The image of Cinque Terre has remained in my heart since it went past me on one of the London taxis. This was about 6 years ago and I had no idea what the place was. It automatically found it’s way to the very top of my bucket list before even revealing more about itself.
A couple of years later I finally found out the name and location. So naturally, when I started planning my Eurotrip – the little piece of heaven was the main destination on my itinerary.
Welcome to Cinque Terre
Based on the Almafi Coast, Cinque Terre is a cluster of five small fishing villages – Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia & Manarola. It is known as ‘The Five Lands’ in the English Language and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
Cinque Terre is situated on the very edge of the cliffs on the Italian Riviera, it is one of the most dramatic and breathtaking coastal sceneries in the world. When visiting, you will notice the lack of visual commercial development, there are no supermarkets or flashing neon signs – this is all part of its unique and beautiful charm.
This piece of heaven will fascinate even the most fussy visitors, here is my..
Ultimate Guide To Cinque Terre
Country – Italy
Region – Liguria
Currency – Euro
Language – Italian, but English is mostly understood
Time – Central European time
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How To Get There
Best bet is flying to Pisa or Genoa, from there you can catch a train straight to your destination or use the other options mentioned below.
By far the easiest, the train line connects all five villages directly with La Spezia, Genoa, Pisa and Rome.
Catch a ferry from Genoa, Portofino or Porto Venere (From Easter to September). If you feel like splurging a little – there are options to hire a yacht from many ports. 😉
I would strongly advise you against this option. One of the good things about Cinque Terre is no congestion and not many cars in general. If however, you do decide to give it a go, prepare for the narrow and twisting cliff-edge roads resulting in a few challenges along the way, driving from La Spezia will be your best.
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How Long Should I Stay For?
I would suggest at least two or three days (ideally four to five) if you would like to cover all five villages without rushing.
Even though it is not as much of a hidden gem as it used to be – Cinque Terre still has a peaceful feeling to it, relax on the cliffs while sipping the local wine, take one of the many trails and hike to the next village.. relax and take it slow if you can.
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How To Get Around?
The local train takes between 2-4 minutes to get from one village to another and the views are shockingly beautiful. A single ride costs around €2.10 (prices vary slightly between weekdays and weekends) or you can get a daily pass card as mentioned below.
The minibus serves between the five villages and costs €1.50 per person if purchased from the tourist office, and €2.50 if purchased on the bus. This also can be included in the daily pass.
Great option allowing the perfect view of the coastline. The boats operate between four of the villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola & Riomaggiore (not Corniglia). The boats also reach the nearby towns of La Spezia, Portovenere, Lerici & Levanto. The prices vary from €3 to €25 for an unlimited daily pass, starting in April and ending in November. Click here for schedules.
Feeling rather fit and adventurous? There are many hikes to choose from – different lengths and levels. There is a lot of great info here. If you would like to discover the national park but are not a fan of hiking uphill, the minibus can be used for parts of it.
Cinque Terre Card Train Multiservice
For €12 (one whole day) you will be able to take advantage of the following:
- Unlimited travel in between the stations of La Spezia and Levanto (covering Riomaggiore – Monterosso). Second class local trains.
- Use of the minibus
On the website it also states:
- Access to all the Park’s paths and facilities
- Access to all the nature observation points and museums
- Reduced admission fees to the civic museums of La Spezia.
- Access to lifts (for people with motor impairments) located in Manarola, Riomaggiore & Vernazza
However, I would double-check those when purchasing the card, as some are in question. Remember that to make the card worth it, you will need to take 6 train or 8 minibus journeys in one day.
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A Little Bit About The Five Villages
The closest village from La Spezia (seven minutes on the train). It has one main street with a few shops, a pharmacy and restaurants selling yummy seafood.
The harbour is lined with fishing boats, a rocky beach, a castle and a church on a hill – from where the sunset views will blow your mind. Take one of the back streets leading towards it and prepare your camera. Thinking about visiting a botanical garden or a bird watching centre? No problem, you’ll find it there too.
Tip 1: Buy the best calamari from the second or third stand on the right.
Tip 2: To get to the (rocky) beach, go up the stairs past the boats and ferry dock and follow the path. The rocks look super uncomfortable but once you find the right one (take your time..) you’ll love everything about this spot. The tranquillity and crystal blue water.. it’s a pure perfection. Also, it’s great for non-swimmers like myself as you can tuck yourself between the rocks (in the water) and relax without the worry of floating away. 😉
Yes, Riomaggiore is my favourite village.
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The second village when heading north. This is where the most famous photographs of Cinque Terre are born, due to the uniquely split land. Manarola is the smallest village with one street and a small harbour, great for swimming.
The small size of Manarola doesn’t mean it’s short of beauty, the waterfront aligned with fishing boats and colourful houses will stay in your memory for a long time. This village also offers many locally produced goods such as ceramics and jewellery – handcrafted by the local families.
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This one is a bit of a rebel. Prepare a bottle of water and comfy shoes to climb the 382 steps in order to get to the centre. The only village located about 100m up in the cliffs, catching many people off guard when arriving by train. If you have a backpack – it’s definitely doable but not so much when carrying a suitcase.
Okay.. you can take the minibus mentioned previously, which not many people seem to know about.
Corniglia is surrounded by vineyards and adorable tangled little streets. It’s tranquil and due to the hardest access – most peaceful. Surprisingly it has two beaches – Spiaggione and Guvano (a nudist beach) but they are both a bit of a trek to get to.
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It’s safe to name it the most popular village out of the famous five. Prepere to be stunned with it’s beauty. The only village with an open Piazza Marconi, and a number of eateries aligned with colourful umbrellas overlooking the sea – it’s a perfect destination for foodies.
However, Vernazza’s famous icon and one of the reasons why it might be the most photogenic is the stunning church located higher up on a cliff. The harbour has a small section of sand which could potentially be called a beach.
For the perfect view – walk up the north coast from the harbour, about 25 minutes walk where you will find a viewing point looking down onto the village. Make sure your camera batteries are charged and go crazy with the captures.
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The last and biggest village, mostly known for the sandy beaches. It is the most accessible by car, which means this is where you’ll see them the most.. it also has quite a range of hotels and shopping. Still stunning.. until you see her sisters.
I’d recommend Monterosso for more of a resort type of holiday, it’s also the most ‘flat’ out of the five. Not short of clothing and food stores featuring the famous & freshly produced local pesto – if you like shopping, this is the place to stay at.
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Where To Stay
Don’t get overwhelmed by trying to decide which village to choose, they are all stunning and easily accessible. Hopefully, by reading about them you have more of an idea. Have a look at different accommodation options (below) and go from there, it all gets booked up pretty quickly so try to be quick.
Make sure you double-check the exact location of the apartments, as some of the descriptions can be slightly misleading and you don’t want to be hiking for 30 mins to get to the first village. I have stayed in a basic hostel at a breathtaking location in Riomaggiore, right on the harbour with unforgettable views, absolutely worth it and would stay there again over a nicer hotel.
If however, you are on a very low budget or arriving by car, I would recommend one of the neighbour villages such as Levantoor. It will cost you much less, they are a lot less touristy and are still well connected by a ferry or train. La Spezia, the closest city as mentioned previously, is more touristy but still stunning – endless restaurants, coffee shops, harbour and beautiful colourful buildings. It’s great if you fancy something more lively.
Read on for booking info..
View from my accommodation
Where To Book Your Accommodation
Hostel World – Some great options including hostels and bed & breakfast for a small budget.
AirBnB – Endless options for a variety of budgets. Most people I met during my visit were using this tool. Get $35/£25 off your first stay when signing up here.
Agoda – Brilliant deals and great options – both budget-friendly and luxury.
Booking.com – My favourite website for booking hotels. Many options allow free cancellation and paying on the day.
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Liljana Rooms, Riomaggiore – Very basic but all that you need. With rooms in different locations and the speed they get booked up at, you kind of take what you get. As mentioned previously, my room was in the most dreamy location, right on the harbour with a terrace looking onto the sea (picture above). There is no wi-fi in the rooms and you need to walk up the hill to check out but it was so worth it.
Hotel Mary, La Spezia – Based in the city, the location is great – right across the road from the train station and a few minutes walk to the centre. The rooms are basic but clean and the breakfast was fantastic (included in price).
Cinque Terre Residence – A family run accommodation, rooms in every village with terraces looking over the beautiful scenery. Heard many great reviews about this one.
Ca’ D’Andrean, Manarola – Stunning location with peace and quiet. The reception was once a wine cellar and it has a lemon garden.. what more could you want. Breakfast included.
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Food (& Drinks) To Try
Quite simply a flatbread with olive oil and salt. Choose between plain or add onions, sage and olive. It’s the locals favourite beach snack.
You cannot visit Cinque Terre without trying the local pesto. Even if you’re not a fan – don’t judge fully until tasting it the proper way.
The local speciality. Caught daily using a traditional technique – the fishing takes place at night, shining a large light into the sea to attract the anchovies which then are caught with nets.
Your visit to Cinque Terre will not be complete without watching the sunset from the cliffs, sipping the local wine.
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Have you been to Cinque Terre? What are your thoughts? 🙂
Thank You For Reading!
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PS. here’s a little video for ya all <3
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Wow, thanks for this Eli, all the information I needed.
Thank you for letting me know Nina! 🙂 and you’re welcome Nina! xx
I really want to visit Italy and Cinque Terre. It looks beautiful!
What a useful guide. Thank you Eli
Hello Emily, Thank you! xx