When heading to Italy you may think of the Colosseum in Rome, the gondolas in Venice, the Leaning Tower of Piza… but we would skip all those bucket list items to instead visit a little area on the Italian Riviera known as Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre means “five lands” in Italian, or in this case five villages. Just picture five beautiful Italian villages set amid one the most picturesque coastline in the world. These medieval fishing villages look frozen in time, each worth visiting due to their own personalities making a unique experience well worth your time.
So if you have come here expecting to stop at one town, enjoy some wine and pasta (which to be honest sounds incredible) you won’t see all that this amazing UNESCO World Heritage site has to offer.
If these pictures don’t sell you enough to visit, check out our daily vlog of Cinque Terre.
How to get there
If you are heading into Cinque Terre the local train station is La Spezia which will connect you to all the towns.
If you are not planning to stay the night in Cinque Terre we would recommend you do a day trip from Piza as it is only an hour train ride, or you can do from Florence which is a 2 hour train ride away. We personally started from Florence and still enjoyed our day (just make sure you have an early start). We can’t suggest coming here from Rome or Milan (4 hour trip each way) as you cut your day way too short to enjoy it.
The Five Towns
We will admit that we only visited Cinque Terre in one day, and even though we are happily satisfied with our time spent there, we recommend staying a night or two to ensure you have time to take it all in.
Riomaggiore – Many start with this village as it is first on the train line, but we ended our day at this fishing village during sunset. At first it seems like one of the smaller towns as you walk through the narrow village looking up at the towering town above. However, once you have walked down to the coast we suggest heading backwards (past the train station) to really see the thriving town of boutique stores and restaurants.
Manarola – Our personal favourite (and the Instagram shot everyone shares) is at this second village which is tucked away into the coastline amongst grape vines that provide Cinque Terre with their tasty Italian wine.
Vernazza – Containing the most accessible harbour of the town. We personally enjoyed the narrow lanes that rise above you whilst walking through to get to the hiking trails. We started here and worked our way backwards, but not before grabbing gelato from the local ice cream parlour.
Corniglia – If you head to the coastline and want somewhere to lay on the beach, sip some cocktails and get some sun, this village is really the only of five with a real strip of beach.
Monterossa – If you want the Cinque Terre experience and not up to climbing, this large village doesn’t have the same vertical landscape but still offers views worthy of the others.
You can get around by train, foot and boat, each with their own features depending on your style of travel. Cinque Terre isn’t the easiest of places to visit, proving a little more difficult to navigate and even with the train system in place expect to do a lot of walking.
By Train – This is the recommended transport method if you plan to head here for a day trip. As breathtaking as the hikes are you just won’t see everything in time. You can purchase multiple options of train tickets including day passes and one way passes. If you buy a Cinque Terre card (mentioned below) you have the option to include your train passes in your purchase.
By Foot – Certainly the more eco route to go is to hike the trails that connect the villages. This will take you the longest time and we recommend doing this if you only have 2 or max 3 villages in mind or are staying the night. Some may assume this is the free option, however it is not (again, please refer to Cinque Card below).
Walking distance between towns:
- Monterossa – Vernazza (3.5 km)
- Vernazza – Corniglia (4km)
- Corniglia – Manarola (3km)
- Manarola – Riomaggiore (1.5km)
By Boat – Ah! The romantic option is to jump on a ferry boat and drift between the villages. This is the ideal way to see the landscape with each ride around about 15 minutes. However, you can’t visit Cornigilia by boat. Boat passes can be purchased at the ferry pier in each village.
The Cinque Card
This card slipped through our research prior to arrival and is necessary if you want to not only hike the trails but also get to certain “photo spots”, particularly the golden shot of Vernazza being restricted by a Cinque Card checkpoint.
A day pass can be purchased for € 7,50 from every train station in Cinque Terre, just note that they are only open at certain times of the day (unfortunately they were closed when we arrived) so you may need to arrive earlier or go out for a coffee in the town as you wait for the ticket office to open.
You can also get unlimited rides on the Cinque Terre trains connecting the towns if you purchase the Cinque Terre Train pass for € 12.
What to do when you get there?
This is one of those destinations that are just worth exploring with your camera in hand. Depending on your travel schedule pick your favourite towns, walk around, talk to the locals and try and get your postcard shots.
Once you need a break head into one of the restaurants to get some gelato, pasta or pizza – and make sure you get a table with a view to really stop and take in the views. The area is perfectly safe to stay beyond sundown so don’t be worried about catching an earlier train.
As always we film our lives every single day, so why not catch our daily vlog from our experience through Cinque Terre…
Where do you want to visit the most in Italy? Has Cinque Terre made the list?