So the summer of 2016 I visited Cinque Terre as a part of my backpacking trip through Italy and France. I’ve put together a short guide to Cinque Terre, and I hope you find it inspiring. Check out my backpacking route HERE. I completely fell in love with the towns and I still need to visit the biggest one Monterosso del Mare. So even though it was my first time visiting the area, it certainly isn’t going to be my last! Here are a couple of introducing tips to spike your interest. There are also some pictures I took while visiting. If they don’t convince you, I don’t know what can.
First of all, a lot of you have probably seen photos from Cinque Terre, located on the northern Italian coast. Cinque Terre is iconic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the name meaning “the five lands”, and it actually consists of 5 towns all located super close together. The easiest way to travel in-between them is by train. From the first of the town to the last one it doesn’t take more than 15-20 minutes. An option is also to make a day out of it and hike in-between them. The other options of transportation are by boat as there are not really roads connection Cinque Terre to the outside areas. Originally the locals of Cinque Terre made a living from vineyards and olive cultivation. Nowadays the main income for the locals is tourism.
If you’re coming from the south (Pisa/Lucca), like we did, Riomaggiore is the first town you’ll arrive in. It has a small rocky beach where you can go for a swim, or climb out on the rocks that protect the beach from big waves. Frome here you can watch the towns colorful houses change colors while the sunsets.
It is pretty hard to get a reservation for the seaside restaurants, especially in the low seasons. BUT as low budget travelers it’s an even better idea to buy some delicious ham, cheese, olives, and local wine and sit by the seaside. From here you can look upon the beautiful city, lit up in the dark and listen to the waves. Can you think of any other setting suited for great conversations?
If you anyway want a reservation I recommend planning ahead a couple of days and call to reserve beforehand. The seaside restaurants seemed to have a wonderful atmosphere.
Manarola is the next town you get to when you take the train line, that takes about 5 minutes. You can hike to Manarola from one of the cities lying on each side of it, Riomaggiore and Corniglia. The town is smaller then Riomarrigoe and has picturesque places that you’ve probably seen pictures. Walk 10 minutes out of town for a great view, you also find some restaurant on the cliffs there. Italian food and a view, not exactly a bad combination.
The photo above is taken in Corniglia, the only one of the five towns not directly connected to the ocean. It’s separated by 382 steps located in the steep mountainside. Or, if you don’t feel like taking the stairs, you can catch the bus that goes continuously from the train station to the city. It’s small, but beautiful and totally worth seeing, even though you have to go to one of the other cities to have a proper swim.
Vernazza is the fourth town and is a small fishing village with the only natural harbor of Cinque Terre. The first mention of little Vernazza in history dates all the way back to 1080, when it seemed to be a maritime base for an Italian family and most likely a basepoint of defense from pirates at the time. Cool, I know!
Stay the night in Cinque Terre
So a couple of last advice I would give after being there myself; spend the night in one of these cities, as the whole mood of the place changes. From the busy, crowdy and touristy streets during the day, the pace changes and becomes calm and magical during the night. It might be a bit more expensive than staying in ex. La Spezia, but it’s totally worth it!
I recommend spending at least two nights in Cinque Terre if you want to do a hike and also see all the towns. You can buy a day-pass for the trains and take them as much as you want during that day. This makes it fully possible to see all the cities in one day. If we didn’t have to be in France by the evening to meet a friend, we would totally have stayed longer and done one or two of the different hiking trails, and stayed in several different towns overnight. Some of the trails might be closed off due to landslides so check with the tourist office in town to get tips and trail routes.
You should also look into the boat rides offered, you can rent canoes and also be transported by boat from a city to another, and I can only imagine how beautiful it must be to arrive from the sea and see all the beautiful pastel covered houses lying there in the mountainside.
PS. We stayed in Riomaggiore and absolutely loved it. I would say it’s my favorite town, but this might change with further visits.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this short guide to Cinque Terre. Let me know if this spiked your interest!