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You’re probably familiar with the Cinque Terre, the five villages on the Italian coast: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (from north to south). These are ultra-colorful villages, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and built into a steep, mountainous landscape. They are protected by a national park and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to the Cinque Terre also means enjoying a natural setting. Terraced vineyards, olive and lemon groves are an integral part of the landscape.
Each village is a universe in itself. To fully appreciate them, I can only recommend staying several days to stroll through the narrow streets, swim in the creeks, enjoy the sunsets or even sample the local delicacies. If you want to visit, hike and take your time, 2 or even 3 days are ideal.
For our part, we only had 1 day to visit the Cinque Terre. So we decided to spend 2 days in La Spezia, a good base camp for exploring Cinque Terre. We bought a day pass at the La Spezia train station, allowing us unlimited access to the different villages of the Cinque Terre (see practical information below). In 1 day, we had plenty of time to visit 3 villages: Vernazza, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. We were even lucky enough to be relatively “alone”. A real pleasure when you know
What to see and do during your stay in Cinque Terre?
- How to get there ? The Cinque Terre are difficult to reach by car. It’s best to get around by train or on foot. The train serves all stations in Cinque Terre, as well as La Spezia and Levanto. It’s all the more convenient as it runs practically every 30 minutes from 4.30 a.m. to 11.30 p.m.
- Train prices :
Adults: 1 day: €16 / 2 days: €29 / 3 days: €41
For children over 4: €10
Alternatively, take the family card for 2 adults and 2 children: €42
The best option is to buy the Cinque Terre Card, which gives you unlimited access (from 1 to 3 days) to the train and hiking trails. It can be purchased online or directly at stations.
- Tip: many day-trippers arrive from La Spezia and start their Cinque Terre tour in Riomaggiore, finishing in Monterosso. I therefore advise you to visit the Cinque Terre in the opposite direction: start in Monterosso and finish in Riomaggiore.
- Best time to go? This is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, and the villages are very small indeed. So if you don’t want to be touch-and-go in the villages, steer clear of the summer months and busy periods!
1 | Vernazza, the most surprising
Vernazza is home to a cluster of colorful houses and a small fishing port. Partly built on a rocky promontory, it also boasts an ancient fortress.
For a superb view of Vernazza, I recommend climbing to the start of the path leading to Monterosso al Mare, where the view is breathtaking.
2 | Corniglia, the most authentic
Clinging to a rock, Corniglia is the smallest of the five villages. Unlike the others, it is the only one without a harbor or beach, its habitat being built 100 meters above sea level. To get there, just under 400 steps await you (a shuttle bus is also available).
Corniglia is very small indeed, so you’ll soon get the hang of it, but it’s nonetheless very charming. It’s a pleasure to stroll around. The heart of Corniglia is the little Largo Taragio square. Dominated by a church and lined with numerous bars and restaurants, it’s quite lively. Behind the church, small steps lead up to a square from which you can enjoy breathtaking views of Manarola and the entire coastline. A belvedere is also accessible from the end of Corniglia’s only street.
3 | Manarola seen from afar!
As we were only staying one day in Cinque Terre, we didn’t visit Manarola. We did get a glimpse of it from the village of Corniglia!
4 | Riomaggiore, the most romantic
Riomaggiore is the easternmost village in the Cinque Terre. And also the steepest. The tower houses seem to stand shoulder to shoulder. Three stories high, it’s the most colorful of all, with facades in even brighter colors. The interlocking houses are linked by narrow staircases. This is our favorite of the 3 villages we visited.
The upper part of the village is separated from the lower part by a tunnel. Don’t forget to go down to the marina (take the stairs at the tunnel exit from the station) to appreciate the village’s perspective.
High above the town, you’ll find the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the town’s castle.
Where to sleep in Cinque Terre?
During our stay in Cinque Terre, we decided to stay in La Spezia. It’s a small town relatively close to the Cinque Terre. Accommodation prices are more affordable than in the Cinque Terre villages. It’s also conveniently located. A train to Cinque Terre runs every thirty minutes or so. The first village, Riomaggiore, is only ten minutes away by train.
The town of La Spezia surprised us with its sheer size: after all, it has a population of 220,000! You’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants. The port of La Spezia is one of the largest in Italy, offering a pleasant promenade for admiring the boats that dock there. The historic center of La Spezia is also very pleasant and lively.
Thanks for reading!
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