Cinque Terre

How do you make the most of a trip to the Cinque Terre? Seafood, pesto, and hiking are only the beginning.
By Alecsa Stewart

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Cinque Terre is a car-less haven dramatically situated against some of the most jaw-dropping scenery on the Mediterranean. Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore compete for attention with picturesque buildings, steeply terraced cliff landscapes, fantastic hikes, and a truly Italian flavor. With a 19th-century railway line that links the towns together, travelers can experience each of them with a satisfying three-day itinerary. Here’s how to visit Cinque Terre.

Recommendations

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  • In Monterosso al Mare, the Convento dei Capucini is an interesting church and convent complex situated on a hill dividing the old town from the Fegina quarter. 
  • Ghemé (Riomaggiore) offers a nearly unbeatable complete selection of food and wine from the Ligurian region. Wine-tasting packages start from around $20 and take an hour.
  • L’Ancora della Tortuga (Monterosso) is an upscale Michelin Guide restaurant overlooking the sea featuring hand-made pasta, fresh fish from the Ligurian Sea, and exquisite views.
  • The Belvedere Santa Maria is one of the most breathtaking lookouts in Corniglia, accessible from the village via Via Feschi. It’s on the Blue Trail / trail number 2, which connects all the Cinque Terre villages.
  • Bagni Eden in Monterosso is a local’s favorite beach club in Monterosso. 
  • Castello Doria in Vernazza is the oldest surviving fortified building in Cinque Terre (from c. 1000) with impressive ruins and beautiful views.
  • Manarola houses lots of medieval relics, including a 15th-century polyptych that can be seen in the Chiesa di San Lorenzo (dating from 1338). Opposite the church, the Piazzale Papa Innocenzo IV is a picturesque piazza overseen by an old defensive bell tower.
  • The murals outside Riomaggiore train station depict the farmers who made this region the popular tourist destination it is today.
  • Overlooking the village of Riomaggiore is an interesting ruined 13th-century castle with views of the sea. 
  • Ristorante Miky, an award-winning Michelin Guide restaurant perched on a cliff, focuses on maritime cuisine.
  • Missanega (Monterosso) is a quaint agriturismo farmhouse up the hill featuring organic produce in a farm-to-table experience. It also has five renovated guest rooms.
  • Cinque Sensi (Vernazza) is a wine shop with several local experiences, including wine tasting, olive oil tasting, pesto making, and aperitivo (drinks and snacks). They also have accommodations available above the shop.  
  • Osteria a Cantina de Mananan (Corniglia) is a picturesque restaurant in the narrow streets of Corniglia, featuring burrata, anchovies, and a mix of local seafood. 
  • Terra Rossa wine bar (Corniglia) serves quick bites and a good selection of wines and craft beers.
  • Nessun Dorma is one of the best wine-tasting spots in Manarola, with food pairings featuring local produce and glasses of sweet Sciacchetrà wine, among other regional favorites. 
  • Trattoria dal Billy (above Manarola) has superb sea views and seafood sourced locally. 
  • Pizzeria Kepris (Riomaggiore) is a laid-back, unassuming restaurant with exceptional, simple pizzas, very friendly staff, and a unique atmosphere.
  • Rio Bistrot (Riomaggiore) is an upscale seafood restaurant featured in the Michelin Guide.
  • Cinque Terre is famous for hiking, and there are lots of possible itineraries throughout the National Park, starting in each of the villages. There are over 74 miles of hiking trails on 48 different itineraries on the coast. The Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path, marked as no. 2 on maps) is the most direct way to link all five villages.
  • One of the best-known parts of the Sentiero Azzurro is the 1km stretch between Riomaggiore and Manarola, called Via dell’Amore (the “path of love”). Note: This path is currently closed because of a landslide and is due to reopen in the Summer of 2024. You can hike the alternative Via Beccara to connect the two towns instead.
  • The 17th-century Chiesa di San Francesco (Monterosso) houses a painting attributed to Van Dyck.
  • Get lost on the caruggi of Vernazza, narrow streets that make for picturesque photo opportunities.
  • One of Cinque Terre’s quirkier attractions is Guvano Beach, a clothing-optional stretch of sand between Corniglia and Vernazza. It’s pretty hard to reach through a steep hike down from the Sentiero Azzurro and through an abandoned railway tunnel –- the journey is part of the adventure.
  • The Sanctuary Walks are a set of paths that take hikers through terraced vineyards and across sea cliffs to visit one sanctuary per village.  The chapel in the tiny village of Volastra from Trail 6 is by far the best.
  • 5Terre Diving offers courses with specialized instructors or just equipment hire for experienced divers.
  • Enoteca da Eliseo (Monterosso) is an excellent wine shop with friendly and helpful hosts, Eliseo and Mary.
  • Fabbrica d’Arte (Monterosso) is a souvenir shop featuring local pottery.
  • Gelateria Sorbetteria 5 Terre (Manarola) is an ice cream shop that serves regional desserts like gelato, sorbet, and gluten-free crêpes.
  • La Spezia hosts a bustling Friday market near the train station on Viale Garibaldi, which features consignment clothing from vendors worldwide.
  • The chic Sunset Line apartments in Riomaggiore have an extremely convenient location – a stone’s throw away from the marina and the train station.
  • The AMAnarola Guesthouse, where Italian hospitality meets luxurious amenities in beautiful, themed rooms and a suite, is in the center of Manarola. Rooms start from $145 per night, suites from $180 per night.
  • If staying in Corniglia, Amare Il Mare Guesthouse gives tourists a chance to unwind on a quiet stretch of coastline, all while being close to the walking paths and an excellent gelateria. Corniglia involves a demanding hike to reach. Consider avoiding it as a home base if you have any mobility issues.  
  • In the center of Vernazza, Santa Marta Rooms is close to shops and restaurants. The best suite offers two bedrooms and a quaint terrace overlooking the picturesque streets – a perfect choice for a family. Prices start at around $300 per night.
  • The four-star Porto Roca in Monterosso is the most luxurious hotel in Cinque Terre: modern rooms overlooking the sea, a private beach, an infinity pool with seawater, plus two bars and a delightful restaurant. Rooms are priced from $360, while suites can be up to $750 (prices vary with seasonality). 
  • Outside of the Cinque Terre villages themselves, a few outstanding hotels can be luxurious bases for traveling to the area as a day trip:
  • To the north lies the Italian Riviera and smaller towns like Sestri Levante, with exceptional accommodations such as Splendido Hotel, Villa Domus 1938, and Park Hotel Argento.
  • In the south, the Grand Hotel Portovenere has a privileged location close to the evocatively named “Gulf of Poets,” and The Poet Hotel is situated on the connecting train’s southern terminus in La Spezia.
manarola beach in one of cinque terre towns
Chirapriya Thanakonwirakit
Box of lemons in the cinque terre town of vernazza
Laurie Knauf
view of harbor in riomaggiore from under an arch.
Stevan ZZ

Itinerary

Vernazza is the best town to stay for easy access to hiking trails towards both ends of the Cinque Terre and a relatively lively atmosphere. Our Cinque Terre itinerary starts here and leads you through the best things to do during your visit. 

Day 1: Vernazza & Monterosso al Mare


9 am: Take in the views on a morning hike from Vernazza to Monterosso 


Start with a coffee and fresh orange juice at the Bar Ananasso. Grab your Cinque Terre Trekking Card (it will be checked at a hut at the trail start) and the Cinque Terre Treno Card (for your train trip back) to start on a relatively easy hike along the Sentiero Vernazza-Monterosso (signposted).

It should take around 1 to 2 hours. You’ll pass through varied vegetation while overlooking the sea. A particularly picturesque part includes crossing an old stone bridge. Look back for scenic views of Vernazza along the way. Arrive in Monterosso around lunchtime to enjoy lunch with a view at the Restaurant L’Ancora della Tortuga.


Afternoon in Monterosso


Explore the Old Town, stopping at the Convento dei Capucini and the Chiesa di San Francisco. Then, pop by the Church of San Giovanni Battista, with its white and black marble striped façade. In between exploring the churches (which are close in proximity),  take a break to sip local wines at the Enoteca da Eliseo. After getting your fill of the Old Town, head to Spiaggia di Fegina, the largest sandy beach in Cinque Terre, to catch some afternoon sun. The beach happens to be located right by the train station for an easy return to Vernazza at sunset.


Evening in Vernazza


After a shower and a quick rest, head into Vernazza for dinner by the sea at Belforte. Start with the e acciughe (anchovies). 

Day 2: Corniglia & Manarola


8 am: Breakfast & train to Manarola


Before getting on the train to Manarola, stop at the Blue Marlin Bar just near the station for a coffee and a quick breakfast. In Manarola, visit the Piazzale Papa Innocenzo IV to admire the imposing defensive bell tower before heading to the Chiesa di San Lorenzo for some medieval relic hunting. Mid-morning is the best time to indulge in some local gelato at the Gelateria Sorbetteria 5 Terre before going on a vigorous hike. The Fooderia sandwich shop also offers some mouthwatering take-out options to pack for a mid-hike snack. 


Afternoon: Hike (or bus) to Corniglia via Volastra, one of the best hikes in Cinque Terre


The Manarola-Corniglia trail via Volastra is one of the best hikes in the Cinque Terre, but it is also quite challenging. From Manarola to Volastra, there is a steep climb of around 1200 steps, gaining height to reach beautiful panoramic views. As an alternative, take the bus (ask at the tourist information station or your accommodation for schedule info) to Volastra, which is free with the Cinque Terre Treno Card.  It only takes 10 minutes.

Once in Volastra, admire the Santuario della Madonna delle Salute and then descend to Corniglia. The whole walk (including the initial climb) is around 3.6 miles. Sun cream, plenty of water, and some good walking shoes are essential for this hike. 

Corniglia is the quietest of the five villages and has no sea access, so a quick stroll around its streets gives a good sense of colorful houses and narrow alleys. Stop for a bruschetta and local wine tasting at Terra Rossa wine bar before taking the train back to Vernazza.


5 pm: Pesto making & wine tasting in Vernazza


Aperitivo at the Cinque Sensi in Vernazza is a unique, unmissable experience. But it’s made even better by the Pesto Making Class, bookable at 5.30 pm, and followed with tastings of three wines and three local olive oils. Focaccia, bread, and cheese are also served, or there are various tasting platters to choose from that extend into dinner. Complete the night with a typical Ligurian seafood dinner of grilled octopus and langoustines at the Gambero Rosso

Day 3: Vernazza & Riomaggiore


Morning in Vernazza


A slower morning in Vernazza should include a visit to its picture-perfect, quintessential Mediterranean harbor before walking along the Via Roma and into the caruggi –narrow lanes typical of the region. After a visit to the Castello Doria and a slice of pesto pizza at the Batti Batti’ Focacceria for lunch, hop on the train for an afternoon in Riomaggiore.


Afternoon in Riomaggiore


The eastern end of Cinque Terre and its largest and liveliest village, Riomaggiore, features beautiful, pastel-colored buildings, many bars and restaurants, and its famously photographed harbor. 

Once off the train, stop to admire the murals depicting farm life in the area. Head towards the Castello, a ruined castle on the hill above the village. A walk along the Via Pecunia afterward brings tourists past the Church of San Giovanni Battista before turning right onto Via Colombo to descend towards the harbor.

Stop at Ghemé for local wine tasting, followed by snacking on fried fish at Tutti Fritti across the street. Then, descend to the harbor for a picture-perfect place to admire the sunset (beware: this area gets really crowded with tourists). Heading back to the train station, stop for take-out pizza at Kepris for a final treat.

Destination Map

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