In Cinque Terre, ‘paradise’ is perhaps the best descriptor. Not only are there golden beaches, and glistening crystal clear waters, but there is also a rich culture to be found in the region itself. Until a few years ago, the region was not that popular among tourists. And maybe today you still can qualify Cinque Terre as a hidden gem in Italy. Although the region has grown to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. And we can understand why that is.
What is Cinque Terre Famous For? The beautiful coastline, lovely beaches, colorful houses that are built in the cliffs, great hiking trails, stunning nature, and typical Italian cuisine and hospitality. Together these factors are making the region Cinque Terre one of the most popular regions in Italy.
Cinque Terre actually consists out of five villages along the coastline;
- Monterosso al Mare
Every village has its own identity and unique things to visit. We compiled a list of every village, what to see and to do. The Best Hiking Trails in Cinque Terre. The best way to reach this region, and the best places to stay during your visit to Cinque Terre.
Which is the Prettiest Town in Cinque Terre?
This is all about opinions. There’s not one town prettier than another. There are so many factors that rank a town ‘the prettiest’ and they are not that objectively. It just depends on what you’re looking for and what kind of traveler you are. Fortunately, the region Cinque Terre offers a bit of everything for every traveler. The whole region is beautiful, so let’s see what are the unique things you can find in each city in Cinque Terre.
Monterosso al Mare
Looking for the ultimate beach stay? Monterosso is the place you want to go to. It’s actually the biggest of the five villages. And the old town is absolutely worth a visit if you’re interested in history and beautiful coastline views.
With six private beaches, and several beach bars and restaurants, Monterosso is the best place for a relaxing beach day. Fegina Beach is the place where you want to spend your beach day. And when you are a beach lover that prefer sandy beaches Monterosso is the perfect stay for you! It’s the only village in Cinque Terre where you’ll find sandy beaches. In the other villages, you’ll only find pebbly beaches.
Monterosso has an old and new town, which are separated by a pedestrian tunnel through the San Cristoforo hill. Walking around the old town you’ll feel like you walk back in time. You’ll find small windy streets and the pastel-colored houses which makes Cinque Terre so famous among travelers.
Cultural Sights in Monterosso
There’s much more to see in Monterosso. Several cultural sights making of Monterosso one of the well known and most famous village in Cinque Terre.
San Cristoforo Hill Hiking up the San Cristoforo hill will give you one of the best views in the region. And you’ll see the remains of the Watchtowers and City Wall which were built in the 16th century to keep Monterosso safe from Pirates.
Neptune The God of The Sea Also referred to as The Giant. You’ll find this statue between Fegina Beach and the small harbor. The statue was built as decoration for an old villa. It actually became the symbol of Monterosso. Nowadays it’s more a ruin than the statue it used to be. They’re working on the restoration of the statue, but that takes a long time.
Aurora Tower is another historical building in Monterosso. It’s actually one of the watchtowers that still in good shape. It was built around the year 1000 the fight back from Pirate attacks. The building is still in very good condition.
Nowadays it serves as a restaurant and cocktail bar. Great place to enjoy the beautiful views of the sea.
This is probably the village you have in mind while thinking about Cinque Terre. It’s one of the most photographed villages in the Region. Do you still have no clue what we are talking about? The colorful houses, a small harbor and, on top of a hill an old castle. It captures the Cinque Terre uniqueness in one photo.
Belfort Tower is the symbol of this village. It was built in the 11th century to protect the coastline.
Vernazza is a village well known by hiking enthusiasts. Around the village, you’ll find several hiking trails. Some very easy for access for everyone and some of them more suitable for the experienced hiker. Either way, all the trails will give you a perfect view of the coastline and this beautiful city.
Actually the first of five villages you’ll cross when traveling from North to South. The first settlement in Riomaggiore dates back from the 8th Century. But the beautiful town as we know it now was built in the 13th Century. Riomagiorre is known for its lovely wines and tasteful olive oil. And of course for its amazing views and great hiking trails.
The castle of Riomaggiore is one of the most important buildings in Cinque Terre. Built in the 13th Century, to strengthen to defense along the coastline. The castle is still in use, but mainly as an event center for weddings and conferences. It’s easy to visit the castle and once on top you’ll have amazing views along the coastline.
Riomaggiore is not only famous for its wines and olive oil, but also for the amazing cuisine. Originally the Cinque Terre villages are fisherman villages, so no wonder that you’ll find a lot of fish dishes on the different menus. A local delicacy is anchovies when you’re a fan of the small fish you’re in heaven in Riomaggiore. Every restaurant has its own way of preparing the Anchovies, so make sure you try some tasting!
Other famous dishes you’ll find here are Pasta alla Genovese a green basil sauce mixed with different cheeses (Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheese), garlic and pine nuts. Focaccia is plain flatbread that is typical for this region. It’s served with almost every dish and comes in many different combinations.
Among that lovely dinner make sure you try some of the local wines. Riomaggiore is famous for its dry white wines, and with over 26 different producers there’s a lot to choose from!
The village Manorola is only 500 meters away from Riomagiorre. Many people consider the two villages as one. The two villages are connected by Via dell’Amore (love street). This is a footpath carved into the rocks above the sea. Because of the views, it’s considered the most romantic footpath in this region. Unfortunately, the footpath is closed at this time for renovations. It’s expected to open again in 2021.
It’s great to walk around the village of Manarola. The narrow streets and difference in height, you don’t know what to expect every other corner. It’s a surprise every time! Make sure that you visit the Church of San Lorenzo in this village. The church is built in 1338 and actually the biggest eye catcher in town.
The oldest of the five villages and the only village that’s not directly on the sea. Corniglia is a small village on the top of a cape, 100 meters above sea level. The village is surrounded by vineyards. A little slice of heaven that’s a bit hard to reach.
To reach the village you need to walk up 382 steps on Lardarina a though climb which is worth it considering the amazing views you’ll get along the hike. It’s also possible to take a bus from the train station up to the village.
There are several cultural sites you want to visit in Corniglia. Church of St. Peter which dates back from the 14th Century. The church is located on the main square of the village. Saint Mary’s Terrace is a panoramic viewpoint where you can find the best views of Cinque Terre. You can even see the other villages from this point.
Beaches of Corniglia
Many people claim that there are no beaches to be found in Corniglia. And of course not directly in the village, but when you up for a bit of an adventure and want to walk down 100 meters, there’s is much beauty to find!
Guvano Beach definitely a stop for the adventurous traveler. Not without risks though. The beach used to be accessible via an old railway tunnel. But since 2016 this tunnel is closed because it was not safe anymore. There was also another hiking track that could lead to this beach, but they also closed it down. There’s danger of landslides along this track, so better not to walk here. Is there any way to visit Guvano Beach? Fortunately, you can rent a kayak in Monterosso from where you can join a tour and visit Guvano Beach.
Spiaggione is a beach almost next to the train station of Corniglia. You have to walk down many steps to reach it, but the beach is way more accessible then Guvana Beach. Spiaggione is not hard to reach during high tide, the walking path can be closed off then. Swimming in the sea at this point is only recommended for the more experienced swimmers because the currents can be a bit dangerous.
How to get to Cinque Terre
Probably the most popular way to reach Cinque Terre is by train. To reach Cinque Terre by train you’ll need to catch a train to La Spezia first. From there you can hop on the local train which stops at every village of Cinque Terre.
Italy has a good railway network and it’s easy to catch a train from the biggest cities to La Spezia. However, it can take up a few hours before you reach the destination.
Another way to reach Cinque Terre is by car. It’s a beautiful road to drive, but the biggest limitation is that there are almost no parking facilities around Cinque Terre. But when you’re traveling around Italy with a car (which we highly recommend to do!), we advise you to stop in La Spezia and find a parking place. From there just hop on the local train, which is the most convenient.
The local train stops at every village of Cinque Terre and runs 4 times an hour in each direction. It’s recommended to buy a Cinque Terre card before you hop on the train. With this card, you have unlimited access for the train rides, you can use the buses between the villages and you can enter all the different trekking trails in the region.
The Best Hiking Trails in Cinque Terre
Hiking along the coastline of Cinque Terre used to be the best way to get around the region. But since heavy landslides in 2012 many hiking trails became dangerous and got closed for safety reasons. The government is working hard to rebuild the hiking trails and many of them are expected to be reopened in 2021.
Until then it is recommended to go around Cinque Terre by train and stop at each village. In each village, you can find shorter hiking trails which are still safe for everyone depending on your skill level. The full list of hiking trails with skill level, hiking duration and most up to date version of conditions is to find on the Cinque Terre National Parks website.
Best Things to do in Cinque Terre
We covered hiking, go around the cities by train and tell you about the prettiest things in each village. But there’s much more to do in the Cinque Terre region then wandering around. Some things will give you a different perspective of Cinque Terre while with other things to do you even learn more about the region.
What do you think of a Sunset Cruise along the Cinque Terre coastline? There are different tours departing each day from Monterosso for a duration of around three hours. You will be able to swim, see a beautiful sunset and maybe spot some dolphins along the ride!
Looking to be a bit more adventurous, getting closer to shore and maybe closer to the dolphins? Consider renting a kayak! With a local guide, you’ll kayak along the coastline and visit some hidden caves en remote beaches as well.
Not looking to go in the water and rather to stay at the shore? Not a problem! Exploring Cinque Terre as a local would be an awesome thing to do. And what better way to do just that, then with a local guide? Many locals offering tours around the villages with the opportunity to try the local cuisine and wines, a must do experience!
Best Time to Go to Cinque Terre
Actually all year round you can visit the Cinque Terre region because there is always something to do. However, the best time to visit this region would be in during the spring and end of summer. The weather conditions are most favorable in this period. During the winter and fall, it can be cold and there can be much rainfall, which makes the region a bit harder to access.
When you visiting the region in the middle of the summer it can be very hot and, it will be extremely busy as well. If you visiting the region in the rainy periods from October – March, make sure to always check the weather forecast beforehand. When it is raining a lot, there’s not much to do in the region. So maybe it’s better to go another time and spend your time somewhere else in Italy.
What are the best places to stay in Cinque Terre? In every village, you’ll find quality accommodations. Monterosso al Mare offers the most different accommodations, mainly because it is the biggest village in the region.
Is the Cinque Terre Card worth it? The Cinque Terre card gives you unlimited access to the local train between the villages and the different hiking trails. It’s definitely worth it to buy this card when visiting Cinque Terre.