Cinque Terre: Italy at its most picturesque

September, 22 2020

Everyone is familiar with the typical Italian photos: beautifully coloured houses that appear to be glued to the rocky yet green coast. An azure sea, the warm Mediterranean light and charming harbours complete the picture. Almost too picturesque to be true. And yet, it really does exist. Welcome to ‘Cinque Terre’ on the Italian coast. There is a reason this special Italian coastal area has been on Unesco’s World Heritage List for more than twenty years already. But where exactly is Cinque Terre and what is the best way to visit this beautiful area of Italy? I would be happy to tell you more about hiking in Cinque Terre and the surroundings of this beautiful area, the Italian Riviera with the lively city of Genoa and charming Portofino.

Cinque Terre (translated literally: five areas) consists of the villages Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These villages lie on the Italian coast in the Liguria region, between the port cities Genoa and La Spezia. The villages are right on the sea or partially built on sheer cliffs. Vineyards and olive groves on the steep slopes encircle the villages. The villages are connected by amazing hiking trails. Allow me to briefly introduce the villages of Cinque Terre to you.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso

Monterosso al Mare is the most northern village of Cinque Terre. It has a harbour, beach and pleasant boulevard.

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza has a unique medieval watchtower. The inviting village is right next to the beach.

Corniglia

Corniglia

Corniglia is the only village without a harbour. It is located on a rock 100 metres above sea level. To get there, you have to go up almost four hundred steps! But once you get up there, the view is absolutely breath-taking!

Manarola

Manarola

Manarola is the oldest village of Cinque Terre. The inhabitants lived there long before the vineyards, fisheries and agriculture were cultivated.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

Riogmaggiore is the most southern and largest village of Cinque Terre. It has many good fish restaurants.

Taking the train to Cinque Terre

You can drive to the border of some of the villages, but the small villages themselves are strictly pedestrians only. Visiting Cinque Terre by car is definitely not recommended. It is much more comfortable to go with the train! There are plenty of trains that come from La Spezia in the south or Sestri Levante to the north of Cinque Terre. The advantage to coming by train is that you get off in the centre of the villages! The train will take you from La Spezia to Riomaggiore in ten minutes and to Monterosso within half an hour! More information and the timetable can be found (in English as well) on the website of Trenitalia.

Boat trip Ligurian coast

A boat trip to Cinque Terre will give you awesome views of the beautiful landscape of the Ligurian coast.

Taking the boat to Cinque Terre

A very enjoyable and relaxing way of seeing the beauty of the villages is taking a boat trip. There are many boat trips between April and October for exploring the Ligurian coast and Cinque Terre. You could get on the boat at La Spezia or Portofino. The boat takes longer, but you see more of the coastline than if you take the fast train. The train is ideal for fast transportation, but it does go through many tunnels. You can dream away on the boat and enjoy a drink as the landscape drifts by.

Hiking through Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre is a fantastic area for hiking. There are several routes between the villages and through the beautiful countryside behind the villages. A good hike is one of the best ways to fully discover the landscape and the view. It takes on average two to three hours to hike between two villages.

The hikes are not always easy because there are parts that involve a steep climb. But you are rewarded time and again with an amazing view of the clear Mediterranean Sea. Along the way, there are the hills with terraced gardens, olive groves and lemon orchards, separated by small walls. You pass cloisters, churches and each main street ends in a harbour. Would you like to go hiking in Cinque Terre? Do take along a good pair of shoes. The Italian government has banned casual shoes from the hiking trails for a reason.

A number of the trails require an entrance fee. This is necessary to maintain the trails, since some of them are susceptible to high water or falling rocks. The famous Via dell’Amore, the Way of Love, is a trail that runs between Riomaggiore and Manarole. Unfortunately, due to rockslides, this path has been closed for several years. The route is being repaired and will be opened again in the future. The exact opening date is not yet clear. It will most likely be between 2021 and 2023.

Hiking through Cinque Terre

Hiking trail through Cinque Terre.

Entry and Cinque Terre Card

Admission is asked for a visit to Cinque Terre. If you are planning to visit all of the villages, the ‘Cinque Terre Card‘ is a good option. This card allows you access to the hiking trails and buses in the national park and gives you a code for the wifi. The price is € 7.50 for one adult for one day. The ‘Cinque Terre Train Card’ also allows you unlimited travel by train between La Spezia and Levanto. This card is € 13 for one adult for one day. If you do not want to hike but only visit one or more villages by train, check the Trenitalia website to see if it is cheaper simply to purchase a normal train ticket.

Best time to visit Cinque Terre

I will not beat about the bush: Cinque Terre is busy! The villages are part of the most photographed places in Italy and every year countless tourists flock from all over the world as well as Italy to see this beautiful sight. Would you prefer to avoid the rush? Visit during the low season and during the week, not in the weekend. This way you avoid the Italian summer holiday and the intense heat in August.

Campsites close to Cinque Terre

For most holidaymakers, Cinque Terre is a destination for a day trip, a hiking holiday or a short city trip. Would you like to combine Cinque Terre with a camping holiday in Italy? There are plenty of possibilities for this. From a campsite in Tuscany or a campsite in Liguria you can easily make a great day trip to Cinque Terre.

See more of Liguria

The eastern part of Liguria runs from Genoa to La Spezia. The coastal strip of this area is called the Italian Riviera. Here you will find small, charming fishing villages, spectacular cliffs and vineyards and olive groves. There is much more to see and experience here besides Cinque Terre. Once outside the bustle of Cinque Terre, the Ligurian coast is excellent for a wonderful roadtrip. Be sure to visit Genoa and Portofino!

Piazza de Ferrari Genoa

Piazza de Ferrari in Genoa.

Genoa, Italy’s largest port

The city of Columbus the explorer is well worth a visit. Many historical buildings, such as the cathedral and a few palaces, show just how important this rich port was. Wander around in the largest medieval city centre of Europe and experience the typical Italian atmosphere of a busy port. Don’t forget to taste the local specialties – the focaccia and pesto. Or find the best ice-cream parlour or café. A No. 1 destination!

Portofino

Strolling along the harbour in Portofino.

Watching the jet setters in Portofino

The attractive city of Portofino with its yacht harbour is an exclusive place for the Italian jet set, such as Berlusconi and Armani. Stars from around the world come here for a chic holiday. Who knows? You may run into one of the Kardashians if you go for a walk. The prices are high and the parking places limited. It might be better to get on a boat a little further down the road and sail to Portofino. It will give you a great view of the coast! Or wander to the castle in San Giorgio and look at Portofino and the sea from above.

Campsites by the sea in Liguria

Marieke Krämer
  • Author: Marieke Krämer
  • Marieke has been camping since she was a baby. Her family would go camping at some of the most beautiful spots in the Netherlands and Belgium. Marieke loves active holidays surrounded by nature, combined with visits to interesting cities, in areas such as the French Alps, Slovenia, and Scotland.

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