The Exquisite Cinque Terre Villages
The Cinque Terre Villages in Italy are amongst those travel destinations that induces 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.
The Cinque Terre Villages 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.
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 is difficult to reach the villages by car because the roads are precariously narrow through the mountains. Boats, trains and walking paths connect the Villages.
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.
The little path that winds down
along the slope plunges through cane-tufts
and opens suddenly into the orchard
among the moss-green trunks
of the lemon trees. […]
How to get to the Cinque Terre Villages
Trains to the Cinque Terre Villages leave from Rome, Venice and Florence to the Spezia Centrale train station which is the main hub for the towns. Some of these 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 best airport to get to the Cinque Terre villages is the International airport in Pisa. There is a trains 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 and most village centres are inaccessibly by car and some are car-free.
Best time to visit the Cinque Terre Villages
The Cinque Terre Villages 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).
Should I buy the Cinque Terre Card?
The Cinque Terre Card allows you access to all the hiking trails and trains within and around the Cinque Terre Villages. 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.
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 five Cinque Terre Villages
Riomaggiore is the first town you encounter coming from La Spezia 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 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 famous Via dell’amore that connects Riomaggiore to Manarola. The famous “Way of Love” is currently closed until 2022 due to a landslide. This jawdropping 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. It 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 pass on 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.
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 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 small fishing village of Vernazza is probably the most iconic of the Cinque Terre Villages and that means the busiest and most photographed. There is a large central square surrounded by beautifully coloured houses and its port 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 olives 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 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.
I think the Cinque Terre Villages are the most romantic in the world – do you?