Cinque Terre is where craggy coastlines, medieval architecture, and Italian culture collide on the world-renowned Italian Riviera. The five towns of Cinque Terre are precariously perched on the cliffs of northern Italy. While the stunning region attracts the affluent and well-endowed, the villagers are approachable and accommodating to backpackers and budget travelers. Each of the five Cinque Terre towns both compliments yet stands apart from its four siblings, so take your time getting to know each one.
To start, awaken to the smell of crisp ocean air and the sounds of faint voices from the shops below. Open your terrace doors to warm morning sunshine with views of pastel homes and the clear blue sea in the distance. Mornings in Monterosso are the best time to explore this popular Cinque Terre town. Beach dwellers flock here in the afternoons for the white sands and crystal waters. Before they arrive, enjoy a relaxed morning with a cappuccino and biscotti overlooking the ocean.
After embracing Monterosso, escape the crowds and enjoy one of Italy’s most beautiful hiking trails, the Blue Trail. The incline hike to Vernazza is known as one of the most scenic, challenging, and lengthy treks in Europe. However, the views of the endless Mediterranean Sea to one side and the vineyards and olive groves to the other distract you from your fatigue. At the top, hikers are rewarded with one of the most photogenic spots of Cinque Terre overlooking Vernazza. Of all the Cinque Terre towns, Vernazza is known as the most traditional fishing village and makes good use of its small but lively port. Meander along cobbled streets, charming piazzas and pebbled beaches overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
Leaving Vernazza, take off for the highest point of Cinque Terre, Corniglia. Sweat your way to the top of this landlocked village feeling accomplished and humbled. The views will inevitably taking what’s left of your breath away. Green and blue for miles and steep hillsides covered with grape vines comprise the uninterrupted horizon surrounding Corniglia. Due to its relative remoteness, Corniglia is one of the quietest Cinque Terre towns. As the agricultural and geographic heart of Cinque Terre, Corniglia is like the overlooked middle child that’s really more like a crown jewel.
Next, head for Manarola, the oldest of the five Cinque Terre towns. The charming village is also said to be the most romantic. The narrow streets are steep and filled will flowers leading to views of the ocean over rocky cliffs. At night, the village comes alive with twinkling lights. By now you’ll have worked up an appetite hiking from town to town. Luckily, Manarola is famous for its sweet Sciacchetrá, a rare, local wine as well as its pesto.
Last but not least, hop on the train to your final destination of Riomaggiore. While in town, don’t miss the Castello di Riomaggiore, an impressive stone castle dating back to the 13th century. As daylight fades, make your way through the tall, colorful buildings down a steep ravine to the tiny harbor. Take a seat on the seaside rocks and wait for Riomaggiore’s best hour, dusk. Watch as the sunset works its magic and amplifies the beauty of the ocean and colorful Riomaggiore.
In each of the five Cinque Terre towns, harsh terrain is met with a refusal to let go of ancient customs as well as a deep appreciation for the surrounding natural beauty and resources. While visiting Cinque Terre, absorb the coastal Italian culture and arrive ready to fall in love.