The Cinque Terre lie on the most beautiful part of the Italian Riviera, the highly resonant French name referring to a number of five villages (“five lands”) which can be admired in the Liguria region of Italy. These highly remarkable fishing villages named Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore belong to the Cinque Terre National Park. Since 1997 they have been a Unesco World Heritage Site.
With most of the traffic being restricted inside the villages, the place is unique and a bit wild at the same time. Cars were even banned more than ten years ago, so the dramatic coastal view, the steep landscape and the lack of corporate structures make you wonder if you accidentally arrived in another era. Just sand, ocean, people, a few shops, churches, the seaside and that’s all…
What you need to know if you decide to go visiting
Basic trip organisation: First, remember that there is no way to book a room in Cinque Terre. That is because the region comprises five different villages and staying in only one of them is the best solution for holiday-makers. The closest airports in this case are the ones in Pisa, Genoa or Milan. The villages are average in size and they can be visited in 2 or 3 days by going hiking from one to the other, or much faster by train. These villages are so close to one another that it takes around from five minutes to twenty-five minutes to travel between them by train. In general, people prefer to come here in the summer.
The 5 Villages of Cinque Terre
If you come from La Spezia, the first village you will encounter is Riomaggiore, a very well-known location for its pleasant white wine. It has a main street called Via Colombo where you can enjoy your day relaxing at a restaurant, a bar or a shop. Its name comes from the biggest river “rivus major” which crosses the village. The main attraction here is the local building called “case torri” (tower houses). The Church of San Giovanni Battista is also worth visiting because it can give you a few peaceful moments away from the noisy crowds of people.
Another church is Oratorio di Santa Maria Assunta where you can admire the beautiful glass windows. If you’re an ocean fan, walking up to the Castello di Riomaggiore will be a marvelous experience for admiring the panoramic view. Here in Riomaggiore there are shops to buy souvenirs especially for friends and family. You can spend money on beautiful glass jewelry, ceramics, unique bags and trinkets. During the summer tourists can go diving and can rent a kayak for travelling.
Going north from Riomaggiore tourists get to the second village, Manarola. Its wonderful views are much appreciated and they are often immortalized in exquisite photos. History says that Manarola is the oldest of the five because the cornerstone of the church San Lorenzo dates back to the year 1338. People here make a living from wine-making and fishing. In the past few years, a famous walking path, Via dell’Amore, that is “Love’s Trail”, between Manarola and Riomaggiore has also become known among tourists. Due to the landslides which took place in 2011, the easier route was closed.
Now mountain lovers, who are fit enough and want to experience the stunning scenery, can take the hill trail walk provided that they have sports shoes, food and water. In Manarola tourists can also enjoy a relaxing boat cruise with Danielle, a knowledgeable guide who will tell you the story of Cinque Terre along the way. There are two tours to choose from, one in the morning and one at sunset. Other activities to choose from are at your own choice: sailing, fishing, cooking and wine tasting.
The smallest village, Corniglia, is situated on a hill, at 100 metres altitude being encircled by vineyards and terraces. From the railway station, an alternative for reaching up there would be to ascend around 400 steps on a long stairway built from brick.
The adventurer would choose the steps (Lardarina), while the more easy-going would certainly take a bus. After reaching at the top, you can relax and enjoy the magnificent view of Manarola. Here you can also recharge your batteries in a peaceful place, at a little church called San Pietro.
Having a church built on the water and being the most photogenic of all, Vernazza is a must visit point of attraction for worldwide guests. Here you can visit the Doria Castle, which is the remainder of a wall built by the locals to protect themselves against the pirates. Even though it is little, there is a myriad of places to eat and drink and have a rest while feeling the vibrant community and the ocean breeze.
It is also worth visiting the Chapel of Santa Marta and also the Belforte Tower which offers magnificent views of the entire area. The only recommended thing here is to wear your most comfortable trainers for steep hill walking while enjoying the stunning sceneries.
The westernmost of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is the biggest of all five. If you plan to hike from Monterosso to Vernazza note that this is a challenging walk which takes around three hours. It offers spectacular views, but you need to take special footwear, something to drink and to eat, too. It has the largest sand beach of all the five villages and is divided into two parts: a new part and an old part. Its reputation comes from the lemon trees, olives, grapes and white wine.
While in Monterosso, there are some other places which you might want to visit: the Church of San Francesco which contains some fine art, such as the Crucifixion painted by Anthony Van Dyck. Near the church there is the Capuchin Friars Monastery, which is a very old construction with a beautiful garden where the Friars live. The place is full of peaceful spirituality with a marvellous view over the seaside.
Beautiful beyond words, Cinque Terre is a gifted place where anyone can have a great holiday. Picturesque locations to reward your eyes, hard to walk trails to get your body fit, shops to buy souvenirs, churches to rest your soul and free your mind, clear waters to have a swim, restaurants and bars to explore the local wines and the delicious food.
Most of the first-time visitors leave with the thought of coming back again and staying even more days.
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