Cinque Terre – from the Italian for “Five Lands”- is one of the most gorgeous parts of the Italian Riviera, stretching roughly twelve kilometres. As the name would suggest, Cinque Terre is made up of five pretty and colourful villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, all located along the steep coast in the Luguria region. Luguria has only around 7000 inhabitants and is protected as a National Park, meaning that nothing new can be built and the historic villages have remained unchanged. The Cinque Terre has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. All five villages entice visitors with their colourful houses, fishing boats and charming little streets and footpaths.
The five enchanting villages of the Cinque Terre
Monterosso al Mare
This fishing village on the Lugurian coast, with its 1479 inhabitants, is the largest town of the Cinque Terre and therefore also part of the National Park. Monterosso extends over 1.5 kilometres with the Old Town and the newer area of Fegina divided by a rock rising from the sea. The rock is home to a watchtower, called the Torre Aurora or Dawn Tower, which offers spectacular views over the Ligurian sea. You can also cut through the rock using the 100 metre long pedestrian tunnel, but why miss out on the panorama? A highlight of the village is the Gigante, a stone statue carved out of the rocks, which used to support a dance terrace, although it was damaged in 1966 by a storm. For great food and drink try checking out Ristorante Miky, where you’ll get great service and delicious food!
Monterosso Accommodation >>
Vernazza has 879 inhabitants and is the second most northern of the Cinque Terre villages. One of the best preserved surviving fishing villages on the Italian coast, Vernazza has a small peninsula that hugs a pretty port many ancient and beautiful ramparts and towers. The village is seen as a symbol for the amazing beauty of the Cinque Terre, probably because it’s managed to preserve its elegant appearance and quintessential Cinque Terre charm. The Castello Doria fortress is definitely worth a visit, offering perfect views over the village. If you’re feeling hungry, why not go to Belforte and enjoy a delicious meal with an unforgettable view?
Vernazza accommodation >>
With only 250 inhabitants, Corniglia is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages and the only one of the five that isn’t directly on the seafront but perched on a 100 metre hight promontory. Corniglia is located right in the middle of the Cinque Terre and offers stunning views left and right over to the four villages, thanks to its hilltop position. The small village is best known for its vineyards, which tumble down the steep slopes all around. Even in winter the trees are covered in oranges and lemons, which is, along with the colourful façades of the houses, an injection of colour into the Cinque Terre. You can enjoy a nice break in the centre of Corniglia at Caffe Matteo.
Corniglia Accommodation >>
Manarola is the oldest town of the Cinque Terre – the foundations of the town’s ancient San Lorenzo Church were laid down in 1160. Manarola is the second smallest village after Corniglia. The people here make their living from two main industries – wine and fishing. Manarola is known for the famous Via dell’Amore (Street of Love), leading up to Riomaggiore and linking the two villages. The path gets its name from its gorgeous romantic views over the breath-taking natural beauty of the area, and, unsurprisingly, there are lots of love locks hanging along the way. Although this spot seems almost to be made for those of you who are madly in love, the rest of us can of course still enjoy the view! After your walk the Trattoria Dal Billy will be there waiting for you, serving excellent food that will make you soon forget your hunger.
Manarola Accommodation >>
Colourful houses rise all around the picturesque harbour of Riomaggiore, clinging to the steep and rocky coast. Also surrounded by the colourful little houses is the San Giovanni Battista Church, built in 1340 and given a Gothic makeover in 1820. Inside, the church has three aisles, all separated by pointed arches. The varied lives of the village and its inhabitants mainly take place along the ascending road, where you’ll find restaurants, shops and cafes. The restaurant Enoteca Dau Cila would be my recommendation here, with its great views over the sea.
Riomaggiore Accommodation >>
Travelling to Cinque Terre
The closest airports for the Cinque Terre are Pisa, Florence and Genoa. You can check your flight options from EasyJet or compare airlines with BravoFly. All of these airports have shuttles to take you to the train station, where you’ll be able to catch a train out to the Cinque Terre region. Most trains change at La Spezia. If you have a rental car, make sure to ring your accommodation and check what parking facilities there are, as cars aren’t allowed in the five villages. Once you’re there you can easily walk between the villages via the criss-crossing paths that traverse the coastline, or you can take a 19th century train line that connects the villages – buy a Cinque Terre card and you’ll have unlimited second class travel. Cars aren’t allowed in the Cinque Terre, which means you can explore this gorgeous piece of Italian coastline unspoilt by modernity.
The pictures of these five cute little villages really do make an impression, but they’re nothing in comparison to seeing it with your own eyes! So next destination – the beautiful Ligurian coast and the Cinque Terre. This area should definitely be on your list of places to visit, an area that you really need to see! Have you visited the Cinque Terre? I’d love to hear from you in the comments, so let me know how you found it and especially if you have any top tips for fellow travellers!