On Saturday we packed the car and headed through the Grand San Bernard tunnel from Switzerland to Italy for a 6-day break. Our first stop across the border was in Aosta, where we started the carb-fest in earnest.
After driving for the best part of 6 hours we arrived in the seaside town of Riva Trigoso, a suburb of Sestri Levante.
I'd booked this place (the weekend before, so cutting it fine!) based on a few criteria: it had to have a dog-friendly beach a short walk away, it had to have some kind of private parking and it had to be walking distance from a direct train line to the Cinque Terre. We weren't 100% sure that the place in Riva Trigoso ticked all the boxes, but despite not being listed as being dog-friendly it turned out that Riva Trigoso's furthest section of beach welcomes dogs from October 1st to April 30th. Arriving on the evening of September 30th was perfect timing!
Riva Trigoso is actually a really interesting place. It's a lot more industrial than some seaside locations along the Ligurian coastline because of its long history with ship-building. Apparently the sea drops away very sharply from the beach, here, which makes it the perfect place to build boats.
And having a place we could be with Daisy, our cocker spaniel, was basically a non-negotiable for this trip.
If you looked the other way up the beach you could easily forget about the nearby industry.
And Daisy had an absolute blast on the beach and at the edges of the ocean. Although she’s used to drinking lake-water, so her first sips of the sea did come as a bit of a shock.
My wife and I ended up heading down to the beach before sunrise, the following day, to let Daisy have a run around. And incidentally for her to be the first dog to enjoy the beach legally on October 1st.
Once everyone was finally up (we are the parents of teenagers, after all), we walked the 1.5 km (slightly longer than was ideal, but hey) to the local train station to take the 40-minute train across to the Cinque Terre.
Here’s a photo I took later in the week that gives an idea of the distance from Riva Trigoso to the Cinque Terre. The villages of the Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Our big plan (which we admittedly didn’t spend a lot of time researching) was to walk between the various villages, starting with Riomaggiore and working back to Monterosso. While on the train to Riomaggiore we found our that the trail to Manarola (the cutely named Via dell’Amore) is closed for the next year or so because of a landslide.
So we hastily adjusted our plans to start the walk at Manarola, and jumped off the train to do so.
We would never come to Cinque Terre in the summer: we’ve heard too many horror stories about it being completely rammed with tourists (yes, like ourselves). So we hoped that coming in October would be better. It was still basically completely rammed, so I can only imagine how horrific it must be in the summer.
There were some nice moments - it’s a very picturesque region - but I honestly would rather visit more off-the-beaten-path locations in Italy where you can breath and don’t have to pay Swiss prices for meals.
Volastra was quite a way above Manarola, so dear little Daisy did soon get quite hot and tired. We stopped regularly (for everyone’s sake, in fairness) so the predicted 1 hour and 45 minutes hiking time quickly seemed utterly unrealistic.
The views were absolutely spectacular, though. This is Manarola from the path from Volastra to Corniglia.
And a little further along we could start to see Corniglia.
Eventually - probably 3 hours into the walk! - we started to descend on Corniglia.
The visit of the town was nice: the below pictures don’t really show just how people there were in the main streets.
Here’s a view onto the port area. When we were down below and saw the hordes waiting to board the ferry - which is otherwise meant to be a fantastic way to see the villages of the Cinque Terre - we decided against our original plan. It was just too busy.
So we had a nice lunch and headed back to Riva Trigoso for a bit more beach time.
On the way to dinner in the evening, we took some shots of a spectacular sunset.
Here’s a quick panorama:
We ate at a local pizzeria/trattoria where we found reasonably priced - and very decent - food for the first time since our meal in Aosta.
On Tuesday we ended up visiting Sestri Levante to do a little shopping - by this time we’d decided not to bother with the Cinque Terre (we’d visited 3 of the 5, and had had enough of the crowds). It was also very nice.
We did have dinner back in Riva Trigoso, this time at Le Gardenie, which was spectacularly good.On Wednesday, our last full day in the area, we decided to visit Bonassola, which was a few train stops before the Cinque Terre itself.
There were lots of signs up saying “no dogs on the beach”, so to start with we respected the rules.
We ended up seeing so many people on the beach with their dogs that we joined them for a bit.By the time we’d headed back to Riva Trigoso, the sky was less overcast and the waves were still a lot of fun for the kids to play in. Daisy was less ambitious, preferring to watch from the safety of the sand.
We were really happy with out choice of destination for this trip. Cinque Terre itself was beautiful but a bit bonkers, but the time we spent in Riva Trigoso itself was pure bliss.It was just the break I needed.For our last dinner we couldn’t resist heading back to Le Gardenie.
On Thursday morning we packed up and headed home, stopping a few times on the way, before arriving back in Switzerland.
I really enjoyed this trip. We ate a lot, slept a lot, and rediscovered Lambrusco Rosso (I really like fizzy red wine, for some reason). We may not head back to the Cinque Terre anytime soon - unless really in the off-season, should one actually exist - but it’s not impossible that we head back to Riva Trigoso sometime again before too long.