WHY VISIT CINQUE TERRE
Tony was going to be away one weekend in August and my cousin said to me ‘Why don’t you join me in Cinque Terre if he’s away’?
I thought to myself … historical UNESCO villages, acquamarine sea, sumptuous cuisine and wine. I’m in! So here we are.
Cinque Terre is also known as the Ligurian Riviera and comprises of five villages in north west Italy. The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The surroundings and Ligurian food combination are a delight for photographers, foodies and hikers.
As it was summer holidays in Europe, it was very hot when we were there and full of tourists in the villages and on the trains. A top tip is to visit in May – June or September – October when the heat is more manageable and less busy. During winter (i.e. December – March) many shops and restaurants can be closed. Here are our trip highlights.
HOW DO YOU GET THERE / GETTING AROUND
Fly from London Gatwick to Pisa International Airport. At the airport exit and turn right to find the Trenitalia booth where you can buy train tickets. They do charge €2 commission on top of the train ticket inside the airport. Alternatively you can buy your ticket when you arrive at the PisaMover platform. The PisaMover train will take you from Pisa International Airport to Pisa Central Station (€2.70). At Pisa Central Station, you can buy a one way ticket to Cinque Terre. Our ticket to Monterosso al Mare was €12.60 and the train journey took just under 2 hours. You can also fly into Genoa and take a train however prices can be a little higher for Genoa at the time that I checked.
While in Cinque Terre, you can hike between the 5 villages or take the train to see all five villages. Another travel option is to take take a public ferry from one village to another instead of paying for a sunset boat cruise if you wanted a cheaper way to travel. Please note that Uber does not operate here!
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Monterosso al Mare is the biggest village that is incredibly picturesque with a sandy beach. Look at the sun loungers waiting for you! It has the most options and variety of food and accommodation.
We recommend that you spend time on the beach in the new town or at Vernazza, Manarola or Riomaggiore. If you don’t want to laze on the beach in Monterosso al Mare, you can wander around at a leisurely pace, do a cooking class or go to Buranco Agritusimo, a small family winery for wine tasting.
Old Town Views
Click here for eating in Monterosso al Mare.
Vernazza is a car free, small, quaint fishing village with beautiful acquamarine sea where you can swim in the harbour. It is surrounded by olive groves and produces one of the best tasting olive oils in Italy. A popular photo opportunity location is to walk from Vernazza to Monterosso and look down into the Vernazza harbour or take photos as the ferry arrives in the harbour.
Click here for eating in Vernazza.
Corniglia is a hilltop village at 330 feet above sea level surrounded by rocky terrain. It is the only village without a harbour. When you arrive at the station there is a footpath known as the Scalinata Lardarina, where you climb up approximately 377 steps to get to Corniglia. If you have mobility issues you may want to skip the climb up especially in 30 degree plus celsius temperatures! As a result, Corniglia is not as popular to visit by tourists compared to the other villages. Do bring water with you when climbing these steps. There is not much shade walking from the station to the top of Corniglia.
Click here for eating in Corniglia.
Manarola was built in the early 14th century and is about 230 feet or 70 metres above sea level. This felt like one of the smallest villages in Cinque Terre with charming colourful buildings facing the harbour. Although there is no beach here the harbour is great for deep water swimming. The village is not flat so you need to be comfortable walking up and down the village. If you go to Riomaggiore afterwards, you can take Via dell’Amore, also known as Lover’s Lane or Way of Love, a path going to / from Riomaggiore that offers good photo opportunities (20 minutes walk). Another option is to take the ferry to Manarola.
Click here for eating in Manarola.
Riomaggiore is another charming village and is the closest town to La Spezia. It is the southern most village of Cinque Terre. It has a beautiful harbour surrounded by buildings with colourful facades and is also very hilly! Many people enjoy watching the sunset here as well but as the heat started to get to us by this stage we decided to head back to Monterosso to relax and have dinner there.
Click here for eating in Riomaggiore.
Although Portofino is not part of Cinque Terre, it is glamorous looking as you can see by the harbour photos.
To get to Portofino, you can walk (75 minutes) or take a train (50 Minutes) and a bus (15 minutes) from Monterosso al Mare.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed in Monterosso al Mare above the Old Town in an Airbnb.com apartment with great views from the terrace and a very basic interior. My cousin booked this 8 months in advance which was lucky because I only decided to visit 6 weeks earlier. If you book last minute there may not be any accommodation available during peak summer season! Do try tripadvisor.com and booking.com to find accommodation that is right for you. I’ve been using these sites for years.
We hope you found this helpful. Let us know what your top 5 experiences were in Cinque Terre. Buon viaggio!