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Cinque Terre has many assets to entice the tourists. And yet you can not find it in the classic holiday brochures, with the exception of specific walking brochures. What then explains yet the appeal of this small coastal strip in the north of Italy?
For Cinque Terre, word-of-mouth advertising is crucial. The enthusiasm of those who have been there does the job. Some colleagues at work (including Italians) did the job for us and since our first visit a few years ago, we have made hundreds of visitors of our site eager for a visit to Cinque Terre.
We'll stick with a combination of sun and sea, charming villages, a national park in the hills, hiking trails, the harbors, boat trips on the sea, good food, local wine, anchovies, ...
If you want to see the real Cinque Terre, you will have to leave the beaten paths: walk into the small side streets of the villages, takethe trails that go up into the hills, hike early in the morning or late in the evening, plan your visit out of season, book a place to stay in the center of one of the villages, get in touch with the local population (some words in italian can do wonders), ...
On our site and in our e-book you can find many tips to get the most out of your stay in Cinque Terre. If you're not fully convinced yet, the tips below will certainly help you to make up your mind.
Hiking in Cinque Terre
The hiking trails are of course the biggest asset of Cinque Terre :
- the Via dell'Amore, hardly a mile long has a curious attraction on romantic lovers
- the Sentiero Azzurro between Riomaggiore and Monterosso, one of the few hiking trails where you are paying an admission fee with pleasure!
- the Sentiero N°1 between Levanto and Portovenere, the long distance trail that runs through the Cinque Terre National Park.
In high season it can get pretty crowded on these paths (especially the Via dell'Amore and Sentiero Azzurro). However, there are still plenty of other paths, where it is much quieter and where you are walking around in the middle of the nature of the National Park.
Our 5 hiking tips
- the Sentiero Azzurro between Corniglia and Vernazza. At the highest point of the route you can see the coast with Corniglia and Manarola on a straight line. The small café where you could quench the thirst is unfortunately closed. Do this hike as early as possible. You avoid the crowds and the heat of the midday sun.
- The Sentiero N°1 between Campiglia and Portovenere, with stunning views on the islands Palmaria and Tinto and on Portovenere ! You can make this walk from Portovenere, where it shows from the start this is quite a strenuous walk.
- The Sentiero N° 8b between the Madonna di Soviore and the Madonna di Reggio. We started this walk before sunrise !
- The Sentiero N° 6d from Volastra in the direction of Corniglia. This paths runs between the vineyards and is almost completely flat (except if you go all the way to Corniglia). Close to Volastra you will find great views on Manarola and Corniglia.
- The Colle di Telegrafo, located on the Sentiero N°1. If you are sleeping out of Cinque Terre, you can avoid parking problems there. You can choose between an easy walk to Campiglia (Sentiero 1 of 4) or a more demanding to Riomaggiore (Sentiero 3) or Manarola (Sentiero 1 and 2).
Each of the five villages of the Cinque Terre has its individual characteristics. Some are pasted on the flanks of the hills (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza), one is located on a cliff high above the sea (Corniglia) and one even tries to present itself as seaside resort with a sandy beach (Monterosso).
The five villages are car-free. During the day there is a great rush of tourists who stroll along the many shops, where local merchants try to make their day. In the evening, when the day trippers have left again, peace descends on the villages and the towns show their true face.
Our tips in the 5 villages
- Rent a room in Manarola and have breakfast in the bakery / bar close to the small harbour. When you finish, go up to the cemetery to see the sun rise over Manarola. By 10, you will see the first hurds of tourists arrive in the village : time for a walk to Groppo or Volastra up in the hills.
- In Vernazza stand still at the bottom of the stairs that go up to the station. Try to imagine that the whole street here turns into a swirling mass of water. The big poster on the right shows this really happened here on October 25, 2011. You can feel only respect for a community that has been so badly affected and still manages to get back on top!
To see where the water came from, go to the Castel Doria. From the top of the tower you have a magnificent view on the valley behind Vernazza. If the weather gods strike here, all the water flows in only one direction ...
- In Riomaggiore you can rent kajaks in the small harbour. If the weather is fine, be sure to take you bathing suit with you and 'sail out' to view the Via dell'Amore and Riomaggiore from the sea.
- Visit the churches in Monterosso. The ones in the old town center are quite special. Go also up on the hill to the Chiesa di San Francesco and even a little higher to the cemetery, from where you have a great view on Monterosso and Punta Mesco.
- In Corniglia, go into the town center and be sure to continue on the narrow 'main street' till you reach the Terrazza di Santa Maria at the very end. Enjoy the panoramic view of the coast from south to north. Sunset is the ideal moment to be there !
Around Cinque Terre
Both north and south of the Cinque Terre, you have a wide choice to make a day trip? You will find nature (Parco Regionale di Portofino, Marble Mines Carrarra, the beaches of the Tuscan coast), cities (Pisa, Lucca, Genova) and picturesque villages (Portovenere, Tellaro, Lerici, Portofino, Sestri Levante, Levanto).
our 5 tips in the neighbourhood
- You should not miss Portovenere, while visiting Cinque Terre. You can hike there from Riomaggiore, take the boat from Riomaggiore or La Spezia or take the bus from La Spezia. Walk along the quay, reflect on life in the Chiesa di San Pietro (think of "The Name of the Rose"), go down to Byron's cave, take a boat trip around the island Palmaria or visit the citadel. Plenty of choice for a day !
- Portofino will make you think of Saint-Tropez. But even there you can escape the crowds by taking a walk to the abbey of San Fruttuoso (unless you opt for the easier way by taking a boat).
- A visit to the marble mines of Carrara will teach you where the Romans and Michelangelo got their marble. View caves as big as a cathedral carved out in the middle of a mountain !
- Lucca, more than Pisa, brings you back in time.
- Genova appears to be one of the most underestimated cities in Italy. This is still on our to do list, but not long anymore. In april we are going there to make our own judgment. .
5 tips for your stay in Cinque Terre
- For a visit to Cinque Terre, you need at least 3 to 4 days. If you want to include a few attractions in the neighbourhood, you will have to make choices even if you stay there a week.
- The best airports to visit Cinque Terre are Pisa and Genova. You can get to one of the five villages in a couple of hours. Car rentals are at your disposal as well.
- If you want to visit only the 5 villages, it is easier to use only public transport. Parking places in the villages are scarce and expensive (up to 20 EUR per day)
If you want to visit the neighbourhood, a car will save you a lot of time and gives you the opportunity to visit what you want, when it best suits you.
- Are you going for a week ? Book two places to stay : one in the villages and a second one north (Levanto, Bonassola, Deiva Marino) or south (La Spezia, Lerici) of Cinque Terre, depending on the visits you plan.
- Our absolute recommendation for a stay is the Villa Amaranta, simply the best ! We are not alone with this opinion, also on Tripadvisor they have the best score. Many visitors of our site have followed our advice, we never got any complaints. On the contrary !