Cinque Terre in Italy is the perfect vacation destination for both a short and longer trip. Here you can find some amazing tips for the perfect Cinque Terre itinerary.
Cinque Terre is known for its beautiful villages with picturesque, colored houses along the Ligurian coast. It’s one of the top sights in Italy. Every year Cinque Terre attracts a lot of tourists, but what makes this place so special? What can you experience during a holiday in Cinque Terre? In this blog post I will share my personal Cinque Terre experiences and tips for an unforgettable holiday.
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Cinque Terre Italy
Cinque Terre is located in the north of Italy along the Ligurian coast between Portovenere and Levanto. This region consists of five, all enchanting villages, which form the Cinque Terre National Park. It was therefore no surprise when these five gems were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
Besides these charming and picturesque fishing villages, you can also enjoy beautiful landscapes with steep cliffs, vineyards, olive and lemon trees. For active travelers, there is the option to hike from one village to another via different hiking trails along the steep cliffs of the coastline. And for the sun seekers, the beaches of Cinque Terre or the cozy terraces in one of the colored villages are the perfect places to enjoy the sun. In short, there is something for everyone during a vacation in Cinque Terre.
How to get to Cinque Terre?
From Belgium you can travel to Cinque Terre in Italy in different ways. For a longer vaction it’s perfectly possible to travel to Cinque Terre by car. It’s roughly 1200 km from Belgium. However, for a short trip, I recommend you book a flight. The nearest airports are Genoa, Pisa and Firenze. We flew with Ryanair from Brussels Charleroi to Pisa airport.
In Pisa you can rent a car or go by train to Cinque Terre. But since you’re in Pisa, I would advise you to go check out the famous Leaning Tower and stay in Pisa for one day. It’s a great city to add to your Cinque Terre trip.
From Pisa we took the train to Cinque Terre. It took us about an hour and a half on the fastest train. We have already traveled several times by train within Italy and this has always gone smoothly.
In the Cinque Terre National Park there is a hiking trail “Sentiero Azzuro” that connects the five villages. From there you have the most magnificent views of the ocean and the hills. If you want to explore the five villages on foot, you must purchase a Cinque Terre card. For some trails you have to pay. In the past you could only reach the villages via these hiking trails, but now they are also perfectly accessible by train. Of the five Cinque Terre villages, only Monterosso al Mare is not car-free. So I wouldn’t recommend you to explore the five villages by car.
If you want to discover Cinque Terre by train during your stay, I advise you to buy a treno card at one of the train stations. With this card you can take the train unlimited from La Spezia to Levanto and therefore also reach all the villages of Cinque Terre. You can buy the card for one or more days. It also offers many benefits, such as access to hiking trails in the Cinque Terre National Park. The treno card is therefore a combo card of the Cinque Terre card including train transport. With the treno card you can also get discounts when visiting certain sights. So take a good look at all the benefits. You can find this on the back of the card.
Best time to travel Cinque Terre
The best time to travel to Cinque Terre depends on the purpose of your trip. The tourist season starts in early May and ends in late September. This is the period with the best chance of good weather. If you go for hiking, it’s possible from March to October. During the summer months it can get very hot and busy here.
To avoid mass tourism, we decided to discover this beautiful destination during the low season in February. A big disadvantage was the weather. We had 3 days of rain. On the other hand, there were almost no tourists, so we could discover the towns in peace. The downside of the low season is that many eateries are still closed. And a lot of business owners take adventage of low season to do some renovation work. So sometimes you will be disappointed when you see work positions in the middle of your photo spot.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
We chose La Spezia as a base to explore Cinque Terre. We stayed in the typical Italian setting of Hotel Firenze Continentale.
Of course you can also stay in one of the five picturesque villages that are part of Cinque Terre. The prices are significantly higher here, but you can find beautiful, authentic gems.
Check out these tips where to stay in Cinque Terre as well.
The 5 enchanting towns of Cinque Terre
1 – Monterosso al Mare
We visited the five cities starting at the furthest point of La Spezia, namely Monterosso al Mare. This is the largest village of the five.
The name already explains it a bit. Monterosso al Mare has an amazing location along the Ligurian coast and has an extensive, beautiful beach where you can enjoy and relax during the hot summer days. You can choose to lay your own towel or to take a seat in one of the paid beds with matching parasol.
Monterosso al Mare is also a beautiful place during low season. It’s wonderful to take a walk along the beach without the summer crowds. Don’t forget to climb a rock to enjoy how the beautiful blue water sloshes against the rocks.
The city of Monterosso al Mare consists of an old and new part. The historical part of town consists of a labyrinth of small, cozy alleys with typical colored houses where you can get wonderfully lost. Here you’ll also find local shops, restaurants and bars.
The newer part of Monterosso al Mare mainly consists of vacation homes that were added later to accommodate the ever-increasing tourism.
Places of interest in Monterosso al Mare include the 14th-century church ‘Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista’ and the Torre Aurora perched on a rock. From there you can walk up to Chiesa di San Francesco and the monastery of the Capuchins which are further up the hill. There you also have a beautiful view over the Ligurian coast.
2 – Vernazza
Then we took the train back to Vernazza, in my opinion one of the most beautiful village together with Manarola.
Vernazza is much smaller and more picturesque than Monterosso al Mare. The village center is located around the harbor. In this small harbor you can admire the most picturesque and colorful fishing boats.
In the town of Vernazza you can wander through the narrow, winding streets and alleys just like in the other villages of Cinque Terre.
Do you want to see Vernazza from a different perspective? Then climb the hill for a beautiful view of the picturesque harbor with surrounding colored houses.
3 – Corniglia
Then we visited Corniglia. The smallest village of the five, perched atop a cliff. From the station it’s a bit of a climb before you reach the city center of Corniglia. Because Corniglia is located on a cliff, this place has no direct access to the coast and is therefore not a harbour town like the other villages of Cinque Terre. Corniglia therefore has a completely different character. The village is more like a picturesque medieval mountain town and it’s a nice change from the other villages.
We decided to hike to the next village Manarola via the mountain trail. Of course we were not prepared for this and during the walk I regretted several times that I had not put on a more active outfit. The route lasted about 2 hours and was very varied with a beautiful view over the agricultural terraces where wine, olives and vegetables are cultivated and of course over the Ligurian coast. More towards the end of the walk you also have a beautiful view over Manarola. Afterwards I was very happy and satisfied that we did this, even without an appropriate workout outfit.
4 – Manarola
Manarola is probably the oldest of the five Cinque Terre villages. This village has a very long wine tradition. Indeed, Roman writings have been found showing that the Sciacchetra wine, which is still grown on the surrounding terraced fields, was already consumed here at that time.
When you walk to Mararola from Corniglia, you have the most beautiful views of this colorful city. Be sure to take a photo in the most popular photographed place!
This is one of the most instagrammable places of Cinque Terre for a reason. Also from restaurant Nessun Dorma you have a phenomenal view over the city. Nothing better than admiring one of the best views in Cinque Terre in a cozy setting with a delicious local dish. Unfortunately, this restaurant was closed when we were there. We found a successful alternative. For the most delicious Italian fish specialties, you should definitely visit Trattoria La Scogliera. Here you can eat very tasty, local fish dishes at a democratic price in a typical Italian setting.
5 – Riomaggiore
The next day we visited the last village of Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore. Riomaggiore is the village closest to La Spezia. It consists of three parts: the station, the old town and a small pebble beach.
At the station the famous love path “Via dell” Amore “begins that is located between Riomaggiore and Manarola. Unfortunately, when I was there, this path was closed due to the 2012 landslide.
The old town of Riomaggiore also has that typical Cinque Terre character, a picturesque harbor surrounded by a maze surrounding of narrow alleys with beautiful colored houses. The old town is slightly larger than Vernazza and Monterosso, so you can wander around longer and be surprised again and again by beautiful views of the village and the Ligurian coast.
Even though we didn’t have the weather we hoped for, we thoroughly enjoyed this short trip to Cinque Terre in Italy. Even with rainfall, these five towns and the surrounding countryside remained simply enchanting.
If you are looking for more things to do in Cinque Terre, check out the offers of Getyourguide for guided tours and unique experiences.
Be Sure to check out the compilation video about our trip to Cinque Terre and our stay in hotel Firenze Continentale in La Spezia.
If you loved Cinque Terre, then you should definitely visit the Amalfi coast. Don’t forget to check out my Florence city guide as well. And if you love Italy as much as I do, check out these blog post about Umbria and Puglia, two lesser known areas in italy.
Is Cinque Terre on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments below.
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