Translated as ‘Five Lands’ and what five magical lands they are. Since 1997, these five villages set along the coast in the region of Liguria have been a Unesco World Heritage site.
Hordes of visitors from all over the world flock to Cinque Terre every year to marvel at the terraced cliffs farmed by locals, photograph the multi-coloured homes that fill the towns and hike the trails that join and surround the villages. But don’t let that turn you off as visitors are spread out across the five villages, the water and the hiking trails.
All the towns are accessible by trains and can be reached either via La Spezia or via Levanto. We caught our train from Milan, which dropped us straight off in Monterosso.
Travelling between the towns by train is also the most economic way of getting to and from, with each ticket only costing a few Euro.
Corniglia is the only town that cannot be reached by ferry as it is an inland town, although it is a bit more expensive to travel by ferry between the towns (Monterosso to Manarola was about €15). However, arriving by ferry grants visitors another point of view of seeing the towns.
One of the biggest of the five towns and with a fantastic selection of accommodation, restaurants, bars and supermarkets (if you find yourself staying for an extended period). It is the only town with a beach, which would make it the perfect spot if you’re visiting in summer!
We made Monterosso home base for our stay and the first thing I did notice when I hopped off the train was the fish smell. I mean, it is a fishing village right? But it was a little strong on the nose. Don’t worry it did fade and the whole town DOES NOT smell like fish. The walk from the train station to the main town is only a few hundred metres and you are spoiled with stunning views of the ocean for most of the walk.
Overall, I was very happy we stayed in Monterosso and would probably stay again.
Where to eat?
- La Tortuga is a well positioned bar on the side of the cliff (near the bunker) and is the place to be for sunset drinks. Best part is they serve an awesome selection of nibbles free with your drinks
Wonderland Bakery opens up at 8:00am and here you will find an incredible selection of baked goods from muffins to croissants to freshly baked bread, grab something early on to have with your morning cappuccino! Bellissimo!
The second town as we head south from Monterosso and a wonderfully photogenic town it is, particularly from the walking track as you come in from Monterosso. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to explore here in Vernazza. It also has a piazza by the waterfront and plenty of space to park up and watch the water crash into the sea wall after grabbing a cone of fried seafood.
Where to eat?
– Taverna del Capitano is located down by the waterfront piazza and has an incredible seafood menu. I had the basil pesto noodles… ermagherd. AH-MAY-ZING!
Perched up high on a hill and slightly inland, Corniglia is the only one of the five towns that cannot be reached by ferry. This means you will either have to trek there (like we did), catch a train or drive. Just a heads up though… there are approximately 33 flights or 382 steps UP, from the train station to the town.
It’s the smaller of the five but don’t let that stop you from visiting. Although small, it is packed with tonnes of character! Like the rest of the towns, it is surrounded by local terraced farms, lemon orchards and olive groves. The view from the town is quite incredible and it has some beautiful viewing points to just stop and let time pass.
Wowsers. What a town! Manarola has so much to offer visitors, whether you decide to use it as your home base for your stay in Cinque Terre or are visiting for a whole day or half a day. You can easily spend ages exploring the town and its surrounding area.
Manarola offers plenty of food and drinks options with some of the best views you’ll find in Cinque Terre.
The walking trails that surround Manarola allow you to perch yourself high within the local vineyards and olive groves to see the village from above. It is definitely worth the hike, however if you or a loved one has issues with their knees be warned, some of the climb is quite steep.
Manarola would be my second pick for somewhere to stay.
Where to eat?
Nessun Dorma is a charming and hip outdoor restaurant and bar, situated on the side of the cliff that gives you simply a breathtaking view of Manarola. Be warned, there is generally a line but it is worth the wait! Also to note, these guys only take cash, so make sure you have enough on you for a couple of glasses of vino and something delicious to eat, like the above platter we shared! YUMMMM
This final village makes up the five and is the closest one to La Spezia. We arrived by ferry later in the afternoon and what a sight it was! Riomaggiore sprawls itself across the mountain and down to the water and has bucket loads of character.
Another perfect place to wander and get lost through its narrow alleyways, either with a gelato in hand or a cone of fried fish – a bit of a speciality here in Cinque Terre and a must try for any visitor!
If you decide to stay here, just a heads up, the train station is a bit of a walk away from the main part of the town.
I wanna hear all about your time in Cinque Terre and what you found most magical, so don’t forget to comment below! xo