Cinque Terre's Charm: A Complete Guide to Italy's Coastal Gem

Located in the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a series of five villages spread along the dramatic coastline. Known for its vivid scenery, the villages are only accessible by foot, train or boat.

Angel Reyes
April 9, 2024

Located in the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a series of five villages spread along the dramatic coastline. Known for its vivid scenery, the villages are only accessible by foot, train or boat. The lack of development, including a lack of roads is why many tourists are attracted to the area as it makes them feel as if they have stepped back in time. Terraced buildings overlook the crystal clear mediterranean, many with a long history. 

The first mentions of Cinque Terre are in the 11th century, and since then the villages have based their economy on various aspects of produce including olives, and vineyards. Today, the main economic activity in the area is tourism, with Cinque Terre being one of the most popular sites to visit in Italy. 

Wine is also a popular commodity made in the area, and visitors should make sure to sample the local wine when visiting! The villages can be accessed easiest by train from La Spezia, the closest city. If you are travelling from Rome, there are a variety of train connections to La Spezia, making Cinque Terre very easily accessible. The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each village has a different vibe, and different attractions, which are highlighted below.

Monterosso al Mare is the westernmost village in Cinque Terre and is probably the most tourist orientated. This is due to its small sand beach, the only beach amongst the five villages. The village is extremely picturesque, and when visiting make sure not to miss the ancient castle that hangs off a cliffside, the church of St. John the Baptist and the convent, known for its historical treasures. If you are looking to stay in a location with a lot of visitors, and more services offered than the other towns, Monterosso is the best choice for you.

Vernazza is the village that has probably retained its original, non-touristy atmosphere the most, and is known for being one of Italy’s most well preserved traditional fishing villages. Sights to visit in the village include Belforte Tower, which offers awe inspiring views of the area, Doria castle and the 14th-century Santa Margherita d'Antiochia church. Stunning historical houses also line the streets, giving this town a peaceful and rustic atmosphere in comparison with the lively atmosphere of Monterosso. Visit Vernazza if you’re looking to escape a bit from other tourists and get off the beaten track.

Corniglia is unique from the other villages in Cinque Terre in that it is not located directly seaside, but rather on a high cliff 100 metres above the ocean. From its central location, all four of the other Cinque Terre villages are visible. In order to reach this village, it’s necessary to climb a long flight of stairs, so be prepared! Sights in Corniglia include exploring the town on foot and enjoying the different perspective that the town gives due to its altitude.

Manarola is suspected of being the oldest of all the Cinque Terre villages, with buildings dated to 1338. The town actually has its own unique dialect, which is completely different from those in the surrounding area. When visiting, make sure to try some of the local wine called  Sciacchetrà, which was renowned even in Roman times. Enjoy your stay in this classic town, with beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Riomaggiore, is the southernmost village in Cinque Terre, and here time is best spent wandering the streets and enjoying the village’s lively atmosphere. Known for its vineyards, make sure to sample some wine in this charming village as well.One of the main reasons why people visit Cinque Terre is because of their disconnection with the outside world. Cars can’t access the cliffside towns, and therefore many people either travel by train or foot. It's common for people to come on trekking vacations here and spend time wandering on the many footpaths that connect the villages. The way that most visitors trek through Cinque Terre is on Route #2. 

The trail is made up of four parts that interconnect the villages, and can be hiked either heading North or South, depending on where you would like to begin your journey. Although the trail can be completed in around six hours, many visitors choose to take their time and hike over a series of a few days in order to relish in the beauty that these charming villages provide. One of the most famous segments of Route #2 is the Via dell’Amore, which spans from Riomaggiore to Manarola.

The segment is famous for its statue of kissing lovers and tunnel filled to the brim with declarations of love and adoration. There is also a series of other trails interconnecting the area, if you are looking to put in some more serious hiking. Routes 3, 6, 7 and 8 all lead to the area's famous sanctuaries, places that the locals feel a deep devotion to. The sanctuaries all offer amazing views, and a serene atmosphere. 

Trails #1, 4, 6, 9, and 10 all delve into the mountainous region that backs the villages, and are the ideal way to get off the beaten path. Some of these trails are quite challenging, yet the views from the top of the mountains are worth it. Hiking in the Cinque Terre is the perfect trip for any level of hiker, and to stay safe you should be aware that some seasons are better to visit in than others. In the spring and fall seasons, temperatures are not quite as warm, which is much more ideal for hiking. Winter is cool, and the off season, which may be a better choice for some types of travellers.

Summer can get extremely hot, and if you are not accustomed to the heat it is not recommended that you over exert yourself by hiking. Stay safe on your travels to Cinque Terre and enjoy the serene, magnificent views and atmosphere that this series of villages offers.

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Angel Reyes

Angel Reyes is a seasoned photojournalist and columnist with a keen eye for the captivating narratives that unfold across the globe. An avid travel enthusiast, he brings to the fore the exilic and reading experiences that resonate with wanderlust seekers and cultural connoisseurs alike. With a portfolio enriched by professional photography, Angel masterfully encapsulates the essence of diverse locales and the spirited tales they harbor. As a versatile contractor, he not only captures visual stories but also produces interactive projects and compelling feature videos, all while contributing to the vibrant tapestry of travel trends for OMG BYE. His work reflects a profound dedication to exploring the uncharted and sharing the beauty of the journey with the world.