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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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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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