The Italian Riviera is not short of romantic towns, rustic villages, rugged coastlines boasting some of the most picturesque views in the world. Of the many things located within this region, the five fishing communities of the Cinque Terre are arguably the most iconic.
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Where is Cinque Terre, Italy?
The Cinque Terre is a coastal area located within Liguria, which in turn is in the north-western region of Italy. As a point of reference, it is westwards of provincial capital La Spezia.
Cinque Terre weather
The climate of the Cinque Terre is mild and sunny, largely due to the mountains that shelter the region from the northern winds.
Even during the winter season, the mercury rarely dips below 12℃, thanks to the proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. You can expect a balmy 30℃ during high summer, with short bursts of rain throughout spring through autumn.
The Italian weather in July is scorchingly hot, unforgiving, if I may say Try to avoid coming in the heat of summer.
Some say that the best time to visit this Cinque Terre is from mid-March to end of October.
It was mid-May when we went, and I’d say it’s the perfect time to be there. The weather was just right – the kind where it feels chilly if you stay in one spot, but since trekking consumed energy, that kept us warm throughout, even at high altitudes.
Cinque Terre villages
The Cinque Terre is comprised of five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was so caught up with the sight of the village of Vernazza when I finally saw it. It made the long trekking worthwhile and the view was just… spectacular. Breathtakingly spectacular.
Cinque Terre’s picturesque villages might be the ones that win over people’s hearts easily, but I have to warn you not to judge a book by its cover.
I was deceived by the pictures of Cinque Terre’s villages (well not in a bad way!), as they often discount the trails that form the only land route between the villages. Read on to find out more about hiking Cinque Terre.
Things to do in Cinque Terre, Italy
1. Ramble along the hiking trails
As mentioned, taking a Cinque Terre hike is one of the few unavoidable things you have to do when trying to get the full “Cinque Terre experience”.
Some say that Cinque Terre offers its most breathtaking and picturesque views only to those who brave the long and arduous hikes while getting from one Cinque Terre village to another.
While the terrain might be unforgiving and harsh (I exaggerate), you’ll only have forgiveness and love in your heart once you see the amazing views of the Mediterranean sea.
There are multiple paths connecting each village to the others, and here is just an estimate on their lengths and estimated hiking durations:
- Manarola to Corniglia – 2.9km (1h 15 min)
- Corniglia to Vernazza – 3.45km (1h 30 min)
- Vernazza to Monterosso – 3.6km (2h)
At the same time, keep in mind that some routes are harder than others. For instance, the one running from Monterosso to Vernazza is the longest and second steepest route available – which I gleefully took my unsuspecting family on. (chuckles)
Regardless of the route taken, you’ll encounter all sorts of terrain. Rocks, pebbles, mud, bridges. Stairs, slopes, narrow paths. Fear not, though. There is nothing you cannot conquer. These are paths walked by hundreds daily. If I had more time, I would walk through the rest of the villages for sure!
That is why it’s important to come prepared – not in high heels and tight skirts! It never hurts to come prepared with some entry level hiking equipment (good walking shoes and breathable clothing at the very least) that will help make your journey a little easier.
Note that the world-famous Romantic Road/ Path of Love/ Way of Love is closed indefinitely! Some blogs have outdated articles that fail to reflect the closure of this scenic route following a rockslide back in 2012.
It’s a popular road, not just for couples, but also because it is the least challenging route, with the lowest elevations. It is called the Romantic Road/ Path of Love/ Way of Love as the route is at the border of the cliff, hence you are surrounded by the deep ocean beneath you.
At 1.1 km long, the Romantic Road takes an estimated 25 min to complete the route.
Check this site for the latest updates on road closures.
2. Explore Cinque Terre by boat
Yes, many travel guides might forget that Cinque Terre is a coastal area, meaning that there are vessels plying the waters around each village. Why not hop on one for a unique and relatively painless trip around the area?
Some of these boat trips are geared towards tourists and might come in a package with meals, or guided tours of the villages. We rounded up a few that you might be interested in here:
3. Soak up the atmosphere in the villages
Make sure to experience life in each of the villages! While each one might have slightly different geographical features, they share pretty much the same way of life as you would expect in the Italian countryside.
Slow down and stroll along the cobbled streets, enjoy not only the mesmerizing views of nature but also marvel at human ingenuity for being able to construct such lavish and sturdy structures in the most unforgiving of terrains.
To get the full experience of local living, make sure to drop by the village marketplace for some cheap and fresh produce, or hit up a cafe or restaurant for authentic, home-cooked rustic Italian food.
If you’re at Monterosso in the late morning, you can catch some fresh food, fruits and vegetable stalls displaying their products. We bought a whole piece of roasted chicken at a steal, and even before our trek, we were so satisfied sitting by the park, prying open our succulent protein.
It’s worth spending more time in Monterosso, if only just for its gorgeous beach. I would lounge all day here if I could.
The tourist crowd is crazy wherever you go, given how popular Cinque Terre is with tourists. That aside, I love the colours of the buildings in the villages – pastel and colourful in their unique ways, adorned with uniformed green windows.
4. Swim in a hidden swimming pool at Manarola
If you head out to sea from the main road leading into Manarola, you’ll find a natural swimming pool, accompanied by a bunch of locals sun tanning on the rocks or frolicking in the waters. Join them!
Apart from being the closest thing you’ll get to the beach in Manarola, this little gem is also a wonderful place to catch the sunset. It’s amazing to watch the sun dip below the mountains, and it’s a sight you should experience at least once in your life!
5. Walk up the staircase to heaven at Corniglia
Corniglia is Cinque Terre’s middle child, located in the middle of the five villages. At 100m above sea level, there are two ways up to the town centre – either by taking an unreliable shuttle bus, or the 350+ steps “staircase to heaven”.
Just when you think your hike here is bad enough, Corniglia throws another challenge for you to overcome! It might be gruelling and painful, but worth it. Be rewarded with a stunning view of the sea, and of the tangle of narrow alleys and streets lined with pastel houses that make up this town.
How many days to spend in Cinque Terre, Italy
If you intend to explore all five village, it would be better to stay a night or even two over in one of the villages, rather than a day trip – it’s simply too tiring to traverse to all the villages within one day!
If you only have a limited amount of time and can only spare one day here, I highly recommend visiting the two most charming villages of Cinque Terre – Manarola and Vernazza.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre, Italy
Most of the accommodation in Cinque Terre is expensive and fully booked throughout the year given the overwhelming popularity of the region. Given those reasons, it really does pay well to either do much research and book well in advance, or to stay in the nearby La Spezia and make the day trip to the villages instead.
Luckily for you, we have done some research into some of the best places to stay in Cinque Terre based on your budget.
Some ‘budget’ options in Cinque Terre are:
- Luciano (from USD100/night)
- Villa Accini (from USD125/night)
- Hotel Marina Piccola (from USD130/night)
- Affittacamere Liljana (from USD130/night)
Here are some of the very best Cinque Terre hotels you can stay at, if your wallet can afford it:
How to get to Cinque Terre, Italy
If you prefer a guided tour, there are tours that go to Cinque Terre from:
Getting around Cinque Terre, Italy
The inaccessibility of Cinque Terre sets it apart from most tourist traps in Italy. Given that the villages are often built along the steep, rugged cliffs overlooking the sea, hiking trails and boats are usually the main form of transportation you will find here.
Cars cannot access the villages from the outside, so keep that in mind if you’re driving around.
Getting around Cinque Terre by train
One of the easiest ways of getting around Cinque Terre would be the trains, which are connected to La Spezia.
At the provincial capital, you have to purchase a “Trekking Card” from the ticketing booth, which entitles you to unlimited rides between each village.
While it’s certainly a much faster and less physically intensive way as opposed to trekking, you will not be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the villages as if you were to hike.
As a guide, here are the train travel durations for the various services running in the area:
- La Spezia-Riomaggiore: 9 min
- Riomaggiore-Manarola: 2 min
- Manarola-Corniglia: 4 min
- Vernazza-Monterosso: 5 min
- Monterosso-Levanto: 5 min
TIP: Be sure to check with the information counter regarding road closure, as it does happen on a albeit regular basis. For instance, the Romantic Road, which connects Riomaggiore to Manarola, has been closed indefinitely following a 2012 rockslide.
Getting around Cinque Terre by foot
This is, of course, my most recommended way to explore Cinque Terre. Nothing says it better than slow travelling through the villages.
We hope that our guide has informed you about how to get to Cinque Terre, get around, where to stay and what to do.
Now that you know all these, let us know what you most look forward to on your next trip here!