Wanderlust: Cinque Terre & Pisa, Italy

J&A Wanderlust

Oct 30, 2018

Best of Italy // Cinque Terre Travel Tips // Huntsville Wedding Photographers Explore the World

If somehow you haven’t fallen in love with Italy from our adventures in Milan, then we’re pretty sure the Cinque Terre towns are going to capture your heart!

The quick backstory:

This year’s intended trip to explore the Pacific Northwest took a quick turn when we decided to head to Italy instead! We take 2 weeks off every September to discover a new little piece of the world, and Italy was perfect for our last September trip before Baby Palmer comes on board!

We shared some of our favorite highlights from our travels through Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland a few weeks ago. Today we’re giving you an even better glimpse of the gorgeousness that is Cinque Terre and Pisa!

{You also don’t want to miss the epic AirBnB we stayed at after this day in the Riviera towns.}

Cinque Terre, Italian Riviera

After Milan, we picked up our rental car and headed out into the Italian countryside! Driving in a foreign country was a new experience for us. The first little bit was a little intimidating! Once we figured out traffic patterns and what the road signs actually meant, Joel got the hang of Italian driving pretty quickly. They drive crazy, but it’s a predicable crazy.

Onto the Riviera region! We parked our car and took a train that connects you to the 5 coastal Cinque Terre cities. We hopped off the train at three of the towns: Monterosso al Mare, Varnazza, and Manarola. They were all so perfect and charming! They looked similar, but each still had a flavor of its own.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare was the first little town we stopped at. As soon as we stepped off the train, we figured out why everyone loves Cinque Terre so much. Perfectly picturesque with flavors of both old and new. These towns were very isolated at one point. Now, even with tourism being a big industry, they try to keep some of the old school feel. Because us tourists love it, obviously!

The first thing we did was stop for some pizza, of course. We found a little shop in the cutest little alley way. Best picnic spot ever!

After our pizza, we spent some time wandering around the streets.

A really sweet old Italian man saw us taking a selfie and wanted to take our picture for us. This was his picture!

More wandering! Just take in this scenery!


We hopped back on the train and stopped at Varnazza next. It was another picture perfect little town! I could happily get lost there forever.

By the time we got to Varnazza, we were ready for some more delicious Italian morsels! We stumbled into a little bruschetta shop. It was delicious! I really wish we had bought some extra to-go because I was definitely craving it the rest of the trip. We found tons of pizza and focaccia everywhere we went, but it wasn’t often that you could pick up bruschetta for lunch.

After bruschetta was our first official time at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea!! It was just a quiet little inlet, but it was so perfect. We happily dipped our fingers into the water and sat on rocks by the shore.

Practicing my rock stacking skills…

Back to exploring! These Cinque Terre towns are small, quiet, and don’t have a ton of specific things to see. That gave us time to just do some wandering.

We hiked up the stairs to check out the ruins of an old castle. The view from the top was spectacular!


Our last Cinque Terre town was Manarola. This was a little smaller and more quaint than the previous two. It was steep and filled with vineyard terraces. So Italian! We had just enough time to hike along the trail just a little ways for breath-taking views of the coastal town.

Probably one of my favorite pictures from our entire trip! This was from our mini hike up the trail, where we could look down on the town. This is the Italian Riviera of my dreams!

We wandered past lots of little tomato gardens, mini vineyards, and olive trees.


We originally debated about whether we should cut our Cinque Terre day short to detour through Pisa on our way out. Pisa made it into our itinerary last minute, and I’m so glad it did! It was way more awesome than we expected.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is about as famous of an Italian landmark as you can get. I remember drawing a picture of it for a middle school geography class project. But did you know that there’s also a leaning Baptistry? This Baptistry also happens to be the largest in all of Italy. There’s also a cathedral there, and it’s all surrounded by an old city wall.

The leaning Baptistry. It’s a little hard to tell from my picture angle here, but it really was leaning!

Art and detail everywhere!

The angle you viewed the tower determined how much it looked like it was leaning, but the detail was beautiful.

The best part was seeing all the people posing for the tower. Hahaha!! It was like being at the Eiffel Tower. Joel thought it was funny how everyone posed to “hold up” the tower – but nobody took a picture of themselves “pushing” it down. I should have made Joel be the trend setter.

The old city wall surrounding the religious area of Pisa.

After that, we walked into the town of Pisa (I didn’t even know it was an actual town!) because Joel had scouted out a coffee shop there. It was almost 5pm, but we still had some driving to do. So a latte it was!

I’ll be honest. We walked in not expecting to get a really good coffee for a variety of reasons. Filter surprised us! It was one of the best lattes we had on our trip. It was one of the Americanized coffee shops that felt familiar to what we’re used to.

Our happy “we found really good coffee!” faces!

Capannori, Italy

In order to get to that night’s AirBnB, we drove out into the country and wound our way up to the top of a hill. We stayed in an ancient village called Castelvecchio (“old castle”). I still can’t get over how romantically picturesque this tiny ancient village is! It honestly felt like stepping into a fairytale. And we got to sleep here!

Check out our view from the back porch down into the valley! These old houses are built with only 1-2 rooms on each floor. The houses are made up of multiple stories with steep, narrow staircases. Europeans usually consider it rude to wear shoes in the house, but my socks were pretty slippery on those stairs. <– An adventure all of its own. Best AirBnB ever!

Here are a couple pictures from the inside.

Our AirBnB host served us a really great breakfast, which we ate out on the back porch to this view. It was so perfect.

Goodbye, coastal region! We’re now off to Florence for my birthday! Our adventures in Florence will be our next Wanderlust, and we can’t wait to share that with you.



{Want to explore another city? Tag along on our adventure to Maui, Hawai’i or browse the stunning scenery of Prince Edward Island, Canada! Craving more Europe? You’ll love Gothenburg, Sweden!}


Our Top Recommendations for Cinque Terre/Pisa

Rick Steve’s Italy guide book <— seriously the best!

Filter Coffee Lab in Pisa

The Cinque Terre Treno Card (all day train pass)

Ancient Village of Castelvecchio AirBnB room

  1. Celia Borowicz says:

    Ok, just met like people I’d so like to hang out with! And you’re probably less than half our ages. Ok I just posted but hadn’t yet seen beautiful Josiahs name. He is gorgeous! And I know you are planting seeds of faith and adventure in him. BTW, have you ever been involved with Young Life? You seem like you might have been. I ask because one of our daughters was very involved when she was younger and met her husband through volunteering with them.
    So, following some of your travel comments, I started going through memory lane. Spent the entire year of 1978 (I was born 1957, am 64 now) studying in Florence, Italy. MANY wonderful spots throughout the country but favorites were a place not far from Lucca if I remember right. But can’t remember name of place: it was one of my most spiritual places. Again, if I remember details correctly, it was always a beautiful old , like 1400s old, church in the middle of nowhere. When my Italian friend took me there the church still stood, but with no roof, it had been bombed during WWII so entire interior was green grass not pews. Second favorite place: Cinque Terre, spent Easter weekend there. My sweet Jim has never been to Italy and we’ve been trying to get to CT for 10 years now but both of our moms have had extended illnesses and now covid. Both moms have passed now so we’re planning now for an October 2022 trip! Only thing that could stop that, I think, arrival of first grand child!
    Ok, other great spots: in no particular order: the bathes in Tortola, BVI, “off the beaten track” New Mexico, very spiritual, ZION NATIONAL PARK, oh yes, Joel! Central Peru, Poland, we visited twice when it was still under Soviet control. While I am sure it’s still a great place to visit, travel shows like Rick Steves (I see you like him too) show a very different country than what revisited last in 1988).

    Hikes in Maine, “Serendipity Point” Topsail Beach, NC, black sand beach, east coast of Costa Rica, agree, Amber, Bruges. I was fortunate enough to work at CE for awhile so have great Belgium memories. Old Faithful, the Golden Gate Bridge.
    Old Tennant church, Tennant NJ. Niagara Falls.

    Wow, I didn’t realize how many wonderful places I ve been able to visit.

    We are looking forward to Israel and New Zealand someday. Your near future will be surrounded by a little boy, maybe more but do you have Travel Bucket list?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


weekly goodies in your inbox