Cinque Terre | The Hidden Gem of Italy

Manarola Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is one of the most underrated tourist attractions in Italy. Like the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves.

Rome… Florence… Venice…

All the big named tourist attractions tend to get all the love. And we’re not saying that they shouldn’t… those cities are amazing.

But the Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful, intimate, and charming places you’ll ever visit.

If you’ve seen the Cinque Terre…

You know how hard it is to leave when your visit is over.

If you’ve never heard of the Cinque Terre…

We made this post for you!

Continue reading so we can tell you how amazing this area is… And we’ll try to persuade you to visit during your next trip to Europe!

Here’s what we’re going to cover:

  • What is the Cinque Terre?
  • How To Get To The Cinque Terre
  • Riomaggiore
  • Manarola
  • Corniglia
  • Vernazza
  • Monterosso al Mare

 

What Is The Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is a group of 5 small villages that lie on the Italian Riviera of Italy. Its location on the coast provides each village with amazing views of the Ligurian Sea.

The area is less than 2 miles in length and you can walk the whole coast in 2 hours.

I know that might not sound too impressive…

But don’t get the impression that there isn’t much to see!

The Cinque Terre has so much natural beauty that the area is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The five villages of the Cinque Terre consist of:

  • Riomaggiore
  • Manarola
  • Corniglia
  • Vernazza
  • Monterosso al Mare

There are a few reasons why this area and these villages are a special place to visit:

  • Lush, rugged terrain with spectacular cliffside views and hiking trails
  • Colorful houses and shops that still have the charm of the old architecture
  • No corporate businesses and very limited access to vehicles

You’ll really feel disconnected from the rest of the world when visiting the Cinque Terre. And those are the best types of vacations!

 

How To Get To The Cinque Terre

The villages of the Cinque Terre are small and only have limited access for cars. And the few parking lots in the area can get pretty pricey.
 
The best way to reach the area is by train. Luckily, there is a train rail that connects all the villages.

You’ll need to get to the Cinque Terre train by connecting at the train station in La Spezia. The closest village to La Spezia is Riomaggiore, and it only takes about 7 minutes to get there.

Here are some notable cities nearby and the duration it takes to get to La Spezia by train:

  • Pisa = about 1 hour
  • Florence = about 2 and 1/2 hours
  • Rome = about 3 hours and 45 minutes
  • Milan = about 4 hours

The closest major airport to the Cinque Terre is in Pisa. So if you can find a flight traveling to Pisa, you’ll only have a short 1-hour train ride to La Spezia from there!

Well, now that you know how to get to the Cinque Terre…

We’re going to tell you about the first village you’re going to reach after leaving La Spezia!

 

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre
Marco Saracco / Shutterstock.com

Riomaggiore is our first stop in the Cinque Terre. And the first stop does not disappoint.

There is one main road that runs through a narrow valley with colorful building on both sides. The road is pretty steep, so be ready for a workout!

The main road has shops and cafes you can visit. This street is where you’ll find all your food and souvenirs in the village.

Once you make your way down the street, you’ll find the small harbor of Riomaggiore. There you’ll see dozens of small boats resting on shore or in the shallow waters. This is a great spot to take pictures of the city from below.

Besides the great views, Riomaggiore has two beautiful churches for you to visit.

Make sure you check out the Church of Saint John the Baptist towards the top of the village. And it’s hard to miss the Church of Saint Anthony in the city center.

But the best pictures you’re going to take in this village is going to come from the hiking path to Manarola.

You can hop on Via dell Amore (Lover’s Lane) near the train station. This is the gorgeous trail that will lead you to Manarola in just 20 minutes.

If you’re in good shape, you can keep going to the other villages. But just know that this is probably the easiest section of the coast to hike.

 

Manarola

Manarola Cinque Terre
Smit / Shutterstock.com

Manarola is a great spot to book your hotel while you visit the Cinque Terre. It’s pretty easy to access the other 4 villages from here.

Like Riomaggiore, Manarola has one main street that runs down a steep hill. The train station leads you out to the middle of the main road.

If you walk down the main road, you’ll find the area where all the action happens. There are some shops for tourists and restaurants that offer some of the best food you’ll ever eat.

Or if you’re in the mood for dessert, there’s a place that serves great gelato near the harbor.

Or if you really want to cool off you can go for a swim in the harbor. There is a 10-15 foot rock close to shore that many brave tourists climb and jump off of into the water.

If you walk up the main street you’ll find a couple of the village’s best hotels to stay at. You’ll also find a very old church with amazing views of the village below.

The Church of San Lorenzo is probably the most stunning building to see in Manarola. This 14th-century church has a Gothic-style outside and Baroque-style inside.

The Church of San Lorenzo shares a square with another small church and bell tower. Make sure you check out this square in the upper part of the village. It provides one of the best views of Manarola.

Speaking of amazing views…

Are you up for a hike?

Well, this same area is where you’re going to find the entrance to the hiking trail. Make the climb up the big hill that surrounds Manarola for the most amazing views on the Italian Riviera.

On the climb up, you’ll walk through the vineyards and the crops grown by the locals. Then eventually you’ll walk around a steep cliff with amazing views of the Ligurian Sea!

It’s important to note that you should not bring children or elderly family members on this trek. It’s a pretty steep climb and there are no guardrails the higher you get.

 

Corniglia

Corniglia Cinque Terre
Nattee Chalermtiragool / Shutterstock.com

Corniglia is the only village of the that doesn’t have direct access to the sea. Most of the city rests on rocky, elevated terrain that’s about 100 meters above sea level.

Since the train station is closer to sea level, you’ll have to make your way up to the village. You have two options to reach Corniglia…

Walking up nearly 400 stairs…

Or take a shuttle bus.

We definitely recommend taking the bus if you have more than a personal bag to carry.

Corniglia doesn’t have any standout attractions that you must see while you’re there. But what you should do is get a feel for the authentic way of Italian life.

Hang out with the locals in the town square and try some amazing Italian food at the restaurants in the village.

Remember, it’s not about the quantity… it’s all about the quality. And the quality of life in Corniglia is something you need to experience!

 

Vernazza

Vernazza Cinque Terre
mese.berg / Shutterstock.com

If you don’t end up booking your room in Manarola, Vernazza is our next choice.

This village is a great place to choose as your home base during your stay in the Cinque Terre.

Vernazza is the favorite Cinque Terre village for many visitors. And we can’t really argue with them… this village is gorgeous! There are million dollar views from many locations.

You’re going to want to check out a couple of landmarks while you’re in Vernazza:

There is an 11th-century tower called Doria Castle Tower. This tower sits at the edge of the village overlooking the harbor. The tower used to provide security for the village. But now the towers’ main purpose now focuses on photo opportunities!

You also need to make sure you visit the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia while you’re in Vernazza. This 14-century church has an interesting bell tower and tiled dome for its roof.  This church is a beautiful piece of architecture that stands out from the rest of the crowd.

 

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare Cinque Terre
Christian Mueller / Shutterstock.com

Monterosso is the best village for families with elderly travelers and young children. This village is not as steep as the others and it’s easier to get around town. It also has more hotels and more of a resort feel.

Monterosso has the longest beach out of the five villages. It’s a traditional beach with beach chairs and umbrellas. The only bad part about the beach is that you have to pay to access most of it.

When you’re not at the beach, you’re going to want to check out Piazza Garibaldi. This is the main square and your access point to reach the villages, shops, cafes, and restaurants.

There are actually two parts of Monterossa consisting of the Old Town and New Town. There is a tunnel that connects the two sections but you’ll get better views walking across the shore by the sea.

Monterosso has one of the best views of the Cinque Terre on San Christoforo hill. This hill lies right in the middle of the Old Town and New Town.

The hill has some attractions at the top like the Convent of Cappuccini, the Church of San Francesco, and a cemetery.

But what you’re going to love most about San Christoforo hill is the view. You can see the entire coastline of the Cinque Terre from the top!

 

Conclusion

The Cinque Terre is a hidden gem of Italy. Heck, it’s a hidden gem of Europe too!

The Cinque Terre is a bucket list destination in our books. We recommend everyone go there at least once in their life.

There really aren’t many places in the world that are as relaxing as these villages. It’s good for the soul!

Have you ever visited the Cinque Terre?

What was your favorite village? How was your trip?

Tell us about it in the Comment Section!

 

 

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