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?
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, take the 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 this page, you will find a first introduction. The rest of our website will guide you on a virtual visit in Cinque Terre. Once you've decided to go there, our e-book is the best investment you can make in order to get the most out of your visit.
The news which is in the air, is the re-opening of the Via dell'Amore. But still, this has to be confirmed by the president of the Parco Nazionale.
As from April, the Cinque Terre Express, a train that travels back and forth between La Spezia and Levanto with a frequency of 2 or 3 trains per hour, will operate again. The price (4 EUR for a single ticket) is much higher than a normal ticket, but if this what you have to pay to get a decent service, it's worth it.
For many visitors to Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is the first town they visit. If you arrive by train, you can make an easy walk in the lower part of the village, including the famous view in the small harbour. If you go up the main street, you can make a full circuit along the higher part of the village, passing the main church and the castello, where you get more great views.
The main path (Sentiero), the Via dell'Amore, is still closed. But at least, you have to go up the stairs to the path. On the left side, the bar 'A Pié de Mà' has a lovely terrace, looking out over the coast. It's one of the best places to enjoy the sunset. The is an alternative path to take you to Manarola. Hardly 2 kilometers long, leading you through the vineyards, but mainly (quite irregular) stairs, so a good pair of legs and knees are a must have. The train or the boat provide an easier option to go to Manarola.
The hike to the Santuario della Signora di Montenero is even more demanding. But the view from there is really spectacular, as you can see the coast up to Monterosso and the Punta Mesco. Real hikers will continue as far as Portovenere, one of the most beautiful hikes in the area.
The best view on Riomaggiore is located on the SP370. You can get there on foot, but it's easier if you have a car. You can then follow the SP370 from La Spezia and drive to Monterosso through the hills. Spectacular views are guaranteed.
Manarola is the village of the fishermen. Going down from the train station to the small harbour, you will pass the coloured boats on the side of the main street. Along the main street and in the harbour, you have plenty of places where you can eat a typical ligurian dish.
There are 2 very easy walks, you should not miss :
The path to Corniglia is still closed, due to several landslides in the past years. The alternative hike via Groppo and Volastra has definitely more to offer, but again a good condition is required. Taking the bus up to Volastra will make it a lot easier.
Corniglia is the only village that does not have a harbour, as it lies on rock overlooking the sea at an altitude of 100 meters. The train station lies below the village, you will need to go up 374 winding stairs or take the bus to the center of the village.
The main street of the village is very narrow with souvenir shops and bars all along. The tables on the small square half way, are tempting to stop, but continue for a 100 metres to enjoy the view from the Belvédère di Santa Maria, overlooking the coast from Portovenere to Punto Mesco.
From Corngilia, you can take the Sentiero Azzurro to Vernazza (you need the Cinque Terre Card there) or go up to Volastra. Don't worry about the Cinque Terre Card. You can buy it at the entrance of the path (or continue for free if nobody is there, which is often the case in low season).
If you only have time to visit one village, it has to be Vernazza. It was heavily struck by a storm on 25 October 2011, when a mud stream came down through the main street, destroying everything on its way. But the damage has long been restored and the village is more beautiful then ever. You will find many shops along the main street and in the harbour (which has even a very small sandy beach) the terraces are inviting for a drink or for a meal
The Sentiero Azzurro is both direction. impossible to tell, which of the two is the most beautiful. So be sure to do both of them. It is no problem to do both in one day. .
If you do not walk, you should still go up the Sentiero Azzurro in the direction of Corniglia, 400 metres up to the bar La Torre (just before the official entrance to the sentiero). From the terrace you get another great view on the town. Make time to relax, have a drink and enjoy the view and give my greetings to Andrea in the meantime !
If you have the time, visit also the Castello, from where you have a great view on the valley behind Vernazza. You'll understand where the water came from on that 25th of Octobre 2011 !
Monterosso is the largest of the villages. The new part of the town, located around the train station, has a beautiful sandy beach and a promenade full of restaurants and hôtels.
The old part of the village, on the other side of the promontory, has kept the true spirit of the Cinque Terre. In the narrow streets, it is great to wander around, looking at the souvenir shops and enjoying the local specialties. Don't forget to visit the two churches, which are close to each other. They are the most beautiful you can see in the area.
The climb to the abbey and church of San Francesco, located on top of the promontory is also worth it. Don't stop at the church. Go further to the cemetery until you reach the highest point, with a great view on the Punta Mesco.
For the real hikers, there are many options :
The Sentiero Azzurro follows the coast between Riomaggiore and Monterosso and was for a very long time the only way to travel from one village to the other. Since a few years, the path is closed between Riomaggiore and Corniglia , but this is only a minor section and there are great alternatives through the hills. The most beautiful section, between Corniglia and Monterosso, is open.
It is one of the only paths in the world where you have to pay. But that is not really an obstacle for most of the visitors. The Carte Cinque Terre can be bought at the entrance of the trail, so no need to buy it in advance. There is a version of the card that allows you to travel by train between the villages, which gives you a greater comfort but not really a financial advantage.
It can get very crowded on the trail. If you can, follow our tips (see above) to avoid the crowds. The most important tip is to be aware of the alternative trails, which are equally beautiful and much calmer.
Since a few years, you can follow the Sentiero Azzurro up to Genova. The complete trail is called the Sentiero VerdeAzzurro (SVA). You will find the GPX-trail in our GPX library.
The Sentiero N°1, currently called also the Alta Via 5 Terre - AV5T, connects Portovenere with Levanto. It crosses the hills, going up to a height of 700 mètres. Few people walk the trail completely. Quite understandeable, while it is 32 km long.
The most popular section go from Portovenere to the colle di Telegrafo and from La Soviore to Levanto. If you visit Cinque Terre for hiking, these are two trails you should not miss.