Cinque Terre is a picturesque area in the Liguria Region of Italy, and you can visit year round. Furthermore, it an area that’s becoming incredibly popular with tourists. Cinque Terre is Italian for five lands. In actuality, they are five little villages, all with very colorful homes.
The villages are nestled between the deep blue Mediterranean and the green Ligurian Apennines. The most significant characteristic of the area is the terraces built on the side of the mountains. Also, you will find vineyards, olive trees, and vegetable gardens. Furthermore, the Italian Government declared the area a natural park.
The closest airports to Cinque Terre are Pisa (77km) and Genova (114km).
Visit Cinque Terre by Train
You can visit each of the villages of Cinque Terre by train or by boat from La Spezia. The train takes about half an hour, and it stops in each one of the Cinque Terre. Furthermore, the trains run approximately every half hour, and it’s possible to buy a day pass (Cinque Terre card). The day pass is valid for each one of the stations for the entire day. (For the departure times click here). I prefer to use the train on cooler days as air conditioning can be a problem.
Getting to Cinque Terre by Boat
The boat is a fabulous way to arrive in each of the Cinque Terre villages in the summertime. While technically public transportation, the views you will experience are quite magnificent. To visit Cinque Terre by Boat, you will need to buy the ticket in the port of La Spezia. Further, you will be able to visit the first four villages that are actually on the coast. The fifth one, Corniglia, is reached by a shuttle bus, or you can walk up the stairs.
A day ticket costs €27 for adults and €15 for kids up to 11 years old. (Here is the link for the departures).
In every one of the Cinque Terre, you can find a welcome center where you can ask questions about the are.
I suggest spending at least one night here. Catch an early train in and take a late one back. I also recommend visiting the area outside of the “peak” season, which is July and August. My favorite time to visit is in April or October when the temperatures are milder. Furthermore, in these months, the villages are not too crowded. In case you do visit in the summer, I think that the boat is a better way to enjoy the area because as the train can get hot.
The Local Food
Italian food is regional, meaning it’s different in each region. For example, if you want to try local specialties of the Cinque Terre, try the fried seafood, vegetables, and the Ligurian Focaccia. Likewise, the local wines are the dry white “The Cinque Terre” and a sweeter Sciacchetrà. Moreover, these wines are made with grapes that are dried in the sun for three months.
Planning Your Visit in the Cinque Terre
I always like to take the train or the boat to the furthest stop, which is Monterosso. From there, I work my way back toward La Spezia. Likewise, consider spending at least, an hour in each village.
Tip: If you’re like me and are into photography, these are the best villages to photograph the sunset. Naturally, if you happen to stay in the evening, you too can experience the “golden hour.”
There are many B&Bs available but keep in mind, they sell out quickly, especially in peak season. Alternatively, you may spend the night in La Spezia, or Levanto and easily commute to the villages whenever convenient.
Monterosso is the village with the most prominent beach. Indeed, if you’re planning to spend the day in the Cinque Terre and take a dip in the Mediterranean, this is the place to go. However, as a town, it is probably the least picturesque. In fact, it is the only village that is not on the slopes of the mountain like the others. Lastly, you may visit the Castle of Monterosso, The Giant (Photo below) or even the convent of the Capuchins.
Vernazza is one of the most famous villages in the Cinque Terre. Consequently, it is also one of the most photographed. Also, the village has an old medieval Castle that dominates the access to the little fisherman’s’ harbor.
Furthermore, Santa Maria di Antiochia is the main church. In fact, it’s built in the Romanesque style. The church also dominates the other side of the village.
When visiting this area of the Cinque Terre, I sincerely enjoy walking in the little streets of Vernazza. When hungry, I seek out an “al fresco” lunch in any one of the many local restaurants.
If you like photography, you can walk up the little path behind the church to the hill where you can see all of Vernazza from above. Naturally, in my opinion, it is the best spot to take your sunset photo.
Corniglia is the only village not on the water, but actually on top of the mountain. Notably, the most famous monument in Corniglia is the Gothic Church of Saint Peter. Also, the view from the top of the mountain is breathtaking. You can reach the village of Corniglia by shuttle bus from the Corniglia train station. By contrast, you can also walk up the stairs (Only 382 Steps).
Manarola is the other most famous village of the Cinque Terre. The colorful houses are famous and nestled between the Mediterranean and the mountains. Moreover, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view from the path by the old cemetery. It’s also the perfect spot to take your sunset photo.
Note: You might be wondering about “The Path of Love” aka Il Sentiero dell’Amore. Specifically, this is the path that takes you from Manarola to Riomaggiore. Regrettably, a severe flood has prompted the closure of this path just a few years ago.
The little town of Riomaggiore is the most southern village of the Cinque Terre. The fisherman’s’ harbor is at the bottom of the village. You can walk up the small narrow streets full of beautiful spots to grab a bite to eat or to enjoy a delightful glass of the local white wine.
I would take some extra time and visit the cute little town of Porto Venere, in between La Spezia and Riomaggiore. It is not part of the Cinque Terre. Having said that, it is still incredibly charming. Visit the church built on a giant rock overlooking the sea and its old fortress in the background.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to visiting Cinque Terre and will enjoy your visit.
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Andrea was born and raised in Northern Italy. At the age of 30 he moved to Vancouver Canada. Over the years he traveled extensively in North America, Europe, Central America and Asia. He is passionate about traveling, cruising and travel photography. He likes to write about his traveling and shows his travel photos.