Cinque Terre: The Five Cliffside Villages of the Italian Riviera

This once hidden gem is a collection of quaint, charming and colorful villages. A place where locals live and thrive and visitors come to find tranquility. Five colorful fishing villages of the Italian Riviera, make up Cinque Terre.

The colorful town of Vernazza in the Italian Riviera

These “five lands” as it is literally translated, located directly on the Mediterranean (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare) are a welcoming change from the more crowded cities in Italy.

Travelers are encouraged to slow down and marvel at the beauty these stunning lands have to offer. With no museum in sight, there is little to do but hike, wander, relax and enjoy the romantic ambiance of these cliff-hugging towns.

Instead of going down the stairs towards the harbor, head up to see this mural in Riomaggiore.

Each of the villages, with the exception of Corniglia, are built right up to the Mediteranean and all have functioning fishing harbors. Connecting the five villages is an elaborate system of hiking trails and trains. As well as being accessible by ferry, bus and boat.

The town of Corniglia is the only village that doesn't meet the sea in Cinque Terre

Starting at the southern-most town, Riomaggiore, make your way north with a walk on the Via dell’ Amore “Pathway of Love” paved trail. The 1 km long lover’s lane wraps alongside the lush, green cliffs that overlook deep blue waters below and leads you to the town of Manarola.

There are many paths and trails that connect the villages of Cinque Terre

Tourists and locals alike meander through the colorful villages. Spending their days taking in the delightful smells of fresh fish, pizza and locally unique pasta while enjoying the relaxing sounds of the crashing waves.

The umbrellas that line the beaches of Monterosso al Mare in the summertime During the summer time the beaches of Monterosso al Mare are full of  sunbathers basking in the sun and enjoying the warm temperatures. You can usually find me at the local gelato shop savoring a cold, delicious treat.

The locals enjoying their morning in Riomaggiore with their newspaper

While Cinque Terre produces some of the best local olive oil and wine, they are also known for their Ligurian trofie al pesto. A classic dish in this region and one you should try for yourself. Trofie is a handmade pasta that is short, thin and twisted allowing the pesto to perfectly coat each piece always creating the perfect bite.


Riomaggiore


Watching the boats bobbing in the water at Riiomaggiore in Cinque Terre

As the southernmost town of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is the first village that you will enter upon arrival from the La Spezia train station. The narrow, winding path in the center of town leads directly to the sea.  Stacking upon each another, the traditional stone houses all have colorful façades making them truly unique.

Riomaggiore has the smallest harbor in Cinque Terre

Down by the harbour, crowded with small fishing boats, you can climb up on the rocks that jut out from the sea to capture some stunning views of the surrounding cliffs and vineyards. This small fishing village is also the trail head of the Via dell’ Amore walking path.


Manarola


Manarola in Cinque Terre is one of the most photographed places in ItalyLined with cozy seafood restaurants and brightly colored houses that look as if they are tumbling down the hill, Manarola is my favorite of the five villages. The towns’ church, the San Lorenzo, dates back to 1338 and sits at the top of the town where it was once used to keep watch over the village from potential pirate raids.

The view of Manarola when you walk into town from the train stationThe villages carrugi (narrow alleys) and steep staircases all lead to the tiny boat dock by the sea.

There is no real beach there, just rocks and pebbles. However, Manarola has the best deep-water diving in the area. For the perfect photo to sum up your trip to the Cinque Terre, head towards the harbor and follow the trail that leads towards Corniglia.


Corniglia


The only village without direct access to the sea, the quiet Corniglia is known for its’ rolling hills and terraced vineyards.

The cliff side views in Cinque Terre are just stunningReachable by either a hiking trail from the neighboring villages or train (be prepared to hike 377 steps up from the train station) Corniglia is well-known for its rich agricultural heritage.


Vernazza


Vernazza was recently rebuilt after the 2011 landslide Frequently listed as one of the most beautiful coastal villages in Italy, Vernazza was recently being rebuilt after the landslide in 2011 destroyed most of the town and harbor.

Now fully restored to its’ original beauty, Vernazza is bustling with visitors and locals. Leisurely stroll up and down the main street, wandering towards the open and inviting Piazza Marconi.

A visit to Cinque Terre isn't complete without exploring the lovely town of Vernazza

The Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, built into the wall in 1318, stands tall in the main Piazza overlooking the sea. On the opposite end, high on the cliffside, stands the Doria Castle.  Climb to the top to get panoramic views of this tiny port town.


Monterosso Al Mare


The views of Monterosso al Mare from above!With its’ long stretch of sandy beach, the northernmost town of Monterosso is heavily populated in the warmer months. Sun worshippers flock to this picturesque village to soak in the bright sun and relax in the clear blue waters.

The beaches of Monterosso al Mare are perfect for relaxationIt is the largest of the five coastal villages with a tunnel that connects the charming Old Town (Centro Storico) to the hip New Town (called Fagina). For a seaside walk, bypass the tunnel bridge and head towards the trail near the water. This path will wrap around and lead you towards the Old Town.

Be sure to walk around the bunker in Monterosso al Mare for some stunning views

Make sure to spot the old bunker and 16th century lookout tower along the way. The Old Town boasts old world charm characterized by its small, cobblestone streets and colorful houses. The web of typical medieval alleyways all converge in the Piazza Garibaldi and lead to another sandy beach.


How to Get There


Take the train from your location to either La Spezia Centrale or Levanto. You can heck daily train times at Trenitalia.. Once you arrive at the La Spezia or Levanto train station, purchase the Cinque Terre card (which allows access to the hiking trails, trains and buses).

The Cinque Terre card will give you access to the hiking trails, trains and buses throughout the 5 villagesFrom here you may begin your journey to the first of the five villages. Currently the Cinque Terre Card costs €16 per person for a day pass. You can purchase the ticket at any of the 5 lands. The price increases for additional days.

 


Where to Stay


  • You can stay in an apartment, book through ArbaSpáa, that is quietly nestled in Manarola near the harbor. With gorgeous views of the sea and vineyards from the front patio, this apartment is perfectly cozy for three people.

It's always laundry day in Cinque TerreIt has a kitchen where you can make your own pesto pasta. Many of the grocery shops with have fresh pesto to purchase! If you arrive by car, they also offer a locked parking garage for an additional fee.

The beautiful town of Manarola is one of the most popular places to visit in Cinque Terre

  • You can also stay just outside of Cinque Terre for a less expensive rate. Stay in Levanto or La Spezia. Levanto is a great option because it’s only one short train stop from Monterosso.  We chose the highly reviewed A Durmí. Situated in an ideal location, A Durmí is the perfect starting point to hike from Levanto to Monterosso Al Mare. It is also a 5 minute walk to the train station.

The beautiful hotel close to the train station and hikes in LevantoThis hotel has apartment-style rooms, spacious enough for three people. It also includes a fully equipped kitchen. Each morning they offer an Italian style continental breakfast with your choice of coffee. Additionally, an underground parking space is available for an extra fee.


Where to Eat


  • Try the mouth-watering Il PorticcioloThis family run restaurant offers beautiful views of Manarola’s main street. While also serving up delicious local fare at an affordable price. I highly recommend you try trofie al pesto while in the Liguria region.

The trofie al pesto is famous in the Ligurian Region of Italy

  • For a great view with your dinner try the outside seating at Ristorante Marina Piccola. The Trofie and wine are typical of the region and the seafood is great.

This lovely restaurant in Manarola has the best mural wall.

  • For lunch, try La Balena Blu in Monterosso Al Mare’s old town near the church. Be sure to order the pesto bruschetta and a refreshing cold beer.

La Balena Blu has the best pesto in cinque terre!

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A Guide to Visiting Cinque Terre | This World Traveled

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