5 Exquisite Cinque Terre villages and towns to visit
The five towns of Cinque Terre in Italy are amongst those picturesque travel destinations that induce rhapsodic verses of this magnificent area of the Italian Riviera. A land caught between the sea and mountains and absolutely one of the most strikingly romantic locations in the world.
Cinque Terre is a cluster of 5 villages situated along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. These charming towns, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are known for their scenic beauty and unique architecture that captures the essence of Italy’s coastal region. Each village has its own distinct personality but all share a common thread – incredible views of the Mediterranean Sea. Cinque Terre is a must-visit destination for travellers looking to experience authentic Italian culture while indulging in breathtaking natural landscapes.
The Cinque Terre Towns are composed of five villages (in Italian “cinque” means “five”) their names are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cinque Terre location
Cinque Terre, which means Five Lands, comprises the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the Italian region of Liguria.
The five villages of the Cinque Terre
- Monterosso al Mare
Over the centuries, the citizens of these Cinque Terre Villages have built terraces on this harsh rugged coastline right up to the cliffs that overlook the Ligurian Sea. It isn’t easy to reach the villages by car because the roads are precariously narrow through the mountains. Boats, trains and walking paths connect the Villages and hiking in the Cinque Terre is the best way to enjoy the region.
An inspiration to poets, painters and artists over the centuries the Cinque Terre Villages have inspired Dante, Pixar’s latest film, Luca, The Wolf of Wall Street and the Nobel Prize-winning poet Eugenio Montale.
How to get to the Villages of Cinque Terre Italy
Cinque Terre villages train
The train easily connects the towns of the Cinque Terre and you can get from one to another in a matter of minutes. However, hiking between the towns affords jaw-dropping views that are worth fitting into even a short Cinque Terre itinerary.
Trains to the 5 Cinque Terre Villages leave from Rome, Venice and Florence to the Spezia Centrale train station which is the main hub for the towns. Some trains only stop at one or two of the towns and others stop at all five so be sure to check which tickets you buy.
The International airport in Pisa is the best airport to get to the Cinque Terre villages. There is a train station in Pisa where you can catch a train for the Pisa-La Spezia-Genoa line which will bring you to the Cinque Terre Villages. You can also take a train from other destinations within Italy.
It is highly recommended that you do not attempt to drive the Cinque Terre most village centres are inaccessible by car and some are car-free.
Best time to visit the Cinque Terre Villages
When visiting Cinque Terre Italy the towns are often completely overwhelmed with tourists during the summer months so try to plan your visit for the early fall (September and October) or the spring (April and May).
How Long to spend in Cinque Terre
Deciding how many days to spend travelling the 5 towns of Cinque Terre will depend entirely on your chosen method of travel. Do you plan to do the Cinque Terre hiking trails? Or slow travel the Cinque Terre Coastline? Do you want to explore the Cinque Terre at your leisure and spend a few days in each of the five beautiful hillside villages?
Cinque Terre villages map
Should I buy the Cinque Terre Card?
The Cinque Terre Card gives you unlimited train travel on the La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto railway line and access to the two chargeable Cinque Terre trail paths from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia. If, for example, you do not plan to visit more than two villages in the day and do not go hiking, there is no point in purchasing the Cinque Terre Card. If you don’t buy the Cinque Terre Card you only pay for the train. A train ride costs € 4. If on the other hand, your program is to visit at least 2 villages and hike in one day then it is worth buying the card.
You can buy the Cinque Terre cards as you enter any of the trails or at one of the Cinque Terre train stations.
There are two types of cards:
– Cinque Terre Trekking Card (gives access to the trails)
– Cinque Terre Train Card (gives access to the trails + an unlimited number of train trips)
Cards are on sale at the National Park visitor centres in all Cinque Terre, La Spezia and Levanto stations. To avoid queues at the counters, we recommend that you buy the card online. Click here! The cards are only valid on the day of purchase until midnight, so not for 24 hours!
Cinque Terre Villages Trekking Card
The Cinque Terre Trekking Card allows you to:
– Access to all the hiking trails
– Use the park’s minibuses
– Reduced entry to the municipal museums of La Spezia
Only the coastal paths have a toll (trail Azzurro). You only need this hiking map for the following two trails: Monterosso – Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia. All other paths are free and you do not need a Trekking card.
It is not necessary to purchase the card in advance. At the entrance of each trail, there is a checkpoint where you have the option to buy it.
The card is personal. Before using it, write your name on the back.
Cinque Terre Villages Train Card
The Cinque Terre Train Card allows you to:
– Unlimited travel on regional trains on the La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto round trip in 2nd class
– Access to all hiking trails
– Use the Park minibuses
– Reduced entry to the municipal museums of La Spezia
Attention, Remember to validate your tickets in one of the terminals before your departure (green machines at the station and sometimes on the platforms).
The best towns in Cinque Terre
Taking the train from La Spezia, the first village you’ll reach is Riomaggiore and the one with the most dynamic nightlife. Riomaggiore is the best town in Cinque Terre for folks who are looking for a bigger livelier centre to stay in.
Riomaggiore is, often, the least expensive town to stay in of the Cinque Terre Villages. Riomaggiore is a rather steep village so if you have mobility issues this may not be the place for you.
Riomaggiore is a former fishing village. The most beautiful area of the village overlooks the small cove and port. The houses stacked up on the rock are so tightly packed you might think you are looking at a painting.
The village is said to have been founded in the 8th century by Greek refugees fleeing the persecution of Leone III Isaurico.
From Riomaggiore, you will find the famous Via dell Amore that connects Riomaggiore to Manarola. The famous “Way of Love” is currently closed until 2022 due to a landslide. This jaw-dropping 1 km trail is accessible and offers some absolutely incredible views of the sea it is perfect for those of us less inclined or able to hike a long and difficult trail.
Manarola is one of the most beautiful villages in Cinque Terre built next to a cliff that offers breathtaking views. In Manarola you will find the best view of the sunset from its hilltop viewpoint. Manarola is also famous for making its wine, Sciacchetrà, which has been celebrated for centuries.
The houses seem to cling to the cliffs and hang over the sea they descend to the port which is enclosed between two rocky outcrops. Don’t miss visiting the Church of San Lorenzo built in 1338 in Ligurian Gothic style and the defence tower.
Corniglia is located in the middle of the Cinque Terre. Perched on a rugged high cliff, it is the only town that does not have access to the sea. To get to the village you have to climb the Lardarina which is a steep slope of 377 steps. The houses in Corniglia are lower than most in the Cinque Terre Villages and they centre around the main street Via Fieschi. Don’t miss the gothic Baroque Church of San Pietro and the Oratory of Santa Caterina.
The Blue Trail that connects Vernazza to Corniglia is an enjoyable, 1.5-hour-long hike with incredible views.
If you are in the village in June you will be able to see the Medieval Festival and procession of the patron saint, San Pietro which will include the distribution to all in the square of the “Torta dei Fieschi” (Fieschi Cake) which commemorates the wedding between Opizzo Fiesco, Count of Lavagna, and Bianca dei Bianchi, an aristocrat from Siena, that took place in the year 1230.
The most popular Cinque Terre city is the small fishing village of Vernazza is probably the most iconic of the Cinque Terre Villages and that means the busiest and most photographed. A large central square is surrounded by beautifully coloured houses and its port is filled with fishing and leisure boats.
The town dates back to the XI century and its gorgeous streets with colourful houses are meant for wandering around and through.
The village is dominated by the Doria Castle and is well worth a visit along with the Church of Santa Margherita. This is one of the busiest villages and is chock full of restaurants and hotels it is perfect for that romantic trip for two.
Vernazza is dotted with defensive buildings, tower-houses, the Tower and the castle of the Doria, a symbol of the economic importance had in ‘antiquities and protected by the Genoese against the Saracens and the barbarian invasions.
The slopes of Vernazza are covered with olive trees, vines for the superb wine created here along with lemon trees and stunning gardens.
Monterosso is the biggest of the five villages of the Cinque Terre and it is the only one with a sandy beach and the only one not hanging on the rocky cliffs. The crystal clear waters are full of beautiful reefs and attract many Italian and international visitors.
There is still a charming old town centre but along the coast is more modern resort-style developments. The hiking trail connecting Monterosso with neighbouring Vernazza is one of the most popular stretches of the Blue Trail (the Sentiero Azzurro), and offers incredible views over the next village on the list
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
La Serra Sul Mare – Monterosso – This property is a 4-minute walk from the beach. La Serra Sul Mare is in Monterosso, 500 m from the historic centre. It offers air-conditioned rooms and free taxi service to the centre.
Boasting sea views, the rooms come with satellite TV, tea and coffee-making facilities and a minibar. Each one has a private bathroom and a balcony or patio.
Il Conventino delle Cinque Terre – Vernazza – A beautiful holiday home with 4 bedrooms this house is 50 metres from Vernazza Beach. This is a whole home rental with sea views and all the facilities you need to make this your home for as long as you need.
Affittacamere Arbasia De Ma, Terre Marine – Corniglia –
This property is a 3 minute walk from the beach. Arbasia De Ma offers basic, functional rooms in 2 buildings overlooking the sea, in the small Ligurian village of Corniglia. The train station is a 10-minute walk away, and the staff can pick you up if you arrive between 19:30 and 23:30. The rooms of Affittacamere Arbasia De Ma, Terre Marine offer views of the Ligurian Sea. The studio comes with an equipped kitchenette and a terrace.
Fiesse Cottage – Manarola – Boasting mountain views, Fiesse Cottage offers accommodation with a garden and a patio, around 1.6 km from Riomaggiore Beach. The holiday home includes 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom with a bidet and a shower, a seating area, and a kitchen with a fridge.
Scorci Di Mare – Riomaggiore – The property is a 3 minute walk from the beach. Case Vacanze Scorci Di Mare is a 14th-century building set in the Cinque Terre National Park, 50 m from Riomaggiore’s rocky coast. It offers sea-view rooms with satellite TV. It has been recently renovated with eco-friendly materials, the rooms feature modern furnishings, wood-beamed ceilings, and tiled floors. Some have a balcony and a fully equipped kitchenette.
The town centre, full of restaurants and bars, can be reached by climbing a flight of steps near the Scorci Di Mare. Hiking and mountain bike paths are also available in the park.
I think the Cinque Terre Villages are the most romantic in the world – do you?
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