Five of Italy’s beautiful fishing villages are nestled on its west coastline, between Genoa and La Spezia. Together, they are named “Cinque Terre” (pronounced chin-quay tare-ray with rolled r’s — I never would’ve thought to pronounce all of the syllables like that!), literally meaning “Five Lands.”
I was only there for a day and a half, but as the villages are small and close together, you can definitely see them all in that time period. And by small, I mean each village only has a couple of streets. I would recommend two or three full days if possible though, especially if you want to relax and hike between some of the villages. The hikes look beautiful, but sadly we didn’t have enough time. Fortunately we got some hiking in on the island of Capri by the Amalfi Coast, which had absolutely gorgeous views (blog post on Capri coming up soon!).
Due to the small size of the villages, there is limited accommodation, which also translates into expensive accommodation. I went in mid-September (shoulder season) and our AirBNB for 4 people cost 265 CAD for the night (equivalent to 175 Euros or 195 USD). We stayed in Monterosso, which is one of the largest villages.
The easiest way to get between each village in Cinque Terre is by train. At 4 euros per ticket, it can add up! If you’re visiting many of the villages, you may want to look into getting the Cinque Terre card, which is essentially a day pass. Hiking is also possible but make sure to check on the status of the trails prior to your trip. Some of the routes close frequently for maintenance. Cinque Terre remains a largely car-free area, so it would be a good idea to leave your car at La Spezia and then take the train up. Within each village, there are many steep inclines and stairs, so make sure you are able to handle going up and down.
The five villages are, from north to south: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. We skipped Corniglia and Manarola as they are the smallest villages and we were limited by time and weather.
Monterosso (and maybe Vernazza if you can make it!)
We left Milan in the morning and arrived in Monterosso at noon. The train ride took 4 hours. As the weather was rather stormy, we decided to just stay in Monterosso and visit the rest of the villages the next day. There is a long stretch of beach that would be perfect for sunbathing during the summer, but we got to see it with stormy clouds and waves crashing up the shore. If the weather weren’t so stormy, we probably would’ve hopped on the train and headed to Vernazza as it’s one of the smaller villages and can be explored in a few hours. Instead, we had to push it back to the following day.
For lunch, we had lunch at L’Ancora della Tortuga, a cute nautical-themed restaurant perched on a cliffside right by the sea. Their stuffed calamari appetizer was delicious, and I also loved my main which was Ligurian-style squid pasta. Desserts were also great, and I would definitely recommend this place. For dinner, we ate at Miky and I had grilled mixed fish. It consisted of a plate of freshly-caught varieties of seafood such as shellfish, none of which I am able to name (they all looked exotic to me). As a seafood lover, today’s meals were amazing!
If you’re going to be exploring the villages during the day and already checked out of your hotel, I would recommend leaving your bags at a train station. In our case, since we were going to be taking the train from La Spezia to Rome later in the evening, we dropped our bags off first at the La Spezia station early in the morning for a small fee. This left us with our hands and backs free from carrying all of the clothing and souvenirs that had accumulated from our three weeks in Italy and Portugal.
Vernazza (or Corniglia/Manarola if you did Vernazza the previous day)
Thankfully the weather was sunny today, but we didn’t have much time as we had to be back at La Spezia at 6pm for our train to Rome. We decided to work our way down from north to south and see as much as we could, so our first stop was Vernazza (as we had already spent the previous day in Monterosso). It is one of the smaller villages but one of the prettiest in my opinion with its pastel buildings. We got ice cream at Gelataria Vernazza (because I made it my priority to get gelato in every area I visited) and breakfast at Batti Batti’ Focacceria. It didn’t take us too long to walk down the main street of the village. It was also very busy despite the fact that we went during shoulder season, and there was a whole crowd of people by the waterfront just eating and talking.
You know all of those bright, colourful postcard-worthy photos you see of Cinque Terre? Chances are many of them are taken in Riomaggiore, with its iconic coastline. It is one of the largest villages and definitely one of the most beautiful and striking, with its signature brightly coloured buildings. It also boasts a beautiful 1km hike named Via dell’ Amore (Lover’s Lane) that takes you to Manarola (the next city north). Unfortunately the majority of it was closed due to landslide repairs when I went. I still had a lot of fun walking through the village itself and climbing the rocks by the sea though. For lunch, we ate at Dau Cila which offered beautiful views of the sea. Unfortunately, service was rather slow and the staple prosciutto and melon appetizer was too salty. Otherwise, my agnolotti pasta main was good but small. Dessert was, of course, gelato again.
Hope you enjoyed this post, and please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. Look out for the rest of my Italy posts coming your way soon!