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.
There are also organized kayak tours starting from Monterosso. You will paddle with a guide along this exquisite stretch of coast towards Vernazza and the secluded beach of Guvano, where you will stop for some snorkeling in the turquoise waters. The most adventurous can keep paddling all the way to Riomaggiore. For an evening adventure, try the sunset option with a stop in a cove for wine and snacks. Both experiences are aimed at all levels of kayakers and includes use of the main kayaking equipment.
Walk the trail from Volastra to Corniglia
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.
One of the most popular places to watch the sunset is in Manarola when the town gets bathed in a gorgeous orange glow. Enjoy an Aperitivo or a dinner at Nessun Dorma, a romantic bar overlooking Manarola. Try the bruschetta tricolore, the mixed cheese and meat platter or the melon with prosciutto. This is one of the Cinque Terre's most romantic sights perfect for couples. Download the Nessun Dorma app and you can digitally queue for your table whilst exploring the town or hanging out by the water.
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 the end of March until November 1 each year. 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.
In Monterosso you can find some charming guest houses situated in the old part of town. There are also some beautiful farmhouses surrounded by vineyards and lemon trees in the heart of Cinque Terre National Park. If you are traveling with your family or a group of friends, here you will find our selection of apartments in Monterosso.
Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
If you have enough time, walk at least one of the famous hiking trails between the villages. You will need a Cinque Terre Trekking Card which costs € 7.50 for one day. If you pay €18,20 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 March, 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.
The best view of Vernazza is from the mountains overlooking the town. You just need to follow the paths in direction Monterosso or Corniglia for about 15 minutes and you'll reach the famous photo spots with stunning views over Vernazza, the medieval towers and the beautiful harbor. For a great view you can also climb the Doria tower (small fee). When you arrive at the top, you'll be rewarded with the 360-degree views.
You can also visit the church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia and the towers of the XI century and the Doria castle.
On almost every street corner there's a bar or gelateria selling ice cream in all kinds of flavors and colors. One of our favorites is the Gelateria Vernazza with some delicious flavors. If you got some time left spend the afternoon sunbathing on the cliffs in the harbor.