THE FIVE RESORT TOWNS
If you are planning to visit Italy, you must read my Quick Guide to Cinque Terre before deciding on your itinerary. If you haven’t been there, this will provide you with an overview of what to expect, see and do in this beautiful part of Italy. You will absolutely love the five resort towns that make up Cinque Terre on the gorgeous Italian Riviera.
These popular seaside destinations have tourists flocking from all over the world for romantic and enchanting getaways. Why? It is simply beautiful and quite unique here, with the colourfully painted buildings perched on the hillsides, cascading towards the cerulean blue waters of the Ligurian Sea. A truly magical sight that captivates everyone who visits.
Historically, the area was once an important part of the Roman Empire and later part of the grand republic of Genoa. Thus, the National Park of Cinque Terre is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It has survived, pirate attacks, wars, savage storms and against all these odds, has become a favourite spot for holiday makers in just the last 50 years or so.
What makes the strip so appealing, I believe, is the lack of many modern city trappings – skyscrapers, traffic jams and pollution, just to name a few. The villages provide a simpler way of holidaying where the attraction here is the natural beauty of the landscape. Here you can enjoy sun, swimming, walking trails, hiking, boating, fishing, fabulous local Italian food and of course, the spectacular views of the ocean.
These quaint villages feature lovely trattorias, cafes and gelati shops aplenty, with charming little hotels and apartments to rent, all nestled amongst, vineyards, fruit trees, sun and sea. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? It is the ideal place to get away and relax. And to make it even more blissful, there is no traffic to worry about, as there is very few vehicles allowed, mostly just locals. Cars are a bit of a problem here, so it’s best not to bring one.
My Favourite town of Cinque Terre
My personal favourite is Monterosso Al Mare. Read about my fabulous villa stay. I was here during the off-peak season for a few short but delightful days and fell in love with this charming historic fishing village by the sea. It was of course, a lot quieter and more peaceful than the very busy peak season. Perfect for a restful getaway.
1. Monterosso Al Mare
The northern-most village – has a fantastic beach and boardwalk
If you’re after the best beach in Cinque Terre, this is the place. The long stretch of flat sandy white beach is something the other towns don’t have. Which is why the beach here is full of people in Summertime; it’s by far the nicest and provides umbrellas and other beach equipment. Monterosso is in fact two separate towns, the old side and the new side, and is the largest of the five communities. There is more accommodation options here to choose from than the other villages too. I would certainly recommend staying in Monterosso Al Mare.
The second village – it has a small beach and harbour
This is one of the most popular and arguably the most picture-perfect seaside town you will see. Isn’t it gorgeous? There is a castle and a small piazza here. The beach is small, but ok for swimming. Don’t miss this town.
The middle town – steps lead up to the village
Corniglia is set up high on the cliff, 100 metres above sea level, so there is no harbour. There is a pebble beach here and a secluded section occasionally frequented by nudists. Over 300 steps lead up to the village and if you make the climb you will be rewarded by the magnificent view of the sea and all the other towns, I can attest to that. This is the less touristy town. Overall, this would be my least favourite out of the five villages.
The fourth town – is great for swimming
There is no beach, but keen swimmers love diving off the rocks. There is a tiny harbour and ‘piazzetta’ (small piazza) and more grapevines than all the other towns, as it’s one of the main producers of wine. This is the oldest of the five towns and definitely a must-see.
Fifth and the southern most town – has an old stone castle and small harbour
One of the larger villages, it has more places to see, terrific restaurants and little shops to browse in. A shout-out to Rio Bistrot, a cute cave-like restaurant where I had a fabulous meal. The beach has large pebbles but is reasonably good for swimming. Riomaggiore is a beautiful town, with a busy main road called Via Colombo, which is packed with touristy places. You will love it.
The easiest way to get to this gorgeous part of the world is by train with Trenitalia, from any of the major surrounding cities – Genoa, Parma, Milan or La Spezia, which is where I hailed from. It was less than half an hour by train!
You can easily travel between each of the towns by train also. It’s so convenient, especially with the Cinque Terre Card which allows unlimited travel.
There is also the option of taking a ride on the Cinqueterre Ferry Boat Service, which operates between the towns from March to November, in calm weather only, and works similar to a hop-on/hop-off bus service. A fabulous way to enjoy the views from the water.
Walking / Hiking
The five towns are all linked by walking paths so you are best able to view the coastal landscape, but the terrain is quite rugged and steep in some parts. Please make sure you are up for the task! It would take approximately 6 hours to walk the whole five towns, if you wish to do so. Good luck. A Cinque Terre Card for trekking is also available without the trains, if you wish.
When swimming in the waters of Cinqueterre, bear in mind you are in open sea and it can get a bit rough. Always check that it is safe before venturing into the water and take the necessary precautions.
Seafood is the specialty here, as are olives and grapes, all of which are grown and caught locally. Pasta al ‘pesto’ is renowned in this region also. Grappa (a very strong clear brandy) and Limoncello (sweet lemon liqueur) are locally produced, as well as two types of wines, called ‘Cinque Terre’ and ‘Sciachetra’.
I hope you have found my quick guide to Cinque Terre useful in helping you plan a future trip here. I’m sure you will love these 5 towns too.
Check out another stunning part of the Italian Riviera – Santa Margherita Ligure.
Tours of Cinque Terre you may enjoy
Any of these will be fabulous. I personally would choose one with Portovenere.