Walking along the goat trail that connects the Cinque Terre, the five towns along the Italian Riviera, is one of those bucket list items many adults dream about and romanticize. Once you have kids though, you figure you have to let that dream go. You just can't deal with dragging the kids along miles of path, some of which can be quite perilous, if you have little ones who are known to wander and potentially fall off cliffs. There is a better way to explore with the kids though. You can take the ferry.
The ferry is one of the best ways to see the towns, especially if you want those postcard views. The fare isn't too steep and is definitely worth adding into your travel budget. You can hop around four of the five towns via the ferry; Corniglia can't be reached due to its location high up on a hill.
The cheapest way to ferry-hop is to get a one-way ticket in Monterosso, the northern most town in the Cinque Terre, and the most resort-like with its sandy beaches and easily accessible turquoise waters. Head south on the ferry, stopping at each town along the way. If the kids get tired, you can always take the train back to whichever town you are based in, but try to hold out until the end when you get to Riomaggiore. It is worth the trip.
Parents don't have to give up on hiking either. It is easy to do a little bit of walking along with your ferry hopping tour. When you get to Riomaggiore simply hike up to the path and make your way north along the coast to Manarola. This is the shortest section of the trail and probably the easiest for kids. Check with your Cinque Terre ticket agent before you hike though. Spring mudslides can close down the trail, making it impossible to hike your way along the coast. You may have to settle for a train ride back to your hotel.
Speaking of your Cinque Terre ticket, everyone has to have a park pass to access the towns. The Cinque Terre is a national park and they do like to raise money through people visiting and hiking the trail. You can get tickets that include a train pass, which makes it a real bargain, especially when traveling as a family. Your tickets will not include the ferry however; that is a separate pass.
Although you may be tempted to just ferry hop your way from town to town, pick at least one town, or possibly two, to really explore. Grab a gelato for the kids to reward them for all of their patience on the ferry and walking around the main square of each town before you drag them back on the boat. Hike up the hill through town to find a quiet restaurant where the majority of travelers haven't bothered going. The food here is fresh, flavorful, and you are sure to appreciate that basket of fresh bread and bowl of pasta after the long climb.
Watch the sun set over the sea as you prepare to head back to your hotel for the night. The kids may be exhausted, but it's nothing another gelato or sweet treat cant get them through. The colors are worth the wait as you sit on rocks with locals and travelers, taking in the beauty of this mostly unspoiled land. Tomorrow is another day, and whether you are staying in the Cinque Terre or not, no day will be like today.
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Keryn is an East Coast native living life as a freelance writer in Seattle surrounded by her two little boys and one incredible husband. When not dragging the men in her life across the globe you can find Keryn writing on her blog Walking On Travels, a site that gives hope to today's modern parent that doesn't see kids as a roadblock to travel, but an excuse to get out the door and explore. Keryn has laughed at the naysayers by bringing her boys to far off lands like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii, back and forth across the USA, Mexico, Canada, and even across Europe. Keryn loves to encourage families to take that first step out the door, the hardest step of all. Follow Keryn on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google Plus.
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