Coastal Route through Cinque Terre
Picturesque, perfect and pristine. Cinque Terre is the poster child of the Italian Riviera, summoning images of the timeless Ligurian villages hugging the edge of the cliffs, which will leave your friends and family in dying envy. The scenic villages each have their own distinct characteristic that sets all of them apart. Toss that 'to-do' list out the window and base your itinerary on savoring the beautiful scenery and charming atmosphere of the timeless Italian Riviera. This article is part of our Italian series, check out some of our popular Italy Guides!
- Route name: Coastal Route through Cinque Terre
- Suggested duration: 4-5 Days
- Duration: 1 day
- Best by: Train
- Starting point: Riomaggiore. End point: Monterosso
Things to know about Cinque Terre
- Cinque Terre translates to Five Lands, which may bring up some confusion at the train station because it is not just one destination, but five beautiful fishing villages.
- The villages are interconnected with an abundance of hiking trails and footpaths that range in different types of levels. However, many of the usual paths are temporarily closed due to construction. We recommend taking the trains to visit all the villages, hopping on and off at your leisure, but if you found your hidden gem, then it is best to spend the night over.
- As a World Heritage Site, cars are mostly restricted in the area of the villages, and, you won't find your typical fast food establishment MacDonalds or Starbucks lingering here.
- Don't leave Cinque Terre without trying the Farinata - a type of Italian pancake made from chickpea flour, water and oil in a firewood oven, baked to perfection. It is usually eaten with just some salt and pepper, or with some condiments such as capers, onions, and herbs.
- Get a taste at the local focaccia or pizza stand found around the coastal villages.
Getting to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is connected by railway to many of the major cities in Italy. With frequent trains from Pisa, Milan, Florence, and Genoa, there is at least one train departing every hour from the various destinations and you can easily hop on without any hassle. A notable reference point is the port city of La Spezia, which is south east to Cinque Terre, many trains depart to all the villages of Cinque Terre. You can purchase a ticket up to 5 minutes before the train departs, please remember to validate the ticket at the ticket validation machine on the platform. If you are arriving by car, it is wise to park your car in La Spezia in the free parking lots and take the train into Cinque Terre. However, there are paid parking spots in Monterosso and Riomaggiore for €12-20 per day. Check the train schedules at www.trenitalia.com (note: Train Italia changes their schedule twice a year, please consult the train timetables).
Riomaggiore is the first village you'll encounter if you are coming in from La Spezia. It is said to be the most authentic of all the villages, retaining its local atmosphere and neighborly charms. As you step off the train, you'll quickly find out that Riomaggiore is divided up into three districts which are all connected by tunnels. After exiting the tunnel from the train station, take another tunnel to Riomaggiore seafront and the fishermen’s district. The rocky beaches are not ideal for sunbathing, however, the water is so clear that you might be tempted to jump in and soak in the warm Italian sea. You can watch a generation long tradition as the fishermen rope in their catch on their tiny boats in the harbor. Behind the port is a small, relaxing beach, however, its shore is covered with small stones unfit for lounging. Make your way to Via Colombo where you'll find your typical restaurants, cafes, bars, and gelaterias. One of the most important features here in Riomaggiore is the Castellazzo of Cerrico, which was part of the defense fortification against any form of invaders. Now it is an important monument to the Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre. As of 2017, the trail from Riomaggiore - Manarola and Beccara are closed until further notice. The famous Blue Path from Riomaggiore - Monterosso starts here, however, due to the closure of a couple of trails it is better to begin the trail in Corniglia.
The oldest village in Cinque Terre is Manarola, dating back to 1261, but don't be fooled by its 'age.' The scenic pictures of Manarola's charming buildings, painted in brightly colored manner, layering up across the side of the cliff is the main reason for its popularity. The Trail of Love (Sentiero dell’ Amore), which is is where countless travelers have taken the picture perfect shot of the charming village is currently closed due to construction, as of 2017. This village also has one main street and busy waterfront promenade where you can take a seat on the sitting rocks and watch the breathtaking view of the sea. Lastly, the vineyards around Manarola produces the signature Cinque Terre wine called Sciacchetrà. As of 2017, the trail from Manarola - Corniglia is closed until further notice.
Manarola and Riomaggiore have a relatively easy access to the center of the village, however Corniglia is a whole different story. From the base of the train station, it is a striking 382 steps to climb up this particular village and it may leave you panting at the top of the cliff. However, the view at the top will give you a chance to look at all five villages with a clear and unobstructed view and is well-worth the extra calorie burn. If you don't feel up for the hike, there are buses running from 07:00-20:00 that transports you up and down the hill. Due to its height, his village is the most remote and offers a quiet escape from the crowd, especially in the evening. In Corniglia, you'll find the quaint Largo Taragio square, the best gelato at Gelateria of Alberto, and the best local produce from Alimentari Lisa, where you can purchase a good bottle of wine, pesto, and cheese. If you're here during the spring, you'll be able to catch a combination of fragrance coming off the lemon trees, vines, lilies, and vegetation. Planning to walk the Blue Path? Start your trail here, it is a 70-100 minutes where you can visit the beautiful panoramic view.
Hidden Beach - Guvano
Many tell the myth of Guvano beach, a clothing optional beach that is secluded, private and is a haven away from the incoming tourists. Many reports have mentioned how unsafe and inaccessible the path to Guvano has become, with a recent landslide in 2012. We do not advise going to this beach at this very moment.
Vernazza competes with Manarola in terms of beauty and popularity in Cinque Terre. It is known as the pearl of Cinque Terre, and there's no denying that Vernazza champions with its historical landmarks, low lying harbor that opens up into the Ligurian sea. It also has a busy, bustling nightlife to keep you entertained. Patiently watch the comings and goings on the jetty, as other travelers peruse the area, enjoying the sun and sea breeze. Explore the historic landmarks of Doria castle and Belforte tower, which are the remains of Vernazza's fortification against intruders, but today acts as a vantage point for travelers to view the rest of the stunning coastline. Visit the Shrine of Black Madonna, a monastery of the Minor Friars of the Franciscan Order to discover the Gothic style architecture or quaint charms of an archeological crypt just a short walk from the center. You can start the path between Vernazza - Monterosso al Mare here. It is a comfortable trek ranging between 80-120 minutes, where you'll encounter a beautiful glade.
Monterosso is the largest village on the Cinque Terre coastline and is your typical resort village. It was named as one of the top 25 Sexist Beaches by Forbes in 2006 among other contenders such as Hawaii, Mexico, and the Maldives. The terrain makes it distinct to its other sister villages. Due to its size, it is split up into different sections: the residential area of Fegina, the popular village center with restaurants and area which attract many tourists, and the historical center with medieval buildings. Monterosso is bursting to its seams with lively action. With a wide ranging selection of hotels, restaurants, and bars, it is the place to find your vacation comforts. The old center is charming and has not lost its integrity; you can still observe the daily life in Piazza Garibaldi. The historic center and the modern area is separated by the San Cristoforo hill, walk along the seafront path and forgo the tunnel to experience the beautiful seaside view. Monterosso is also gifted with the sandy beaches, the only place throughout the five villages. So if you're looking to sink right into that vacation mode, visit this bustling will all the holiday comforts.
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