Cinque Terre, nestled along the stunning Northern Ligurian Coast of Italy, a little way above Pisa, is a magnetic draw for travellers and often hailed as one of Italy’s finest destinations. As I prepared for my Italian adventure, Cinque Terre’s allure beckoned me through images of vibrant, multi-coloured buildings and winding, cobblestone lanes. Although I was initially unfamiliar with its details, the urge to include this picturesque haven in my journey was undeniable. And oh, how grateful I am that I did – a sentiment I’m eager to impart, hoping it might inspire others to embark on the same delightful journey.
While envisioning my trip, I imagined having ample time to luxuriate in Cinque Terre’s charm, allowing myself the freedom to immerse in each of its five unique villages – Vernazza, Monterosso, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, and Manarola. Yet, reality dictated a single day for my adventure! Determined to make the most of this precious time, I resolved to explore all five towns in this brief span. And now, I’m thrilled to share my guide, crafted to help others savour their own one-day sojourn through Cinque Terre.
Though my visit was swift, the memories I collected were rich and profound. Cinque Terre, with its vibrant palette and enchanting streets, offered me an unforgettable day – a mosaic of experiences that I hope will resonate with those who are equally tempted to seize the opportunity to explore this gem on Italy’s coast.
How to get to Cinque Terre
Reaching Cinque Terre had been a source of concern as I contemplated the relatively remote locations of its towns. Yet, to my pleasant surprise, the process was remarkably straightforward! Our day began with an early drive from our cosy bed and breakfast, leading us to a parking garage adjacent to the train station in La Spezia. Armed with our day train passes, we embarked on our journey. The train whisked us away, a mere 7 minutes to the nearest town, Riomaggiore, and approximately 15 minutes to reach the farthest, Monterosso.
The train, undoubtedly a popular choice, proved to be an incredibly convenient mode of transportation. Its simplicity ensured a stress-free travel experience, and it remains a favoured means of accessing Cinque Terre. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that alternatives exist. For instance, you can opt to arrive by car and park in Monterosso or Riomaggiore. Even so, you’ll still find yourself relying on the train or hiking to traverse between the towns in the middle. Regardless of the path you choose, one thing is certain: the enchanting allure of Cinque Terre awaits, beckoning you to explore its colorful streets and embrace its coastal charm.
How to get around Cinque Terre
When it comes to moving between the enchanting Cinque Terre towns, there exist two primary options: train travel and hiking the trails. My original intention had been to partake in a hike spanning two of the towns, but the scorching heat, swiftly dashed that notion, compelling us to favour the train for the entirety of the day. Regardless of your choice, both methods entail a fee: 7.50 euros for the trails and 16 euros for the train.
Numerous trails crisscross the region, with The Blue Trail reigning as the most renowned. This particular path traverses all five towns, extending over a total of 7.5 miles. For those contemplating a visit, it’s imperative to conduct preliminary research, as some trails are closed.
For those seeking a simpler mode of transportation, the train proves to be a convenient solution. It efficiently links all five towns and extends its route to La Spezia. Visitors arriving via train already possess a day pass for train travel. If this isn’t the case, you can effortlessly procure a ticket at any train station. The trains operate at regular intervals, well-equipped to accommodate the influx of tourists. Even when retracing our steps between towns, we had ample time to explore all five villages in the span of a single day.
Order of visiting the towns of Cinque Terre
When contemplating a visit to all five towns, a crucial consideration is the sequence in which you choose to explore them. The most straightforward approach especially if you are hiking involves either commencing from the east and progressing to the west or vice versa.
- East to West: Riomaggiore > Manarola > Corniglia > Vernazza > Monterosso
- West to East: Monterosso > Vernazza > Corniglia > Manarola > Riomaggiore
If you are traveling by train you may want to try Starting your journey in Cinque Terre from Vernazza can offer the advantage of experiencing one of the most picturesque towns with fewer crowds, especially if you arrive early. This provides an opportunity to relish the charm of Vernazza without the bustling tourist activity. Additionally, structuring your itinerary in this manner allows you to witness the captivating sunset over the scenic town of Manarola, enhancing your overall experience.
- By Train: Vernazza > Monterosso > Corniglia > Riomaggiore > Manarola
Vernazza was the initial town we explored and arguably the most exquisite. Not that this is an understatement, as they are all truly stunning! Strolling along the narrow lanes and admiring the vividly coloured buildings is an experience I will always remember. A broad street and square pave the way through the town, adorned with numerous cafes and boutiques.
Ascending the Belforte Tower rewards you with a breath-taking view overlooking the town. There is a nominal fee to access the tower, or alternatively, you can dine right next to the tower. Additionally, there is a splendid vista of Vernazza from a brief hike to the top of the town. If time permits, Vernazza boasts two petite beaches for a swift swim!Read more about Vernazza
Monterosso is an ideal destination for those seeking a quintessential Italian beach experience. The beach is adorned with a vibrant array of umbrellas, creating rows upon rows of vivid colors. While our visit to Monterosso was relatively brief due to time constraints, we managed to capture a few photographs and indulge in a refreshing granita, the Italian equivalent of a slushie.
For those fortunate enough to have more time to spare, Monterosso offers an array of historical sites to explore. Throughout the town, you’ll discover numerous religious buildings such as the Oratorio Mortis et Orationis – Confraternita dei Neri and Church of San Giovanni Battista, Monterosso al Mare. Additionally, a noteworthy attraction is the 42-foot-tall statue of Neptune, the revered Roman god of the sea.Read more about Monterosso al Mare
Corniglia stands out as perhaps the most serene village within Cinque Terre due to its relatively challenging accessibility. Perched atop a hill, it holds the distinction of being the sole village in Cinque Terre inaccessible by boat. While it does have a train station, this station is positioned by the sea. To reach the village, one must ascend the Lardarina staircase, a steep ascent comprising 382 steps. Alternatively, a shuttle bus is available to transport visitors from the train station to the village’s elevated position. Once within the village, the terrain levels out, providing a relatively flat expanse to explore.
Corniglia, with roots tracing back to ancient Roman times, boasts a storied history centered around its strong agricultural heritage. Encircled by vineyards and stone terraces on three sides, the village’s agricultural tradition endures. Due to its size and comparatively challenging accessibility, Corniglia draws fewer tourists, offering a more authentic local experience. While the village provides various bars and restaurants, a vibrant nightlife is notably absent.
Corniglia’s charm is particularly appealing to hiking enthusiasts and nature aficionados. A must-visit spot for catching the sunset is the terrace and bar called La Terza Terra, situated at the terminus of the main street, where the sweeping views provide one of the finest sunset experiences in all of Cinque Terre.Read more about Corniglia
Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre, is conveniently located just a brief two-minute train ride away from Manarola. The village gracefully ascends along the coastal ridges, offering captivating vistas of the sea. Its distinct character is characterized by traditional stone houses adorned with colourful facades and slate roofs. A leisurely stroll down the main thoroughfare, Via Colombo, guides you towards the seafront. Here, a charming small harbour, the marina, unfolds, embraced by delightful pastel-hued houses and an array of vibrantly painted fishing boats. Adjacent to the boat docking area lies a pebble beach, adding to the picturesque allure of the harbour.
Riomaggiore claims its title as the prime spot for capturing the quintessential Cinque Terre sunset. As the sun gently descends, a gathering of individuals congregates on the rocky shores by the harbour, creating an enchanting scene. Moreover, the village boasts a modest nightlife scene, complete with numerous restaurants and bars that remain open until the early hours, extending until 1 am.Read more about Riomaggiore
Perched atop a lofty rock 70 meters above sea level, Manarola stands as one of the most enchanting and romantically imbued villages in the Cinque Terre. The petite harbour, adorned with a dainty boat ramp, a charming piazza, and an array of picturesque multicoloured houses gazing towards the sea, exudes a captivating allure.
Indulge in a delectable lunch experience at one of the inviting fish restaurants nestled in the quaint square adjacent to the harbour. The harbour vicinity is bedecked with vibrant rowing boats, serving as a hub for sunbathing and swimming from dawn to dusk. Indeed, it is the ideal haven to spend a leisurely day basking under the sun’s embrace, all while relishing the spectacle of daring individuals diving off the cliffs. Despite the absence of a traditional beach, Manarola offers some of the region’s finest deep-water swimming opportunities.
The primary road meanders along the waterfront, revealing a scene where boats are hauled ashore whenever the sea becomes tumultuous. The village’s topography is an intricate interplay of ascents and descents, with narrow alleys known as “carrugi” leading the way towards the shoreline.Read more about Manarola
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