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  • Writer's pictureIne Vandenwyngaert

Cinque Terre, Italy: A Short Travel Guide

Cinque Terre is tucked into the rugged cliffs of Liguria on Italy’s northwest coast. Translating to "Five Lands," this area is a collection of five picturesque villages overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Each of the five villages has its own unique charm and character. In this travel guide, we discuss all 5 of the villages separately, including the best things to do in each one. We also explain how to get around Cinque Terre and where to stay.

vernazza cinque terre italy

Check out our video about Cinque Terre to see the best things to do through our camera!

Best Things To Do in Cinque Terre

1. Explore Monterosso al Mare

Located at the northernmost point of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso is the biggest town and can easily be reached from larger cities such as Milan or Genoa. Unlike its cliffside Cinque Terre neighbors, Monterosso stretches along the coast with a flat historic center. It also boasts the region’s only sandy beach, perfect for sunbathing and swimming in the sparkling waters. Monterosso offers the most amenities for visitors, from a wider range of hotels and restaurants to shops selling local specialties. Stroll its charming alleyways in the old town or explore the lively new beachfront, all while enjoying the relaxed pace of this unique Cinque Terre gem.

2. Explore Vernazza 

Sitting to the southeast of Monterosso, Vernazza is widely regarded as the most picturesque village of Cinque Terre. This classic Italian fishing village has pastel colored houses tumbling down towards a small, protected harbor with many colorful fishing boats. As with all of the 5 towns, you can stroll along its narrow lanes and soak in the vibrant atmosphere. You can also swim in the protected harbor here on hot days, however it’s not sandy like in Monterosso. But Vernazza's beauty extends beyond the waterfront. Climb up to Doria Castle or to the streets above the town for panoramic views. Just keep in mind that Vernazza is likely the busiest village and can feel very crowded around its harbor area.

3. Explore Corniglia

In the heart of Cinque Terre lies Corniglia. This hidden gem is perched 100 meters or 328 ft above the sea on a dramatic cliff top. So you can forget the bustling harbors in this town. Instead, you’ll find charming lanes lined with colorful houses that wind upwards, rewarding your climb with beautiful panoramas. As the smallest town which also lacks direct beach access, Corniglia has fewer crowds compared to the other villages. This makes it the most authentic and tranquil village in Cinque Terre in our opinion. Explore its hidden piazzas where you can find high quality gelato and savor a slice of local life.

4. Explore Manarola

Located to the southeast of Corniglia, Manarola is a Cinque Terre highlight. This photogenic village boasts a picture-perfect harbor, colorful houses cascading down to the sea, and dramatic cliffs flanked with vineyards. If you want to get a closer look at the vineyards, you can walk up the main road from the train station. You will also find a small church at the top of the town. Manarola is a haven for photographers and offers the most breathtaking views of all the towns in our opinion. Follow the seaside path northwest of the harbor and be rewarded with a panorama unlike any other. 

5. Explore Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the southernmost of the Cinque Terre villages and is known for its romantic atmosphere. Stroll past colorful houses crammed along narrow streets, leading you down to one last picturesque harbor. Being the second-largest village of the five, Riomaggiore boasts more to see and do. You can explore the historic center, unwind on harborside terraces, check out its churches, or climb up to the castle overlooking the village. This town was our all-round favorite since it felt slightly larger than its neighbors but still offered the classic Cinque Terre views. You can also find the best place to watch the sunset in all of Cinque Terre here! One option is to walk on the harbor rocks for a water-level view and another option is to take in the scene from the walkway just above.

6. Indulge in the local cuisine 

Each village boasts exquisite restaurants and cafés, offering fresh seafood, local wines, and other Ligurian specialties. Our favorite was focaccia, the fluffy flatbread drizzled with olive oil and often topped with herbs, local cheeses and other fresh ingredients. You can find many focaccerias in all of the towns offering different variations of this tasty bread. But of course you can also find the classic Italian dishes, like gelato, pizza, and pasta. 

7. Hiking Cinque Terre National Park 

Encompassing all five villages and its rugged coastline, Cinque Terre National Park boasts multiple hiking trails. The Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro) is undoubtedly the most popular one, connecting all five villages. This is a moderately challenging cliffside trail winding its way through vineyards, olive groves, and the colorful villages. To access this hike, you need to pay an entrance fee, which costs €7.50 for the day.

In recent years, it's been rare that you'll find it fully open since winter storm damage has caused parts of the trail to be closed. At the time of our visit, the route between Corniglia and Riomaggiore was under renovation, so we hiked from Monterosso to Corniglia via Vernazza. The trek was about 8.5 kilometers or 5.2 miles and took us 5 hours to complete when we included the stopping time at all of the viewpoints as well as Vernazza harbor and castle. However, the actual walking time was only 3.5 hours.

The section from Monterosso to Vernazza was by far the busiest, most difficult, and narrow stretch of the trail. To get updates on closures, check the national park website before you head out. 

manarola cinque terre italy

Where To Stay In Cinque Terre

Choosing your home base for the trip depends on the vibe you’re looking for:

Monterosso: if you want ease and affordability with flatter terrain and a wider range of hotels and B&B’s compared to the other towns of Cinque Terre. This is also where we stayed.

Riomaggiore/Vernazza/Manarola/Corniglia: if you prefer a more romantic atmosphere. After the day crowds disperse, a peaceful tranquility settles over the villages and you will have pleasant evenings.

La Spezia or Levanto: if you prefer a wider variety of hotels and lower prices. Both towns offer convenient train and boat connections to Cinque Terre.

riomaggiore at night cinque terre italy
Riomaggiore at night

How To Get Around Cinque Terre

By car

For getting around the towns, we definitely do not recommend driving. Parking is scarce, expensive, and often far from the villages themselves. If you have a car, park it in La Spezia, Levanto, or Monterosso and explore the villages by train or boat. 

By train

Trains are the cheapest and most convenient way to get around Cinque Terre. They generally run about every 15 to 20 minutes throughout the day between La Spezia and Levanto, stopping at each village with fast journeys between stops. Tickets range from €5-10 per trip and can be bought at one of the booths at the train station itself. If you plan to visit all 5 villages in one day by train, it’s more economical to buy the Cinque Terre Card, which allows unlimited train travel.

By boat

If you prefer to enjoy the dramatic coastline from the sea, consider taking a ferry between the villages. There are two main ferry operators serving the Cinque Terre villages: Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti (between Levanto and La Spezia - stops at all 5 villages) and Golfo Paradiso (from Genoa stopping at Portovenere and all the Cinque Terre villages except Corniglia). However, keep in mind that boat services can be affected by bad weather, and boarding with a lot of luggage can be a challenge. Ferry schedules can also change depending on the season and day of the week, so be sure to check the latest timetable before your trip.

On foot

Finally, most of the villages are car-free in the center, making them perfect for relaxed exploration on foot. Be prepared for some lots of uphill walking as these charming towns cling to the cliffs. For those with mobility limitations, the historic centers of Monterosso and Riomaggiore are flatter and easily reached by a pedestrian tunnel from the train station. 

corniglia from the air cinque terre italy

Places To Eat And Drink In Cinque Terre


  • Bakery Rosi Roberta Di Baudinelli (Riomaggiore)

  • Batti Batti' Focacceria (Vernazza)

  • Fornaio Di Monterosso (Monterosso)

  • Focacceria Antonio Di Liberatore V. & C. (Monterosso)

  • Focacceria A piè de Campu (Manarolo)

  • Il Massimo della Focaccia (Monterosso)

  • pan&pumate (Manarola)

Wine bar

  • Bar e Vini a Pié de Ma (Riomaggiore)

  • Enoteca Internazionale (Monterosso)

  • Marina di Corniglia (Corniglia)

  • Terra Rossa wine&food winebar (Corniglia)


  • Alberto Gelateria (Corniglia)

  • Gelateria Vernazza (Vernazza)

Italian food

  • EMY'S WAY Ristorantino Frizzeria (Monterosso)

  • Il Gattaccio - Acciugheria & Street Food (Vernazza)

  • La Cantina del Macellaio (Riomaggiore)

  • Lapo's³ Restaurant, Pizza & Drink (Monterosso)

  • L’Osteria (Monterosso)

  • Pirasca ittiturismo (Vernazza)

  • PIZZERIA KEPRIS (Riomaggiore)

  • Ristorante L'Ancora della Tortuga (Monterosso)

  • Ristorante La Posada (Corniglia)

  • Taverna Galin (Monterosso)

Other food

  • Andrea's Corniglia (Corniglia)

  • Fooderia (Manarola)

  • Poke Manarola (Manarola)

foccacia cinque terre italy liguria

Map Cinque Terre Italy

Find all the places to go, eat, drink, and stay in Cinque Terre on Google Maps. To follow and save the list, do the following:

  1. Tap on the link to open it (click button below)

  2. Tap Follow. This list will now be added to the group of lists you follow.

  3. Optional: To unfollow a list someone shared with you, tap the list Saved.

If you follow the list we made, all our saved places of Cinque Terre will show up in Your Places. The places will also appear as suggested locations in Google Maps.

map cinque terre italy


Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Cinque Terre


Are you having a hard time planning your trip to Cinque Terre? Get our Interactive Travel Planner to keep it all organized.

travel planner for cinque terre italy trip

Need more travel inspiration? Check out our other destinations and articles about Italy:

World Wild Hearts

Hi! We are Ine & Zac. An international travel couple from Belgium and the US. We created World Wild Hearts to inspire new adventures and help you plan your next trip. Use these tips, stories, and guides to inspire your next adventure of a lifetime!


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