here and having the lobster, you will not regret it at all. I think the meal came out to be around 75 euros for the two of us, including a drink, which honestly is not that much for the quality and quantity of food we got.
After one of the most delicious meals of my life, I was so stuffed, so we tried to walk it off by walking around Manarola. Manarola is quite hilly, and it was a really warm day, so we were soon sweating on our "light walk" around the town. Manarola (and all of Cinque Terre) is very picturesque, and is the town where everyone takes the classic Cinque Terre picture, so of course we had to as well. I think that Manarola was my favourite town out of all of them, but maybe I'm biased by the delicious meal I had.
Afterwards, we headed to Riomaggiore, the final town that we haven't visited. In Riomaggiore, we walked out to the rocks and kind of just sat there. We didn't stay too long because we wanted to head back to the beach in Monterosso, since the weather was so nice and it was quite hot.
Unfortunately, the weather didn't hold up too well, and after an hour or so at the beach it started spitting a little, so we headed back to our Airbnb where we just relaxed for a little bit before dinner. For dinner, we decided to check out the other side of town, which is through a tunnel past the train station. Unfortunately, it was quite busy everywhere and we hadn't made reservations, so everything was full. We found a really nice pizza place though, called Pizzeria La Smorfia, which is apparently also popular with locals. Their menu is massive with so many different options, and not pricey either. We had a pizza with truffle cream on it, and it was amazing!
That marked our last night in Cinque Terre, and although I wasn't able to hike like I originally wanted, I had a really lovely and relaxing time. Fortunately, after some rest, my ankle started feeling a lot better, so it was worth it in the end! There were definitely a lot of tourists, even in early May before the true tourist season starts, so I imagine it's a lot worse in July and August. However, it was still quite warm and humid during this time, so I think May was a nice time to go. I will definitely come back in the future to hike in between all the towns, and also to go back to Billy's!