The Cinque Terre (pronounced CHEEN-kweh TEHR-reh) is the name given to five fishing and wine-making villages along the eastern Ligurian coast. Cinque means "five", terre means "lands": Five Lands. The Cinque Terre villages from north to south are:
All of them boast spectacular sea vistas and multicolored houses, but each village has a different vibe and personality. Use this guide to help you planning your visit to the Cinque Terre - a perennial favorite destination on the coast of the Italian Riviera. This article will explore Italy’s famous five and offer some helpful tips on planning your visit there.
Cinque Terre - What is it?
Italy's Cinque Terre are a Unesco World Heritage Site and tell of a world stopped in time, a landscape made up of villages of sailors with colorful houses and unspoiled nature; territories where life flows slowly. The beaten paths have dug passages where it seemed impossible to pass and the villages were born where the sea creeps more forcefully forming inlets among the rocks. All the Cinque Terre villages are colorful, overlooking the sea, and still preserve intact the craftsmanship, the gastronomy and the original fishermen's harbors, which today as yesterday are populated with fishing boats.
Planning your visit to the Cinque Terre: What to see and do
The Cinque Terre is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Italy. What many people might not know when visiting Cinque Terre is that each village has its own personality and specialties. If you're looking to visit this remarkable part of the Italian coastline but don't know where to start, read below for our top recommendations for planning your visit to the Cinque Terre.
Nestled in the northern end of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso resembles a last-but-not-least scenario as it boasts the biggest beach and vacation hotels. The beach stencils the front of Monterosso, allowing for a stunning, panoramic view of the blue-turquoise Mediterranean. Furthermore, Monterosso’s hotels prove themselves as charming hosts - with style and service that is groomed in a 1950’s fashion. The village also features a boardwalk decorated with authentic seafood venues, as well as the ruins from a medieval castle.
Where to Eat in Monterosso: Ristorante Miky
This is a memorable dining experience that is always well worth the wait, so be sure to make your reservations well ahead of when you would like to be enjoying your meal. Take the recommendations of their excellent serving staff when it comes to your choice of food and drink. You won’t be disappointed.
Where to Stay in Monterosso: Hotel Porto Roca
Although all villages in the Cinque Terre have some association to fishing, Vernazza is the only village with an official harbour – providing for an extensive history of excellent seafood. Vernazza also features a soft-sand beach for romantic late-night strolls or a tranquil day of sunbathing. In addition, the village is well equipped in history, with ancient monuments and shrines dating back to the 11th century.
Not only is this village picturesque from every angle (who are we kidding, all of Cinque Terre is postcard-perfect), but it is home to the most beautiful hiking trails you’ll ever encounter. Toward the back of the town, you will find a hiking trail leading to Corniglia, or you can hike toward Castello Doria, an old castle dating back to the thirteenth century, perfect for an Instagram-worthy shot at sunset.
Where to Eat in Vernazza: Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre
This remote “hole in the wall” is easy to miss when you are visiting Vernazza, but the stiff walk uphill from the train station is well worth the endeavor. Run by two Sicilian brothers, the food (as well as the drink) are nothing short of delectable. The pasta is light and fluffy and the gorgonzola is unmatched in flavor.
Where to Stay in Vernazza: La Mala’
Riomaggiore is a perfect blend of the old and new. It is welcoming to tourists but also presents Italian life in its most authentic form. As you walk along the cobblestone paths, you will notice dozens of locals and visitors alike enjoying fried seafood or a glass of the Cinque Terre DOC wine down by the harbor. Grab a seafood cone and claim a spot where you can dip your feet in the crystal-clear sea.
A view of Riomaggiore during the day may appear similar to some of the other villages in the Cinque Terre; however, at night the village achieves superb distinction with a symphonic mesh of fading tides and hazy lights. Immerse yourself in the village’s night-time vibrations at the famous Enoteca Dau Cila - a Michelin-starred bar and seafood restaurant with a lofty lookout of the sea.
Hidden in rolling hills and looming, mountainou terrains, the village of Corniglia gleams in its silent exclusivity. Whether you trek through the narrow streets, encased with vibrant, stack-style buildings, or hike through the village’s trails that wind and curve about Corniglia, you will find yourself lost in an enchanting essence of isolation.
Although Corniglia doesn’t have a beach, it offers visitors gorgeous terraces and vineyards to explore. Take your time wandering charming back roads and indulge your sweet tooth at a gelateria that uses natural, local ingredients. Lastly, don’t forget to grab a glass of DOC white wine – native to Cinque Terre and Corniglia.
Restaurant Tip: Ristorante Il Buongustaio Cucina Casalinga
Perched on jagged cliffs that tower over the Mediterranean, Manarola lures in its visitors with an enticing and hypnotic grace. Once inside the village’s proximity, the delicate grasp of Manarola squeezes tighter – with a romantic walking trail 'Path of Love' or Lovers' Lane, and a serene deep-water dive spot. There is as well the Church of San Lorenzo, a gothic temple dating back to the 1300’s. Closed since September 2012 due to rockslides, the Way of Love footpath is set to reopen in May 2024.
Restaurant Tip: Trattoria dal Billy
Where to stay in Manarola: La Torretta Lodge
A FEW TIPS…
- Bring trainers-the path is rocky and unpredictable and although hiking boots are probably a little unnecessary, flip flops will drive you mad and are asking for a broken ankle.
- Take water and sun cream with you if the weather is good. Getting your thirst on halfway between two villages with nothing to quench it will not make the walk any easier, and neither will sunstroke.
- If feeling brave bring a swimming costume-you might thing you’re boiling and desperate to dive in but one toe in will suffice once you’ve felt how cold it is!
- All of the five fishing villages are no more than a few hours by car from Florence. If you are planning your visit to Cinque Terre, see it in style by booking our Best of Cinque Terre Day Trip from Florence, a fantastic opportunity to discover the soul of this special region.