Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These five picturesque villages - clinging to the rocky coast - are located on the Ligurian coast of northwest Italy and make up together the famous Cinque Terre. Listed as Unesco World Heritage Site and part of a National Park and Protected Marine Area, this piece of land is home to a magnificent cultural heritage and stunning scenery.
Discover its enchanting villages overlooking the sea, its traditional cuisine with recipes passed down from generation to generation, and its stunning landscapes. But, do not stop just here, the wonderful hamlets surrounding the Cinque Terre are waiting for those who want to experience more.
Visiting Cinque Terre
Without doubt, the best way to discover and enjoy the Cinque Terre is by foot. The hills between the villages are connected to each other by trails, serving previously as mule paths. Today this vast network of tracks offers one of the most beautiful hiking routes in Europe. Along the way, terraced vineyards alternate with strips of olive trees and lemon groves and you will be treated to the most beautiful scenery you can imagine.
Five years ago, this area was hit by massive flooding which literally washed away parts of the villages and the coast. The hiking trail from Riomaggiore to Corniglia is still closed, but fortunately, the part between Corniglia and Monterosso, that goes over narrow paths high above the sea, is open.
Between April and October, there is as well a boat service available that offers visitors the opportunity to admire the villages (excluding Corniglia) and the beautiful coast from the water. During high season the ferry leaves every hour of the day; the crossing to the directly adjacent village takes less than fifteen minutes.
An overview of the five villages
The five villages that together make the Cinque Terre are beautiful; here you breathe a real authentic Italian atmosphere. You’ll find numerous charming, pastel-colored houses that lean on each other, and are hidden in a labyrinth of steep alleys and stairways. Colorful boats are laying on the doorsteps of the houses, fishing nets are hanging outside, and fishers are engaged in repairing their nets. Here the traditions of the local fishermen continue to live and make these villages so unique.
On the hills and steep terraces sloping down to the sea, the local population grows wine and crops since hundreds of years. Here the great dry Cinque Terre Bianco and the lesser known but delicious Sciacchetrà (a dessert wine) are produced. The location of these vineyards is at least as spectacular; some vineyards are on a slope of more than 50%!
Chill out at sea
The coastline of the Cinque Terre is varied. You'll find small beaches and bays, some of them hidden in the middle of nature, others right below the colorful houses in town. The wonderfully turquoise Ligurian Sea is however all around.
The village of Corniglia has a small beach that is situated not far from the famous staircase with 380 steps connecting its railway station with the town. The water is beautiful and clean, and while you are swimming, you can enjoy the view of the green terraces in the background.
Also, the villages Riomaggiore and Monterosso have small beaches either with sand or with pebbles. For long stretches of sandy beaches, you may need to go to the area between the Cinque Terre and the capital of Liguria, Genoa. They are absolutely worth the ride.
The aromas of freshly picked basil, just-out-of-the-oven focaccia, and anchovies tempt visitors strolling the narrow streets of the villages. The Ligurian cuisine is of origin humble and — despite being close to the sea — has a considerable number of rustic dishes. The terraces that the locals built have permitted them to harvest Cinque Terre’s vertical cliffs, growing olives, lemons, vegetables, basil and more. Of course, there are many sea creatures on the menus of the local restaurants. Mussels, sea bass, tuna, and swordfish are the most common that call this area of the Mediterranean home. Hanging out at a sea-view restaurant or trattoria, while sampling these local delicacies could become one of your favorite activities of your visit to the Cinque Terre.
Beyond the Cinque Terre
Nearby the Cinque Terre you find more traditional fishing villages, coastal towns, lovely sandy beaches and amazing landscapes. Portovenere, Lerici, and Tellaro are definitively worth a visit, as they impress every visitor because of their charm and ambiance.
If you were ever to select a 6th village in the Cinque Terre area, it would surely be the charming and picturesque town Portovenere, located on the south tip of a peninsula at about one hour driving from the Cinque Terre.
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At the other side of Portovenere across the "Golfo dei Poeti" (Gulf of Poets) you find the friendly seaside resort Lerici. The area around this golf attracted in the early 19th century many writer and poets, hence the name! Today, Lerici boasts a small touristic marina, two beautiful public beaches, several hotels and delicious seafood restaurants.
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Portofino is a small village built in a picturesque bay, located in between Genoa and the Cinque Terre. Together with Camogli and Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino is the center of élite tourism.
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The Cinque Terre and its surroundings are beautiful and versatile where you’ll enjoy the unique mix of Italian culture and nature. Here it is just sun, sea, wine, and pure, untouched Italy.
Note: Be aware that the villages of the Cinque Terre are hard to reach by car, you’ll need to leave your car outside the village on an assigned parking lot and walk/take a bus to your hotel. Alternatively, leave your car in the alluring beach town of Levanto and from there take the train. The track runs along the coast on dizzying heights and through countless tunnels offering spectacular views of the cliffs, the coast, and the vineyards.