Nestled on the rugged Ligurian coast of Italy, the Cinque Terre is a collection of five charming seaside villages that have captured the hearts of travelers for generations. The name “Cinque Terre” translates to “Five Lands,” and each of the five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – is unique in its own way, yet all offer a glimpse into a simpler, more traditional way of life.
In this travel guide, we’ll take a deep dive into each of the five villages, exploring their individual charms, must-see sights, and hidden gems. We’ll also cover the best ways to get to the Cinque Terre, how to get around once you’re there, where to eat and drink, and other useful tips for making the most of your visit.
Whether you’re planning a day trip or a longer stay, the Cinque Terre is a destination that’s sure to leave a lasting impression. So grab your sunscreen and your sense of adventure, and let’s explore the magic of the Cinque Terre together!
The five picturesque villages of Cinque Terre
Nestled along the rugged coastline of Liguria, the Cinque Terre is a collection of five picturesque villages that have captured the hearts of travelers for centuries. The name “Cinque Terre” means “Five Lands” in Italian, and the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are each unique in their own way.
The history of the Cinque Terre dates back centuries, with the earliest settlements believed to have been established by the Ligurian people in the pre-Roman era. Over time, the villages became important centers of trade and commerce, thanks to their strategic location along the coast. Fishing, wine-making, and agriculture were the primary industries of the area, with each village specializing in its own unique products.
The rugged terrain of the Cinque Terre made it difficult to access the villages by land, and for centuries, the only way to reach them was by boat. This isolation helped to preserve the traditional way of life in the villages, and even today, visitors can still glimpse the authentic charm of a bygone era.
In more recent times, the Cinque Terre has become an important tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, in recognition of its unique cultural and natural significance.
So what makes the Cinque Terre so special? For starters, it’s the natural beauty of the area. The rugged coastline, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation make for breathtaking views at every turn. The colorful houses and narrow alleyways of the villages only add to the charm of the area, creating a sense of timeless beauty that’s hard to resist.
But it’s not just the natural beauty of the area that draws visitors. The villages themselves are steeped in history and tradition, with centuries-old churches, castles, and fortresses to explore. Each village has its own unique character, from the colorful boats bobbing in the harbor of Vernazza to the quiet, peaceful streets of Corniglia.
And of course, the culinary delights of the Cinque Terre are an essential part of any visit to the area. Italian cuisine is known for its exquisite flavors and the Cinque Terre is no exception. The region is renowned for its fresh seafood, caught daily and prepared in a variety of mouth-watering dishes. Visitors can indulge in local specialties such as anchovies, octopus salad, and seafood risotto.
In addition to its seafood, the Cinque Terre is also famous for its wine. The area’s terraced vineyards produce some of Italy’s most beloved wines, including Sciacchetrà, a sweet dessert wine made from late-harvested grapes. Wine enthusiasts can explore the vineyards and cellars of the area, tasting and learning about the winemaking process from local producers.
Basic facts about Cinque Terre
|Approximately 10 square kilometers
|Varies, up to several hundred meters deep in some areas
|Monterosso al Mare: 44.1454° N, 9.6544° EVernazza: 44.1342° N, 9.6842° ECorniglia: 44.1194° N, 9.7056° EManarola: 44.1056° N, 9.7328° ERiomaggiore: 44.0994° N, 9.7372° E
|The Five Lands (Cinque Terre in Italian)
How to pronounce Cinque Terre?
The name is pronounced as “CHINK-weh TEHR-reh” in Italian. The “ch” sound is similar to the “ch” in “church”, while the “eh” sound is similar to the “e” in “pet”. The emphasis should be on the second syllable of “Terre”.
It’s important to know the correct pronunciation of Cinque Terre when traveling to the area, as it helps you communicate more effectively with locals and avoid any misunderstandings.
Legends around Cinque Terre
The legend of the giant and the creation of the Cinque Terre is a popular tale that has been passed down through generations in the region.
According to the legend, there was once a giant who lived in the hills above the Cinque Terre. He was a solitary figure who rarely ventured down into the villages below, but he was known for his incredible strength and his ability to move massive boulders with ease.
One day, as the giant was wandering the hills, he caught sight of a beautiful young woman from the area. She was tending to her family’s fields, and the giant was immediately smitten. He knew that he had to do something special to win her heart, and so he set to work creating a paradise for her.
Using his immense strength, the giant began to carve out the cliffs and build the terraced fields that are now used for grape cultivation. He worked tirelessly day and night, moving massive boulders and shaping the landscape until the five villages of the Cinque Terre were created.
Despite his efforts, however, the young woman did not return the giant’s love. Heartbroken, the giant eventually left the area, leaving behind the beautiful villages he had built.
While the legend of the giant is not supported by historical records, it remains a popular story in the area and is often used to explain the origin of the Cinque Terre. The tale adds to the charm and mystique of this beautiful part of Italy and is a testament to the enduring power of folklore and myth.
Tips for visiting Cinque Terre
If you’re planning a trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy, there are a few tips that can help you make the most of your visit. Here are our top tips for visiting this beautiful region:
- Buy the Cinque Terre Train Pass: This pass allows you to take unlimited train rides between the towns of Cinque Terre and can help you save money. You can purchase the pass at any train station in the area.
- Stay in La Spezia: La Spezia is a great option for accommodation as it’s the closest large town to the Cinque Terre region. Plus, it’s much cheaper than staying in one of the five towns. It’s only a 5-minute train ride to Riomaggiore, which is one of the five towns.
- Bring good walking shoes: Cinque Terre is very hilly, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking up and down stairs. Make sure you bring comfortable walking shoes to explore the area. If you’re interested in hiking, be sure to bring appropriate gear as well.
- Get seafood: One of the highlights of visiting Cinque Terre is trying the delicious seafood. Make sure you try the street fried calamari and other fresh seafood dishes while you’re there.
- Spend at least 2 days here: To truly experience the beauty and charm of Cinque Terre, we recommend spending at least two days here. Each of the five towns has something unique to offer, and you won’t want to miss any of them.
How to reach Cinque Terre (Map)
Getting to Cinque Terre can be an adventure in itself! The region is accessible by car, train, and bus. Here’s a breakdown of each option:
- By Train: The easiest way to reach Cinque Terre is by train. There is a train station in each of the five towns, making it convenient to get around. The nearest major city is La Spezia, which is well-connected by train to other cities in Italy, including Florence and Rome.
- By Car: While it’s possible to drive to Cinque Terre, it’s not recommended. The roads are narrow, winding, and often congested. Plus, parking can be difficult to find and expensive. If you do decide to drive, keep in mind that only residents are allowed to drive within the towns of Cinque Terre. You’ll need to park outside of the towns and take a shuttle or walk in.
- By Bus: There are also several bus companies that offer service to Cinque Terre, including Flixbus and Eurolines. However, keep in mind that the buses may not stop in all five towns, and may only run during certain times of the day.
No matter which transportation option you choose, be sure to check schedules and fares in advance to ensure a smooth journey. And don’t forget to bring a map or use GPS to navigate the winding roads and picturesque landscape!
When to visit Cinque Terre
Deciding when to visit Cinque Terre depends on personal preferences and what you want to do there. Summer is the high season, with longer days and warmer weather, making it perfect for swimming and sunbathing. However, it can also be very crowded, with long lines and high prices.
Spring and autumn are great alternatives, with milder temperatures and fewer tourists. The landscapes are also at their most beautiful during these seasons, with blooming flowers and colorful foliage. Winter is the low season, with cooler temperatures and fewer services available, but it can still be a charming time to visit if you enjoy the peace and quiet.
The best time of day to visit Cinque Terre really depends on what you want to see and do. If you want to capture stunning photos of the towns and landscapes, then early morning or late afternoon light can be especially beautiful. If you prefer to experience the nightlife and dining scene, then evening is the best time to visit. Regardless of when you choose to visit, it’s important to plan ahead and make reservations for accommodations and activities, especially during the high season.
Accommodations near Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a popular tourist destination, and finding the right accommodation can make your trip more enjoyable. There are two main options for accommodations when visiting Cinque Terre: staying in one of the five towns or staying in the nearby city of La Spezia.
Staying in one of the five towns can be more expensive and limited in options, but it can offer a more authentic experience. Each town has its own charm, and staying there can allow you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture. However, keep in mind that the towns can be quite hilly and may not be the best option for those with mobility issues.
On the other hand, staying in La Spezia can be more budget-friendly and offer more options for accommodations. It’s a larger city with a train station that connects to Cinque Terre, making it a convenient base for exploring the region. You’ll also have access to more restaurants, shops, and amenities in La Spezia compared to the smaller towns of Cinque Terre.
Some of the best options for accommodations in the five towns include family-run bed and breakfasts and small hotels with stunning views of the sea. In La Spezia, there are plenty of hotels and guesthouses to choose from, ranging from budget-friendly options to luxury hotels. Some recommended places to stay in Cinque Terre include:
- Hotel Porto Roca in Monterosso al Mare: a luxurious hotel with breathtaking sea views
- La Casa di Venere in Riomaggiore: a charming bed and breakfast with a terrace overlooking the sea
- Affittacamere Alle 5 Terre in La Spezia: a budget-friendly guesthouse with clean and comfortable rooms
Regardless of where you choose to stay, it’s important to book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak season, to ensure availability and the best prices.
What to do at Cinque Terre
There are plenty of activities to do at the Cinque Terre and in the surrounding area. Here are some suggestions:
- Hiking: The Cinque Terre is famous for its hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the coastline and the Mediterranean Sea. The most popular trail is the Sentiero Azzurro, which connects all five towns. Make sure to bring sturdy shoes and plenty of water!
- Beaches: The Cinque Terre has several beaches where you can soak up the sun and take a swim in the crystal-clear waters. Monterosso has the largest beach, while Vernazza and Corniglia have smaller rocky beaches.
- Boating: You can rent a boat or take a boat tour to explore the coastline from a different perspective. This is a great way to see the villages from the sea and take some amazing photos.
- Wine Tasting: The Cinque Terre is known for its delicious wines, particularly the white wine called Sciacchetrà. There are several wineries in the area where you can sample and purchase the local wines.
- Local Cuisine: Make sure to try the local seafood, including anchovies and octopus, and the delicious pesto sauce made from basil grown in the region. There are also plenty of gelato shops where you can indulge in some sweet treats.
Other attractions near Cinque Terre
There are plenty of other attractions near Cinque Terre that are worth visiting, and one of them is the geothermal spa known as Bagni di Pisa. Located just an hour away from Cinque Terre, this spa offers a unique experience for travelers looking to relax and unwind.
The Bagni di Pisa spa is located in the town of San Giuliano Terme, and it’s known for its hot springs that have been used for centuries for their therapeutic benefits. The spa has a beautiful outdoor pool surrounded by greenery, as well as indoor thermal pools, saunas, and steam rooms.
For photographers, the Bagni di Pisa spa offers plenty of opportunities to capture stunning shots. From the beautiful architecture of the building to the serene landscapes surrounding the pools, there are plenty of photo-worthy moments waiting to be captured.
Aside from the geothermal spa, other attractions near Cinque Terre include the beautiful town of Portovenere, the historic city of Lucca, and the picturesque town of Lerici. Each of these places offers its unique charm and plenty of things to see and do, from visiting historic landmarks to trying delicious local cuisine.
If you’re looking for other activities in the surrounding area, here are some options:
- Visit Portovenere: This charming town is just a short boat ride or drive from the Cinque Terre and is definitely worth a visit. It has a beautiful harbor, colorful houses, and a stunning castle.
- Explore La Spezia: La Spezia is the largest city in the area and is a great place to explore if you’re looking for more nightlife, shopping, and cultural activities. It’s also where you can catch a train to the Cinque Terre.
- Visit the Gulf of Poets: This picturesque area is located just south of La Spezia and is known for inspiring famous poets like Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. You can explore the towns of Lerici and San Terenzo, as well as take a boat tour to see the area from the sea.
Photographing Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a breathtakingly beautiful region in Italy that offers stunning views and picturesque landscapes. If you’re planning on photographing this area, there are some essential things to consider.
Firstly, it’s important to note that droning is not allowed in the Cinque Terre. The use of drones is strictly prohibited, and it’s enforced to protect the natural environment and the safety of the visitors. It’s important to respect these rules and capture your shots from the ground level.
When it comes to camera gear, it’s best to bring a wide-angle lens to capture the vast landscapes and seascapes. A tripod is also highly recommended to help stabilize your camera and capture sharp images, especially during low-light situations. Gimbal stabilizers are also great for creating smooth video footage.
Regarding camera settings, it’s best to shoot in manual mode, allowing you to have full control over exposure, aperture, and shutter speed. It’s essential to balance the exposure and the contrast, especially when shooting against the bright blue sky and the dark rocks. Shooting in RAW format also provides more flexibility in post-processing and ensures the best quality of your images.
The best time to photograph Cinque Terre is during the golden hours, which is typically the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The soft and warm light during this time enhances the colors and textures of the landscapes, making for more dramatic and stunning images. It’s also a good idea to visit during the offseason to avoid crowds and capture more unique shots.