Travel In Italy
Cinque Terre, The Vacation You Need
Cinque Terre is the vacation you didn’t know you needed. But trust me, this is the vacation you need. One of my fondest memories of Italy is sitting on the salty steps along the beach in Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore is one of five lovely towns that make up Cinque Terre – five little coastal towns all built up the cliffside and connected by a very long, beautiful, hiking trail, that according to our own local tips, you never, ever want to do! This cluster of five historic towns is nestled along the Ligurian Riviera. It’s one of the esteemed locations featured on the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. It’s Almafli Coast, with none of the glitz and Hollywood super yachts!
When we arrived in Cinque Terre (several years ago), we had just spent nine days traipsing around Europe, starting in Rome and off to London, Dublin, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Munich, Zurich, Milan, Genova, and finally, Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore was a wonderful reset after riding crowded trains and trying to cram in as many landmarks as possible – Platform 9 ¾, Guinness Factory, Eiffel Tower, and more. From Cinque Terre, we went on to La Spezia, Pisa, and then back home to Rome.
On our first night in Riomaggiore, we slept out on the beach (1000%, absolutely I do not recommend) with a couple of homeless men in sleeping cocoons while waiting for our tiny apartment rental at La Dolce Vita. Also, I’m fairly certain that we could have faced jail or fines if we’d been caught. So, just to reiterate – Italian Life does not recommend sleeping outside on the beach.
So if you avoid sleeping on the beaches, and while perhaps not as well known as the more glitzy, aforementioned Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terrre is one of those “bucket list” places in Italy that everyone should visit.
My heart belongs to Rome always, but Cinque Terre’s calm and breathtaking views coupled with the friendliest locals, make it an excellent place to relax, unwind, and take a beat.
This quaint Ligurian town is the perfect place to reset your mind, body, and soul. While Corniglia is the only town without beach access, this hidden town is also the most well-preserved dating back to the 1200s. Fun fact: If you’re a fan of Disney and Pixar’s Luca visiting Corniglia may remind you of the fictional town of Portorosso – in a 2021 interview, it was revealed that the fictional town was inspired by the very real Cinque Terre, specifically Corniglia and Vernazza.
When coming from La Spezia, Riomaggiore will be the first of the five towns when heading up the Italian coastline. It’s a quaint town with rich history, lots of wine, and even a tiny castle, Castello di Riomaggiore. While you can typically hike the via dell’amore from here, it’s temporarily closed until 2024.
Monterosso al Mare
This beautiful town is the largest of Cinque Terre, and boasts the most popular beach fronts. Catch a glimpse of the famous statue of Neptune, Il Gigante, along the beachside. Monterosso lives on the cusp of its historical past and modern present with two halves in juxtaposition.
Manarola is a lovely hidden gem in Cinque Terre, with architecture dating back to the 1300s. This town connects to Riomaggiore with the via dell’amore hiking trail, which re-opens to the public in 2024. Take a dip in Manarola’s crisp, clear waters, enjoy the robust and flavorful cuisine or sip some sciacchetrá and relax.
Vernazza is the most picturesque of the five towns. It’s aesthetically pleasing in every way, from the colorful buildings to the breathtaking views and pristine water. Try this fishing village’s local seafood and catch a glimpse of the Castello Doria.
What you’ll need to get around:
To get around Cinque Terre you’ll want to purchase one or both of these:
- Cinque Terre Trekking Card
- Cinque Terre Train Card.
At the current moment, all online sales of hiking cards are halted. You’ll find a message about their temporary suspension. However, you can still purchase your train card online.
For more travel-like-a-local information, subscribe to the Italian Life Podcast. And if you plan on doing the famed Cinque Terre hike please read more about why you really, really don’t want to (but will be secretly glad you did!).
Have you visited Cinque Terre? Which town was your favorite? Tell us all about it down below!