Cinque Terre is located along the Italian Riviera. It is made up of five fishing villages where multi-coloured houses are built within the jagged cliff faces. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and has quickly become one of the most bucket-list worthy places in Italy due to its spectacular coastal scenery and picturesque towns. Here is a guide to Cinque Terre including the best things to do, eat and experience.
The Five Towns:
Vernazza is by far my favourite town. It’s relatively small but has oodles of rustic charm with a few boats in the marina, lots of authentic Italian eateries and plenty of cobbled back streets to get lost in.
Riomaggiore is the first of the villages that make up the five towns of Cinque Terre. The best photo opportunity is to be had at the foot of the valley with a perfect view of the harbour in the foreground and multi-coloured houses built into the rocks in the background.
Manarola is probably the most picturesque of the towns. It’s where the famous hiking trail Via dell’Amore commences which is the most walked of all the trails due to its ease and scenic views.
Corniglia is the only village that isn’t directly on the coast; it’s set amongst rolling hills and vineyards making it the most verdant one (image via incinqueterre.com).
Monterosso is the only village with a proper beach therefore it entices a lot of visitors who want to swim in the glistening sea and sunbathe on the long, sandy beach. However, being the biggest town, there is a lot more to keep you occupied than just the sea.
What to Do:
The main thing to do in Cinque Terre is to explore the five aforementioned towns. The charm of Cinque Terre lies in getting lost down the back streets, seeking out authentic Italian haunts and watching the locals go about their daily routine.
Hiking makes up a big part of exploring Cinque Terre. You can hike between all five of the towns although some of the trails are pretty tough but the phenomenal views make it all worthwhile. My personal favourite is from Vernazza to Monterosso as the views over the town of Vernazza are breathtaking particularly at sunrise and sunset.
Another way to get around the fishing ports is to take a boat trip between them. You can either hop on one of the larger ferries or one of the privately owned boats (which are a little pricier) but either way it’s a great way to view the coast and the harbour from a different perspective.
Watch the sunset
The sunsets that you’ll see in Cinque Terre will take your breath away. The sky ignites with vibrant hues of pinks, purples and oranges and spectacular cloud formations fill the colourful sky. I would recommend sitting on the rocks by the marina and watching the sun slowly sink into the horizon over a pesto pizza and a beer or two.
What to Eat:
Trofie pasta with pesto
The hometown of pesto is Cinque Terre’s neighbouring Genoa so you can guarantee that anywhere along the Ligurian coast you’ll find the freshest, tastiest pesto you’ve ever tried in your life. Trust me you cannot leave without consuming a considerable number of bowlfuls of this dish.
The best way to tackle the summer heat is by eating gelato followed by gelato to cool yourself down and keep your energy levels high. The most authentic gelateria I found was Gelateria Vernazza made with all natural and organic ingredients.
The tomatoes in Italy are so sweet and ripe that they make the most divine bruschetta. Toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic, generously topped with vine tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil and cracked sea salt to taste makes the perfect light lunch in between hikes.
Where to Stay:
The Porto Roca hotel is the only luxury hotel in Cinque Terre and therefore tends to get fully booked very quickly. It’s no wonder as it really is one the most beautiful locations for a hotel you could imagine, located on the sheer cliff face of Monterosso overlooking the vast Mediterranean sea, it spoils guests with endless breathtaking views.
There are plenty of privately owned hotels and guest houses in each of the towns. I would personally recommend staying in Vernazza or Manarola as they are two of the prettiest villages in my opinion and make a great base for hiking to the others.
There are some great Airbnb apartments in the area especially around la Spezia which has a train station which is interlinked to all of the towns therefore making it easy to get around by train.
Photography and words by Faye Bullock