Cinque Terre, a Day Trip to the Hidden Gem on the Italian Riviera

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 (best sea views 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.

The amazing panorama sea views from "Way of Love"
The amazing panorama sea views from “Way of Love”

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 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 lead us  directly to the train station.

Harbour front, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Harbour front, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Manarola (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.

View from cliff walk way in Manarola, Cinque Terre
View from cliff walk way in Manarola, Cinque Terre

We walked along Via Di Corniglia up the hill and passed a local graveyard. There is a nice picture point of the sea front. Back to the harbour we walked toward the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint. Before we reach 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.

The main street of Manarola, Cinque Terre
The main street of Manarola, Cinque Terre

It was very difficult to pick an eatery for a lunch.  All the dishes look so delicious from the pictures. Finally,  we picked one which had attractive seafood offers. 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.

The colourful houses in Manarola, Cinque Terre
The colourful houses in Manarola, Cinque Terre
Another view point in Manarola, Cinque Terre
Another view point in Manarola, Cinque Terre

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.

Hiking path throug hteh local houses in Corniglia, Cinque Terre
Hiking path throug hteh local houses in Corniglia, Cinque Terre

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-scaled vineyard terraces.

The narrow main shopping street in Corniglia, Cinque Terre
The narrow main shopping street in Corniglia, Cinque Terre

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.

The open Piazza next to the sea, Vernazzs, Cinque Terre
The open Piazza next to the sea, Vernazzs, Cinque Terre

Castello Doria’s tower provides 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 other villages. On the beach, there are many parasols and deck chairs ready for renting, a typical Italian beach style.

Typical Italian beach style in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre
Typical Italian beach style in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre
Beach in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre
Beach in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre

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. The church’s facade presents a notably large rose window.



Booking.com

An acquaintance of us told us that the ice cream in Cinque Terre is very special. So we finished our day by eating an ice cream. Well, it did taste like an ice cream, but we had had better one in other Italian cities.

The busy shopping street in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre
The busy shopping street in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre

Conclusion

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 other area but would like to visit this UNESCO site, then it is better to book a tour.  There are some tours starting in Milan and Florence. Even you stay in Italy for a couple of days without having rent a car, you could still visit these villages by paying a reasonable price. Take a look at these tours:

Where to stay

Alternatively, you can stay in hotels near the Cinque Terre or in one of the five village 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.

Hotel in Da Paulin
Hotel in Da Paulin
A sample room of Hotel Da Paulin
A sample room of Hotel Da Paulin

How to get there

The nearest airport to reach Cinque Terre is Genoa. Other airports are such as Milan or Pisa.  To book a flight or hotel I used Booking.com.

We rented a car during our stay. You could check AutoEurope.com because it has many offers from different merchants.

 

 

 

19 Comments

  1. Cinque Terre looks and sounds like what dreams are made of. And wow how photogenic this place is!! I totally would love to indulge in fresh seafood here and some good Italian wine. Hope one day to make it here!

  2. I can imagine, how difficult it was to plan your own trip. I plan my own trips as well and they can be super stressful. I like the fact that you can buy one ticket and its good for all the different trains and busses. I have never been to Italy but this seems looks like a great city to start exploring. I would enjoy seeing the colorful houses and the beach.

  3. You covered a lot of ground on one day. I have never been to Italy but have seen so many beautiful pictures. Loved your detailed post and the description of the food too. 😀 I could visualize how beautiful the water would have looked. The houses of Manarola are so colorful. Thank you for this visual journey. Hope I get to visit this place someday.

  4. Wow you cant beat a beautiful historic European city. I currently in Vancouver and the city is only 150 years old – everything looks so clean and modern! Beautiful resort and write up thanks for sharing

  5. I can’t believe I still haven’t been to Cinque Terre! That photo of the colourful is so iconic, but I had no idea until after reading this post that there was so much else to do there. It’s a shame the Walk of Love was closed for repairs when you went, but that’s a great excuse to go back! Do you think you would?

    1. Yes, we are thinking about going back to the area again. We actually want to hike around. The best time would be in autumn. However, I have heard that not all trails will be open at the same time.

  6. I love the Cinque Terre so much, we actually get married here next Summer. If you visit again I recommend staying the area for a few nights to get a real feel for the place, it’s truly magic at night once the hoards of day-trippers have left. But book your accommodation in advance as it can be pricey.

    1. I totally agree with you. We need to plan well ahead and are thinking about going there again for a couple of days. We like to hike around. This time we failed to do so and had to booked our accommodation somewhere else. You have picked a romantic place to get marry. Looking forward to your experience of the arrangement.

  7. Gorgeous photos! I love your idea where you mentioned about taking a tour instead of driving and looking for parking. I usually prefer tours as it makes things to convenient
    Your tips are practical and I will be referring back to this post when I visit Cinque Terre

  8. Cinque Terre looks incredibly lovely! You took some beautiful photos! I appreciate your reviews of each of the 5 villages. It does seem like a lot to do in one day and the parking there doesn’t sound fun. I would definitely take your advice to spend a night there instead, or take a tour.
    Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂

  9. The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy! I love the rocky beaches at Riomaggiore and the vineyards around Corniglia. The hiking between villages is great, but even better are the trails that go off the beaten track through the vineyards above the villages. You have them totally to yourself and the views are amazing! (You need more like three days for this though since many of the hikes are 20+ km.)

    1. You are right. To stay there a couple of days would be perfect. Sometimes the hiking trails are closed for repairing works. as far as I know they never open all at the same time.

  10. The Cinque Terre has a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first places I visited as an international traveler in my early 20s. I spent a night sleeping outside down at the water in Riomaggiore when the hostel had no beds left. 20 years later I took my husband and son and stayed in a very comfortable Airbnb beachside in Monterroso. You covered a lot of territory for a day trip! It’s such a beautiful area and I hope to return some day.

    1. I would like to go back as well. We could not manage to hike between the five villages. So this is something we are going to do next time.

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