Exploring Cinque Terre Italy
The “five lands,” Italy’s Cinque Terre includes the towns of Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso. Though still in recovery mode after a 2011 flood, this gorgeous stretch of coastline just a few hours northwest of Florence remains a masterpiece. Originally founded as a hideout from pirates, the string of cliff-side clusters remains secluded from the energy of Italy’s northern cities and their soft hues glow invitingly against the Mediterranean. Though the villages are accessible by train and ferry, the best way to explore the national park is via the walking trails. With its mix of vineyards, seaside idylls, winding paths, churches, ruined castles and hidden beaches, Cinque Terre is a hiker’s paradise. Each village offers its own charming idiosyncrasies, and together they form one of Italy’s best natural attractions
5 Things to do and see in Cinque Terre?
If you plan to stay more than a day in Cinque Terre, consider making Vernazza your base. Probaly the most picturesque, Vernazza is home to a large population of artists and intellectuals, sprawling vineyards, a crumbling castle, two ancient towers, waterfalls and nude beaches. Though each traveler will explore at their own pace, here are five things we suggest seeing and doing in Cinque Terre:
For the relaxed Traveler:
- Warm up with a short trek to Santuario della Madonna di Montenero. Surrounded by colorful gardens, this 15-minute walk foreshadows what you can look forward to on your trip through the five villages. When you reach the 1,1000-foot pinnacle, stop and take in the vast vista that spans across all 11 miles of coastline.
- Stroll along Riomaggiore Via dell’Amore. While it will be hard to tear yourself from the Riomaggiore’s main street, Via Colombo — it’s home to a handful of delicious Italian eateries — you won’t want to miss the romantic nooks and enchanting crannies along Via dell’Amore.
- Picnic on the beaches near Corniglia. Spend the day at Guvano, a clothing-optional beach and Cinque Terre’s best swimming hole. After lunch, climb the winding stairs past vineyards, citrus groves and lilies, knowing the area’s best wines wait for you at the top.
- Sip sunset cocktails in Monterosso al Mare. Perhaps the most resort-like village in Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is home to the most fashionable restaurants and the coast’s only sandy beach.
- Hike the Blue Trail. From Vernazza, you can comb the Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro), which connects all of the villages from west to east. Walking along the trail cost 3 euros, unless you have a Cinque Terre card. It will take about five hours to travel from Monterosso to Riomaggiore.
For the Active Traveler
- Hike the upper trails of Cinque Terre. Though more challenging these trails will get you away from the day visitors and crowds.
- Rock Climb in Muzzerone, a spectacular climbing area on the cliffs above the sea.
- There is plenty of road bike routes to enjoy in the area. Bring a bike and get in some good training rides in the morning and swim in the afternoon.
- SCUBA Dive in the Marine Park. Lots of sea life and a few old wrecks to explore.
- Trail running, wind surfing, sea kayaking and Mountain biking are also options.
Where are the best places to stay in Cinque Terre?
Accommodations tend to book early in Cinque Terre, make sure you plan well in advance. The most popular place to stay is in Monterosso al Mare, but all of the twons have their own personalities lodging options. I have listed some of the more popular places to stay in Cinque Terre:
- Hotel Margherita (Monterosso al Mare). Located up on the hill above the sea, Hotel Margherita is a lovely boutique hotel with luxurious fixings. Many of the rooms have balconies facing the water, and the hotel is close to the shops and restaurants of Monterosso.
- Eremo di S.M. Maddalena (Monterosso al Mare). This historical residence was once an ancient Benedictine monastery. Today, its swimming pool with views of the sea and converted bedrooms are some of the most nicest in Monterosso.
- Ca’ d’Andrean (Manarola). Located in the town of Manarola, Ca’ D’Andrean is one of the peaceful village’s best hotels. Formerly the site of an oil press, the intimate 10-room hotel has since been converted to include citrus gardens, fireplaces and terraces.
- La Torretta (Manarola). This 17th-century house with sea views, terraces and a solarium is a favorite in Manarola. La Torretta’s intimate location and wine bar make for a great romantic escape.
- La Malá (Vernazza). La Malá practically hangs off a cliff at the edge of the enchanting village of Vernazza. Many people love it, but be advised that La Mala is an intimate property with just four rooms. From the stone terraces and breathtaking views to the blend of modern and antique furnishings, you will find a home away from home at La Malá.
Where are the best places to eat in Cinque Terre?
Among the many things that make a trip to Italy memorable are the food and drinks — and Cinque Terre has some of the best. From the fish caught straight from the sea to the gelato, you won’t go hungry in these Italian villages. Here are some of our favorite places:
- Gambero Rosso (Vernazza). This spot above the beach serves high-quality cuisine and is considered one of the best restaurants in the world, despite being packed with tourists on a regular basis. Order local favorites like stuffed mussels and pasta in a shrimp sauce.
- L’Ancora della Tortuga (Monterosso del Mare). Formerly a bunker in World War II, this regional favorite could possibly serve the best fish in Cinque Terre. Reserve a spot on the terrace and order the catch of the day.
- Osteria a Cantina de Mananan (Corniglia). Chiseled into the cellar of a historic residence and outfitted with granite tables, the cozy Osteria a Cantina de Mananan is an exquisite option for fresh seafood.
- Focaccerio Il Frontoio (Monterosso al Mare). For an authentic breakfast, head to Focaccerio Il Frantoio, where you'll wake up to piping hot espresso and the most memorable focaccia in the region of Liguria. It's also great choice for a lunch, focaccia topped with fresh vegetables and little cheese.
- 5 Terre Gelateria e Creperia (Manarola). Widely known for serving the coast's best gelato, this little gelateria makes its Italian ice cream with fresh ingredients like locally grown figs, peaches and almond milk.
Cinque Terre should be on your travel list and if you can visit during the Spring or Fall you will find fewer crowds and just the right weather to enjoy an active vacation. Summer tends to be very hot (but you normally have a nice sea wind) and crowded with day trippers and other beach visitors.