Cinque Terre is a collection of five charming coastal villages on the Italian Riviera, known for their brightly painted houses, stunning sea views, and excellent hiking opportunities. Visitors can enjoy delicious local food and wine while exploring each village's unique character, from narrow streets and picturesque squares to bustling harbors. Cinque Terre's authentic Italian culture and laid-back way of life make it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the beauty of Italy's coastline and immerse themselves in its rich traditions.
The cities are easily accessible by trains that connect the small towns but are also linked by a cliffside hiking trail that offers scenic views along the rugged coastline. The hike takes approximately 4 hours but gets substantially busier by early afternoon. Bring water with you and be sure to wear comfortable hiking shoes as parts of the trail are very steep. There are wineries that dot several portions of the trail to stop and enjoy a refreshing glass or two during the hike!
Monterosso al Mare
This is the largest of the five towns and has a long, sandy beach, which is rare for this rocky coastline. Monterosso al Mare is also known for its beautiful pastel-colored buildings and charming streets lined with shops and restaurants. Monterosso offers some of the best beaches in the area to relax and sunbathe.
Vernazza is often considered the most picturesque of the five towns. It has a small harbor that is lined with brightly colored buildings and a lovely square where locals and visitors gather to enjoy the views and socialize. Vernazza is also home to a castle, a beautiful church, and numerous cliffside cafés. This was the city that I rented a small Air Bnb in and spent most evenings at the cliffside restaurants sipping aperol spritz and watching the sunsets! One of the best restaurants in Vernazza with a view is Ristorante Belforte.
Located on a cliff overlooking the sea, Ristorante Belforte offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Vernazza and the Ligurian coast. The restaurant serves a variety of seafood dishes as well as traditional Italian cuisine and has an extensive wine list. The terrace seating area is particularly popular for its amazing view and is perfect for a romantic dinner or a special occasion.
Corniglia is the only one of the five towns that is not directly on the coast, but rather perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea. This gives it a unique charm and provides stunning panoramic views of the coastline. Corniglia is also known for its narrow, winding streets and charming architecture.
Manarola is perhaps the most romantic of the five towns, with its colorful buildings perched on a rocky hillside overlooking the sea. It has a small harbor that is popular for swimming and diving, and the town is known for its excellent seafood restaurants.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost of the five towns and is known for its steep, narrow streets and colorful houses. It has a small harbor where fishermen still bring in their daily catch, and visitors can enjoy a stroll along the seafront or hike up to the castle for breathtaking views. In Riomaggiore don’t miss taking a water cruise to see all of the towns from a different angle and take a dip in the clear waters!
Cinque Terre is connected by a regional train line that runs along the coast and stops in each of the five towns. The trains are operated by Trenitalia, the national railway company of Italy. The train schedule varies depending on the time of year and day, but generally, trains run every 30 minutes to an hour between each of the five towns. During peak season, there are often additional trains added to accommodate the higher number of visitors.
The first train of the day typically runs around 6:00-7:00 am and the last train of the day departs around 11:00 pm, although these times can vary slightly depending on the town and time of year. It's always a good idea to check the train schedule beforehand to ensure you don't miss the last train back to your accommodation!
To ride the trains, you'll need to purchase a Cinque Terre Train Card or a Trenitalia ticket. The Cinque Terre Train Card is a multi-use pass that allows unlimited travel on the regional trains between La Spezia and Levanto, including stops in all five towns. The card also includes access to the hiking trails and Wi-Fi at the train stations. There are different options for the card depending on the duration of your stay and your desired level of access.
Alternatively, you can purchase Trenitalia tickets for individual journeys between each town. These tickets can be purchased at the train station or online through the Trenitalia website or app. However, keep in mind that individual tickets can be more expensive than the Cinque Terre Train Card, especially if you plan to make multiple journeys in one day.
The train is the most convenient and efficient way to travel between the towns of Cinque Terre, and with a little planning, it's easy to navigate and enjoy the stunning coastal scenery along the way!
Overall, Cinque Terre is an excellent destination for tourists this summer because it offers a unique combination of natural beauty, outdoor activities, delicious food, and cultural experiences.