The towns of Cinque Terre are everything that one imagines Italy to be…gorgeous, relaxing, and the home of delicious food and wine. Cinque Terre is located along the Italian Riviera coast. It is composed of five towns: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Each town is more fascinating than the last and is built along cliffs of the rugged coastline. The best part about Cinque Terre is the remote location (not accessible by cars, only trains), entirely family-run businesses, and the authentic Italian food.
Riomaggiore has an ideal location for watching the sunset, dozens of people sit on the large rocks on the water each night and have some wine or gelato while the sun goes down.
Manarola is surrounded by water on both sides and has a great view of the ocean from all angles. The wine from Manarola is also very famous.
Corniglia is located higher up; there are nearly 400 steps to walk up from the railway station. However, the stairs are worth it for the great view from the top! Corniglia’s Church of San Pietro, dating back to 1334, is beautiful and has a view overlooking the sea.
The next stop is Vernazza, it’s designed in an amphitheater-like shape and has a pier in the middle leading out to the water. This town is one of the best picture taking locations and is a great spot for a fresh seafood dinner.
The last stop is Monterosso, which is known for having the best beaches of Cinque Terre. It seems to be the most developed and commercial, with a few hotels and clearly accommodating the most tourists. The beach is great and after a day of hiking it’s the perfect place to end off the day and have a swim!
The well-known trail and hiking path that links the five towns together is the main tourist attraction. Walking from Riomaggiore to Monterosso takes approximately 7 hours. Stopping at each town for a rest, snack, and a swim is the best plan! Unfortunately, when I was there 3 out of the 4 trails connecting the towns were closed due to repairs from some recent mudslides. But, I did do the trek from Corniglia to Vernazza (which took about 1.5 hours). I simply took a train to the rest of the towns instead, hopping on and off at each of them.
I stayed in Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns if you’re arriving from the direction of La Spezia (the nearest large city). There are no big hotels in this town; most of the options for accommodation are renting out rooms and/or a floor of people’s homes or a bed & breakfast. This allows you to be totally immersed into Italian culture and living, it’s a great experience and getaway from our otherwise fast-paced lives. But be prepared to walk up a lot stairs, all of the terraces are built along the steep hillside. It’s a great way to burn off all of the pasta you’ll be eating! Be sure to try some of their pesto. The whole region is known for their basil and it's absolutely delicious!
Anyone travelling to Italy must make a stop in Cinque Terre for a few days. It is such a unique and authentic experience compared to the main tourist hubs of Italy, such as Florence and Rome.