Exploring Italy’s Cinque Terre

Italy’s Cinque Terre offers one of the country’s most stunning coastlines. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” and is a collection of five small villages nestled into the cliffs on the Ligurian Sea. Formerly supported by fishing, the primary industry today is tourism. And it’s not difficult to see why thousands of visitors come to this beautiful area every year.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is an easy day trip from Florence, Pisa or Milan (Pisa is the closest airport), but to fully enjoy all the area has to offer, plan on at least 3 days. You’ll want to spend a bit of time in each of the five towns, all of which have their own unique charms.

Monterosso is the most popular town and the only one with a beach, though it’s a rocky beach – no sand. It is home to the most restaurants, the largest hotels, and the greatest number of tourists. Just south of Monterosso is Vernazza. Famous for its picturesque harbor and lively town square, it’s not quite as populated as Monterosso, but still sees plenty of visitors. Corniglia, the only town not at sea level, is perched high atop a rocky cliff with sweeping views of the sea. It is a bit more isolated and so has fewer tourists.

Manarola cinque Terre


Manarola is the favorite town of many – big enough to offer choices in accommodation, yet small enough to retain its off-the-beaten-path feel. While it doesn’t have a beach, it has several protected coves where you can leap from rocky outcroppings into the sea. The southernmost village of Riomaggiore is another quiet town and offers easy access to the protected natural wildlife and marine park.

Connecting the five towns, is an 11-kilometer long hiking trail. It can be hiked in one day, but splitting it into two allows more time for relaxing and sightseeing in each town. There are plenty of stairs and inclines along the way; it’s a slightly easier hike if you start at the northernmost town of Monterosso and work your way south. For those not keen on exerting too much effort while on vacation, each town can also be reached by train and all but Corniglia are accessible from the sea as well.

cinque terre

rooftops of Manarola

Other than hiking, swimming, and taking in the beautiful scenery at every turn, the main attraction in the Cinque Terre is eating and drinking. The town of Manarola, surrounded by vineyards built into the hills, produces an excellent white wine. The Cinque Terre is also the birthplace of foccaccia and pesto, and they are offered on virtually every menu in many varieties. And, of course, fish and sea food are the main staples of the Ligurian diet. Sea bass and anchovies are just two of the specialty items served fresh off anyone of the many boats that float in the harbor. There are plenty of great restaurants to choose from as you wander around town, or you may grab some foccaccia and wine to-go for a picnic near the sea.

With the exception of Monterosso, the Cinque Terre doesn’t offer much in the way of traditional full-service hotels. The lodging options here consist mainly of small inns, bed and breakfasts, pensiones and apartments. Arpaiu is a great mid-priced option. Situated at the top of the cliff in Manarola, it offers apartment-style rooms for around 100 euros a night. There is no on-site staff, but rooms are modern and stylish and have mini-fridges. The common balcony offers stunning views of the town and sea below, as do most of the rooms.

cinque terre

Arpaiu view

If you are planning a longer stay in Cinque Terre, you can also take day trips to the nearby towns of Portofino (by boat) and Levanto. The beautiful views, natural setting, outdoor activities, and culinary delights of Cinque Terre make it the perfect destination for a few days of relaxation in Italy.


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  1. grace gifford says

    i’m planning on catching the train to the cinque terre, from the veneto.

    we’re good walkers/hikers … with packs, which town would be the best to dump the bags as our base? Planning on staying a couple of nights, walking without the packs on!

  2. sonia says

    We are planning to go to Cinque Terre the weekend of June 4-6 and already cannot find anything available online, except for very expensive hotels. Do you recommend to wait until I get there and find some accommodations locally or is it better to be safe then sorry and book outside the Cinque Terre in Levante, Sestri Levante or La Spezia?

  3. says

    To answer some of the questions on here, the park has a place to leave your bag by the train station in Riomaggiore. I can help you find a place in Riomaggiore and it runs between 75 euro per night for 2 people in an apartment. Rooms are what you find here and you can find a place during the mid week but on week ends they are booked. If you plan on coming here contact me and I will help you if I can.

  4. says

    Pall from http://www.trekguyd.com knows what he is talking about. He is American and has lived in Cinque Terre for many years. He knows the ins and outs of the area and does fabulous individualized tours, taking you places you would have never found. Definitely not your average tour guide. It is well worth it.

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