Cinque Terre is high up on many travelers' bucket lists of places to visit in Italy. The ambience and natural beauty of the Cinque Terre are the main attractions and each of the five villages has its own personality. If you have enough time, it's worth exploring Cinque Terre over a few days. The towns are relatively small, and you can travel between them in only a few minutes by train. If you are short on time you can definitely see the best of Cinque Terre in only one day.
If you are looking for an accommodation in Cinque Terre, we have selected the best hotels for you: Hotels in Cinque Terre.
There are plenty of things to do and see in the Cinque Terre and here are our top tips for visiting the villages in order to have an unforgettable holiday.
With its tiny harbor, and houses painted in pastel colors according to the Ligurian tradition, Riomaggiore is one of the best places to watch the sunset in the Cinque Terre.
Follow the narrow path from the picturesque marina to the rocky beach with crystal clear waters. After a dip in the sea walk up the main street. We recommend you to have lunch or dinner at Fuori Rotta, a bar situated on the hill away from the huge crowds, with the most amazing views over Riomaggiore. Great food and atmosphere, reasonable prices. This is also the perfect place for a romantic aperitivo (apéritif) before dinner. Enjoy an Aperol Spritz, order some bruschetta or the mixed cheese and meat platter and of course some delicious local wine.
If the water's calm and warm, renting a kayak or canoe in Riomaggiore is the best way to enjoy these wonders away from the crowds. It's fantastic exploring the waters of the Marine Protected Area kayaking along the Cinque Terre coastline. From Riomaggiore you can paddle to Manarola and Vernazza and it's really beautiful to see the villages from the sea. There are some beautiful caves and you will reach some deserted otherwise inaccessible beaches.
Walk the trail from Volastra to Corniglia
Hikers love it here. You can walk between the Cinque Terre villages which is great if you're into hiking and if you have enough time.
We recommend the hike from Volastra to Corniglia which is a hidden treasure. Take the minibus from Manarola up to Volastra (10 minutes). The path starts in the tiny village of Volastra, 335 meters above the sea. This is a quite challenging hike on narrow trails across terraced vineyards. The hike takes about 2 hours, but it's very scenic and rewarding. Along the ocean view, you will also see nice highland vineyards and quaint villages. There is a bar on the way if you need a break before reaching Corniglia. The last section of the hike is under forest canopy, it sure will be a relief on a hot summer day. Don't forget proper footwear (no flip flops), water and sunscreen.
Corniglia is the only village of the Cinque Terre which is not directly placed on the sea, in fact it rises on the top of a rocky promontory which is over hundred meters high. The tiny village is surrounded by vineyards located on typical Ligurian terraces. To reach Corniglia is necessary to climb the Lardarina (377 steps) or to take the shuttle bus from the station. It's the only town in the Cinque Terre that can't be reached by sea.
Corniglia is a coastal village full of charm and it's not as busy and crowded as the other towns. There are narrow streets with the houses in those beautiful Ligurian pastel colours. Follow the main street to the Corniglia viewpoint. Here we recommend you to have lunch at the Bar La Terza Terra, a nice little gem with outstanding view from the terrace and great food. If you have time walk the path from Corniglia to Vernazza (1,5 hours) which is one of the most famous trails in the Cinque Terre. Stunning views of the harbor of Vernazza.
Aperitivo at Nessun Dorma in Manarola
Manarola is one of the prettiest of Cinque Terre villages, perched on a steep promontory of dark rock, with its small port and colorful houses. Head to the harbor after a long hike and enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean or just watch the brave cliff jumpers.
Best of all, Nessun Dorma also have a range of Pesto tasting classes to join. Pesto sauce is a regional specialty made of basil, parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and salt. These classes are very popular, so you have to book in advance.
Take a boat tour
A boat trip is one of the best ways to discover this beautiful coastline with its rugged cliffs, turquoise water and colorful fishing villages. The ferries run frequently from the ports of La Spezia, Portovenere and Levanto to the Cinque Terre, from 1st of April until 1st of November. The ferry doesn't stop in Corniglia, since this is the only village without water access. For more information, prices and timetable: Boat excursions.
We recommend you to buy a one day ticket or a half day ticket, which allows you to take unlimited boats and hop on and off where you like. With this ticket you can also reach Portovenere, which is a hidden gem in the Gulf of Poets near La Spezia. Stroll around the old town and enjoy the amazing view of the island Palmaria from the castle. Don't miss the small shop Bajeicò, a pesto shop selling delicious freshly made basil-based sauce and related products like fresh pasta.
An alternative way to enjoy the Cinque Terre from the sea is to choose a private boat tour in Monterosso. This kind of boat trip allows you to stay away from the hustle and bustle, to stop for refreshing dips in the cool water during those hot summer days and to calmly enjoy an aperitivo on board.
Spend the day at the beach in Monterosso
Monterosso is the largest of the five villages and has a long sandy beach in the new part of the village, just in front of the station, with sunbeds, umbrellas and SUP boards for rent. At the end of the beach, towards the statue of the Giant, there is a public beach with crystal clear waters.
Along the promenade you'll find restaurants, pubs and ice-cream shops. If you're visiting Monterosso on a Thursday morning, you'll be able to visit the local market right in the town center. In the Old Town, with its narrow streets and old fishermen's houses, there are plenty of nice bars and fish restaurants.
Monterosso still has signs of the past sea battles: the medieval tower that now is the bell tower of San Giovanni Church, the castle with its three round towers and the Aurora tower, the only one survived of thirteen towers that protected the village from frequent pirate attacks. Take the stairs up to the statue of St. Francesco with incredible views over Monterosso and the sea. Don't forget to buy the local Limoncino liqueur made of fresh lemons from Monterosso.
Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
If you have enough time, walk at least one of the famous paths between the villages. You will need a Cinque Terre Trekking Card which costs € 7.50 for one day. If you pay € 16, you can also travel by train between the five towns an unlimited number of times. To get a full overview of prices and trails, check out this page: Cinque Terre Card.
The footpath to Vernazza, marked in white and red, leaves from the eastern part of the old town of Monterosso. Take the small pedestrian road leading to the 4-star Hotel Porto Roca. The path begins with a long staircase crossing vineyards and citrus orchards. You can always enjoy a wonderful panorama over the sea. You will pass on an antique stone-bridge, which is worth a picture. When the trail begins to go down, the view of Vernazza is really breathless. It enters the town along the small lanes and ends in the small harbor of Vernazza. Don't forget your swimsuit, swimming in the natural harbor of Vernazza is amazing. This path can be crowded, especially during the high season. One tip is to head out as early as possible to avoid the crowd and the midday heat. We recommend hiking the Cinque Terre in April, May, June, September or October when temperatures are milder.
Spend an afternoon in Vernazza
Vernazza is maybe the most famous of the Cinque Terre villages and is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Everything is concentrated around a very pretty little piazza, with bright painted houses, near the tiny harbor full of small fishermen's boats. Have lunch at one of the fish restaurants around the square and you will not be disappointed. The best way to reach this town is by boat or train.