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Cinque Terre – A Guide to The Italian Riviera’s Famous Five Villages

Cinque Terre was one of the places I dreamt of visiting in Italy, and now that I’ve been there, I can’t stop thinking about the next time I’ll return for a visit.

Located in the region of Ligoria, Cinque Terre is rather close to big cities like Florence and Milan, but is different from them in so many ways. It is pretty hard to arrive there by land, which is why it has stayed as authentic as it has throughout the years. It almost seems as if time there has stopped, and life there is a lot simpler, in the best sense of the word. The landscape is rural, the food is not as complex, and there are no “must see” tourist attractions in the area. The pace is slower, and it's just fun to walk around the villages and enjoy the moment.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

Cinque Terre means the Five Lands and includes five small picturesque villages on the northwestern coast of Italy: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiora. The five villages a UNESCO world heritage site, a fact not difficult to understand. Colorful houses on cliff edges, green vineyards and olive groves, small colorful boats anchored in the little ports, magnificent ocean views, and breathtaking sunsets.

While most people come to Cinque Terre for a day trip, we spent two days touring the villages, and it was definitely the best choice we could have made. Cinque Terre is without a doubt one of the most toured places in Italy, but once you decide to let go, ignore the countless tourists, discover the quiet spots, and focus on the place’s beauty, ah, that’s when the magic begins.

this post you will find tips on getting around the villages, a recommendation for the most perfect Airbnb apartment, and info on every one of the villages…. Shall we?   🤗

{Click here to watch my IG stories highlight from Cinque Terre!}

 

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

GET AROUND

Cinque Terre comprises 5 villages located along the coast. The best way to travel between the villages is by train, ferry or private boat, not by car, because the roads inside the villages are very unfriendly to cars, traffic is limited and parking is problematic.

If you’re traveling Italy by trains, you can take a train from Pisa or Milan to reach the port city of La Spezia, which is in between Pisa and Genoa, and from there you can take the train or ferry that go through the villages.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

We opted for the train, since it runs most frequently and the villages are a 5 minute train ride away from each other. 

Do you like short hikes? You’ll be glad to know that there are walking trails between the villages {some must be paid for} that are famous for their stunning views. Because of landslides, some of these paths have recently been closed, among them the famous trail between Manarola and Riomaggiora {also known as “The Lovers Trails”}.

A day pass {12 Euro} or a two day pass {23 Euro}, which includes free train rides in between the villages, a bus ride in Corniglia, and entrance to walking trails, can be purchased at any one of the train stations in the villages, or in the towns leading to Cinque Terre.

 

STAY

Our initial plan was to stay at a hotel in one of the little villages of Cinque Terre, but after doing a little research of accommodation in the area, I discovered that the hotel scene in Cinque Terre was pretty limited. The selection of hotels is very small and the level of most of the hotels {at least those who were still available on our dates} did not exactly meet my criteria for a luxurious and pampering hotel.

So with the hotel option out of the picture, we decided to look into the area’s Airbnb market. After some online research, I figured out that instead of renting an Airbnb apartment in one of the villages, our best option was to stay in La Spezia, the port city, which is just a short train ride away from each village.

Staying in La Spezia is the best option for two reasons – the first being that the villages of Cinque Terre are steep and full of steps, and so getting there with luggage is not ideal {to say the least} , and the second being that the prices in La Spezia are friendlier.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

The apartment we chose in La Spezia was simply perfect in every way and actually looked even more beautiful in reality than it did in the pictures on the website. A large, modern apartment, renovated and clean, a 10 minute walk from the train station from which the train goes to the villages. Our host was very nice, he accepted us upon arriving, gave us a tour, explained to us how everything works, and shared lots of useful information and tips about the area with us. And if that wasn’t enough to make things perfect, Pizza Gourmet, the pizzeria right downstairs, was one of the best pizzerias on our trip!

If you too plan to get to La Spezia with a car as part of a long trip, it is important that you know that parking is free only in places where pavements are not painted.You can either pay for parking along any pavement painted blue {by meter, and you can also issue a ticket for a number of days}, or park in a parking lot {the more expensive option of the two}.

First time booking an Airbnb apartment? You’re welcome to use my link and receive a $42 coupon code on your next trip.

 

EAT

The Italian Riviera is best known for its Farinata – a crispy pastry made from chickpea flour, focaccia, pesto and fresh seafood. If you’re not a seafood lover, don’t worry, of course plenty of excellent pasta, pizza and gelato can be found.  

 

 

VERNAZZA

The first village we visited in Cinque Terre was Vernazza. A small and beautiful village, rich with narrow, winding alleys that pass through the houses, and it is famous for its Fortress called Castello Doria, built in the 15th century to protect the villagers from pirate invasion.

In Vernazza you will find many restaurants near the small, picturesque port, although packed with tourists, the most amazing aromas of pesto and seafood come from their direction. If you’re in the mood to enjoy the beautiful view without a heavy meal, I recommend that you get yourself a delicious ice-cream cone at Gelateria Vernazza {with another branch in La Spezia!} or a panini sandwich in one of the many stores leading to the port from the train station, and enjoy a calm picnic on the dock.

If you feel like passing through the villages by foot, this is the place to do so. The road that connects Vernazza to Monterosso is considered one of the best routes, with the most amazing view in the area.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

MANAROLA

The village of Manarola, my favorite of the five villages, is without a doubt everything I had imagined, and way more. You will find restaurants and shops for souvenirs and ornaments in Manarola as well, but this village's charm lies in its magnificent panoramic view of the city, which can be seen from the village’s high {but easily accessible} observation point.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to dine at  Nessun Dorma, located at the highest point in the village, with the best view. They serve a cold cuisine only {bruschetta, salads, sandwiches, platters of cheeses and sausages, etc.}, but it is a great Italian restaurant that also serves excellent cocktails and a variety of local wines. If you want to have dinner there and watch the sunset {and believe me – you do!} best to get there about an hour before sunset, because the wait is relatively long and the tables close to the edge of the cliff are, of course, the most sought after.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

CORNIGLIA

Corniglia, located high at the edge of the cliff with the most amazing views of the national park, is the least toured village of the five villages. Because its nature is less touristy, you will find it has fewer shops and restaurants than the other villages, but the quiet and tranquility along with the green landscape of the vineyards and olive groves, make the tour a wonderful and truly authentic experience.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

For a refreshing pit-stop, or even a full meal, you should really go to the pastoral restaurant La Pusada, which rests right at the edge of the cliff. There you can enjoy the blue sea view and the magical ambiance.

To get to Corniglia, you need to take a bus, in addition to the train ride, but – do not be discouraged – the bus to the village comes rather frequently and the ride from the train station is not long. If you rather skip the train and bus ride, you can also walk from Monterosso Al Mare to Corniglia, just keep in mind that the route includes climbing up over 350 stairs.  

 

 

RIOMAGGIORE

Riomaggiore is one of the most famous villages of the five, and it is easy to understand why. The village center is filled with small restaurants, souvenir shops, and picturesque alleys, and the port ares is simply breathtaking. It is especially fun to go to the port at sunset with a beer or Prosecco in hand {easily found in any of the local grocery stores}, grab a spot on the pier or the rocks surrounding the harbor, and watch the sunset behind the colorful buildings. There are no words to describe the amazing atmosphere in this place… I guess you just have to be there to understand 🙂

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

MONTEROSSO AL MARE

Monterosso al Mare has a different style than the other villages. Because it is the only village with a real beach, it really has the atmosphere of a classic beach town with a distinct vintage flavor. It is fun to walk along the promenade, with the beautiful view of the beach and the colorful umbrellas on one side and the colorful houses on the other.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit, flip-flops, and a towel, because this is the place to rent a beach chair and umbrella, and enjoy a few hours of classic beach side relaxation. When you walk toward the village from the train station, don’t let the amount of people on the beach scare you away. Stand with your back to the station, turn right, and continue straight down the promenade until you reach a beach named Bagni Fegina. This beach is a lot more calm and secluded, and if you’d like to buy some especially cool beers you can get them in the restaurant right there 🙂

 

 

Oh, one final tip – no matter how long the line is, don’t pass up a cone of the super fresh, fried seafood at – Il Bocconcino. Yes, they’re that good.

 

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

 

 

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Know about more interesting things to go in Cinque Terre? Leave me a comment below ♡

Things to do in Cinque Terre + where to stay and food tips {Photography guide}

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7 Responses

  1. I am reading a blog on this website for the first time and I would like to tell you that the quality of the article is up to the mark it is very well written.

  2. I read everything (I live right along the Blue Path between Corniglia and Vernazza).
    About where to stay it’s right what you wrote but I have a very good suggestion: PREVO, the hamlet of Vernazza, right along the Blue Path, with an nonpareil panorama, away from the bustle of the villages, in the highest and amazing spot.
    Prevo was built in the early nineteenth century some families of shepherds who arrived from the mountains inland to spend the winter with their flocks. They had estimated that the area was among the hottest in the Cinque Terre, so that the basin which descends from Prevo to the beach below Guvano is called, even today, ‘hell’.
    In the clearest days, due to its location at 208 meters above sea level, Prevo is a vantage point from which you can see the island of Isola d’Elba, Gorgona, Capraia and Capo Corso.
    Here, in this Amazing place, there is Villa Corbezzolo, with 14 sleeping accomodations.
    In the Villa Corbezzolo you will find antique furniture and authentic italians design 50s and 60s of great vulue as the bedside tables of Kartell or the handles Boma-Olivari, Arco Lamp of Castiglioni, authentic works of modern art and many other curiosities.

    The large property (4000 square meters) includes terraces, gardens, vineyard, vegetable garden with several idyllic spots to relax in absolute peace.

    It is situated on a cliff that plunges into the sea, south-facing between Corniglia and Vernazza.
    All around the Villa there are olive and fruits trees, vineyards and mediterranean plants.
    Here the website of Villa Corbezzolo https://www.theheartofcinqueterre.com/

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