Full of culture, narrow cobblestone streets, and incredible views – Cinque Terre, Italy was an unforgettable stop on our family vacation. I share where we stayed, what we at gluten-free in Cinque Terre, and where we explored.
Have you ever been to Italy? If not, I recommend you go. It’s one of the most gluten-free friendly places we’ve visited. We were a little worried about spending time in Cinque Terre (meaning “Five Lands” or “Five Cities”), on the coast of Italy, but we ended up having no problems.
WHERE WE STAYED
I recommend booking at least six months in advance so that you have more options. With a family of four, our options are limited. Most hotel rooms work for one to three people, and very few have rooms for four people. If a hotel does have a family room – they usually only have one. After a ton of searching, we found an Air B & B that looked promising. It was located in Riomaggiore, one of the five cities included in Cinque Terre. It was nestled in the heart of Riomaggiore. Although in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, it was quiet and perfect for our family. I would link to it for you, but Air B&B’s come and go – and it may not be there when you travel. Riomaggiore was our favorite of the five cities.
When looking for a place to stay, I always look for an apartment with separate beds for our kids, a washing machine, and of course … a kitchen to cook in. Don’t fret if you can’t find an apartment with a washer – each city has a laundry mat.
WHAT WE ATE
I’ll be honest. There aren’t a ton of gluten-free restaurants in Cinque Terre. Many of the restaurants offer gluten-free pasta and a select few offer gluten-free pizza. We ate breakfast in our apartment, made picnic lunches with gluten-free sandwiches, fruit, and Glutino Pretzels. Each night we had gelato in a cup (we couldn’t find a place that had gluten-free cones) topped with a Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookie.
For restaurants, we ate at two:
Veciu Muin in Riomaggiore: My husband and I had gluten-free pizza, while the girls enjoyed sausages and french fries. Veciu Muin offers gluten-free pasta and pizza, and a variety of fish dishes. The pizza wasn’t wood fired, but it was good and we didn’t get sick.
Il Discovolo in Manarola: Farinata is a flatbread made with chickpea flour. You can get it at almost any fast food/quick stop restaurant in Cinque Terre. Il Discovolo had several options, including Farinata, separated to help avoid cross contamination. They also had other types of pizza, pastries, and grab-and-go snacks.
Several of the little bakeries we stepped into had a separate case with gluten-free treats. Most of them were brought in from an outside bakery and wrapped. We didn’t find any dedicated bakeries in Cinque Terre, but that’s okay. We researched in advance and brought cookies with us. Between the cookies and gelato, we were more than happy.
WHERE WE EXPLORED
The classy little towns of Cinque Terre are fun to explore. If you have a bad back, or bad knees, you might want to stick to the lower cities and steer clear of the beaches. We hopped on a train every morning and either walked through the cities, or we hiked the trails. One day, the trail we wanted to take was closed so we decided to hike the upper trail. It was super steep, hot, and it took us 3 hours to hike 2 miles (it was that steep!). We had to stop and take breaks often.
We also lounged on the beaches. We only found one beach in Manarola that was mostly flat and sandy. The other beaches are either super rocky, or they are boat docks.
We explored every street in each of the cities, and stopped for fresh frozen lemonade to quench our thirst.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING TO CINQUE TERRE
While doing research in advance will help you find places to eat, there are a few other things that you should know before traveling to Cinque Terre:
- If you plan to hike the trails, check with an info booth at a train station for closed trails. You can also purchase your ticket to hike. There are checkpoints along the hike. If you don’t have a ticket, you don’t hike. Note: Two day tickets for the four of us cost $100, but they included unlimited rides on the trains.
- The trains are packed during the summer months. They run every 15 minutes, so if you see a packed train, wait for the next one.
- Most of the towns don’t wake up until after 9:00AM. If you’re an early riser, enjoy a quiet walk around town, or some coffee on your patio.
- Some of the cities are on a steep hill. Be prepared to burn off some serious calories walking around. The good news is, you can reward yourself with gelato when you are done.
- Check with your credit card and bank on rates before you leave. Most of the time, you pay less withdrawing money at the ATM, and ATMs are on every corner. This is true for almost anywhere you travel overseas.
- Trains travel along the coast in between the cities. If you plan on exploring the five cities, purchase a day pass – its less expensive.
- Most restaurants charge a service fee or cover charge. The fee is per person and varies from restaurant to restaurant.
- Most restaurants won’t serve tap water, even though it’s safe to drink. They serve bottled water “with gas” or “natural” and charge ridiculous prices. In some cases, it’s cheaper to drink a glass of wine.
- Unlike most cities in Italy, we didn’t see very many fresh water fountains. When you do see one, fill up just in case.
- We didn’t find gluten-free food in the grocery stores other than fresh produce, meats and cheeses. Bring food with you, or stop by a pharmacy to pick up gluten-free packaged goods.
I hope you will visit Cinque Terre some day. The culture and landscape is worth every second. The blue waters and lite salty breeze, along with the fish, gluten-free pasta, and wine are not to be missed.
More Gluten-Free Italy Posts:
- Gluten-Free Venice
- Gluten-Free Florence
- Gluten-Free Milan
- Gluten-Free Bellagio, Lake Como
- Jovial Gluten-Free Culinary Getaway
I hope you travel to Italy and like it as much as we do!