Travel to Cinque Terre
The 5 villages of the Cinque Terre: Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore and Vernazza are located in the Liguria region and were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997. The five villages are linked by hiking trails within the Cinque Terre National Park.
You can visit the villages between March and November by ferry from La Spezia, Portovenere, Levanto, Deiva Marina, Moneglia and Portofino to the island of Palmaria. From May, it is also possible to sail from Nervi (Genoa), Camogli and Rapallo. You can also travel by train and local bus services. The villages consist of a cluster of colourful houses that seem to cling to the cliffs, interspersed with vineyards on steep terraces rising from the sea. The Cinque Terre are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, with more than 2 million tourists passing through each year.
Cinque Terre in a nutshell
Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the Cinque Terre, with a small beach and many amenities such as cafes and restaurants. Vernazza is the only village that has an important source of income besides tourism: fishing, especially anchovies. If you stop for a meal in the village, I can recommend tasting the local speciality: Acciunghe alle Vernazzana, in fact it will be difficult to avoid them. Corniglia is the only village not directly on the sea, but it is one of the most authentic. I can recommend a wine tasting in the surrounding vineyards. Manarola is tiny and sometimes gets very, very crowded. Riomaggiore is my favourite of the 5, a very colourful fishing village perched on a steep cliff. It has some good restaurants overlooking the sea.Corniglia
If you want to explore beyond the five villages, read this article about the most beautiful villages around the Cinque Terre or this article about the vineyards of Cinque Terre. If you have time, after visiting the Cinque Terre, take the boat to the beautiful abbey of San Fruttuoso on the Portofino peninsula. To find out more about accommodation in this area in this article about recommended hotels near Portofino and Camogli.
When is the best time to visit Cinque Terre?
The coastal strip known as the 'Five Lands' has become one of Italy's biggest tourist attractions and is packed with tourists from all over the world almost all year round. Most people arrive by train and in high season you will be packed like sardines into carriages with completely inadequate air conditioning. Walking between villages along the coast is not for the untrained hikers. The distance between two villages is easily 1 to 2 hours. During the autumn and winter months, be aware of the rapidly changing weather conditions and the trails are often closed early as a precaution.
Parking in the villages is a little easier out of season. There are small car parks outside the villages, and the average walk to the centre is one or two kilometres. Buses also run between the villages, but less regularly than in the summer season. It's great to visit the hinterland in autumn with its imposing steep vineyards, the Cinque Terre region has some excellent D.O.P.'s. We have written a special article about touring the vineyards. If you want to know more about hiking in the Cinque Terre, read the following article. Below are all the articles on Dolcevia.com about this area of the 5 villages, including places to stay and restaurants. As well as Liguria, you can also search in the Lunigiana region, which is part of Tuscany.
How to hike through Cinque Terre?
Be prepared to leave early in the morning. Remember that 7 a.m. is not a bad time to leave to avoid the biggest crowds. Everyone wants to walk the Via dell'Amore (which is closed until 2023), but try to avoid the so-called Sentiero Azzura, which is usually very crowded. There is a maze of trails criss-crossing the National Park, so there is plenty of choice. With the hiking map you can go anywhere and even take part in organised guided hikes. The schedule for these walks is posted on the park's website. The first step is to buy a hiking map online (the Cinque Terre map). The website is in Italian and English, but in my experience the Italian version is updated more often. This is the website that tells you about the organised (free) walks. For less experienced walkers, such as young children or people who cannot walk that far, there are still plenty of opportunities to visit the five villages, at least 4 of the 5. Most villages are easy to get to, Corniglia being perhaps the exception. There are plenty of convenient transport options including train, bus and ferry services. The ferry between the villages runs about every hour on a regular schedule, with a two-hour lunch break. The road around Riomaggiore consists of a series of steep steps, which you will see as soon as you get off the train. However, if you turn right you will come to a tunnel that will take you to the 'main road' and then you can simply return to the station through the tunnel, this road is completely flat. Manarola is a single street with a steep flight of steps. Here you have the option of taking the train or the ferry to Vernazza. Save the ferry for the return journey and take the train here. Vernazza is even smaller than Manarola, you can take the ferry from here to Monterosso. To the left of the harbour you can take the tunnel that will take you to the beach and the railway station.
How to get to the Cinque Terre by train
The train is obviously the best way to visit the Cinque Terre, but it is not always easy. They can be very crowded, it is difficult to get on and off and it is confusing to know which station you have arrived at. The journey between Riomaggiore and Manarola and the other villages takes only a few minutes. You have to be ready to get off when you get on, which doesn't make the chaos at the doors any less of an experience for the elderly or those travelling with children. If you decide to travel by train, try to plan as early in the day or as late in the afternoon as possible. Click here for more information on the train.
How to visit Cinque Terre by boat
An alternative to the train is to take a ferry to one of the 5 villages. This boat sails several times a day between all the villages, except Corniglia, which is a bit higher and has no port. You can leave from Portofino or Portovenere by boat only during high season. The port of Monterosso is the easiest to board, followed by Vernazza. If you plan to board or disembark in Riomaggiore or Manarola expect to have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the village itself. You can check the ferry schedules here.
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