Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is exactly what you’d expect of the Italian Riviera. Colorful fishing villages dotting the coastline where life is slow and tourists flock from miles around to get a taste of the good life. I was lucky enough to find myself in Cinque Terre two summers in a row and found myself completely enamored by the people, the colorful houses lining the dramatic landscape, and just the general way of life. Check out this guide to effortlessly navigating the five perfectly imperfect villages that make up Cinque Terre.

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For starters Cinque Terre is not one single city, but five separate yet equally beautiful villages. The five towns are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. They say that Vernazza is the most beautiful, but I (and the locals of the four remaining towns) would argue that each village brings its own beauty and its own charm. It’s definitely worth visiting each and choosing for yourself!

Getting there:

The best way to get to Cinque Terre is via La Spezia. We took a train from Genoa (which is also worth the visit if you have time), but there are trains from most of the major cities in Italy. A train from Milan or Rome will get you there in about 3 hours. You can book tickets the day of at the train station or online here. Once arriving in La Spezia there’s a quick train that will bring you directly to Cinque Terre. The train goes through all five towns, so it will be the same no matter which you’re staying in.

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Getting Around

The best way (and really the only way) to travel between the five towns is to get a Cinque Terre pass. The Cinque Terre pass gets you access to the hiking trails and the train that runs through each town. You can get them at the tourist offices, trains stations, or online here (the online card is only for the train and does not include the hiking pass).

There are also taxis that run between the cities.

Where to Stay

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Hiking

The hiking trails in Cinque Terre offer an unparalleled view of the dramatic coastline. There used to be a walking trail connecting the five cities that was less steep and easier to take on, but it has since closed down. The hikes between the cities are pretty steep so make sure you wear athletic shoes that you can easily walk in.

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If you are only doing one hike, it should definitely be the one that runs between Monterosso and Vernazza (pictured below). This one was my favorite, and in my opinion the most scenic.

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Have you been to Cinque Terre? Comment and let me know which town was your favorite!

Gluten Free Eats- Madrid

Although bread is a staple in the Spanish diet, eating Gluten Free in Spain is not as hard as you may think. There are surprisingly a lot of traditional Spanish dishes that are naturally gluten free (tortilla, paella, gazpacho, etc.). A part from that, since food is such a big part of Spanish culture, restaurant owners and waiters genuinely want you to have a good experience. Most of the time they will go out of their way to accommodate you. Simply say “Soy Celiaca” (I’m Celiac), and they’ll whip something up for you. After living in Madrid for 3 years, I think I found just about every gluten (and budget) friendly restaurant in the city, and here are a few of my favorites:

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  1. Lateral

    Lateral is a great restaurant for gourmet tapas (and one of my favorite restaurants in Madrid). Their offerings include traditional Spanish fare with a twist. Not only do they have a gluten free menu, but they have a gluten free menu in English! Their tortilla is one of my favorites and their Sangria was the best during my entire time in Spain. They have a few different locations in Madrid, but the location in Tribunal is my favorite.

    Location: Calle Fuencarral, 43, Metro-Tribunal (Lines 1 & 10)

    What to order: Ensalada Lateral & Tortilla de Patatas, Sangria or one of their famous mixed cocktails.

  2. Malaspina

    Malaspina is my favorite restaurant for Spanish comfort food. I spent almost every Sunday with friends (American and Spanish alike) at the corner table in the back drinking wine to chase away the hangover from the night before. Sans hangover, the food is still amazing. They have what I deem to be the best bravas in Madrid. Order them with “dos salsas” to get the full effect.

    Location: Calle de Cádiz, 9, Metro- Sol (Lines 1 & 3)

    What to order: Patatas Dos Salsas, Medio Racion de Queso y Medio Racion de Jamon, Huevos Revueltos- Note if you’re especially sensitive to cross contamination I would avoid the bravas & huevos revueltos because they are fried in the same oil as the croquetas.

3. Celicioso

Celicioso is a great Gluten Free bakery (and their name is a play on delicioso so they get points for the pun). Despite it being a small shop, they have a wide selection of cupcakes, croissants, and even pizzas to choose from. It’s tucked away right off of Gran Via & Hortaleza, so you won’t have to go to far to get your mid-day sugar fix.

Location: Calle de Hortaleza, 3, Metro: Gran Via (Lines 1 & 5)

4. La Buha

La Buha has hands down the best Tortilla de Patatas. They add carmelized onions & goat cheese, or jamon & manchego for a delicious twist on a Spanish classic. There are a few locations scattered throughout Madrid, but my favorite is the one in La Latina. They have an amazing patio that is perfect for what the Spainairds call “domingueros” (translates to something like Sunday-Funday-ers).

Location: Plaza de la Cebada, 10, Metro: La Latina (Line 5)

What to order: Honestly all of their tortillas are good- but my favorite is the carmelized onion & goat cheese (queso de cabra y cebolla carmelizada). One should be enough for the 3-4 people, these things are HUGE.

5. Mercado San Miguel

Okay this place is really touristy, but it’s really somewhere you HAVE to go when visiting Madrid (especially for the first time). Mercado San Miguel is a sprawling historic marketplace with stalls containing everything from oysters, to meats, cheeses, & olives, to paella and candy.

Location: Plaza de San Miguel (located directly behind Plaza Mayor)

What to order: Sangria from Lolea, Manchego, Jamon Serrano, Paella, Olives (they have a skewer with a black olive, sun dried tomato, and manchego that is LIFE CHANGING)

6. La Alhambra

La Alhambra is a cozy little restaurant that is perfect for when you’re tired of tapas, and just want a really great meal. Like Malaspina, I spent many a Sunday here having the perfect Menu del Dia. 12 euro gets you a three course meal and a glass of wine or soda.

Location: Calle de la Victoria, 9 (Metro Sol, Lines 1 & 3)

What to order: Menu del Dia- Pollo a la Parilla (Grilled Chicken), or Pescado del Dia (Fish of the day) with salad and fries. It seems simple, but sometimes you need a break from ham and eggs.

Looking for Gluten Free Groceries?

Mercadona- There aren’t a ton of Mercadonas in the city center, but there is one close to the Atocha train station. Mercadona is great for finding GF products because the owner’s grandaughter actually has Celiac disease so all of the Mercadona brand products are clearly labeled and they have a wide variety to choose from.

Dia/Carrefour- There’s tons of Dias and Carrefours scattered around Madrid, and while they don’t have a huge selection of GF foods, they carry a few Schar brand breads/crackers.

El Corte Ingles- The bottom floor of the El Corte Ingles in Callao has a great selection of healthy/gluten free bars, snacks, etc. which are great for traveling.

Been to Madrid & have some to add to the list? Comment below & I’ll check them out on my next trip over!