Cinque Terre, it was on my travel list for a very long time. The first time I saw a photo of all the pastel colored houses on the hillside along the cyan blue sea of North Italy, I immediately fell in love with this dreamy place. In July 2020 I finally had the chance to visit and it was amazingly beautiful!
What is Cinque Terre?
When you travel to Cinque Terre for the first time, it can be quite confusing. Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is on the Italian Riviera and has five scenic villages build into the cliffs, which you can reach by hiking, train or boat. The five villages are called Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola (my favorite!) and Riomaggiore. Each has his own character and is definitely worth to visit.
If you have more time, consider spending your last day in Portovenere, also called the sixth hidden gem of Cinque Terre. You will love it!
How many days do I need to visit Cinque Terre?
It is possible to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip, but it would be quite rushed and tiring I think, especially if you walk the hiking path. We visited Cinque Terre during summer and because of the high temperatures we decided to take it slow and enjoy our time to the fullest. On the first day we visited Monterosso, Vernazza and Corniglia. On the second day we visited Manarola and Riomaggiore. The 3rd day we spend on the beach of Riomaggiore.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
Stay in Cinque Terre or outside it? I think the easiest way is to stay near one of the train stations of Levanto or La Spezia. The train brings you to the villages in a few minutes. We were traveling by car and choose to stay in La Spezia. We stayed in this Airbnb, located 5 minutes from the train station. Close to the apartment was a free parking lot. The place was perfect for exploring Cinque Terre.
Receive a discount on your first booking trough Airbnb with my personal link.
How to reach Cinque Terre
You can choose to visit the villages by hike or take the train or boat. Taking the train will be the fastest way to visit the villages if you want to visit Cinque Terre within one day. It is not recommended to drive a car to Cinque Terre as the area is hard to reach and parking fees are very high.
Because the villages in Cinque Terre are in a national park, you need to buy a day-ticket to visit. We paid 41 euros for a 3-day ticket including free travel by train and bus between Levanto and La Spezia. You can buy the tickets at the information centre at every railway station.
Cinque Terre is easy accessible from La Spezia or Levanto train station. The train leaves every half hour and stops at all the five train stations of Cinque Terre. Make sure to leave early in the morning as it can get crowded easily.
I think Monterosso is the most touristy place of the five towns. It has a beautiful shoreline along the beach and a small town with lots of cute shops and restaurants. On the first day we wandered trough the narrow streets and did some shopping, and on our last day we planned a relaxing beach day. Let me tell you, be early if you want a beach chair and umbrella! We saw a lot of empty places and thought it wouldn’t have been a problem, but those were private places. Almost everything was fully booked. In the end we luckily found a spot on the right side of the beach after walking back and forth for 1 hour in the heat of the sun. I strongly recommend to reserve a beach chair upfront, especially during high season.
Also don’t forget to try the best gelato at Nuovo Eden Bar & Gelateria.
This is the perfect place to sit and relax by the harbor. There is even a little beach were you can take a swim. When you visit Vernazza by train or boat, don’t forget to visit the beautiful viewpoint. It’s just a 10 minute walk along the hiking path and easy to reach. If you are at the square of Vernazza, walk up the narrow stairs next to the restaurant called Taverna del Capitano and then go left to follow the path that leads you to the viewpoint.
Tip: bring a refillable water bottle and fill it up by the water fountain in Vernazza. The water is clean and safe to drink! During the summer it’s also a nice way to refresh.
Corniglia is the only village that cannot be reached by boat. If you coming by train, you need to take the stairs or take the bus near the train station that takes you to the village. From this village you have a beautiful view over the ocean and the villages of Cinque Terre. I really liked walking trough the narrow streets of this town and had one delicious homemade ice cream at a place called Alberto Gelateria. If you are visiting Corniglia, this place is a must!
My favorite place of the five towns of Cinque Terre is definitely Manarola. We visited this romantic village in the early morning and we were the only people there. It was a quiet morning were you could only hear the sound of the sea and the birds. It felt like a post card coming to life. Everything was just perfect. As a photographer, I prefer to visit this place during sunrise because of the position of the sun, but it’s also nice going there around sunset to have a drink and enjoy the amazing view from the Nessun Dorma terrace.
Riomaggiore is a bigger village with lots of colored houses. It really feels like a painting with all the little houses stacked on top of one another. While we were walking towards the little harbor, there was a man playing music which made the experience even more charming.
Take your time to explore the villages and enjoy the beautiful views!
Are you interested in a destination wedding in Cinque Terre, Italy? Or searching for a Cinque Terre photographer? Contact me!