Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world, with a long list of incredible destinations. This European country is home to some of the prettiest natural landscapes and most culturally rich cities in the world. Venice, for example, is always at the top of everyone's dream destination list, well-known as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Rome, meanwhile, is home to some of Europe's most iconic landmarks like the Colisseum and Trevi Fountain. Naples, Milan, Pisa, Vinci, the list goes on and on, which is why so many people are drawn to Italy each and every year.
If you're looking for an Italian vacation with a difference, be sure to check out the Cinque Terre region. Cinque Terre (which translates to 'Five Lands' in English) is a section of coastline on the Italian Riviera, in the northwest part of the country. As the name suggests, this region is made up of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
Together, these five picturesque places form the Cinque Terre National Park, a region so visually breathtaking and historically important that it has been award UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The Cinque Terre is a hugely popular tourist destination, with each village having its own unique charms and attractions. If you're planning a Cinque Terre vacation, read on to learn all you need to know.
The Five Villages of Cinque Terre
All five villages are quite close by and connected by roads and paths, so you can explore and enjoy them all during your stay, but if you'd like to know a little more about each one, check out the following Cinque Terre guide.
Every visitor and resident in the Cinque Terre have their favorite village, but if you were to do a survey of the prettiest town in the area, it's highly likely that Vernazza would come out on top. Lots of tourists flock here, making it the busiest of all five villages. It has some nice sandy beaches, colorful architecture, and outstanding views in every direction. There are some great hiking and climbing routes in the area too, and a lot of stairs to climb due to the steep and rugged nature of the local terrain.
Monterosso is the village situated furthest to the north. It's also the largest of the five Cinque Terre villages, and the land here is quite flat compared to some of the other areas, so it's nice and easy to get around. This is therefore a good option for anyone with mobility issues or low levels of physical fitness, or simply people who don't want to have any trouble getting around. Monterosso is split into two halves: there's the old side of town and the new side, and both of these sides have unique things to see and do. There are several good hotels here and a beautiful sandy beach.
Corniglia may be the smallest village in Cinque Terre, but it proves that size doesn't matter by having some of the most charming buildings and truly world class views. You'll want to bring your camera and snap a million photos every single day when you see the magical surroundings and landscapes in this lovely little Italian village. It's also one of the steepest towns, with hundreds of steps going up and down all around. This means that Corniglia is generally classed as one of the least accessible villages in the Cinque Terre, resulting in relatively low numbers of tourists.
People come to Manarola for its marina. You can spend hours simply sitting down by the water, admiring the colorful houses and buildings behind you and the shimmering blue waters in front, with all sorts of boat traffic sailing around the local area each day. The local cliffs provide a cozy, intimate setting that help to make Manarola one of the most romantic of the Cinque Terre villages and a great choice for lovers or newly-weds looking to enjoy an intimate vacation and make some magical memories.
Riomaggiore is the village located furthest to the south. It's a beautiful little town with the same sort of colorful, cheerful architecture of the others and some nice rocky spots down by the shore that explorers and climbers will love to check out. There are some really good hiking spots around Riomaggiore and some of the best hotels in Cinque Terre are found here too, so it's a nice spot from which to base your Italian coastal vacation. After the sun has set, this town also has some of the best nightlife spots, so it’s a good place for people who like to party and make the most of every day and night.
Getting to Cinque Terre
There are many different ways to get to Cinque Terre, so it's important for you to choose the right option. The closest major airport is Pisa International Airport. Lots of airlines fly into here from all around Europe, so it's relatively easy to find flights but you may have to get a connecting journey from another city. From the airport, you can hop directly onto a train, which is definitely the easiest way to get to Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Trains
The region actually has its own little train route called the Cinque Terre Express. This train goes through all five towns, letting passengers hop on and off as they please at each location and providing a very sensible way to get around. Of course, you can choose to rent a car too, but this isn't the best idea. One of our top travel tips for Cinque Terre is that driving is not really part of the culture here, so it's a smart idea to park up in a place like La Spezia and hop on the train from there.
Coping with Crowds
Remember that Cinque Terre is very popular and the villages are only small, so it can quickly get quite busy and noisy, with lots of tour groups from all over the world. Our top tip for making the most of your time in Cinque Terre is to try and arrange your days to avoid the crowds. The tours tend to run often in the late morning and early afternoon; if you can get out in the early morning and save some fun for the late afternoon, you'll have more space to move.
Walk, Walk, Walk
You'll need a good level of physical fitness to really enjoy Cinque Terre. The towns are mostly built on very rugged terrain with high and low points and a lot of stairs. There are many hiking trails in the area and one of the most popular things to do in Cinque Terre is walk around and enjoy the outdoors. Be sure to bring some good walking shoes and have a good level of physical fitness. Try to use luggage with wheels too and pack light if you can, as this will make it easier to get around.