Five villages root on the seaside, their colorful houses, their narrow streets and their creeks to swim, this is the definition of the Cinque Terre (which meaning “Five Lands”). These villages offer dreamlike landscapes as well from the land and from the sea.
Cinque Terre geography
The Cinque Terre are composed of five villages in the North of Italy, in Liguria, between Genoa and Pisa: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These villages are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. There are located along the sea and accessible by foot, by car, boat or train.
The means of transport
The car is often the symbol of freedom and autonomous. My first instinct to visit a region is to rent a car. This is the choice I make to discover the Cinque Terre. Honestly, I regretted it later. The roads to access the villages are narrow and winding. It gets harder when a car comes from the opposite direction. The journey between the villages are long and once arrived, it’s complicated to find a car park. I drove the car the first day, and then I gave up and chose the train instead.
The train is the easiest and quickest mean of transport. Every 30 minutes, a train leaves Levanto to La Spieza. From La Spieza to Monterosso (the furthest village), it takes 25min by train. The Cinque Terre Card Train offers several rates (from 1 to 3 days) with an unlimited journey, and much more other advantages (see The hike). The train stations are close to the city center and accessible by foot.
To reach a village, you can choose to hike. The landscapes are beautiful and most of the time, you will have a view of the village you leave and/or reach. However, a good physical condition is required. The trails are not difficult but steep and stony sometimes. Some of the trails are closed due to bad weather in 2011 and for those which are opened, you have to pay to access to them. You can access to them thanks to the Cinque Terre Card. This card guarantees you the Wifi and free access to the toilettes in the train stations too.
The boat is the transport which assures you a breathtaking view of the villages. There is just one village which is not accessible by the sea, Corniglia. The others, if you are patient enough because the travels are long, are accessible from La Spieza. The boats leave also regularly La Spieza but are less frequent than the train.
The simplest is to find accommodation in La Spieza. This little city is the entrance of the Cinque Terre. From there, you can access the five villages by train or boat. If you already choose your mean of transport, I advise you to find accommodation near to the train station or the harbor. All kind of accommodation is available: Airbnb, hostels, etc.
It is also possible to stay in one the five villages. You will find many AirBnB but there are expensive. Moreover, during the night, the villages are very quiet.
The Cinque Terre villages
Monterosso is the most touristic village of the five. There is the only sand beach of the five villages. Thus, this village is the most visited. There are small streets, colorful houses, and unique churches. Take your time to walk around the old city center and discover the beauties of this village.
Vernazza is a magnificent harbor. The harbor place is full of nice restaurants to have a drink or eat. If you wish to eat breakfast or have a diner, the restaurants in the village are cheaper. To have a panoramic view of the village, you have to climb a tower.
Vernazza has one main street, but the alleys worth to be seen too. I advise you to get lost in these narrow streets during your tour of the village.
Corniglia is probably the smallest village. Yet, it’s also the village I liked the most. All the narrow streets and the small squares to discover! However, to access this village from the train station, you have to climb 380 steps. Yes, it’s not so easy but it worth it! Once you’re up, you will enjoy the panoramic views everywhere in the village.
From Corniglia, you can walk and reach Vernazza. The hike is easy (it’s impossible to get lost and there is no technical difficulty), however, you need a good physical condition and lots of water. I also advise you to chose this direction because you will go down more often.
Manarola is famous for its Christmas crib. All the year, you can admire a Christmas crib even if it’s not the famous one. You can visit this village very quickly; once you climb the main street, you will have a nice view of the sea and the village.
Riomagiorre may be the most famous village of the Cinque Terre. There is one pebble beach, a perfect spot to swim and/or to sunbathe. If you are courageous, you can climb until the cemetery and admire the panoramic view. The cemetery is also unusual and deserves to visit too.
The Cinque Terre is an easy and unusual destination. These fives villages are beautiful and their colorful houses offer a magic contrast between the village and nature all around. You can visit all the villages in 3-4 days, even 5 days if you want to take your time. During my trip, I also visited Pisa, but if you can also visit Genoa if you prefer.
And you, what was your favorite village? Let’s vote!