Cinque Terre, Italy

I’d never even heard of the Cinque Terre until earlier this year, when photos of its candy-coloured villages started popping up all over my Pinterest feed. I was already planning a mini-break to Florence, so decided to build a few days in the Cinque Terre into my itinerary to see it for myself.
Best. Decision. Ever. Just look at this place…
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, Italy
Corniglia, Cinque Terre
Vernazza, Cinque Terre

In a nutshell, the Cinque Terre – which translates as Five Lands – is a collection of cliff-hugging villages set along a ridiculously scenic stretch of Italian coast.

We stayed in Vernazza, right on the gorgeous main square, Piazza Marconi. There are restaurants all around three edges of the square, and on the last side there’s the church, the (tiny) beach and the harbour. It has a real old-fashioned Italian feel, with washing strung out between windows and groups of old men playing cards and sipping espressos in pavement cafés.
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Vernazza, Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre villages are connected by hiking paths and a train line. The main coastal path was destroyed in a flood a few years ago, and most of it is still closed for repair. While we were there, the only section open was between Vernazza and Monterosso.
We set off around 10am. The path was pretty empty until we were almost at Monterosso, so I’d suggest heading out early if you don’t want to spend the whole time squeezing past people coming the other way or being stuck behind slow walkers. And if you’re starting in Monterosso, be prepared for hundreds (literally) of stairs at the start.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy

Monterosso is split into two sections – the old town, where the hiking trail starts, and the new town, where the train station is. Both have beaches and loads of cafés and restaurants. Out of all five Cinque Terre towns, it was the most touristy and probably the only one with decent nightlife.

We caught the train down to Corniglia, the middle village. It’s the only one that’s not by the sea – you can take a bus up (it’s free if you show your train ticket), or walk up a few hundred steps. This seemed to be the quietest village, probably because it’s the most difficult to get to.
As the coastal path from Corniglia to Manarola was shut, we took the inland route, which leads you right up into the mountains. The climb up is a bit of a killer – luckily there are plenty of photo ops that give you an excuse to have a breather. And once you’re up, the path winds through forests and vineyards, so there’s plenty of shade.
Corniglia, Cinque Terre
Corniglia, Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre, Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre
Manarola, Cinque Terre
It took us about three hours to reach Manarola – luckily, there are plenty of cafés where you can recover with an icy Nastro Azzurro.
Manarola, Cinque Terre

Right at the end of the Cinque Terre chain is tiny Riomaggiore. We got the train down here the next day and spent a few hours sunbathing and swimming off the rocks.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

On our last night we splashed out on dinner at Belforte, a gorgeous seafood restaurant set on ancient watch-tower terraces. It gets pretty busy, so book a day or two in advance if you want a table with a view. The waiter recommended table four on the top terrace – we had front-row views of the sea and the sun setting over Monterosso.

View from Belforte, Vernazza
View from Belforte, Vernazza

Have a look at my Cinque Terre Trip Tips page for practical advice, recommendations and details of where I stayed.

10 Comments

  • Reply Sam August 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Looks gorgeous! Italy is definitely at the top of my to-do list.

    • Reply Laura August 15, 2014 at 1:05 pm

      Thanks Sam – Italy's my favourite country, I'd love to see more of it!

  • Reply Karolina Patryk September 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Great photos 🙂

    • Reply Laura September 19, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      Thanks Karolina!

  • Reply whywasteannualleave.com January 16, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    This looks so beautiful Laura! I really want to go to Cinque Terre – I'm hoping I can make time for it this year. So do you recommend Vernazza over the other villages then? I keep wondering where is the best place to stay or whether it doesn't really make much difference? Actually – I've just spotted the link to your other post with tips so about to check that out now and that might answer these questions for me 😀

    • Reply SometimeTraveller January 18, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      Vernazza was definitely my favourite, but I guess it depends what you're after. Vernazza was so pretty, but still had a decent amount of restaurants and cafes to choose from. Manarola and Riomaggiore were both just as pretty, but had a bit less going on. Corniglia was nice, but you're up on a cliff, so there's no beach and it's a bit more cut off from the other villages. Monterosso had loads going on, but was the least attractive (it was also more of a party town, so if that's what you're after then I'd stay there – if that's really not what you're after then I'd avoid it!). Hope that helps!

  • Reply Arti Jain March 2, 2015 at 4:50 am

    Hi Laura. Like you, I had never heard of Cinque Terre before we started planning our Italian trip. We were there in July 2014 and had a wonderful time. Your pictures bring back a lot of the colour and warmth we felt there.

  • Reply Anonymous June 16, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Wow that looks brilliant, Can you please suggest where to stay

    • Reply SometimeTraveller August 14, 2015 at 4:11 pm

      Take a look at my Trip Tips page (link is above) for all the info about where I stayed.

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