The Cinque Terre in Italy is one of the most visited places on earth and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Please be aware of that before you decide to go there, meaning, make sure you do protect the village’s beauty by keeping it clean and respecting the locals, make sure you plan well ahead, keep in mind that it’s not just one area, it is a whole area of land and hiking is part of it, so make sure you leave your heels at home and put on some fabulous walking or hiking shoes!
It can get confusing on where you want to stay and preferably start from Florence. Cinque Terre is north of the Tuscan borders so it would take you around 3 hours by car from Florence.
Here is a quick introduction and a guide to the Cinque Terre, you could spend the night at any of the 5 villages or make it a day trip. Getting around and in between the villages is easy by train and by boat. If you like to hike between the 5 villages, start early and you can make it through them! Also, time your day accordingly so you spend equal amount of time on each village if you are planning to visit them all in one day. You would not want to rush it through.
Start in the southernmost village of Riomaggiore, dating back to 13th century, is built into a river gorge, (the name which means “major river”) walk along the cobblestone streets and be prepared for lots of stairs! According to legend, the settlement of Riomaggiore dates from the 8th century, when Greek religious refugees came here to escape persecution by the Byzantine emperor. It has one main street, a rocky beach, a castle, a church and a few restaurants. It also has good train connections and is the closest to the main city of La Spezia. Have a drink at A Pie’ de Ma’ (Via dell’Amore, Riomaggiore.) Watch the sunset over the harbor and dine in one of the restaurant most recommended, Il Grottino. A great hiking trail is Riomaggiore to Portovenere (It’s quite long but fabulous and free!).
Head to the tiny village of Manarola next one of my favorites and home to medieval relics and a plethora of grapevines. This is the village where it has been photographed the most! You can also cliff jump here! To get the best views, walk up north along the walking path. This village is definitely one of my favorites, spend as much time as you can here discovering it. Da Billy restaurant has great views and is a hike up so make sure you are ready!
The smallest village is Corniglia. She’s a rebel. She’s built far above the ocean on the cliffs. To arrive in Corniglia you have to hoof it up the 365 steps (one for each day of the year) to reach the center of town. If you have excessive luggage don’t stay here. But saying that, it’s where to go to get away from it all.
The beauty queen of the Cinque Terre is named Vernazza. You can also get here if you hike the trail from Monterosso. This is one of the most beautiful village and one of the most photogenic one! Vernazza is a one-street town with a church built on the water. She has a castle, the remains of the old wall that protected against pirates, a gorgeous waterfront piazza and a harbor with a tiny bit of sand. In 2011, a bigger beach was created thanks to the floods. A little beauty out of a disaster. Definitely a favorite, make sure you spend a good time here as well. ,
Take a boat to travel to Monterosso or you can train it from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, the largest of the 5 villages and the one in our opinion the most commercial and more of a ‘resort’ stay and one of my least favorite but still beautiful to see. Monterosso is the biggest one of the 5 lands. There are roads, cars, old towns and new towns and lots of hotels. If you are not looking to hike or look at beautiful landscapes and want to be in an area that is ‘newer’, a larger area to swim, then Monterosso is for you.
Hotels: Sleep In
* Park Hotel Argento [Book here] Levanto (Via Sant’Anna s.n. 19015) just a short distance away in the heart of Liguria
* La Serra Sul Mare [Book here] Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italian Riviera
* La Torretta [Book here] Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italian Riviera
* La Mala [Book here] Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italian Riviera
* Thanks to Italian Fix for showing me around!