Benvenuto to the charming Cinque Terre!
One of the most picturesque spots along the Italian Riviera, this has long been the bucket list destination of keen walkers and avid voyagers alike. It’s literal translation, “Five Lands”, describe the cluster of pastel fishing villages that dot this rugged stretch of coastline like little flecks of watercolour paint.
The most northerly of the five towns, Monterosso is also the only one to have a sizeable (pebbly) beach. Pass an afternoon here soaking up some Italian sunshine, or people watch from one of the town’s many alfresco coffee shops. The hilltop walk to Vernazza is a stepped one, and takes around 90 minutes to two hours, though locals say they zip across in an hour.
The best view of Vernazza can be seen about 15 minutes from town, along the hiking trail from Monterosso. The reward for your hilltop rambling efforts? Gelaterias aplenty in Vernazza’s main square.
The smallest of the five villages, and the only one without a coastline. Hop on the bus when you disembark the coastal train, which will take you a short and windy uphill route to the centre of Corniglia. A quieter spot for those that like to escape the general tourist hubbub or appreciate a good view.
Manarola town teeters on the cliff edge at height and is the iconic “Cinque Terre” image most picture. Head up to the Nessun Dorma bar for bruschetta and a glass of wine with a spectacular balcony setting, or Marina Piccola for a catch-of-the day supper as the sun sets.
The southern most village of the Cinque Terre. The coastline’s fishing heritage is perhaps most notable here where little boats gently see-saw, filling the small harbour. A short uphill stroll will take you via the town’s boutiques, bars and restaurants.
Things to note:
- You’ll get a good feel for the Cinque Terre’s pocket-sized villages spending just a few hours in each. Peak tourist season runs all the way through to October, so expect crowds and people traffic on the narrower hiking trails. La Spezia, just south of Riomaggiore, is a major port day destination for cruise ships. CruiseCal lists a useful docking schedule if you want to avoid the masses.
- Everyone warns not to drive here. This is generally a wise move but useful if you plan on further afield day trips. Portofino, Lucca and Pisa are all within 90 minutes drive.
- The Trenitalia coastal train runs frequently all day, each single journey costing €4 whether you’re going one stop along the line or five. Alternatively, a €16 day pass will let you hop on and off the trains as you please.
- One of the best ways to see the Cinque Terre is by boat. A ferry service sails up and down the coastline all day, albeit at a much gentler pace. A flexible day ticket costs €20.
- If you’re a little more adventurous and want to walk between each town, the hiking trails are signposted with red and white striped wall markings. Expect rugged footing, narrow pathways and undulating terraces with steep, uneven stairs. The staggering views you’d otherwise not see are your pay-off.
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