CINQUE TERRE WITH KAT VAN CAMP AND MAD WOON
NAME: Katerina van Camp and Madeleine Woon
WHAT DO YOU DO: Floral Stylist and Writer
STAR SIGN: ⚖️ and 🦀
LIVING: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera comprises five pastel-saturated villages, strung together by the most spectacular UNESCO World Heritage hiking trail. (Cinque Terre literally translates to ‘five lands’).
Each of the little fishing villages boasts their own magic—Monterosso is the only one with a beach, the view of Manerola from atop the cliffside is crack for anyone who loves a good sunset—but after much deliberation, we picked Vernazza. Wedged in between Corniglia and Monterosso, this quaint and charming spot is ideal for sun lizards like us who enjoy nothing more than sprawling out on a rock for the day. (Doused in SPF50+ of course.)
We stayed at a little Airbnb with sweeping vistas of the sea and coastline. It was so reasonably priced and cute, and the owner Cristian was such a golden-hearted honey. He collected us from the train station and gave us a rundown of the best spots in town, with a few history lessons and LOLs thrown in. If you like being pulled ever-so-gently out of sleep by the smells, sounds and sight of the ocean, then this is the perfect temporary home for you.
Note: Don’t stress toooo much about which village you pick. There’s a regular train that goes between each and it takes a cool 15 minutes to get from one side of Cinque Terre to the other.
The camera always eats first in Vernazza. (As evidenced by our iPhone camera rolls). And for good reason.
Ristorante La Torre in Vernazza: We ate here on our first night on account of it being a gentle 5-minute clamber up the mountain from our Airbnb. What a find! With a ferociously beautiful sunset as our backdrop, we sampled the famous Ligurian trofie pesto, a big plate of sardines served three ways, and, of course, two big spritzes and a caprese salad to kick things off.
Restaurant Belforte in Vernazza: This restaurant is carved out of the side of a cliff and is so pinch-me special. It’s hard to find a bad meal in Italy, but the menu at Belforte, which centres heavily around seafood, is guaranteed to make your belly particularly chuffed. Order the octopus, John Dory and squid ink pasta, and wash it all down with many, many glasses of delicious local wine. Regardless of which village you stay in, you must come here. Ask for a table closest to the sea!
Nessun Dorma in Manarola: If you want to feel like you are living inside a Cinque Terre postcard, come here for a little late afternoon Aperitivo. Skip the cheese platter and order the bruschetta or a burrata the size of your head. Wash down with a spritz.
Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola: Come here if you are partial to seafood, big bowls of pasta and beautiful views of the sea. Just be sure to ask for a table on the upper terrace!
Note: If you have 45 minutes to spare in Pisa on your way here, bypass the tower and head to Antipasti & Pizzeria Atlass instead. The little hole-in-the-wall pizza shop is a stone’s throw from the station and is run by the friendliest guy this side of the Southern Hemisphere.
What he lacks in English, he makes up for in molto delizioso margherita pizzas, whipped up fresh in the wood fire oven while you watch on drooling.
If you stay in Vernazza, it is absolutely mandatory that you start the day with a dip at the secret beach and chase it down with a sunrise-decorated cappuccino at the cafe with yellow umbrellas. It’s also advised you leave your entry-level lactose intolerance at home—the milk is so creamy and 100% worth any mild bloating that might ensue 🙋♀. Also: cheese.
Flop and drop under a beach umbrella at Monterosso for the day. Order takeaway spaghetti alla puttanesca from San Martino Gastronomia in town and a drink from the beach bar, et voila! You are ready to la dolce vita the afternoon away.
Pop on your walking shoes, pack a peach and lots of h20, and hit one of the trails. The walking track from Vernazza to Monterosso was a true highlight. There’s also a free walk from Volastra to Corniglia which winds through olive trees and vineyards. Catch the bus to the church in Volastra from the Main Street in Manarola.
If the weather turns south or you simply want to set your culinary aspirations alight, book in for a cooking class with Michela in the neighbouring town of Lerici. You never know what to expect with these kinds of activities, but it was so much fun from start to finish.
We were collected from the station and driven up the mountain to a little oasis overlooking the magnificent Gulf of Poets. We hand-picked all the fresh produce we cooked straight from her organic veggie garden. With secret tips from her nonna baked into the class, we spent a leisurely afternoon in Michela’s kitchen (intermittently staring out the window at the sea) learning how to make an assortment of delicious Ligurian and Neapolitan specialties.
Park up on a rock overlooking the bay in Vernazza. Go for 249823840 swims. People-watch. Grab a t/a focaccia and a veggie juice from Lunch Box and have a little seaside picnic.
Get a takeaway spritz and a fritto misto in a cone (a mix of deep-fried seafood) and gulp them both down on the balcony post-dip, pre-afternoon nap.
Eat as much gelato as is humanly possible. Best enjoyed post-dinner as you aimlessly wander around the piazza with a burgeoning pasta baby in tow.
If you decide to hire a private boat, do as Cristian says and (very politely! with a big smile on your face!) “box” the price down with your el capitano. It should be around 60-80 euro per hour.
Save the clothes shopping for Milan. Although, when in any foreign country, a trip to the local supermarket is a must. Be sure to hunt down some Ligurian pine nuts to take home if you can. They are h-u-g-e!
All the usual suspects: easy breezy linens and cottons, at least two pairs of swimmers, a sunhat, sunglasses, SPF50+ etc.
Also: a pair of sneakers (it’s forbidden to wear flip-flops on the walking trails), a portable speaker to blast Pavarotti on the balcony, and an empty and adventurous belly.