Did I really just say that? I’m pretty sure the phrase, “I heart…” was meant for pre-teen girls who scribble on the bathroom walls and pass notes in class with a request for ‘Check yes or no’. Err, I guess I mean, I’m absolutely enthralled with Cinque Terre: head over heels, in love, could spend a summer here type of thing. This small collection of five coastal fishing villages was my next stop in Italy. Cinque Terre is located on the northwest coast of Italy, just a couple of hours outside of Florence on the Italian Riviera. It’s been a growing stop on the backpacking circuit for years but is still underrated in guide books. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was made into a national park about 10 years ago. The reasons are quite obvious. With its beautiful panoramics, rocky cliffs, terraced farmland, and lack of cars within the villages, it is quaint, charming, and dramatically beautiful. Fun fact: It’s also in the region where pesto was invented, so make sure to pick some up while you’re here.
Visiting Cinque Terre:
The main hub for train travel to Cinque Terre is through La Spezia- it’s just a 7 minute ride away from the first village of Riomaggiore. Here, you will find the main office for the park (right next to the train station). Even if you don’t stay in Riomaggiore, I would recommend stopping here on your way in. The tourist office is extremely helpful with maps, train timetables, and most importantly, the Cinque Terre pass. The park offers 1, 3, and 7 day passes of varying levels. The basic pass gives you access to the coastal walking trail between the villages, use of the elevators that take you to overlooks, and various museums and sights that I never even made it to. For a 1 day basic pass it’s 5 Euros. You can also get the pass with unlimited train travel for the day from La Spezia to Levanto (which includes all of the villages) for 7.2 Euros. This card is a great option if you want to walk to some villages or take the train to others.I highly recommend the coastal trail. Make sure to validate your ticket, either in the yellow boxes at the train station, or at the start of the trail.
Riomaggiore: The largest of the five villages, it is known for its wine produced from the town’s vineyards. Yes, I indulged, and you should too. It’s great! Like I said before, the main office for the park is here. It’s known for it’s picture perfect view overlooking the harbor.
Manarola: Taking the Via dell’Amore path from Riomaggiore, you will find yourself in Manarola, the oldest village in Cinque Terre. With less than 1000 people, it is also the smallest, and the people here even speak their own dialect.
Corniglia: One of my favorites, this is the third village. Be prepared when visiting: you will walk up 382 steps from the train station to get here. But it’s worth it! There are some great views looking back to Manarola.
Vernazza: The most charming in Cinque Terre, this is also the most touristed, and I can see why. It has a wonderful area by the harbor where everyone gathers for lunch and drinks, relaxation and company.
Monterosso: The northern-most village, it is the only one with an actual beach. After seeing the other four villages, I could have left this one out of the mix. While it is still a pretty village, there are cars and crowds. Again, not my style, but a lot of tourists really enjoy coming here.
Weather & When to Go:
If you’re coming here to laze on the beach and just relax, summer will obviously be the best time. The only beach however, is in Monterosso so it gets really crowded. I came to Cinque Terre to hike, and I cannot tell you just how perfect it was in March. It was warm enough in the day for short sleeves, but cool enough to do some more intense hiking on the upper trails. Vernazza, the most touristed town, was pretty busy, but the others didn’t feel very crowded at all. I would definitely recommend off-season if you’re going for the hikes.
Now that you have an overview of Cinque Terre, read about my own experiences and more details in upcoming posts!
And here’s one more picture of Cinque Terre to keep you coming back for more :)