Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places I have ever visited. The five villages that make up this area are built on the steep hillsides overlooking the Italian Riviera. There are no busy streets, no museums, no fancy stores, and no busy life. Instead you get to enjoy the sea, the food, the people who are incredibly friendly, and the views…..oh the views.

Vernazza
Vernazza
The main street in Vernazza
The main street in Vernazza
On top of Castello Doria in Vernazza
On top of Castello Doria in Vernazza

The villages, listed from north to south, are:

Monterosso al Mare

Known to have the best beach and more shops, restaurants, and hotels than the other villages. This can make it more crowded, but is still worth a visit. Walk through the old part of town where you can find the San Francesco church.

Vernazza

This is where we chose to stay for our visit and is my favorite village of the five. The main street leads down from the train station to a main square that overlooks a natural harbor. We enjoyed climbing up the tower of Castello Doria and visiting the Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church. We also enjoyed the food, the people, and the nightlife.

Corniglia

The only village not on the water. There are gorgeous views from the hilltop village once you make it up the hundreds of steps from the train station.

Manarola

This tiny village is so picturesque. We started a hike from here to Corniglia that was a highlight of my whole time in Italy. You have to hike when in Cinque Terre to truly enjoy the area.

Riomaggiore

This is the first village from La Spezia. From here starts the “via dell’Amore,” which means Lover’s Lane and is a trail to Manarola taking only 20 minutes.

Getting there:

 Take the train from La Spezia, which takes roughly 15 minutes to the first town of Riomaggiore, and each town after that is just a few more minutes. The train is my favorite form of transportation in Europe because you can store your luggage and then sit back and enjoy the views.

Getting Around:

Train: The easiest and quickest way to travel between the villages is by train. There is at least one train going in both directions every hour but not every train stops in all five villages. Make sure to ask before hopping on a train and also make sure to stamp your ticket on the platform. Tickets cost a few euros.

Hiking: There are many trails connecting all five of the villages. The coastal trails were closed while we were there because of heavy rain, which can cause damage to the trails. There was a huge flood in 2011, which also caused a lot of damage to the trails and they may not all be up and running. Cinque Terre is a National Park so you have to pay an entrance fee to hike the trails. You can buy the passes at the train stations and choose between a hiking only pass or a hiking + train pass.

Boat: The boats were not running when we visited because of the rough sea. You can rent boats in Riomaggiore and take yourself around or catch the ferries from village to village.

When to Visit:

I enjoy visiting in the spring or fall. The crowds aren’t as bad as the summer months and the weather is perfect for hiking. Summer is also great for sun bathing and lounging but gets very crowded.

What to Eat:

Being that Cinque Terre is on the coast, seafood is fresh and plentiful. All restuarants serve delicious seafood dishes and you can grab some fried anchovies to eat on the go. This region is also the birthplace of pesto and focaccia so try some pasta or pizza with fresh pesto on it and grab some focaccia for a snack.  

How Many Days:

Many people make day trips from Pisa, Florence, Milan or other big cities. Tour buses come for the day as well as cruise ships. While seeing Cinque Terre for part of one day is better than not seeing it at all, you will not get the full, wonderful experience. I highly recommend two nights to really enjoy this area, hike a few trails, enjoy the amazing food, see each village, and lounge on a beach or a boat.

Tips:

Again I recommend Rick Steve’s Italy book. He has a very thorough section on Cinque Terre and gives great recommendations.

Take a backpack. When exploring for the day you will want to pack lots of water, your camera, and Rick Steve’s book.

Train stations offer free wifi with the Cinque Terre park card (the card you will need for hiking)

My Trip:

We arrived late morning from Florence and went straight to our Airbnb. We dropped our bags and left our room to go explore Vernazza. We ate at Belfort, sitting out on the terrace with a stunning view of the Mediterranean Sea. The food was great but it was the view and our waiter that really made our lunch incredible. We then hiked up to the cemetery, which is perched high above the sea, climbed the Castello Doria, and visited the church in the main square. We then went to Vernazza Winexperience where Alessandro served the guys wines from both Cinque Terre and other parts of Italy. Later that night we enjoyed hanging out with other travelers and locals at the Blue Marlin.

Our waiter took a selfie with us at Belforte
Our waiter took a selfie with us at Belforte
Our yummy lunch at Belforte
Our yummy lunch at Belforte
The view from Belfort
The view from Belfort
Lunch at Belforte
Lunch at Belforte
On top of Castello Doria
On top of Castello Doria
Main square in Vernazza. They pull all the boats out of the water when the surf is too rough.
Main square in Vernazza. They pull all the boats out of the water when the surf is too rough.
View from up above Vernazza
View from up above Vernazza
Exploring Vernazza
Exploring Vernazza
Vineyards in Vernazza
Vineyards in Vernazza
The cemetery in Vernazza
The cemetery in Vernazza
The cemetery in Vernazza
The cemetery in Vernazza
The cemetery in Vernazza
The cemetery in Vernazza
Vernazza
Vernazza
The main street of Vernazza.
The main street of Vernazza.
Learning about local wines at Vernazza Winexperience
Learning about local wines at Vernazza Winexperience
Watching the sun set from Castello Doria
Watching the sun set from Castello Doria
Vernazza
Vernazza

On our second and only full day in Cinque Terre we decided to go explore the other villages. We bought the hiking + rail pass from the train station and rode to Riomaggiore where we grabbed some breakfast and tried to hike the “Lover’s Lane” trail, only to get to a spot where it was blocked off and closed. We snapped some pictures of the village and then hopped the train for Manarola.

RIding the train between villages
RIding the train between villages
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore

From Manarola we decided to hike the terraced vineyards up to Volastra and then on to Corniglia. We were grateful for the cloudy, cool day as this hike was steep and long. We hiked through yards, olive groves, and orchards. Volastra, a charming small town, marked our halfway point. We took a short break for some lunch which tasted so incredibly delicious. It could have just been our exhaustion and all the calories burned but we thoroughly enjoyed it all.

After lunch we bought more water and then continued on through woods and lush greenery to Corniglia. We had so much fun on this hike and I cannot recommend it enough. The views of Manarola, Corniglia, and the sea could not be beat from this hike. We loved seeing the different way people live and farm this area. We got an up close look walking through it all.

Starting the hike and leaving Manarola
Starting the hike and leaving Manarola
Up up up
Up up up
Manarola
Manarola
Manaroloa and the trail
Manaroloa and the trail
Manarola
Manarola
Another cemetery with sea views. This one is in Manarola
Another cemetery with sea views. This one is in Manarola
Walking through tons of beautiful grape vines
Walking through tons of beautiful grape vines
That's Manarola where we started
That’s Manarola, where we started
Hiking to Corniglia on the point over there
Hiking to Corniglia on the point over there
This is the view on the hike. Just incredible!
This is the view on the hike. Just incredible!
Following the signs to Corniglia
Following the signs to Corniglia
The church in Volastra
The church in Volastra
We can see Cornelia
We can see Cornelia
Hiking down
Hiking down
Walking down to Cornelia
Walking down to Cornelia
The stairs down from Corniglia to the train station
The stairs down from Corniglia to the train station

From Corniglia we walked down the hundreds of steps to the train station below and rode to Monterosso al Mare. Here we walked around the town and stopped for some yummy and well-deserved drinks. I had a fresh smoothie and what I like best about getting drinks in Italy is that they are usually served with snacks. We enjoyed a sea view, snacks, and drinks while resting for a bit before heading back to Vernazza by train. We had dinner at Trattoria del Capitano just above the train station and met some other travelers and enjoyed a delicious meal.

Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
Cameron enjoying a bag of fried seafood as a snack.
Cameron enjoying a bag of fried seafood as a snack.
My Cannelloni with fresh pesto at Il Pirata Cafe
My Cannelloni with fresh pesto at Il Pirata Cafe
Another seafood pasta at Il Pirata Cafe
Seafood pasta at Il Pirata Cafe
Seafood pasta at Il Pirata Cafe
Another seafood pasta at Il Pirata Cafe
Panna cotta at Il Pirata Cafe
Panna cotta at Il Pirata Cafe

On our last day in Cinque Terre before catching the train to Venice, I returned to Trattoria del Capitano for some incredible pastries. I brought them back to the boys who were sleeping in and then went to the launderette because I had run out of clean clothes. I attempted to start my laundry but had some trouble because I didn’t read the directions completely. Luckily the launderette is right next door to Trattoria del Capitano so I walked in and asked the owner for help. He left his restaurant to come help me do my laundry. He was so friendly and nice, which is what I love about the people in Cinque Terre. Once my laundry was done we hopped the train to Venice.

I wish we would have had more time to enjoy this part of Italy. Let me know if you have any questions or want any help planning your next trip.

Xoxo

Claire

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