CINQUE TERRE BUCKET LIST & TRAVEL GUIDE
Cinque Terre had been on my bucket list for ages (thanks to Instagram), and I managed to visit during Covid! The pictures of the gorgeous towns is something most of us probably recognise. Cinque Terre attracts 2.4 million visitors a year to trek, boat and train their way through its dramatic cliffs and picture perfect coastal villages.
WHAT IS CINQUE TERRE?
Cinque Terre is a stretch of the Italian Riviera which consists of five, UNESCO protected villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. They are all perched within the Cinque Terre National Park and protected by the sparkling Mediterranean Sea to the west.
Each village is its own beauty, most of them share the pastel buildings and pristine sea views, but each has its own different vibe. The Cinque Terre is located just south of Genoa in north-west Italy in the region of Liguria.
HOW TO GET TO CINQUE TERRE
Cinque Terre is within easy reach of the airports of Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Milan, Rome, and Nice. Genoa is the closest airport. I arrived in Pisa Airport from London as I found there were more direct flight options there but you should check all of them, as well as the prices. I booked my flight to Pisa for Cinque Terre through Skyscanner. From the airport you decide to fly to, a train would take you to La Spezia, the biggest station in Cinque Terre in little time (it was just over an hour from Pisa). I don’t recommend you drive or have a car in Cinque Terre. It’s one of the few places I’ve ever visited where having a car makes no sense at all.
HOW TO GET AROUND CINQUE TERRE
You can get around Cinque Terre by train, boat or foot. A 4-6 min train ride connects all villages but you can also reach them by boat which is fun, or you can trek from one city to the other. I strongly suggest you take the train to visit all of the villages and buy the Cinque Terre Card which is ~14-16€ per day and allows unlimited train rides as well as access to the hiking trails that connect the towns, the bathrooms, wi-fi, etc.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN CINQUE TERRE
Most people visit Cinque Terre in one day, I strongly recommend that you stay at least two days. Why? Well how are you supposed to take in five towns in one day properly? Holidays are about relaxing, so visit the towns without rushing and take the time to appreciate the details of their streets and corners, and of course make time for gelato!
WHERE TO STAY IN CINQUE TERRE
I strongly recommend staying in one of Cinque Terre’s towns not only to make it easier to get around but also to experience staying in one of them. I stayed in Riomaggiore in Malbo a lovely hotel right in the middle of Riomaggiore. The room I chose featured a fantastic view of the harbour which you literally can’t get anywhere else and where I took one of the prettiest instagram photos I have ever taken during an incredible sunrise (the first photo in this post!). The rooms are perfectly decorated, and having breakfast in the balcony while watching the sun come up was one of the highlights of my Cinque Terre visit. You can book it here.
THE FIVE TOWNS OF CINQUE TERRE
Monterosso Al Mare
This is the largest, liveliest and westernmost town in the Cinque Terre. It has pebbly beaches and a historic center that seems out of a fairytale. The essentials to visit in Monterosso are: the Aurora Tower, the viewpoint from the Statue of San Francisco de Asis, the San Giovanni Battista Church, and the statue of the Giant (Neptune).
Vernazza is of a beguiling beauty: the waves that crush into the port, the houses that cling to the mountains, silent corners and tourists looking for the best photos in nearby trails.
To reach the smallest town of Cinque Terre you have to climb 370 steps that connect it with the station, although there is also an easy option: the bus. In Corniglia, don’t miss the Chiesa San Pietro and the viewpoint in the upper part of the town.
Manarola has the most beautiful port in Cinque Terre. Here, the fishermen’s boats crowd together on a small ramp from where the town rises towards the hills. It’s best to head up the trail that winds its way up the side of the mountain for the best views of the town and the sun painting the coloured houses with golden rays.
In Riomaggiore you can also enjoy an incredible sunset. In addition, the alleys are full of picturesque corners, such as Piazza Vignaioli, the church of San Giovanni Battista or the Castle. But without a doubt the best thing is to go down to the port and contemplate it from various viewpoints.
CINQUE TERRE BUCKET LIST: THINGS TO DO IN CINQUE TERRE
Hike the hell out of Cinque Terre
Cinqueterre is famous for its various trekking paths, the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path) spans 12km and connects the towns. The most popular path is the one from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It is worth noting that the paths are often closed so always worth checking when you are there. To access the paths you’ll need to pay unless you get the Cinque Terre card which I mentioned as hiking paths are included.
Eat at Nessun Dorma, Manarola
One of the highlights of my visit was both the bruschette and the sunset I saw from the popular restaurant Nessun Dorma in Manarola. Have the bruschetta tricolor and down a cocktail while you see the sun paint the skies and the coloured houses in Manarola. The walk down from the restaurant back to the town at night is epic too (see pic below)! Warning, in non Covid times, it gets really busy.
Find the perfect spots for pictures
One of my favourite things to do when I got to Manarola, Vernazza and Riomaggiore was to try and find where to position myself to get a beautifully composed photo of the towns, featuring the coloured houses, the sea, the boats, the sky…. I encourage you to do the same!
Climb to the Convent of Capuchin Friars and admire the view, Monterosso
In Monterosso, before getting into the town go up the stairs to reach the Convent of Capuchin Friars and the statue of St. Francis (my favourite Saint!). The views are incredible.
Sunbathe and swim in Playa Fegina, Monterosso
Monterosso is the only town which has a ‘proper’ beach. If you are visiting in summer, bring your swimsuit and relax at the beach. The sun umbrellas in this beach are famous for being so photogenic.
Climb the 360 steps up to Corniglia
Yes, you could take a very cheap bus. But what’s the fun in that? Get your exercise of the day by going up the Scalinata Lardarina up to the town of Corniglia. The good thing is that you can get gelato right at the top when you arrive! Up in Corniglia don’t miss the Chiesa de San Pietro and the view point which has mind blowing views of the bay and there are great restaurants where to relax or have lunch in.
Explore the small port of Riomaggiore
The port of Riomaggiore provides incredible views of the colorful houses that make up the town. Make sure to explore it to the left and the right, then up and down! The port has the best views of the town.
Do a sunset boat tour
I always love doing sunset boat tours in beach destinations. They often provide a chance to relax and enjoy (and maybe drink, ha). Definitely take some time to do this sunset boat tour. Check out other tours in Cinque Terre here.
BEST TOURS IN CINQUE TERRE
These are the best tours you can do when in Cinque Terre:
- Cinque Terre: 2-Hour Private Small Group Sunset Boat Tour
- From Monterosso: Cinque Terre Kayak Tour
- Cinque Terre Sunset Boat Tour
- La Spezia: Cinque Terre Guided Hiking Tour
- La Spezia Cinque Terre Food Tour
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Tour with Limoncino Tasting
- Manarola: Authentic Pesto Making Class in Cinque Terre
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Cruise Shore Excursion
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Private Guided Tour
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