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A BUCKET LIST SPOT IN THE HEART OF ITALY!
Hiking around Cinque Terre is one of the most exciting things to do in Italy!
Cinque Terre is a unique paradise hidden between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea on the Northern coast of Italy. Its rocky and panoramic footpaths will leave you without words!
Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” and the beauty of these five villages hasn’t gone unnoticed: thousands of tourists from all around the world come and visit every year.
UNESCO made it a World Heritage Site in 1997 due to the “harmonious interaction between people and nature”. You can’t blame them!
The wonderfully colourful houses reflect in the sparkling sea, surrounded by wild nature, vineyards and olive trees. It’s a fantastic place, and it will remain in your memories.
I put together a list of all the best tips and things to do in Cinque Terre, to help you to plan your trip!
Things to do in Cinque Terre
1| Best time to visit
We visited Cinque Terre in June. The weather was perfect and the nature surrounding the mountains around the villages was in full bloom. Depending on what your plans are we suggest:
- Mid-May to mid-September if moving around by train is your thing.
- Mid-March to mid-October if you are planning on walking and hiking.
Either way, avoid August. This is THE holiday month in Italy and everything is busy and very expensive.
2| Move around Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre by Train
Although Cinque Terre is most famous for its hiking trails, the most economical and simplest way to move around is by train.
Moving around Cinque Terre by train is especially helpful if you’re short on time, as several hiking paths take between 2 to 3 hours to move from town to town and driving between villages just isn’t an option (cars are banned!).
You can leave your car in La Spezia and take a regional train to one of the villages in Cinque Terre. You can buy tickets at any train station, and they are quite cheap, but we suggest you buy the Cinque Terre Card which includes:
- Use of ecological park buses
- Access to all trekking paths
- Wi-fi internet connection
Trains run along the coast and you will enjoy amazing views while travelling between the stations. It takes between 10 to 15 minutes to travel between villages.
When you are planning your trip, thinking about moving around by train might seem complicated, but once you get to Cinque Terre, you will realize how easy it actually is!
The Cinque Terre trains connect seven cities:
- La Spezia: the biggest city close to Cinque Terre
- Levanto: another city, just outside Cinque Terre
It takes roughly 10 minutes from La Spezia to Riomaggiore and no more than 5 minutes between the Cinque Terre villages.
Depending on the season, trains might run every 15-30 minutes, but in low season you might have to wait up to one hour. Here you can find the latest train timetable.
Cinque Terre By foot
Cinque Terre is, without question, one of the most romantic hiking regions in the world. And walking around its trails is one of the best things to do in Cinque Terre.
If you are fit and healthy, this is definitely the most spectacular way to visit Cinque Terre.
You might read in some places that the walks are difficult, but although you definitely need a good level of fitness, you don’t have to be a seasoned hiker to attempt the walks! The different trails climb up and down the mountains, and with the villages at sea level (with the exception of Corniglia), you are in for some exercise!
I strongly recommend you to wear some trekking shoes and avoid hiking during the hottest hours of the day. Mornings and late afternoons are the best time to walk, and you will also avoid most of the crowd.
There are hundreds of trails around the mountains and you can take several routes. By following “Il Sentiero Azzurro” (Blue Trail) it will take you roughly 8-9 hours to visit all 5 villages.
The path is split into 4 walks, and not all walks are always open. Make sure you check to avoid disappointment!
Monterosso to Vernazza
LENGTH: 3.6 KM
TIME: 2 HOURS
Allow two hours to walk between Monterosso and Vernazza (or the other way round!). This is the longest of the four walks. Along the way, there are some spots to sit and rest and enjoy the stunning views!
Vernazza to Corniglia
LENGTH: 3.45 KM
TIME: 1.5 HOURS
Corniglia is the only village that isn’t at sea level. As you approach it, the views of the village surrounded by vineyards are fantastic!
Corniglia to Manarola
LENGTH: 2.9 KM
TIME: 1.15 HOURS
The walk between Corniglia and Manarola is very flat compared to some of the other walks.
Manarola to Riomaggiore (The Lover’s Walk)
LENGTH: 1.1 KM
TIME: 25 MINUTES
This is definitely the most famous walk in Cinque Terre. Known as “La via dell’amore” (The lover’s walk), it’s the perfect romantic stroll for couples in love!
This isn’t by far the most convenient way to move around but it definitely gives you a unique and amazing perspective.
The ferry departure is located in La Spezia and it’s only available in the spring and summer months when the weather is good. The ferry will stop in four of the five villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso).
RELATED ARTICLE: 8 TERRIFIC TIPS THAT WILL HELP YOU FIND CHEAP FLIGHTS EVERY TIME
3| How long and Where to stay
How long to stay
You can visit Cinque Terre in a day, but we strongly suggest you spend at least a couple of nights there to enjoy the beautiful villages and panoramic views, not to mention the amazing food and wine! You definitely need to spend more than 24 hours here to fully enjoy it!
Where to stay
After checking several boutique hotels, we decided to stay in one of the beautiful and colorful houses in the villages to live the real Italian local experience. And we are so glad we did!
We met some wonderful local people, Simone and his mum Nicoletta, and they were so kind to share where we could find the best local restaurants and food.
4| What to eat
Where to start…first of all we are in Italy, therefore everything you do revolves around food.
And now let me explain to you how your typical day will look like:
You wake up and eat some amazing pastries while drinking the creamiest cappuccino. You walk for a bit, start feeling the heat of the Italian sun and find yourself eating the most refreshing gelato. Then you walk a bit more, and you need to rest…while sitting in a restaurant by the sea, eating trofie col pesto.
Pesto was born in this region of Italy; therefore, you will find it everywhere, and it’ll be the freshest and most aromatic pesto you have ever had!
Then you walk a bit more and you feel the need for a snack (of course)!
Here, focaccia comes to the rescue. Focaccia Genovese is one of the most famous focaccia in Italy and you have to try it! If you find yourself in Monterosso, try Il Fornaio di Monterosso. They have some tables outside and you can enjoy the sea view while eating one of the many focaccia they serve.
Then you walk a bit more, and you’ll need another scrumptious ice cream! By the time you finish it, it’s almost 7pm, which in Italy is aperitivo time!
There is only one place in all Cinque Terre where you should have one and it’s at Nessun Dorma in Manarola. From here, you can enjoy the most amazing view of the village, while drinking a spritz and eating mouth-watering bruschetta.
You can even learn to make your own pesto here!
Once you have enjoyed the sunset, you can walk to the nearby Da Billy up in the village and have the most delicious fish you have had in a long long time! Seafood is a must in Cinque Terre – you can try it anywhere and you won’t be disappointed!
Time to go to bed….
5| What to see
If you are coming by train from La Spezia, Riomaggiore will be your first stop.
Riomaggiore has very tall, colourful and narrow houses, and a gorgeous harbour and a rocky beach from which you can enjoy a wonderful sea view. From here you can hop back on the train or take the famous “Via Dell’Amore” (Lovers’ Walk), one of the most scenic footpaths to Manarola.
I have to say, Manarola is my favourite village! It’s quite small but the beautiful colourful houses and the amazing view from the footpath next to the marina are simply breath-taking!
The village revolves around the main street and has a little harbour at the bottom. If you follow the path to the right of the harbour, you will get a chance to see one of the most photographed views of Cinque Terre.
CornigliaThis village is not accessible by sea, only by foot or train. It’s by far the hardest village to reach as you’ll need to climb 377 steps from the train station at the bottom of the hill. The staircase is made of bricks and locals call it “Lardarina”. This means it’s also the quietest of all villages. The view from here is breath-taking: you can admire the beautiful vineyards and orange groves growing all around the hills.
Vernazza is one of the prettiest villages but it was badly damaged by a flood in 2011, and you can still see some signs of it to this day.
There is a historic Castle, Doria Castle, on one side of the hills and plenty of shops and restaurants, focaccerie and gelaterie to please foodies from all around the world!
Monterosso Al Mare
Monterosso is the biggest village in Cinque Terre. It stands on much flatter land than all its neighbours, and although at a first sight it might not look as charming as some of the other villages, it has a long coastline and a large beach.
If you want to spend some time chilling by the beach and don’t like the idea of carrying your bags up and down hills and stairs, staying overnight in Monterosso might be the best choice.
Here you have them: the best things to do in Cinque Terre! We loved our holiday in Cinque Terre, and I really believe you’ll have an amazing time too!
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