I definitely did not spend enough time in northern Italy but then again I don’t know that I could ever get sick of Cinque Terre. This beautiful region on the Italian Riviera consists of five villages all built into the cliff face of the coastline. This is how Cinque Terre got its name as it literally means “five lands” or “five grounds”. To get to Cinque Terre we caught the train from Milan however, you can catch it from most major cities or from the nearby towns of La Spezia or Levanto.
There are walking tracks and a train that run between all the villages. You will probably have to take the train at some point though as there are usually some sort of track closures for maintenance. Regardless of the length of the train ride or which town you’re going to, each ticket will cost you 4 euros… Super expensive when you are trying to see everything with a strict timeline. If you have the time I recommend staying at least a week here to give yourself the chance to do the scenic walk between the towns and save a pretty penny on multiple train rides.
Each town is incredible and has its own distinct character. I have listed them all from north to south and would love to hear if anyone has anything to add!
Monterosso al Mare
The star of the show! This is the most popular of all the Cinque Terre villages and while it is overrun with tourists in the summer there is definitely a reason for its popularity. The town with the most nightlife as well as a large stretch of beach full of lounge chairs.
Other attractions to see include the convent, the castle and the Monterosso giant (a giant statue of neptune). Somehow we missed the Monterosso giant even though it is apparently 14 metres high… How that happened I have no idea.
The beach at Vernazza is much smaller than that of Monterosso and was still fairly crowded but because of the harbour this beach was also much more protected. There are lots of places to wine and dine on the water overlooking an old 14th century church (Santa Margherita d’Antiochia) on the slopes of the hill. This town also has a castle that was built as a look out in the 15th century to help defend from possible attacks from sea.
This is where you need to get gelato! Gelateria Vernazza was the best gelato we had in Italy… Bold but true statement. There will probably be a line but it is well worth the wait.
This is the “Hill Town” of the Cinque Terre being the only town not directly on the water. Instead it is surrounded by vineyards and while I’m sure it is beautiful I cant really say much as this was the only town I didn’t make it to! I guess now I unfortunately have to go back *sigh* oh well… I’ll do it if I have to.
This town has a beautiful bay surrounded by the colourful houses so typical of Cinque Terre. Not as happening as larger Monterosso or Riomaggiore, I still think Manarola may have been my favourite of all the towns. While the beach is entirely rocks the water is so clear you can just jump straight in. Some people were swimming to the nearby rocks and jumping from an insane height into the water. I would never do this with my fear of heights it was very entertaining to watch! After a swim in the bay we walked down to the boats and enjoyed a few drinks while watching the sunset. Such a tough day.
Manarola is linked to our next town (Riomaggiore) by Via dell’Amore or the “lovers trail”, named as such because it used to be the only way that lovers from the two towns could ever meet. It is arguably the most famous of all the Cinque Terre tracks and it was closed when we were there! Even more excuses as to why I need to make it back here.
This is where we stayed! The second biggest town in Cinque Terre with numerous shops, restaurants and bars in the main street of Via Colombo. Make sure to head up the stairs leading to the port (in the picture below) to watch the sunset. Luckily we didn’t have to join the crowds as our airbnb had an amazing terrace with a view over the port.
The water at the main part of town is a boat ramp more than a beach. It’s still fine to swim there however, if you go up and around the southern corner past the port you will find another beach that while rocky is much, much better for swimming. Just to surprise you, Riomaggiore also has a castle you can explore.
While you are here make sure you have a seafood cone! Il Pescato Cucinato has amazing cones and I can attest to that, but to be honest I’m sure you can’t go wrong with any seafood cone in Cinque Terre. Another great place to eat in Riomaggiore is Dau Cila. While fairly expensive it is right by the water and the food and fresh seafood was incredible with all of us being extremely happy with our meals. We also had grappa and lemoncello here which I recommend you try. Be warned though that to the unsuspecting tastebuds grappa tastes like a shot of pure vodka and burns every cell as it goes down your throat… I guess its an acquired taste.
I hope this gives you a bit of guidance when planning your trip to the Italian Riviera. If you have any questions please reach out and I’ll be ecstatic to keep talking about this gem of a destination.
Amberlee Jane xx