What to see in Cinque Terre: a beginner’s guide

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Early morning in Monterosso

There is so much to see in Cinque Terre that you will never want to leave. Literally called "five Lands", these five small villages situated on the western coast of Italy are part of the National Park of Cinque Terre and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The five towns are located on the hills just in front of the sea. They are way too picturesque and beautiful to be missed. From North to South, you will find them along the way: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. From hiking to swimming, from sightseeing to eating local specialties, you will find in this post everything you need to know.

It's easy to plan your trip in one of the most beautiful area of Italy. But first, be sure to consult our Travel Planning page.

How to get there

Even though Cinque Terre are located upon the hills of the magnificent Ligurian east coast, they are easy to reach. Until the 1960s, they were reachable only by boat or by walking. Then the progress arrived and the whole world discovered their beauty.

There are three main ways to get there:

  1. By train: this is the best solution. Trains run frequently from different stations in Liguria. La Spezia is the biggest station in that area, so it's a good idea to leave from there: you can reach the furthest town, Monterosso, in 25'. If you are staying in Genoa, you can leave from one of the two the main stations (Genova Piazza Principe or Genova Brignole) and get there in about 1 hour and a half. Refer to Trenitalia website for the timetables.
  2. By car: if you would like to go there by car, you better leave it before entering the National Park. You can leave it in one of the parking in La Spezia and then catch a train. If you really want to drive from a town to another, the view can be really amazing but be aware that it's almost impossible to find some parking.
  3. By Boat: what to see in Cinque Terre if not the beautiful Mediterranean sea? You can jump on a boat from Genoa (from the Old Port, check this website) or even better from La Spezia. Check out this website for prices and timetables.

How to move around

Moving around between these five towns is easy and cheap. Again, there are three ways:

Train

All the villages are reachable from each stations in there. We suggest you to buy your tickets and start your trip in Monterosso, ending in Riomaggiore. Again, check Trenitalia website for timetables and tickets. Usually there are trains every 15-30', and it takes just 3-5' minutes from one town to another. There is a special ticket called Cinque Terre Card, that will make you save some money and your life easier.

Boat

Moving within the Cinque Terre by boat will be so romantic! Of course the prices are higher, but if it is once in a lifetime, why not? The perspective will be completely different from the sea. This website will help you to plan the tour.

Hiking

vineyards and monterosso, hiking trail
hiking trail and vineyards in Monterosso

Hiking through the vineyards upon the hills is something you should really do. Walking between all the five towns can be challenging, and it's actually quite hard to do in just one day: it's 12km from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. So, you can hike just a part of the trial and then catch a train. The most scenic part is from Monterosso to Vernazza: 2 hours up and down on the green hills, with vineyards on one side and awesome blue sea on the other. Bring some proper shoes and a bottle of water and enjoy the wonderful view!

When to go

Every season is good for paying a visit to Cinque Terre. However, you most probably want to go there either in spring or summer. Let us explain this to you.

  • Spring: from March to June, the days are getting longer and the weather should be really fine. Not too cold, not too hot, so it's the best time for hiking. There are less tourists than in the summer, so you'll have the towns almost all for yourself. On the other side, would be difficult to swim since the water is quite cold, and it could be raining on some days.
  • From late June to late September the weather is hot and you can swim in the blue waters. The bad news? The prices are getting higher and there are a lot of tourists, the trains are quite crowded. Our suggestion is to try to avoid August: July and September are less crowded and equally beautiful!

Check this table in order to discover the temperatures and the days of rain during the year in Cinque Terre.

What to see in Cinque Terre

Depending on how much time you have, you should really try to visit all of them. A 2-day trip is the best option: sleeping in one of these towns is an amazing experience.

DON'T YOU KNOW WHERE TO SLEEP? CHECK OUR TRAVEL RESOURCES PAGE!

Our itinerary starts from the north and ends in the South.

Monterosso

What to visit in Cinque Terre? This coloured houses are beautiful
Characteristically coloured houses

It is the first town you will meet coming from the northwest of Italy, and definitely the largest. It has the longest beach among Cinque Terre, some parts are private and some are free. While it can be defined as the "less photogenic one", Monterosso has some interesting spots.

The old historical center is characterized by the typical narrow carruggi (dialectal word for alleyways) with its brightly coloured fishermen's houses. The remains of the medieval fortifications, once used to protect the area from pirate attacks, dominate the landscape: on a cliff above the sea, the Torre Aurora was serving this purpose.

Close to the train station you will find the beautiful Church of San Giovanni Battista with its stunning white and green facade.

If you are tired of these historical sightseeing, here is what you have to do: buy a piece of focaccia at a local bakery and go to the beach. Enjoy your laziness here, the water is absolutely blue and clean.

Vernazza

Vernazza
Vernazza

We definitely have a thing for Vernazza. As written before, we suggest you to get here hiking from Monterosso. The path is about 2-hour long and it is not too hard. The colours, smells and views of this trail are just awesome, and you won't find anything similar in the whole world.

Vernazza is a coloured fishermen's village, with three main things to see.

  • The Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia, built in 1318, with an octagonal stunning bell tower. It's is located in the town's main square Piazza Marconi and it dominates the landscape.
  • Doria Castle, built in the 15th century as a lookout tower to protect the village from pirates. Doria is the name of an old and extremely wealthy Genoese family who played a major role in the history of the Republic of Genoa.
  • The beach, that is not really a "proper" beach, is five minutes away from Piazza Marconi. Shelded by the harbour, it's small, rocky and cozy. The best thing about it? It's possible to swim in there even during coastal storm, since the harbour works as a defence.

Corniglia

View of Cinque Terre
View of Cinque Terre

Corniglia might be the least famous of the Cinque Terre, since it is not directly adjacent to the sea. This small town is on top of a promontory surrounded by vineyards and terraces, and not so close to the related train station. There are three ways to reach it:

  • climbing the Lardarina, a kind of staircase with its 328 steps;
  • walking on a vehicular road that, from the station, leads to the village;
  • trying to catch a small bus, that regularly runs at least during summer. It connects the train station to the center.

As always, the main characteristics of this town is the narrow roads, filled with small coloured houses. So take your camera and go explore them! Corniglia has a beautiful, exclusive panoramic point: a terrace from which all other villages can be seen. Astonishing! Definitely a must see in Cinque Terre.

Manarola

Manarola, Cinque Terre
Manarola

It's one of the most photogenic towns in Liguria. So beautiful that you will find yourself taking thousands of pictures from every possible angle.

Manarola may be the oldest of these five towns: the local church of San Lorenzo is dating from 1338. Throughout the history, the traditional industries of this town never changed. Fishing and wine-making are the motors of the local economy. Fish and wine, what else do you need? The local wine is called Sciacchetrà and it's especially renowned, famouse in the world. It's a strong, sexy and sweet wine. Of course, quite expensive.

A visit in Cinque Terre can be as sweet as sugar. Add some romanticism to your holiday and include in your schedule the famous walking trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore, called Via dell'Amore, literally "Love's Trail".

In Manarola it is also possible to check out some hiking trails in the hills and vineyards above the town. There are no beaches in the town, so here you have the solution. Stay until the sunset, grab a glass of local wine, and enjoy the pleasure of being alive.

Riomaggiore

View of Riomaggiore from the rocks
View of Riomaggiore from the rocks

Well, we said that we have a thing for Vernazza. Ehm...We also have a thing for Riomaggiore. The truth is, this place is just too beautiful. With red, pink, yellow and orange houses facing the sea, everyone falls in love with this town.

What to do here? There is a small beach, so you can enjoy swimming. And we suggest you to hang around. Lose yourself in the alleyways of the small old center, go to Via Colombo and check the restaurants and bars. Riomaggiore is the best place for an authentic Italian aperitivo.

What to eat

What is a visit in Cinque Terre if not a culinary trip? It's Italy and you know, the cuisine in Italy is always and everywhere awesome. We love eating local food, so here is a short list of what you need to try. Just one thing: the entire area is quite expensive, so try to save some money for your lunches and enjoy a proper dinner in a restaurant.

  • Pesto: the world-famous green sauce, made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and parmesan. It's actually coming from Genoa, but they know how to do it there. Plus, nowadays it looks like pesto became something typical for the entire region of Liguria.
  • Focaccia: as per above. Typical for Genoa, this snack can easily become a lunch. Try the traditional type with salt and olive oil, before pampering yourself with the other kinds: with cherry tomatoes, cheese, olives and so on.
  • Seafood: you just can't leave Cinque Terre without trying the local seafood. You will find mainly delicious anchovies, squids and shrimps. Some small shops serve a mix of them, deep fried, directly in the streets. Don't miss it!
  • Pasta: with pesto or fresh tomatoes, with seafood or shellfishes, Italy is the homeland of pasta and these five towns are not an exception.

We hope these tips will convince you to pack your bags and visit Cinque Terre!

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