Cinque Terre | Italy : A Quick Guide to Planning Your Adventure

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A Guide to Planning Your Cinque Terre Adventure

Five Lands. The literal translation of Cinque Terre. Thus, it is no surprise that Cinque Terre is a region in Italy made up of five small villages. But what you may not [yet] know is this seaside area of Northwest Italy is incredibly scenic and oh so charming. The sparkling blue ocean, hillside vineyards and colorful houses clinging to the steep cliffs make for one breathtaking hike [literally and figuratively].

Which village should you visit? All of them. They all have their unique charm.

Which village should you stay in? That’s for you to decide. But hopefully, after reading the short guide below, you will know which is the best for YOU!

Don’t miss it

Cinque Terre is well known for its hiking trails, which offer some of the most spectacular views of the Italian coastline. I enjoyed the hour-long hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola. Be prepared — it’s steep! For more info on hiking, check out this post from Walks of Italy.

Pretty cool

Take the ferry to each of the five villages. This may be difficult to complete in one day [and it wouldn’t give you much time to wander the villages, hang out in a cafe, drink wine, eat pizza, drink more wine], but this can easily be done over a two-day period.

You can alternate between the ferry and the train, as well. The train system is simple to navigate [unless the employees are on strike like they were for one of the days we visited]. You can be in the next town within three-to-five minutes by train. Buy a train pass at the station — no need to buy tickets in advance.

Must try food/drink

Fresh, fried seafood served in a paper cone. Nothing fancy, here! Just deliciousness. You will see these take-away snacks all over Cinque Terre. The calamari was my go-to! Support the local economy by drinking wine from the area, too. And of course, you’re in Italy after all — you can’t go wrong with pasta dishes, olives, pizza, gelato, olive oil, bread, etc.

Lastly, TripAdvisor is super popular in Europe! For a better dining experience, do some research on restaurants, trattorias and cafes before heading out for the day.

Skim the captions of the five photos for recommendations in each village:

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Riomaggiore: Charming and stunningly beautiful, this vibrant village has a hustle-and-bustle feel. Stop by the market for cheese/meat/olives/wine before heading down to the water to watch the sunset. No massage in the world can match that feeling of tranquility.

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Manarola: I love the charm of this village. There are plenty of cafes, trattorias and boutiques in town. There isn’t a sand beach, but that doesn’t stop visitors from laying out on the large rocks [and jumping into the ocean below].
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Corniglia: Similar to Ravello on the Amalfi Coast [Southern Italy], Corniglia is a bit more difficult to reach than the other villages. You will walk up [just under] 400 brick steps to reach the village. You are then rewarded with fantastic views of the coastline and nearby vineyards. It’s quiet and quaint.

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Vernazza: Spend some time admiring the view from the harbor, watching the boats depart to sea.
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Monterossa al Mare: The village farthest to the west has a very large sand beach, and for that, it is much more crowded than the other villages. You’ll notice many more cars in Monterossa, as well.

Wish I had more time for

More hiking! But the sun was always shining, so most of my days were spent by the water in the magnificent Manarola. No complaints here.

Here’s a hint

It’s common for travelers to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip, but it deserves much more than that. We stayed for four nights, and I could easily have spent another night. Four nights gave us time to explore each village, do a bit of hiking, eat plenty of seafood, marvel at magnificent sunsets, taste yummy wines and best of all — swim in the sea in Manarola! You will thank yourself for spending at least two full days.

Accommodation

I rented the “Orange Room” in a bed and breakfast style airbnb called Ciao Bella. It wasn’t the Ritz-Carlton, but its basic necessities were all we needed. Located in Riomaggiore [the village farthest east], the airbnb was in an ideal location —  a three-minute walk to the train station, one-minute walk to the main street in town and less than a five-minute walk to the water. I wouldn’t recommend this airbnb for a romantic getaway, but I would certainly recommend it if you simply need a place to crash in the evenings and don’t mind not having much privacy!

I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the villages, although I would choose Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza before Corniglia and Monterossa. However, Monterossa would be my recommendation if traveling with kiddos!

Just my personal preference, and I am curious what other Cinque Terre visitors think.

Next stop

After swimming and sunbathing under the Italian sun for five days, we were completely relaxed and rejuvenated, which was perfect, as we had a nearly 14-hour train ride to Barcelona, Spain! Thankfully, we divided the trip into two days and stayed one night in Marseille, France, before arriving to the capital of Catalonia.

Have you visited Cinque Terre? Share your experience and recommendations in the comments below.

Planning a trip and want more details? I would love to share more recommendations and tips with you. Provide me your contact info by clicking here.

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[ Riomaggiore sunsets ]
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[ Exploring Riomaggiore ]
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[ Riomaggiore from the sea ]
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[ Riomaggiore from the ferry ]
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[ A glimpse of the ferry approaching Riomaggiore ]
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[ Riomaggiore sunsets ]
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[ A great restaurant on the water in Riomaggiore ]
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[ A relaxing evening by the water in Riomaggiore ]
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[ It isn’t pretty, but it’s delicious – Riomaggiore ]
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[ The start of an hour hike to Manarola from Riomaggiore ]
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[ For some reason, I really liked this sign when hiking to Manarola: “Please do not touch the grapes. This is my only income.” ]
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[ Captured somewhere in between Riomaggiore and Manarola ]
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[ Captured somewhere in between Riomaggiore and Manarola ]
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[ Nearing Manarola from Riomaggiore ]
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[ Nearing Manarola from Riomaggiore ]
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[ Peeking over to Manarola ]
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[ Arriving in Manarola ]
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[ The hustle and bustle in Manarola ]
manarola by sea
[ Swimming in the Italian Riviera = bucket list moment ]
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[ A day spent in the water in Manarola is a day well spent ]
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[ Magnificent Manarola ]
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[ Vernazza ]
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[ Quiet mornings in Monterossa al Mare ]

Do you have other suggestions for Cinque Terre? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Exploring more of Italy on your trip? Check out guides to Florence and Rome.

Looking for more small towns to visit in Europe? Check out my five favorite small towns.

Next Up: Follow the adventure to Barcelona, Spain.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. This looks absolutely beautiful! I would love to go some day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You will have to visit! It’s so picturesque. Have you been to any other cities or towns in Italy?

      Like

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