Italian coast has always been attractive for tourist because of the picturesque and colorful little towns, the view of the blue Mediterranean sea and the Italian food that would wake up all your senses.
Cinque Terre (translated in English means Five Lands) is consisted from five small villages, all situated by the coast – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. This little colorful paradise is located in the Italian region of Liguria. The beauty of this place and its uniqueness are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
How to get there
You can get to Italy by plane to Genoa (which is closest to Cinque Terre), or to Pisa or Florence and then take a bus or train to take you to the villages. Getting a train is perhaps the easiest way to get to Cinque Terre if you don’t want to book any tickets and actually get them on the train station of Trenitalia in Genoa, Pisa, Florence or La Spezia. Each of the villages is well connected with trails so visiting them all by train is a good idea. There are regular trains from Genoa and La Spezia that are quite frequent. The train stations in Cinque Terre are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. You can also rent a car from Genoa or La Spezia and drive to Cinque Terre within 20-30 minutes. This way you can enjoy the road by the sea, but if you don’t like narrow roads situated high above the sea level, you may get sick from the view. The road’s name to Cinque Terre is A370.
Where to go and what to see
Once you arrive at any of the five villages and soak in the raw beauty, it is time to explore them. Breathe in the scent of the Mediterranean Sea combined with the herbs and the plants that are unique and characteristic only for the Cinque Terre Coast. After all, the landscape is the main attraction here. The best way to completely enjoy it is to sit down in the local little restaurants that are offering magnificent view. Arround each of the villages there are wine terraces were built with the hands of the Cinque Terre ancestors who were carrying stones on their hands and heads (both men and women). It took 2 centuries for the wine terraces to be finished. If you are visiting the five lands between December 8th and late January, we suggest you to see the the lighted Nativity in Manarola which is the world’s biggest Lighted nativity. In spring, or more precisely from late May till August, Cinque Terre has patron festivities which are a mix of religious ceremony with day and night parties. Perhaps this is the best way to get to know the locals and their history. In midsummer Cinque Terre celebrates the succesful defence of the town from a Saracen attack which occurred during the middle age. Pretty much this was a pirate attack of Vernazza, so if you happen to be there during this festivities, don’t miss it. By the end of the summer, in early and mid September, people of Cinque Terre do the harvest and make wine. You can get to see how men’s shoulders and women’s heads are still used just like their ancestors were doing it centuries ago. And finally, if you happen to visit the five lands in winter (although we suggest you spring or summer) you can witness the winter sea storms and the whole nature power, which when observed from the high coast looks magnificent and surreal.
If you are prone to hiking, Cinque Terre is perhaps one of the loveliest places to do this, but since the coast is rocky, you may be at risk of landslides, so double check before you hit the road. There are two hiking paths from from Manarola to Corniglia. The first one is very close to the sea and is pleasant and easy. To walk the entire path will take you about half an hour. The path is not paved. To reach Corniglia town center there is an up hill hike and a staircase with 385 steps. If you are not ready to step on that many steps, this isn’t the path for you, especially if it is a hot summer day. But, if you see a challenge to do this outdoor workout, you will face a real challenge because the path is zig zag shaped. The path from Vernazza to Monterosso is the steepest (not recommendable for people who don’t have physical strength or who are afraid of heights – there is over 250m of climbing over very uneven rocks and about 750 steps). But, the fact that this path goes up through olive orchards and vineyards and has incredible view of the sea, is perhaps the best reward if you take this challenge. If you are not into hiking, there are pebble and sand beaches in every of the five villages waiting for you to lie down and rest. The water during summer is warm and pleasant and the harbors have small rocks to make the swimming even more fun.
Hotels and restaurants
Cinque Terre villages have hotels, hostels and private rooms where tourists can stay for reasonable prices, starting from 30 Euros per person. Cinque Terre Tourist Association is the best way to get more information about private accomodation. Booking in advance is a must if you are staying in the local hotels. Also, there are two campsites Camping Aqua Dolce and Pian di Picce and Albero’d Oro both situated next to each other a bit more inland, at about one kilometer from the beach but closer to the railway station. Don’t forget to taste the local cuisine and try rofie (pasta made from chestnut or wheat flour which is basically the original pasta), Tagliatelle (a broad handmade pasta), Vegetable pies etc. La Grotta and Via Dell’Amore are restaurants in Riomaggiore where you can eat the local dishes. Cantina dello Zio Bramante, in Manarola is a drinking bar for the young locals, musicians and social minglers. Enoteca da Elizeo in Monterosso is a a lovely place where you can have an aperitivo or a glass of wine at any time.