A Quick Guide to Cinque Terre, Italy

A Quick Guide to Cinque Terre, Italy

 

A Quick Guide to Cinque Terre

Five beautiful Italian villages along the Ligurian coast – what more could a visitor ask for? Spectacular sea views, charming narrow streets, amazing cuisine, gorgeous hiking, it’s no wonder that Cinque Terre is high on just about everyone’s bucket list. Named to the UNESCO list in 1997, there’s a plethora of options on where to stay and what to do and eat, here’s a quick guide to navigating Cinque Terre.

To get your bearings, spot each village on the map. I’ve also flagged Pisa, Milan and Florence so you can see how convenient the villages are to these destinations.

We’ll start in the south then move our way north. Note: Every single village is amazingly beautiful and charming, instead of harping on just how pretty each village is, I’ll tell you what makes it unique!

Riomaggiore | Lively, Local & Authentic

If you’re keen to do the entire Cinque Terre hike, this is a great starting point. Unlike the rest of the villages, this town has the feel of being most authentic, as the fisherman tug their boats up through the village square. A bit rougher around the edges, this is the largest village and sprawls along the steep hillsides. Since it’s at the base of Cinque Terre, it’s also the most accessible.

(During my visit to the area this is where I called home!)

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Corniglia | Hikes, Peace & Seaviews

This is the only village without a harbor but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of a stop! My sister claimed this village to be her favorite. Floating atop the steep cliffs above the Med, the views are dramatic! Lacking a harbor and therefore potentially less tourists, the village feels well preserved in some sort dreamy Italian time capsule.

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Manarola | Vineyards, Restaurants & Pastels

A gorgeous little harbor below and beautiful wine vineyards above, Manarola is my favorite. During a visit be sure to take the wine trail walk along the hillside for spectacular views. A darling street cuts right through the village and winds it’s way down to the cozy harbor.

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Vernazza | Shops, Boats & Tourists

It seems as through most people, especially my man Rick (Steves, that is), adore Vernazza the most. Who can blame them? The shot below is on the cover of countless European guidebooks and the face of Cinque Terre. The village of Vernazza juts out to sea flanked by rocky beaches on either side. The wide main street is filled with shops, restaurants and, of course, tourists! We enjoyed renting a boat from the harbor and investigating the dramatic coastline more closely.

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Monterosso | Beaches, Spacious & Relaxed

By far the flattest village, Monterosso is known for it’s pebbly beach and more spacious village streets. For those that aren’t game for a lot of walking or tight quarters, Monterosso is a great bet. I enjoyed an afternoon of beach-side caprese and suntanning.

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To Eat

Being by the sea, you can bet that seafood (like mussels, sardines and octopus) is extra fresh and coupled with Italian seasonings, extra delicious. Also plan on zingy dry white local wineflat omelettes (similar to frittatas), and amazing focciaco-like bread called farniata. You are in Italy, after all, so also count on classics like limonino, pesto and tagliatelle.

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To Do

Cinque Terre is famous for it’s stunning seaside hiking trail that connects all the villages. Do not, however, underestimate how difficult this trail is. Even my Denverite sister, who lives for a good climb, found it to be challenging! The good news is that after a daylong hike you can treat yourself with a mountain of fresh wine and pasta without the guilt.

If hiking isn’t your thing, you can also: shop, wine taste, boat (sail, motor or row), swim, scuba, take an excursion down the coast, sample local cuisine, stroll the vineyards in Manarola, cliff dive, sip coffee and people watch, party (!), or get snap happy and take over 1,000 pictures (like I did!). Yes, the options are endless. 🙂

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Get Around

A train connects all five villages making it by far the most used, reasonable and convenient mode of getting around. Bear in mind that you should still anticipate a solid amount of stairs and walking in order to really get a feel for the sights.

Alternatively, ferry boats also connect visitors to each village. Although ferry schedules aren’t as frequent as the train, they are a far more scenic method of getting around. We took the ferry from the top (Monterosso) to bottom (Riomaggiorre), which is how I collected many of the pictures in this post.

Finally, for the athletic and adventurous, the cliffside hike running up the coast could be a great alternative for backpackers.

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P.S. Pair a visit to Cinque Terre with a tour of Pisa and Florence! Get the details about this 1 week itinerary here!

  • We’re planning to head to Italy in late spring and while we haven’t decided where exactly to go yet, Cinque Terre could very well make the cut! I’d love to combine it with a visit to Tuscany! 🙂 How long do you think is ideal to spend in Cinque Terre? 🙂

    • I think you guys would be happy for 4 days there but since you’re seasoned travelers you might be able to efficiently visit in 3 days. Definitely give yourselves time to do that seaside hike though, I’m sure you’d LOVE it. 😀

  • So pretty <3 I haven't heard of Cinque Terre before but these villages look like they deserve more attention! The streets look so unique!

    • Definitely! Have any plans to visit Italy anytime soon? 😀

  • Ahh I love this post. I’m heading to cinque terre most likely in April so this is super informative! Thanks!

    • Wonderful! Which village did you guys decide to stay in? My mom and I talked for hours about our options (she also loves talking travel) and settled for Riomaggiore because we found a great apartment rental there.

  • I love this!
    I recently moved to Milan so right now I’m about an hour train ride from Cinque Terre. Your post is so great and informative that I’m actually saving it!

    Happy Travels!
    Green and Turquoise

    • Wonderful! You’ll have to let me know which village is your favorite, k? 🙂 I’m glad you found the post because I’ll definitely be tuning into your blog, love it!

  • Great list and great photos (like always!). Also, I’d definitely add Genoa as a day trip from Cinque Terra. I did that and absolutely loved Genoa…way different from Pisa and Florence which made me love it. More a fishing/harbor town 🙂 xo

    • Genoa, huh? I’m going to pester you for more information soon. I wish I could go back in time (speaking of time…) and take that trip with you and your cousin. What places didn’t y’all see?

  • Oh my goodness, Cinque Terre was one of my favorites stops on my Europe trip last year, its absolutely amazing! We stayed Monterosso, a couple of steps from the beach! This post is bringing back so many great memories and making me want to go back!

    • Oh I’m sure you guys had a ton of fun there! Monterosso definitely had that great beachy vibe. I would’ve love to spend more time there, especially at night for drinks and nightlife. 😀

      • Well since its a small town most of the little bars closed fairly early. But we bought some wine at the market and sat out on the rocks and drank that while looking at all of the little villages twinkle in the night. It was incredible!

        • That does sound absolutely incredible. That’s that quintessential European experience, you know? Great wine, your buddies and a beautiful view. Sigh.. 🙂

  • SO many great tips in this post! I’m glad you mentioned the ferry because as much as I love trains, I also love the water. This is quite high on my list and might be on my first trip to Italy (Sean’s second). Can’t wait to take the wine trail walk…wine and beautiful scenes? I can’t think of anything better!

    • Me either! This is surely got to be one of the best introductions to Italy you could ask for. When are you going?!

      • I’d love to make it this year, maybe early fall? No solid plans yet, but we have to make it happen soon! I’m just dying to go! 🙂

        • Oh fun. Early fall sounds ideal, actually! Definitely give me a shout once you’ve booked your flights and I’ll give you a brain dump of Italy ideas 😀

  • Very helpful! I have been wanting to go to Cinque Terre for a while but never have a clue where to stay and which village I’d prefer. Now, I am thinking: Manerola!

    • Ah, I enthusiastically agree! (If it wasn’t already obvious in the post!) I just adore that village. When are you thinking of going?

  • So beautiful, I need to get over there asap!

    • Agreed! Did y’all figure out your summer plans yet? Not sure why I’m so curious about your month long vacation but I am!

      • I think we are actually planning on spending the whole time back in Oregon. It is hard when there is so much to see in Europe but I miss my family and my pup and won’t be home for Christmas. How about you guys? Any summer holiday plans?

        • Honestly, that sounds absolutely perfect. A month with Azora and your family is definitely the perfect vacation. This summer we’ve actually got a lot of crazy travel plans – french riviera, norway, and croatia… aka we’re going to be broke! Guess it’s time to tell Stuart he needs to start working.

          • Thanks:) I think it will be wonderful and then maybe next summer I will be up for a trip somewhere else. But wow your summer plans sound absolutely amazing! Can’t wait to see all the beautiful pictures I know you will take:)

  • Love this! How many days do you suggest for Cinque Terre? I’m thinking of coupling it with Florence and Venice 🙂

    • I think you could comfortably see everything in 4 days, if you have less time then just hit a few villages (not all) and do at least one of the seaside hikes.

  • Cinque Terre is my favorite place in the whole world! The photos don’t do it justice. You have to hike it. It’s definitely difficult, but so worth it. Love that you featured my favorite place on your blog!

    • Absolutely, dear! I definitely recommend that hike too! Some of the route was closed so I just did Manarola to Vernazza… oh my, sooo beautiful!

  • This has been on my list for awhile, now I don’t have a reason not to go! So lovely!

    • Gah! Dooooo it! Doooo it!

  • Amazing! I really would love to go there!
    thetouristoflife.com

    • Ah, hope you get the chance to go sometime really soon.. and take me with you! 😀

  • Great post! This is firmly on my list for this summer 🙂

  • Laura

    Great post! I Went to the Cinque Terre for a day a couple of years ago. We just did one of the villages but I would love to go back for longer to do them all.

  • Hi Margo, this post is really inspirational! The photos are stunning, especially the one with the sea below Vernazza.
    Cinque Terre have been on my Italy bucket list for a while now, but I am exploring Italy slowly, bit by bit.
    I was wondering how expensive it was, in Italian terms? For example, I found Veneto to be quite expensive, but on the other hand, Sicily quite affordable.
    Also, I have to share this post with my mom, she also plans to visit, and is surely going to love the photos! 🙂

  • ahtheplacesigo

    Beautiful photographs! I visited Cinque Terre last year, but didn’t make it to all the villages. I have to make it out there again soon. Thanks for posting 🙂

  • Good summary – heading there in a few weeks so will be looking forward to getting to know these gorgeous villages.