Colourful houses, dotted on rocks surrounded by azure waters, fishermen boats in the small harbours and dreamy views. This is what we see on all the ´postcard´ pictures of Cinque Terre. And, indeed, it is so. The area of Cinque Terre consists of 5 villages (as the name suggests) – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare (listed from South to North).
My experience of the Cinque Terre spanned over 1 day. However, I would recommend at least 2 or 3 days if you want to get the most out of this pearl on the Ligurian coast. In this post I will tell you how I spent my time here, as well as some practical information.
First things first, transportation. The Cinque Terre spans between the cities of La Spezia and Levanto. The easiest and most convenient way to travel is by train. The five villages are literally 2-3 minutes away from each other and the trains are relatively frequent. You can catch one from any of the cities mentioned above. Tip: Get the Cinque Terre Card. It offers unlimited travelling between Levanto and La Spezia. The cost is between €10-€15 depending on age and season. You can buy it at every train station in the region, as well as online.
Starting the day at Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is the first village you come across if travelling from La Spezia. It is probably the most photographed and well-known, together with Manarola. We started our journey with breakfast and warm capuccino at one of the cafes on the main street. You can find plenty of small restaurants and cafes with various food – from traditional pasta and pizza to fresh seafood. The main sights in the village are the church of San Giovanni Battista and the old castle which sits on top of Riomaggiore. Now, when I say castle don´t imagine a stunning building overlooking the sea. It is more of a fortress, which was used for defensive purposes. Narrow, winding cobblestone streets take you through the colourful old houses.
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Beach time at Monterosso al Mare
Our next stop was Monterosso al Mare, the most northern village. It is best known for its beautiful beach, and this is where we spent our time, too. The white sand and azure sea make up for a great way to enjoy Monterosso, but there is more to the village. It is divided in 2 parts – new and old one. The narrow streets are filled with little shops and restaurants. An interesting site is the statue of Neptune, located near the Fegina beach. Il Gigante stood there to protect Monterosso for centuries, but suffered damages from climate and WW2. A well-known (and visible) attraction is the Convent of the Capuchin Friars which basically separates the new and old parts of Monterosso.
Golden hour over Vernazza
After soaking in the sun for several hours, we took the train to Vernazza where we enjoyed the golden hour. Vernazza has the only natural port in the Cinque Terre region where small fishermen boats rock calmly on the waves. Again, you can find colourful old houses on winding streets with cafes and shops. To get the best view I recommend going to the Doria Castle. As with the others villages, the fortress was built for protection and surveillance. The Belforte tower is a symbol of Vernazza and offers some quite stunning views of the village and the coast. The entry fee is only €1.50, so it is definitely worth the visit.
Sunset at Manarola
To finish off our day, we set out to Manarola. Everyone has seen those postcard pictures of the houses of Manarola. All these pictures are taken from the Manarola scenic viewpoint, which offers 360 degree bird-eye views. You can see the walls of the old bastion at the seafront and take the stairs down to the rocks. If you want to see how the colourful houses, symbol of the Cinque Terre, are gently caressed by the last sun rays, then Manarola is the perfect stop. The buildings face to the west and, as the sun sets down, you can enjoy how the village slowly gets lit up from the scenic viewpoint.
Well, we didn´t get to visit Corniglia, since we had only one day. It is the smallest village and the only one that does not have a contact with the sea. Corniglia is surrounded by vineyards and resembles a terrace, overlooking the region.
Trekking the Cinque Terre
Apart from colourful houses dotted on rocks, beaches and crystal waters, the Cinque Terre attracts people with its many trekking paths. In fact, all the villages are interconnected to each other. It would take you around 5 hours to get from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare. There are paths connecting Riomaggiore to Portovenere and Monterosso to Levanto.The one between Manarola and Riomaggiore is known as the Lover´s lane. Unfortunately, the trail is currently closed, but it is planned to be reopened in the spring of 2021. Lover´s lane is a beautiful path in the rocks, overhanging the sea. Although I haven´t done any of the hiking routes, they are definitely on my list for next time.
Cinque Terre has been on my bucket list since the day I first saw pictures of it. I dreamed about visiting the Ligurian riviera, with its symbolic houses and blue water, and let me assure you – it does not disappoint. The five villages are absolutely charming, just as beautiful as on the pictures. If you ever find yourself in the region, definitely pay Cinque Terre a visit even if it is for one day only.
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