Cinque Terre had been on my list for as long as I can remember. Each of these little fishing towns was postcard perfect, and I’m glad to have finally gotten to visit this little slice of heaven! It’s possible to get a pretty good overview of the five lands in two days, however if you have longer to spare you can get a more immersive experience.
What is Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, or Five Lands, consists of five fishing villages on the Northern coast of Italy. The five towns from North to South are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Corniglia is the only of the five not accessible by water. Cinque Terre is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Park in Italy!
Where to Stay
We chose Monterosso out of convenience, but we loved it and would 100% stay here again! We stayed here as we were driving in from Milan, and heading North again, but this turned out to be our favorite of the five towns. We stayed in an adorable AirBNB, but be aware that where you stay will likely be a trek from where you can park or where the train will drop you off – pack light for this trip! Our AirBNB was at the top of a flight of 150 stairs!
We liked Monterosso the most because there was the most diversity of activities to do. It’s the largest of the five, has a ton of restaurants and cute shops, and the largest beach area. Other things I read online was that it felt the most touristy, which is fair but honestly all of Cinque Terre feels pretty touristy so it was worth it to stay here.
How to See the Other Villages
We had a very short time so our goal was to maximize our day to see as much of the region as possible. We started our morning with coffee and sandwiches at the train station, then headed all the way down to the southern most town of Riomaggiore. We spent about an hour or so wandering through the streets, exploring the shops, and hiking up to the castle. We then bought an all day ferry pass! The ferry pass is a little more expensive than a train pass, however we felt this was a more effective route so we could get the views from the water! This did mean skipping Corniglia, however it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.
After Riomaggiore, we caught the ferry over one town to Manarola. Manarola. Here we grabbed a gelato before exploring this little town. Here, you can find people tanning up the boat ramp. The highlight here was walking up the hill and grabbing lunch at Nessun Dorma. This restaurant is perched with a perfect postcard view, and is famous for their pesto (you can also take a pesto making class here). You may have to wait in line but it’s the most perfect lunch stop.
Continuing North, the last stop on the tour of Cinque Terre was Vernazza. Vernazza has the nicest (although very small) beach right at the ferry stop. We stopped for coffee, explored the church, and just sat and enjoyed the sun and the water. There’s also a popular beach through some rocky tunnels that’s less sandy but more private.
Finally we headed back to Monterosso. We rented some beach chairs under the iconic umbrellas and both fell asleep after a day of lots of steps and uphills.
For dinner in Monterosso I HIGHLY recommend Torre Aurora. Be sure to get a reservation around sunset and on the patio. This was originally a fort to ward off pirate attacks, and I guarantee it will be one of the most beautiful places you ever have a meal. We splurged here and did the full tasting menu, and didn’t regret one bite. Cinque Terre also grows a lot of wine grapes, so be sure to sample some of the local wine!
Cinque Terre is such a beautiful, unique piece of Italian seaside, it’s worth spending two or ten days and enjoying all the food, wine, sun and scenery it has to offer! It’s such a nice change of pace being in tiny towns with no cars, and a great way to recharge.
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