Lying snug in the heart of Liguria, Italy, is the picturesque province of Cinque Terre. Dotting the landscape of La Spezia, it is made up of five breathtaking villages surrounded by the Italian Riviera coastline. The colourful, rustic-looking buildings, and the steep staircases are a typical embodiment of the string of beautiful towns. The small province is a hidden gem in the Italian travel map, and makes for a perfect travel destination.
About Cinque Terre
Comprising of 5 villages, namely- Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare (from North to South, in that order), Cinque Terre is a centuries-old seaside province, transforming gradually into a favorite vacation experience. The offbeat vibe of the villages, is much different from the classic Italian crowds and architecture. Cinque Terre is widely synonymous with natural beauty, testified by the abundance of beautiful seashores, scenic flora, and simple way of living.
The primary means of living are fishing and tourism, hence also called the ‘5 Fishing Villages’, and the harbours are constantly decked with boats, straight out of a painting. If you’re a fan of long walks with the wind in your hair, around some enchanting landscapes, Cinque Terre is the place for you!
Getting to and around Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is located in north-west Italy (south of Genoa), and is easily within reach from the Genoa, Rome, Pisa, and Florence airports. From within Italy, it is conveniently accessible by train. The best way to visit each town is by train, that travels from La Spezia to Levanto, and stops at each town on its way.
The towns in themselves are quaint, and doable on foot. They are mostly surrounded by the sea and walking to the beaches is the best way to visit them.
Exploring the Towns
Cinque Terre does not have a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing and architectural wonders, and is more dependant on natural beauty that can be explored.
Start your expedition from Riomaggiore, the first village on the train from La Spezia, and make your way north to the villages farther. Here is a short venture into each of the villages.
The first village beginning North, and nearest to La Spezia main city, Riomaggiore has rocky beaches and a beautiful harbour. It is made up of one main street, and a lot of restaurants and small, pretty shops. The rocky beach is a signature for the village.
Resembling Riomaggiore, Manarola is a romantic and colourful (extremely picturesque, as well), town famous for swimming and a big (read: large), rock. The town has a very upscale vibe and will be enjoyed best during daytime.
Corniglia is the highest-located out of all the fabulous five, and is a steep 365 steps from the train station to the main village. Since its built high, it is not directly attached to the sea, hence, no beach access. You can, however, visit the viewing point and enjoy the sea view from above.
Probably the most scenic out of all five, Vernazza is the perfect place for soaking in some sun and enjoying the beauty of these seaside locations. The beach is a typical, sandy beach. You can also visit the top of the castle in Vernazza for a beautiful view of the whole town.
Monterosso al mare
This is the biggest town, comprising of Old Town, New Town and one street from the train station to the harbour. It is abundant with accommodation spaces, and most people tend to stay here.
Here’s a glimpse into how you can utilize your trip to the beautiful towns.
Even if you’re not an enthusiastic hiker, go or a sunset hike or two, starting from Riomaggiore. It is the best way to experience the natural beauty of the towns.
Beginning from Monterosso or La Spezia, the paragliding experience will help you set some major travel goals with its epic views from up above.
The beaches, especially those of Monterosso or Vernazza, are perfect for frolicking around in your beachwear, whilst soaking in some sun and working on that tan. Grab a simple pizza, and enjoy the views from the harbour at the beach.
You can book a boat cruise, beginning from Riomaggiore, and happens at sunset. If you’re traveling in a group, this is a fun activity to indulge in.
Cinque Terre, being its true Italian self, is famous for Pesto. The most famous one is Liguria Pesto, served on everything, from pasta to pizza. If you’re a fan of the basil, or even if you’re not, try some Pesto for sure.
The vibe of the towns goes perfectly with some wine-chilling. There are also wine tours available which you can definitely try.
The good old Italian pizza is readily available, and to die for. I would definitely recommend some!
Cook your own
The upside to small towns is that you can take food in your own hands. Hit the groceries that are everywhere, and buy some food. If you’re staying in an apartment, indulge in cooking your own food. You can also take a class on Pesto-making whilst in Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre doesn’t have the luxury of hotels and grand stays. Instead, it offers a bevy of apartments and homestays situated in corners and crevices of the towns. I would recommend staying in Riomaggiore, so that traveling to each town is easy and accessible.
Also, it would make the most sense to stay in Monterosso al Mare, as it has the most number of homestays and apartments to choose from.
- Plan an itinerary in advance. It is easy to be thrown off track and be confused while in Cinque Terre.
- Chill a lot at seaside. It’s one of the major reasons why tourists prefer Cinque Terre.
- Eat in Vernazza or Monterosso, as they offer the best selection of restaurants.
- Even if you cannot make it to all five, do not miss going to Riomaggiore, Vernazza, and Monterosso. They have the most to offer in terms of sightseeing and scenic beauty.
- Book everything in advance, as it can get full during peak season.