With breathtaking views of the harbor and the enticing beauty of its coastlines, Cinque Terre has grown to be one of the most famous tourist destinations in Italy. It is so easy to fall in love with Cinque Terre with all the amazing things it can offer.
All About Cinque Terre
A beautiful portion of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre means Five Lands. Located in the Liguria region, it is found on the Northwest side of Italy. As its name suggests, it is comprised of five villages which are Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Monterosso al Mare.
These five villages along with the hillsides surrounding it are part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Charmed by the sea, people strategically built terraces over the years on its steep landscapes right up the hill to admire its beauty.
Another notable part of its charms is the lack of visible corporate establishments. It is not also accessible via cars from outside. Instead, boats, trains, and walk paths connect the five villages as their primary means of transport.
History of Cinque Terre
The history of Cinque Terre dates back to the 11th century where it was just Vernazza and Monterosso to be the first two villages. Eventually, the other three villages followed suit and grew under the political and military supremacy of the Genoa Republic.
During the 16th century, Cinque Terre tried to defend itself from the attacks of the Turks by building new defense towers and reinforcing their old forts. It was also during this century that Cinque Terre underwent a significant decline and started to rebuild itself during the 19th century.
The construction of the railway which connects Genoa to La Spezia as well as the building of La Spezia’s Military Arsenal. At first, the locals used this newly installed transportation to leave their previous lives in Cinque Terre which caused an increase in its poverty and lost of tradition.
However, by the 1970s, tourism started to boom and became Cinque Terre’s income source. Many of the locals also made a living by olive and vineyards cultivation, while the inhabitants of Monterosso are innately fishermen.
Travel is the best school; it has the best teachers because everything seen is a teacher; and this colorful school’s diploma is wisdom! ― Mehmet Murat ildan
Tourism and Transport
As part of what attracted many tourists to visit Cinque Terre, there are only very few roads that can be accessed using private vehicles such as cars. These few roads are also very narrow like that on the one opened last June 2012 in the village of Vernazza.
As a means of primary transport, there is an impressive network of railroads that connect Genoa to La Spezia and the rest of the villages of Cinque Terre. These intercity railroads also connect the villages to areas outside of Cinque Terre such as Tuscany, Rome, and Milan.
Tourists can avail of unlimited day passes and the transport time from one village to the next takes five minutes or less. Another enjoyable transport option is via ferry which goes to all the villages except for Corniglia.
The ferry’s point of entrance is usually via Genoa’s Old Harbor, Porto Venere, Lerici or La Spezia. Taking advantage of this will give the tourist a view of the villages and its coastlines from the sea.
There is also the option of using the famous walkways or paths that also connect the five villages. This trail is known as Sentiero Azzurro or the Azure Trail. However, part of this trail which is called the Via dell’Amore or Love Walk was recently closed.
This path connects Manarola to Riomaggiore which lingers along the waterfront. Be that as it way, there is another trail that can be used to explore these two places, but it is longer and steeper.
Food and Drinks
As for the local cuisine of Cinque Terre, it is mostly seafood considering its location in the Mediterranean. Tourists can have a field day with the tasteful seafood offers found in this area. In addition, it is also known for pesto.
This is created by combining Pecorino cheese, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, garlic, and basil leaves. They also have Focaccia which is a local baked bread and Farinata which is a crunchy but savory pancake made from chickpea flour and is usually found in pizzerias and bakeries.
In Corniglia, they boast of a type of gelato that is made from local honey. With all these delicious food they offer, there is also a wide variety of drinks that tourist can choose from. If you enjoy wine, then this is the ideal place to visit.
It is on the mountainsides or hillsides of Cinque Terre that locals cultivate olives and grapes. Cinque Terre is known to produced two locally made wines which are the Sciachetra and the Cinque Terre.
These wines are created using Vermentino, Albarola, and Bosco grapes. These are produced and processed by the Cooperative Agricoltura di Cinque Terre which is located between Volastra and Manarola.
Aside from wines, they also offer another famous drink called Grappa which is from the substance left from winemaking called pomace. There is also limoncello which is a type of liqueur with a sweet taste and flavored with lemon.
The Five Villages of Cinque Terre
To explore Cinque Terre means exploring the five villages that it is comprised of. These villages are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, and Vernazza. Each of them has their own charm and offer varying types of adventure for tourists.
This village is the closest one to La Spezia. It is known to have colorful boats that the local fishermen use to make a living. On the other hand, the other half of Riomaggiore is what they call a borgo dei contadini which is a farmer’s village.
What To Do:
The charming village of Riomaggiore offers many types of activities for tourists and locals alike. Visitors are often seen lazing around the beach and soaking up the warmth from the sun. It is also popular for trekking as it is located between two hills.
Visit the Church of Giovanni Batissta located on the highest area of the village. It has a beautiful interior featuring a wooden crucifix and organ. You can also visit the Church of the Confraternita dell’Assunta which houses the 15th century old Madonna with Child and the Madonna of the Chains statue.
Where To Stay:
There are a number of amazing places to stay in Riomaggiore. Depending on one’s taste as well and budget, there are varying places to choose from. For a budget-friendly option, there is the Hotel Due Gemelli or Ostello Tramonti.
For mid-range options, you can try Casa Castiglione which is located less than 10 minutes from the beach and offers free WiFi and a relaxing garden. There is also Affittacamare Le Giare Guest House which is 5 minutes away from the beach as an alternative.
If in any case, you are opting for a bit of luxury, you can choose to stay at Creuza de Mawhich is a beachfront establishment with beautiful gardens, terraces, outdoor showers, WiFi, jacuzzi, and a great view of the sea. An alternative to this is the Agave Bed and Breakfast.
The smallest and the oldest village among the five is Manarola. It is about ten kilometers away from Riomaggiore. It may be the oldest and smallest, but this village is colorful and is abundant with sweet grapes.
This is the reason why Manarola is famous for its Sciacchetra wine tasting activity. This activity is sought after by many tourists. The steep hills in Manarola houses lemon trees as well as vineyards and olives.
What To Do:
When in Manarola, you can take advantage of the path that twirls around from the Northern side of the hill. This path is perfect for trekking activities and allows tourists to indulge in the stunning views that this village offers.
San Lorenzo Church is a place you need to visit that has an exterior filled with gothic facades and remarkable paintings displayed inside. The Oratory of the Disciplinati of Manarola is another popular landmark that showcases the bell-tower of the Azzurri or Santissima Annunziata.
Where To Stay:
If you are looking for a place of luxury while in Manarola, the Luxury Sea View Apartmentscould be the ideal place for you. It offers a beautifully made structure with a sea view for its customers and a romantic ambiance. La Torretta Lodge can also be another option for you.
For a mid-range type of place to stay in, The First – Manarola 5 Terre could be the one for you. It offers bike rentals since the area is a popular cycling spot. As an alternative, Giovanni Rooms offers a short 3-minute walk to the beach and accessibility to restaurants and bars.
There are also more affordable accommodations like Hotel Borgo Marina Piccola which is around 5 minutes away from the train station. There is also Arpaiu which offers both a beach view as well as a stunning view from the cliff side.
Located on top of the hills, the village of Corniglia is the only place that has no harbors or coastline beaches. The locals rely heavily on farming as their main source of income and commodities.
Nonetheless, Corniglia offers a breathtaking view of the whole Cinque Terre from the highest vantage point. This is also a place perfect for relaxation.
What To Do:
Although it does not offer beachfront or coastline views, Corniglia is a picturesque small village perched on top of the hills. Furthermore, it also has a lot of wonderful places that visitor can enjoy and explore.
The Main Square – Largo Taragio houses an ancient well that once provided the water supply for the village. Currently, this is a place where people sit and have conversations under huge trees while sipping a cup of coffee.
On your way down the hill, you can visit the Santa Maria Belvedere which showcases a panoramic view of the Ligurian Sea. Once you have descended, you will find the Guvano beach which is also dubbed as the “adult only” beach because of its nudist beach culture.
Where To Stay:
For tourists who are willing to spend a little more than the usual, the Hotel Porto Roca offers a great view from the top of the hill. An alternative is the Affittacamere Le Terrazze which is about 10 minutes away from the train station and offers a private bathroom and balcony for each room.
Right in the middle of Corniglia is a mid-range establishment called Corte del Gallo which guests can experience breakfast served on their own terrace every morning. Camere Nunziois another option that has an outstanding mountain view that tourists can enjoy.
A cozy and a more affordable place also found in a few kilometers away from the heart of Corniglia is the Casa Quaratica. Casa Orietta is another budget-friendly apartment which has a panoramic sea view.
Vernazza is dubbed as one of the most beautiful places in Italy and that is no surprise. It has been photographed and Instagrammed many times over to showcases its beauty and charm. It is also the only village that houses a natural harbor.
This village not only offers a mesmerizing view of the sea, but it also provides visitor an extraordinary experience during their stay.
What To Do:
You can visit one of its important landmarks which is the Santa Margherita d’Antiochia. This is located in the Piazza Marconi and known for its 12th-century gothic design. It is built from sandstones and overlooks the Vernazza harbor.
The Forte and The Harbor are also notable places that you can explore. The Forte is a steep climb from the main square but offers a worthy view up top. On the other hand, The Harbor is the semi-circular pier where visitors can chill and watch the view of the sea.
Piazza Marconi is the village’s main square. It houses cafes, restaurants, shops, and bars that cater to all the needs of both the locals and visitors. You can also try the Tuesday Market which showcases all the local products at a fairly reasonable price.
Where To Stay:
For guests under budget, they can opt for the Hotel Gianni Franzi which features rustic decors and terracotta floors. Lucrezia Accommodations also is a great place to stay that has a shabby chic decor and is just a minute away from the beach.
Santa Marta Rooms 23, on the other hand, falls on a mid-range level and offers elegantly furnished rooms with private baths. Cade Ventu is another option that is a pet-friendly establishment and is located in the town center.
For a more luxurious option, MaDa Charm Apartments offers great sea views and sun terraces for its guests. The Golfo Dei Poeti Relais & Spa is another option that offers excellent wellness and relaxation activities for its guests.
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Finally, we have the largest village in Cinque Terre which is Monterosso al Mare. This village is home to mesmerizing beaches, breathtaking cliffs, and relaxing rivers. It offers versatility to the guests when it comes to the overall experience.
What To Do:
The Monterosso Beach is one of the largest and most visited beach within Cinque Terre. Despite that, it does not stay crowded which is why visitors enjoy their time soaking up the sun and relaxing.
To have a view of the vast flora and fauna that Cinque Terre offers, hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza is the ideal option. Different paths lead to many destinations, but the most famous is the High Path and the Blue Trail Path.
Another notable and must-see place in Monterosso is the Church of St. John the Baptist. This is a Roman-style structure that is constructed with black and white, horizontal-striped Carra marble. The rose windows have intricate carvings that add to its beauty.
Additionally, the interior of the church almost looks like an enormous crystal chandelier. Its bell tower is made from green stones and was once used as a defensive tower during the medieval period.
There is also the Aurora Tower which was built in the 16th century to protect Monterosso from the invaders. Now, it still stands and is a perfect location to view the whole of Monterosso as well as the majestic view of the sea.
There is also Piazza Garibaldi which is the main square of the village of Monterosso. It has numerous resting spots for locals and tourist, so they can sit down and relax for a bit.
Where To Stay:
While at Monterosso and you want a place of luxury to stay in, the Vis a Vis could be the perfect choice for you. All of the rooms have its own terraces or balcony to give guests the amazing view of the sea. Another top-rated place is the Seaside Apartments.
For the mid-range level, guests can opt for the Zia Letizia Bed and Wine. This place offers a shared lounge so guests can mingle with one another. They also have flat screen TVs in all of the rooms. If you want a beachfront accommodation, you can opt for Hotel Baia.