There is no shortage of rugged coastline and romantic villages along the Italian Riviera, but the five villages known as Cinque Terre are one of the most iconic highlights. A Unesco World Heritage site since 1997, the Cinque Terre are no longer the isolated fishing villages they once were, there’s still a feeling of remote authenticity, with the village feel preserved and, few roads, colourful architecture and a network of stunning coastal and mountain trails.
HOW LONG DO I NEED?
Allowing three to four days will give you enough time to visit all five villages, get to know the intricate twists and turns of the villages, and enjoy a couple of half-day hikes. If time is tight, even a single overnight stay will give you a bite size taste of each village. Each village is not more than 10 to 15 minutes by train between each other. You can easily do all of them in a day if you only want to visit the best photo spots in each village!
WHERE SHOULD I STAY?
The first thing to planning your Cinque Terre stay is to choose one of the villages as your home base. I would highly recommend Monterosso Al Mare as your home base. It is the biggest of the five villages where you will find the most choice in accomodation. I stayed at Manuel’s Guest House. It is hosted by Manuel and his son. They were extremely welcoming hosts and Manuel would make us his special home made fruit juice every morning!
Taken on the balcony of Manuel’s Guest House
In Vernazza there are only a few hotels to stay in but there are several B&Bs and private rooms for rent.
The smallest village is Corniglia, built far above the ocean on the cliffs. To arrive in Corniglia you will need to climb many steps to reach the center of town. If you have excessive luggage don’t stay here. However, if you want to stay somewhere quiet, this is the town for you.
BEST WAYS TO TRAVEL BETWEEN VILLAGES
We enjoyed spending hiking between the villages. Only two hiking trails are open when we went, Monterosso Al Mare to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia (the other hike trails are closed due to damages from rain and landslides). The two hikes will take around 2 hours each.
If the hikes are to much, you can also obtain a train day pass from one of the towns train stations and hike through the villages then take the train back in the afternoon.
There is an additional option of taking the ferry between villages which offers the added perspective of taking in the towns from the ocean and getting some picture perfect shots! Just note that the ferry obviously can’t stop at Corniglia.
THE 5 VILLAGES, FROM WEST TO EAST
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Monterosso is the biggest of the five towns and has the most amenities. Many hotels are situated in the newer part, Fegina. In the old town you will find many delicious seafood restaurants and nice shops. Monterosso has the only long and sandy beach in the area where you can rent chairs and umbrellas for the day. Make sure to get there early or book beforehand to get the best seat!
Lookout point between old and new town in Monterosso Al Mare
Taken on the footpath
Vernazza has a natural pier with an amphitheatre shape making it extremely photogenic! The tiny port is surrounded by colourful houses and the charming piazza is lined with good restaurants and bars.
Taken on the pier
Taken on the hiking trail between Monterosso Al Mare and Vernazza
Corniglia is located in the middle of the five towns. It is the only village which is not built directly on the sea but on a cliff 100 metres above sea level. Corniglia is probably the most authentic town of the five and with the least amount of tourists.
Taken on the hiking trail between Vernazza and Cornigilia
Manarola is the postcard shot that probably made you decide to come to Cinque Terre in the first place. It’s a beautiful shot because it shows the colourful houses spilling over the edge of the cliff.
Taken on the lookout point to Nessun Dorm
Taken at Nessun Dorma – enjoy the view and sip on some refreshing cocktails
Riomaggiore is a cascade of colourful houses all tightly clustered around a tiny natural harbour carved out in between the rocks.
Taken on the rocks – you will need to do a little climbing to get to this point