Italy has many famous places and large cities. Hotspots such as Rome, Venice, Milan, and the Amalfi Coast are unknown. However, a region in the Italian Riviera is not so well known to those unfamiliar with Italy. It is called Cinque Terre. Even though it gets more crowded each year, it is still not as well-known as the similar scenic area of the Amalfi Coast.
This Cinque Terre travel guide will inform you about five villages, things to do and see, how to get there, and some tips and tricks.
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What is Cinque Terre?
The history dates back to the 11th century when the first Cinque Terre villages in Italy were settled in the Liguria region. These villages of Cinque Terre were meant for the fishermen and their cottages, as well as to grow grapes, olives, and lemons on the steep slopes.
Over time, the economy did not fare well because they were isolated and it was difficult to keep up with bigger towns that had better transportation. Everything changed in the 1970s when the area was discovered as a tourist attraction. From that time on, the area has been sustained by tourism.
Cinque Terre villages in Italy
It also means Five Lands, so the name already gives you a hint that it consists of five separate “lands”:
- Monterosso al Mare
Not to mention, UNESCO World Heritage has sited these five towns, the coastline, and the surrounding hillsides and are part of Cinque Terre National Park.
Monterosso al Mare
It is the northernmost village of Cinque Terre; the biggest among the five towns. Monterosso is divided by a tunnel into two parts: the newer part is known as Fegina and the older part as Paese Vecchio, with typical narrow medieval streets. The Fegina area is more crowded along its coastal line, offering several restaurants and accommodation options. Its surroundings are dominated by lemon trees, with some additional grape and olive fields.
What to see in Monterosso?
The Aurora Tower – Going back in history, all the towers that were built next to the coast were for defensive reasons. There were many towers in those days; in total, there were 13, but now only three remain. It is situated between the old and new parts of town.
Monterosso Giant is the statue located at the end of Fegina Beach. The Giant represents Neptune, who was known as the God of the Sea.
The Church of St. John the Baptist is a Gothic-styled church, is located in the main square of the older part of Monterosso.
The Convent of the Capuchin Friars is located atop a hill between the old and new parts. From there, you can take in views of the sea.
What to do in Monterosso?
There is the biggest and longest beach in all five villages. It might be a good location to spend your lazy day on the beach.
Monterosso al Mare area is well-known for admiring lemons; you will find several lemon-related shops. One of the biggest festivals in the Cinque Terre village, Sagra dei Limoni (The Lemon Festival), is related to lemons and is held at the beginning of May.
You can also join kayak tours starting from Monterosso. You can paddle to the next Cinque Terre village or all five towns.
Monterosso is also a popular town for weddings. It is surely one of the most unique and picturesque places for a special day.
What to eat in Monterosso?
There are variations for different tastes.:
- Traditional seafood: Ristorante Belvedere, Trattoria da Oscar, Miky.
- Searching for regular restaurant: L’Ancora della Tortuga, Da Eraldo, San Martino Gastronomia.
- For morning cafe: M.G. Bar, Pasticceria Laura, Bar Della Stazione.
- There is always room for a gelato: Slurp!, Il Golosone, Gelateria La Scogliera.
Vernazza is one of the truest and, some say, even one of the most beautiful fishing villages in Cinque Terre. Surrounded by steep olive and grape field slopes, it boasts narrow streets, vivid fisherman cottages, and a beautiful harbor—things that make it agree with its title as being even one of the most beautiful places in Italy.
What to see in Vernazza?
The Tower of Doria Castle is another tower built for defensive purposes in days gone by, nowadays it offers the best views of Vernazza and its surroundings, with steep fields. For a small entrance fee, you can get to the Vernazza viewpoint and take some fantastic photos.
Vernazza Harbor lies right in the heart of Vernazza. There you can simply walk along the edge of the harbor line to the end of the mule path.
Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia is a Roman-style church located in the main square right next to the coast.
What to do in Vernazza?
For beach-goers, there are two spots to get tanned and refreshed by the Mediterranean Sea. One is right in the city center (before the harbor) and the other one is a bit further but close to Vernazza.
Vernazza has two main festivals: the Feast of Santa Margherita di Antiochia on July 20th and the Feast of Pirates. The latter festival celebrates its defense and fighting back against attacks by pirates many centuries ago.
If you are interested in local wine production, then don’t miss your chance to try wine tasting in some of the shops called enoteca. Wine in the Cinque Terre area is mostly white.
What to eat in Vernazza?
Some more local and traditional places to eat:
- Local seafood: La Torre, Belforte, Gambero Rosso, Gianni Franzi.
- Restaurants with wide range options: Piadiamo Vernazza, Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, Vulnetia.
- For a coffee break or quick toast in the morning: Ananasso Bar, Lunch Box, Blue Marlin Cafe.
- Gelato & chill: Gelateria Il Porticciolo, Gelateria Vernazza
Corniglia is the only village on the Cinque Terre coastline that is not directly accessible from the sea. This middle village of five is situated 100 meters above sea level and is surrounded by vineyards, peculiar to the area. Since there is no port, the locals have been more focused on farming than fishing.
What to see in Corniglia?
Chiesa di San Pietro is a Gothic-style church located at the beginning of the Cinque Terre village, and it is on the way of various hiking trails. From there, you have marvelous views of Corniglia.
La Torre is an official viewpoint in Corniglia from which you can see the sea and the upcoming coastline to Manarola.
The Scalinata Lardarina is a must-see when travelling between the five towns. You can enjoy beautiful views as you take down around 400 steps from this spot to either the beach or railway station.
What to do in Corniglia?
Even though Corniglia is not directly next to the shore, one can still get a hint of the sun from the local beach. It is situated on the way to Manarola, just beside the railway station.
Corniglia also hosts some festivals such as San Pietro and Paolo Feast on June 29th and N.S. delle Grazie Feast on September 8th. For the first event, tradition dictates that a large cake, “Torta dei Fieschi,” be made so that everyone has an opportunity to savor it on this special day.
What to eat in Corniglia?
Corniglia is the smallest Cinque Terre village but still, there are plenty of options to taste local cuisine:
- Italian local food from restaurants: Terra Rossa, Bar La Terza Terra Corniglia, Km 0.
- Cafe in the morning or something quick during the day: Bar Pan e Vin, Er Posu Cafe, Caffe Matteo.
- A day without a gelato wouldn’t be a proper day: Alberto Gelateria, Gelateria Artigianala Un Mare di Yogurt.
Manarola is believed to be the oldest of all the villages in the Cinque Terre. The local economy has thrived for ages through fishing and wine-making. While fishing may not be the primary industry anymore, wine production remains essential. With its local wines, multicolored buildings, and rocky shoreline – Manarola is one of the most unique towns among the five of Cinque Terre.
What to see in Manarola?
Church of San Lorenzo – A Gothic Ligurian-styled church, where the cornerstone was laid in 1338.
Torre Campanaria – Opposite the Church of San Lorenzo, this tower contains a bell built for defensive purposes.
Punta Bonfiglio – Manarola’s scenic viewpoint offers vibrant views of buildings and rocky shorelines. It is the best place to enjoy views of the Mediterranean Sea and take pictures with Manarola as a backdrop.
What to do in Manarola?
Manarola is a more rocky shore; therefore, there is no sandy beach. Nonetheless, travelers can still have a tan and swim there. Additionally, the coast is deep and offers an opportunity to release adrenaline with cliff jumping.
The main event in Manarola is the San Lorenzo Feast on August 10th.
Furthermore, during the winter times from December 8th to the end of January, hills are illuminated with more than 300 characters made of recycled materials―making it the biggest lighted nativity in the world!
Grape fields surround Manarola, and the locals still keep up with the wine-producing tradition. As already mentioned, in the area visitors can mostly taste white wine. The local signature sweet wine is called sciacchetrà.
What to eat in Manarola?
It is one of the most popular towns among tourists, so there are plenty of varieties of local cuisine:
- Traditional seafood: Da Aristide, Trattoria dal Billy, Marina Piccola, Il Porticciolo.
- Regular restaurants: Aristide, Pizzeria & focacceria La Cambusa, Nessun Dorma Cinque Terre.
- Cafe in the morning: Aristide, Nessun Dorma Cinque Terre.
- Why not for another gelato: Gelateria Enrica, Gelateria 5 Terre.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre, characterized by its peculiar five towns with colorful buildings, narrow maze-like streets, and rocky shore. Because the buildings are built close together, it looks like the largest village of all the Cinque Terre (Monterosso is more separated and scattered). Also, this village offers some of the most magical sunsets.
What to see in Riomaggiore?
The Castle of Riomaggiore was built in 1260 and is now open for tourists. It stands atop a hill, offering magnificent views of Riomaggiore and the sea.
The Gothic-style Church of San Giovanni Battista of Riomaggiore was constructed in 1340.
The Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero stands 350 meters above sea level, requiring a bit of walking and hiking to reach it as it is not exactly in the center of Riomaggiore. From there you can enjoy marvelous views of the entire coastline and panoramic views of the sea.
What to do in Riomaggiore?
Riomaggiore is located on a rocky shore, but a bit further to the south, there is also a local Riomaggiore beach. Riomaggiore celebrates The Day of San Giovanni Battista on June 24th.
If you skipped the wine tasting in previous Cinque Terre towns or you want to have more, then you have alternative options in Riomaggiore as well.
Hiking along the coast on the Via Dell’Amore trail is one of the most popular and easiest activities in this village.
What to eat in Riomaggiore?
Tasting the local cuisine in Riomaggiore:
- Seafood: Dau Cila, Il Pescato Cucinato.
- Traditional Italian cuisine: Colle del Telegrafo, Rio Bistrot, La Cantina del Macellaio, La Lampara.
- Breakfast in cafe: Bar Stazione, Vertical Bar Riomaggiore, Giammi Caffe.
- Gelato one more time: Old School Riomaggiore Gelateria & Snack Shop, Gelateria Centrale Di Germani E Giaccio, Gelateria Sottozero.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
Now it comes down to a question: Where to stay in Cinque Terre? The villages are not large, the buildings have kept their old aura, and there are no new buildings and no big hotel chains. Because of its high tourist area, and the fact that the villages of the Cinque Terre are small, there is a high demand for accommodation. This provides an opportunity to charge higher prices.
In short, it is not a budget traveler spot; however, there are some options available for those with tight wallets.
Main types of accommodation:
Camping sites are the most affordable alternative for spending a night. Some places are around the area and close-by places like Levanto. Prices for one night are around ten euros.
There aren’t many hostel choices around the villages of the Cinque Terre. There are few nearby, but these spots run out fast because it is a touristic area. Next to the village, La Spezia has more hostels if you don’t get your spot there. My recommendation would be 5 Terre Backpackers City.
Hotels are the most expensive choice, but they come with excellent service and magnificent views. The price depends on your needs. For instance, you can stay in a four-star hotel with picturesque views of a Cinque Terre village and sea. Recommended: Cinqueterre Residence.
Bed & Breakfast is a cheaper option than hotels; again, the price depends on your needs. You can also have great views, and one thing that is common for every Cinque Terre village is that its location is perfect. Recommended: Amanarola.
Apartments and villas can be the cheapest or most expensive alternatives. With an apartment, you can reduce expenses with shared costs. A villa will likely cost more. Recommended: La Vista di Marina by The First.
It all depends on the season (summer is peak season), how far in advance you booked, and if there are any events nearby. Accommodation won’t break you; it lets you experience these magical five towns to their fullest.
How to get to Cinque Terre
It is located in northwest Italy. The biggest cities around the villages of the Cinque Terre are to the northwest, Genoa (about 90 km away), to the north, Milan (230 km away), and to the southeast, Florence (180 km away). The big cities mentioned above are well connected by car and Italian Regional Railway. Check out trains from Omio.
If you decide to be more flexible, then I recommend renting a car, as it is the best way to discover all corners of Italy. From DiscoverCars, you will find a range of options that suit well for Italian roads. In Cinque Terre, I recommend parking the car at Monterosso al Mare.
Moving between five villages
The villages of the Cinque Terre are situated on a rocky coastline, and back in the days, these fishing villages were only accessible by foot on walking paths or by the sea with boats.
Nowadays, more convenient options exist to discover the area as they stand close together along a 20-kilometer coastline. There are some reasonable and some not-so-reasonable ways to get around.
Options to move between Five Towns
Hiking in Cinque Terre is probably the best way to move around the Cinque Terre National Park. There are hiking trails between every village, even though some of them are closed due to past floods and stormy seasons. For true hiking enthusiasts, there are some additional opportunities.
Read more: Hiking in Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre trains – All villages of the Cinque Terre have a train station and express trains will stop in all five villages. It takes only a few minutes to get to the other hotspot. Trains run between La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levato and vice versa, from about 4:30 am to 00:30 pm during peak season. More information about the train schedules can be found here. A single adult ticket costs a few euros, or you can opt for the Cinque Terre Card which includes free train rides.
Boats and other options by the sea – You can move between five villages with public boats, rent a private boat, or take a previously mentioned group tour with a kayak. Information about public boat prices and timetables can be found here.
By car – it is the worst among alternatives. Roadways, like trains do not directly connect the villages of the Cinque Terre. You need to take a ride back and then take another one-way road to the next village. With a car, there is a cost for wasting time on driving and finding parking space and paying high parking fees. It is better to leave the car in one of the five villages or nearby places such as Levato or La Spezia. After that, you can continue exploring this magical place with the abovementioned opportunities.
Cinque Terre Itinerary
How long should you stay in Cinque Terre? Below, you will see your days, depending on how long your trip around the five towns is.
In that case, you don’t spend a night in any of the five villages. You have to start your day early in Levanto, La Spezia, or other nearby locations. It is possible to discover all places with rail transportation and you even have time to hike between the villages of Cinque Terre, see local sights, try some local food or wine, and have a lazy time on the beach. I wouldn’t recommend scheduling everything in one day. Firstly, you will only have a few hours to spend in each of the five towns; you will miss and skip some landmarks. Last but not least, you will be rushed and unable to feel relaxed.
Going there for two days, you don’t have to stay in either of the Cinque Terre villages. There is a chance to stay also in either La Spezia or Levanto and move from there by reasonable train. With a train schedule, you can spend long days in the five towns and even witness that magnificent sunset. But with accommodation, you will be in the center of the Five Lands atmosphere all day and night.
On the first long day, you can explore the three villages of Cinque Terre. Taste and feel the local culture, food, and wine – you name it. The next day, complete your mission with the two remaining villages and be relished by the magical “Five Lands”.
Three days or more
When it comes to spending a night, there are two logical options. However, I highly recommend spending at least one night in either village. In doing so, you can take it slow and enjoy your moment in the Cinque Terre villages as a vacation should. With no rush, you can have a lazy beach day in Monterosso, eat gelato on a warm day in Vernazza, hike to Corniglia, taste local white wine in Manarola, and eat local seafood in Riomaggiore. Take your time and feel the local life.
Cinque Terre Tips & Tricks
It’s a pretty expensive place, with not so many budgeting options. But there are always some options to spend less, which is the case with Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Card
There are additional costs for hiking trails and trains. To reduce these single costs, you can buy Cinque Terre Cards for trekking only or trekking and free train ride cards. The trekking card includes no entrance fees for hike trails, free bus services within the parking area, and reduced fees to the Civic Museums in La Spezia. With the trekking and train card, you have the same benefits as previously mentioned, plus a free train ride between La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto and vice versa.
The cards will be money-saving when you want to hike and use the train more than twice. Adult prices for trekking cards for one day are 7.5 euros, and two days are 14.50 euros. Trekking plus train express card prices for adults are one day 18.2 euros, two days 33 euros, and three days 47 euros. More information is available about the Cinque Terre cards.
Budget tip for visiting Cinque Terre Towns
If you are a budget traveler and want to keep expenses as low as possible, then you might start your adventures in five towns from La Spezia. It is the closest larger town to Cinque Terre with cheaper hostel prices. You can spend long days and even view the sunset thanks to the train system.
Cinque Terre day trips
Five villages stand on the beautiful coastal area, and many different small, picturesque places surround them. Going to the north along the Italian Riviera and keeping next to the coastal area, you can hop around some lesser-known Italian villages like Sestri Levante; take a turn to Portofino; explore the hidden beach San Fruttuoso. In the south is another hidden gem, Porto Venere; the famous Pisa tower; and historical Firenze.
Taking all together
Cinque Terre isn’t something you just hop into, see some villages and sights, and then check it off as done. Here you take it slow, get a feeling, spend a good amount of time, and aren’t in a rush. Be relaxed and enjoy your vacation in the beautiful Italian Riviera.
Doesn’t matter if you’re a solo traveler, with a partner, friends, or family. Spending quality time in the villages of Cinque Terre is always a good idea. Read more about Italy:
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