In the past few years ‘Cinque Terre’ in Italy became one of the hottest summer destinations for travelers from all over the world. The unique scenery of the 5 towns (in Italian ‘cinque’ means five), combined with the quintessence of the Italian lifestyle, is definitely a marvelous attraction for people who are looking for spectacular landscapes while enjoying delicious food and admiring the iconic colorful houses! I am Italian and I promise it is for real one of the most incredible places to visit in my country! 🙂
Where are the ‘Cinque Terre’ located?
‘Cinque Terre’, which in Italian literally means ‘Five Lands/Villages’ are located in the North-West Italy, in Liguria region, by the Mediterranean Sea. The 5 small towns are:
- Monterosso al Mare
How to get to the ‘Cinque Terre’?
I personally drove from Turin (my native city, in the North) to ‘Cinque Terre’. If you decide to drive from another Italian city, you need to take ‘La Spezia’ exit and then go up and down the narrow mountain roads to get to each town.
Following the main road, you will find the towns in the same order I listed above.
Having a car is useful, but the better way to visit each city is definitely by train! Each train ride costs 4€, and it takes around 5 minutes from one town to the other, and maximum 15 minutes from the first village to the last one, whereas with the car it would take at least 1 hour!
On top of that, you cannot park in any town center, but you need to leave the car outside the main area and pay at least 20€ per day.
There is the possibility also to get a ferry that brings you to each town. It is a nice way also to see the towns from another perspective!
Check the timetable to plan the visit HERE.
What’s the best way to explore Cinque Terre?
As previously mentioned, the best way to explore Cinque Terre is surely by train. I firmly believe that you should spend at least 1 night and 2 days there (I personally stayed 2 nights and 3 days!).
Before describing each town, my personal highlights from my experience:
- Best hotels: Manarola and Monterosso
- Best place to enjoy the beach and the sea: Monterosso
- Most iconic restaurant: Nessun Dorma, Manarola
- Best seafood: Marina Piccola restaurant in Manarola
- Best sea view restaurant: Belforte Restaurant in Vernazza
- Towns to visit in one day: Corniglia and Riomaggiore
- Best photo spots: Manarola and Vernazza (must!)
- Best Gelato: Vernazza
- Best view point: Vernazza
- Biggest town: Monterosso
- Smallest town: Corniglia
- Typical food to try: Pasta with Pesto, Focaccia with cheese, any kind of Bruschetta and seafood!
- Wine to try: white wine is famous in this region. It’s called Vermentino (from Liguria, because Sardegna it’s another region!)
Le Cinque Terre
I recently went to Cinque Terre with a dear friend of mine and we spent one night in Manarola, where we had exquisite meals (probably the best among all towns!) and another night in Monterosso. In a full day we visited Corniglia, Vernazza and Riomaggiore, and spent one full day in Manarola and another one in Monterosso.
Following the geographic location of each town (East to West), here my comments and tips for you:
Riomaggiore is the first town you encounter when you visit Cinque Terre. It is nice to walk down the typical streets full of shops and colorful houses. We spent just an hour there, taking some pictures and walking around.
Everywhere in Cinque Terre you will find several products made with local lemons, like soaps and ‘Limoncino’ liquor.
(‘Limoncello’ is from the south of Italy, but the concept is similar!)
Manarola is surely my favorite town in Cinque Terre! It is small but so lovely!
The most iconic and famous restaurant is ‘Nessun Dorma’, perfect for lunch in my opinion! I loved the ‘bruschetta with stracciatella cheese’ and the ham+cheese platter, with a great Vermentino white wine from Liguria region! The restaurant opens at 12pm and they do NOT take any reservation. There is always a long queue indeed, so it is smart to go a bit earlier to get the best seats in order to enjoy the view over the town! The name of this restaurant is a tribute to one song of the Opera ‘Turandot’, by Giacomo Puccini. In fact, during our meal we had the pleasure of listening to Opera music, especially the ones singed by Luciano Pavarotti! A wonderful experience, I didn’t want to leave that place!
For dinner (but also for another delicious lunch!) I would highly recommend to go to ‘Marina Piccola’ restaurant, the one closest to the sea. The seafood is exceptional, especially the mussels!
At night there is not much going on, just few bars open and not till late.
My friend and I stayed for one night at Ca’ d’Andrean Hotel: it is relatively close to the center of Manarola, family owned, extremely clean and newly furnished. We had a great stay!
I will never forget the amount of stairs under the sun with 35°C to get to the city center! When we arrived at the Corniglia station, we walked for few minutes and in front of us we saw steps, steps and steps to get to the city which is located on top of the hill! Be aware!
The city itself is the smallest of Cinque Terre, surrounded by vineyards, and you can spend there literally not more than half an hour! There is a nice view point, few bars and shops.
Vernazza is one of the villages where you really need to spend some time to explore it. It has probably the most scenic view from above, among all towns and the village itself is so beautiful!
Walking down to the center you will find a small beach where you can spend the day (although I think if you would like to enjoy the sea and a real beach in Cinque Terre, the place to go is Monterosso, as it is also fully equipped).
In Vernazza you can hike for a while and get to outstanding spots where you can admire a breathtaking view above the city. It took ages to realize how to get there, but we made it! I shot this amazing picture there:
Walking few meters above this view point, we found a fabulous (and finally quiet!) bar/restaurant called ‘La Torre’, with a fantastic sea view! Highly recommended to hike around Vernazza!
Moreover, one thing you should definitely try is the local ‘bruschetta’! In Vernazza there is a place which makes different ones with several ingredients, so yummy!
#5. Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare, simply known as Monterosso, is the biggest of the 5 towns. It is indeed the only village which has a long beach and the only one not located on top of a cliff, surrounded by rocks. There are more restaurants, more shops and it is definitely more alive also in the evening compare to the others.
My friend and I stayed in a lovely and exquisite hotel called ‘Zia Letizia Bed&Wine’: it is beautifully newly decorated and it is managed by a family that also owns a “Enoteca” where you can taste great Italian wine and delicious food. They are incredibly welcoming and we hugely appreciated their kindness. I am so proud when Italians are so nice to foreigners! (As I am always with non-Italian people sometimes I feel a tourist as well in my own country! 🙂 )
I do not like going to the extremely crowed beaches so I skipped it in Monterosso, although it is great to spend a day by the sea. My friend and I had dinner in a restaurant with sea view, but the food was not very good so I prefer not to include it despite the view was lovely!
Hope this quick guide will be helpful!
And you… Are you lusting for the sublime?
Nice article. Especially liked the concise best of list.