Cinque Terre, the five small coastal villages together with nearby town Portovenere and three islands are listed in UNESCO list. Although we have been to Italy many times, Cinque Terre was never on our list because it was not close to any of the places we had visited. This summer holiday we have finally managed to arrange three days to visit the places.
We drove to Levanto and parked our car at the railway station. The parking place is very big, but you need some skills to handle the parking machine. The local tourist office is right inside the train station. We bought day tickets which entitled us to take trains between the five villages as frequently as we wanted. The ticket is also valid for local buses and toilets.
Riomaggiore (the best seaview of Cinque Terre)
We started from the most southern village of the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore. The train from Levanto to La Spezia stopped at Riomaggiore. Before entering the village, we walked up to the famous Via dell’ Amore or “Way of Love”. That day the path “Way of Love”, which was the shortest and easiest one, was unfortunately closed for repairing work. But the standpoint offers amazing panoramic sea views.
Walked through an underground tunnel we arrived at the small harbour front. There is no sandy beach but a rocky beach. Riomaggiore is the smallest village of the five and has just one main street. Back to the town centre, we walked way up towards the train station following a scenic small path. Most people did not follow this way. The path is well paved and we were the only tourists there. It leads us directly to the train station.
Manarola (the best eating place in Cinque Terre)
Around lunchtime, we arrived at this village. It had much more tourists compared to the first one. Walked through the colourful main street we saw another rocky harbour. In the heat of summer, swimmers were frolicking in the turquoise water around the rock face of the small harbour.
We walked along Via Di Corniglia up the hill and passed a local graveyard. There is a nice picture point of the seafront. Back to the harbour, we walked toward the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint. Before we reached the viewpoint, we spotted a bar with an open view to the harbour front. However, there was a long queue in front of it. We gave up the idea to have a break there and headed back to the main street where many local restaurants and bars located.
Because of a huge selection of eateries, it wasn’t easy to decide where to eat. All the dishes displayed on pictures looked attractive. Finally, three of us ordered three hearty seafood dishes, two plates of linguine with fresh clams, prawns, and mussels caught from the sea that morning and one plate of fried seafood dish including tender octopus.
Comiglia (the vineyard village of the Cinque Terre)
This is the only village without direct access to the sea. The train does not reach the village centre. We had two choices to reach the village centre: walk 377 steps up the hill or take a local bus. We opted for the latter choice because it was too hot in the afternoon and we would run out of the time to visit the other two villages.
From the bus station, we first followed Via Fieschi and then Sentiero Azzuro, the hiking path leading to Vernazza. The path is passing through the locals’ houses. On the hillside, there are small-scale vineyard terraces.
Back to the centre, we strolled toward the south. The narrow street passes through restaurants, bars, and shops. At the end of that street, there is a viewpoint where you can breathe the sea breeze.
Vernazza (the only open Piazza in front of the sea in Cinque Terre)
The village has the only Piazza in front of the sea. Around the Piazza are numerous eateries. You can have a nice view of the orange and yellow buildings dotted with laundries and dark green shutters, a typical scene in Cinque Terre.
Castello Doria’s tower provides a 360-degree spectacular view of both the town and the sea. The Corniglia in the distance can also be seen from there.
Near the main square of the village through a caved passage in the rock we saw another secret beach. However that day the beach access was blocked.
Monterosso al Mare ( the beach place of the Cinque Terre)
Being a beach town this is the busiest village among the five. Because of its beach, the village is well equipped for its tourism. There are more streets and shops than in other villages. On the beach, there are many parasols and deck chairs ready for renting, a typical Italian beach style.
One of the eye-catching sites is the church San Giovanni Battista. Its alternating black and white stripes of marble and serpentinite represent an example of a splendid Ligurian Gothic architecture. And, the facade has a notably large rose window.
An acquaintance of us told us that the ice cream in Cinque Terre is very special. So we finished our day by eating ice cream. Well, it did taste like ice cream, but we had a better one in other Italian cities.
The day trip was quite stressful as we had to arrange everything by ourselves. Driving in Italy is not a relaxing thing. Parking is another problem. If you stay in another area, then it is better to book a tour. Some tours start in Milan and Florence. If you have only a couple of days and haven’t a rental a car, you could still visit these villages by joining a tour at a reasonable price.
Where to stay
Alternatively, you can stay in hotels near the Cinque Terre or in one of the five villages for a night or two. To visit all five in one day is too tight. If you want to hike, then it is suggested to stay in the village for a night. You can also avoid the crowds by spending a night there because most travelers won’t arrive there so early.
Hotel Da Paulin is in the Manarola which has one of the best-rated locations in the area. It offers free Wi-Fi, a garden, en suite rooms, and self-catering apartments. It is just 200 m from Manarola Train Station. Free beaches and free public parking are both less than 400 m from the guest house. This property is also rated for the best value in Manarola! Guests are getting more for their money when compared to other properties in this city. You can find this hotel at Booking.com or Hotel Combined.
How to get there
The nearest airport to reach Cinque Terre is Genoa. Other airports are such as Milan or Pisa. We rented a car during our stay. You could check rentalcars.com because it has many offers from different merchants.
If your base is in Milan or Pisa, you can also join a tour from the two cities, for example, the Cinque Terre Tour in Milan. It also includes a boat ride between Portovenere and Monterosso.
Or, join the Cinque Terre and Portovenere Full-Day Tour if you stay in Pisa. The tour starts in Portovenere and the journey through Cinque Terre National Park by train or ferry boat.