Are you the type to cram as much activity into a trip as possible? Then look no further, ‘cause we’ve got the perfect one-day agenda that’s ready to go! Today’s post is all about the Cinque Terre, and to be a little more specific, a walking guide to get you from A to B with ease. To sum up, this post will detail on each particular town, the walking trails to travel between them, and what to do and see whilst on your travels along the Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre - What is it?
The Cinque Terre is a large national park, a protected waterway and a Unesco Heritage site. Within it is a collection of seaside villages along the northern coast of Italy. Not to be confused with the Amalfi Coast, which presides along the southern coast. The Cinque Terre is comprised of five tiny villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Vehicular traffic is mostly prohibited within it, which is why the land is so well-preserved and why these areas are so much more serene than bustling town or city life. Life is much less modern and appears slow and tranquil, which is why many treat it as a getaway location while vacationing. Walking between locations is incredibly common here, hence why the Cinque Terre walking trails were established.
Monterosso al Mare
The largest of the five towns, Monterosso al Mare connects the Cinque Terre to the northern end. Split into an old and new town, they are connected by a tunnel in the hillside. The town was made a beach resort in 1870, following the installation of a railroad in that year. Monterosso al Mare has the biggest beach of all five town, as well as a large host of amenities for visiting tourists. It features numerous restaurants and cafés, shops, entertainment facilities, fruit orchards and vineyards. Polished off with a large Gothic church and the Antico Castrum, it’s well worth a visiting when traversing the Cinque Terre trail.
A sophisticated fishing village, Vernazza is one of the more beautiful towns to visit along the Cinque Terre. Littered with tall, slender buildings and winding laneways, the town is instantly recognizable with pastel tones painted throughout. With varying flowers and plants studding almost every windowsill, Vernazza lives up to its pretty reputation with ease. The town is made complete with a Romanesque-style church by the coast, Belforte Castle and vibrant boats along the water. Perfect your time in Vernazza with a portion of pansotti with their nation-renowned pesto, as you take in the stunning views around you while embracing the town’s laid-back yet enchanted atmosphere.
Corniglia is the middle village along the Cinque Terre, and is the only one that wasn’t built along the edge of the water. Sat atop of a rocky hill, it takes 380 steps upward to reach the town upon your arrival. Presenting tall tower-style houses throughout, the town is instantly recognizable with the vibrant tones of the buildings throughout. A visit to Corniglia guarantees stunning views of the boats along the water once you reach the summit of this stunning village. The surrounding areas are home to lemon and olive trees as well as vineyards, displaying a distinctive striped texture across the land. Corniglia is perfected with its main piazza, Largo Taragio, which houses shops, cafés, and two churches: The Church of San Pieto and the Sanctuary of San Bernadino.
Manarola spreads itself out between the rocks and the hills along the coastline. Dispersed throughout are blocks of tall buildings, vineyards and clusters of olive trees. Famed for its pesto and local wine, Sciacchetra, this little town is lively, with a busy piazza, an olive mill, a wine museum and a promising fishing trade. While there are no beaches in Manarola, there are natural pools formed among the rocks, which are perfect for swimming and sunbathing by. As if you needed more of a reason to visit this pretty little town, it’s perfect during Christmas time – as they host the largest illuminated nativity scene in the world, with around 200 people that participate every year. With perfect views along the coast, Manarola is a sure visit at any stage throughout the year.
Originally named Rivus Mayor after the river that flows through here, Riomaggiore also presents tower-style houses. Tall and slender in design, they showcase entrances on both sides and are painted in pretty pastel tones. Instead of having roads and avenues, the town was designed with arches, narrow lanes and flights of stairs instead. Below the town is a small beach and a fishing marina, while the town is completed with the Botanical Gardens Torre Guardiola, the San Giovanni Batista, and a castle on top of the hill that dates back to the 13th century. Perfect tranquil and relaxed in atmosphere, Riomaggiore is an ideal spot to unwind once you’ve conquered the Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre Walking Trail
The most popular Cinque Terre walking trail is Trail 2, also known as Sentiero Azzurro or the Blue Trail. It’s possible to hike the entire route in six hours, but most prefer to spread it out over several days, in order to see each of the villages in full. It’s advisable to start from Riomaggiore and head north, as the paths start easy and become more difficult as you progress. You can also start from Monterosso and go south. Keep in mind that to walk Trail 2, you’ll require a Cinque Terre card, prices of which vary between €5-10 based on your own requirements/additional extras. If the hike becomes too much for you, keep in mind that you can always stop at any time. There are train stations throughout the Cinque Terre, and transit only takes a few minutes between each village. Despite the convenience, we can’t help but recommend the walking trails, in order to take in the stunning views and the Cinque Terre in all of its stunning glory.
What to Do
With five villages and the beautiful countryside right at your fingertips, there are endless possibilities in terms of what you can see and do in the Cinque Terre. To start with, you can visit and take in everything that the main villages have to offer. Venture to their beaches during the day, and spend the evenings in the multitude of restaurants and bars available. Watch the sunset stood by the coastline, and muster up the bravery to cliff-jump into the sparkling waters below for a swim. Take to the water on a boat tour of the Cinque Terre, to see the crystal blue ocean and the views of the villages from afar. You can also go shopping, as well as embracing the local cuisine. Gelato is just as popular and delicious in the Cinque Terre as it is in the rest of Italy, so make sure to try some while you’re there! You can also make the most of the convenient travel options, and go to the surrounding towns and villages to ensure that your trip is well-rounded and memorable.
If you're interested in taking a tour of the Cinque Terre, check out our selection here.