The Cinque Terre is made up of five charming seaside villages set along one of the world’s most prettiest coastlines. These small villages, cliffs, coastal trails and beaches form the Cinque Terre National Park and this region is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting the Cinque Terre is a definitely a must for anyone planning a trip to Italy. Note that in the summer time it gets extremely busy with tourists and the heat can also become intense during the summer months. Perfect, if like me, you crave salty air and sunshine.
La Spezia is a larger town and gateway to the Cinque Terre. The train line to the five villages begins here. There are shops, restaurants and a port here but most people prefer to spend time admiring the beauty of the five villages themselves.
Riomaggiore is the first and largest of the five towns. It could also be claimed to be the most photographed. Take a snap of the vivid traditional style houses dramatically set on the cliff top overlooking the ocean below. Small fishing boats line the foreshore whilst tourists enjoy swimming and rock jumping. Riomaggiore has lots of restaurants, gelati bars and small shops as well as a charming church at the top of the town. Riomaggiore is also a top place to watch the sunset.
Manarola is a small village and possibly the oldest, with the San Lorenzo church dating back to 1338. Manarola is a quieter village, perfect for a romantic evening and it’s also possible to see the sunset from here.
Corniglia is set up high and requires climbing many stairs or a 5 minute shuttle bus ride from the train station to the town centre. Corniglia boasts cheaper eateries and a great start to the walking trail to Monterosso.
Vernazza is the most picturesque of the five towns and is my personal favourite. There is something special about the way the green vineyards above protrude dramatically over the calm ocean waters below Vernazza has a charming castle positioned over the water. It offers 360-degree panoramic views over the town, vineyards and beautiful beaches.
Affected by the 2011 floods which caused landsides, major destruction and loss of life, Busabout and Save Vernazza run a volunteer program to help travellers give back to the local community. Travellers interested in participating in the program should click the link to find out more information.
Monterosso is the last of the five towns and the most popular for swimming. The beaches here are packed with colourful beach umbrellas, sun chairs and people everywhere. I found the water here a little dirtier and slightly polluted.
You need to get to the La Spezia train station to best access the Cinque Terre Villages. A ticket will cost around €2.40. Be prepared for stairs and walking once departing the train. Train will be the method of transport whilst you stay in the Cinque Terre and move between villages.
WHERE TO STAY:
Any of the five villages are magical to stay at. Just be sure to know exact directions to your accommodation so as you’re not running up and down stairs with suitcases and backpacks in the heat. Some people also choose to stay in La Spezia and catch the train to and from the villages. I have personally done both options and would recommend either, although staying in the villages offered a little less travel time on the trains each day.
SWIMMING: (MY PICKS)
My favourite places to swim that offer clear water and less people:
- The new beach that was formed from Vernazza landslide.
- The back beach at Riomaggoire.
PHOTOGRAPHS YOU DONT WANT TO LEAVE WITHOUT:
- Riomaggiore and Manarola the houses on the cliff.
- View over town of Vernazza looking to Monterosso.
THINGS TO DO:
- watch the sunset
- ferry ride
- Save Vernazza volunteer program
MY BEST TIPS:
- Always have your camera charged!
- Avoid weekend travel if possible or be prepared for the most packed train ride of your life if you travel to this region on a weekend during the summertime. If you can avoid weekend travel you will be thankful.
- A train ticket is valid for multiple stops in the same direction for 75 minutes after authorization.
- Trains run late so always check what train is arriving at the station before jumping on. Simple one but can save being stuck in one of the towns for an hour (trust me!)
- Have a photo of the train timetable saved in your phone.
- Decide if getting the Cinque Terre Pass and hiking card is worth it.
- Use the shuttle bus at Corniglia. Buy tickets on the bus for €2.50 or pre-purchase tickets from the shop inside the Corniglia train station for €1.50.
- Don’t be afraid of the train ticket machines, just know the name of the stop that you will be getting off at. They are simple to use and in English.