A few months ago, right before jumping on a plane to Indonesia, I quickly shared a picture of Manarola, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre, with my then 2400 Instagram followers. It was a 40-hour journey with a 12 hour wifi-less layover in China and by the time I arrived in my hotel I nearly fell asleep before even reaching my room. But I wouldn’t be a real travel blogger if I wasn’t obsessed with likes and follows, so I had to check how my post was doing before going to bed…
2700 likes, 50-something comments and 2 features, good for 4500 more likes…
A quick ‘can you check if something’s wrong on my screen‘ to one of my friends and a couple of ‘woohooooos‘ later I felt wide awake and if I wouldn’t have been able to touch the 4 walls of my room just spreading my arms and doing a spin around my own axis I’m pretty sure some kind of ridiculous looking dance around the bed would have followed. But I’m clumsy, so no dancing in tiny spaces for me!
But I was dancing in my head! I’d only just started focusing on photography and Cinque Terre was one of the first trips on which I’d used all my brand new gear and really invested time in getting those perfect shots. For my self confidence, the line I’m going with is “woow, I must have a real talent for photograpy!“. But to be honest, I think the place deserves a big part of the credit, too…
CINQUE TERRE – AN INTRODUCTION TO THE FIVE LANDS
Cinque Terre is located along the Ligurian Coast, about halfway between Genoa and Pisa, and consists of 5 towns or ‘lands’: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The area is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it isn’t hard to understand why. With its colorful houses standing on the edge of the rocks, bright green gardens and farmlands and red and yellow boats adding a final touch to the already perfect water, Cinque Terre is one of those places that can only be described in cliché’s…
Most of the towns are busy during the day but once the sun starts to set, the day trippers go home and everybody else sits down for pizza and wine, you’ll get the feeling you’ve got the place all to yourself.
Monterosso is the village in the north, and the only one with an easily accessible beach. Probably the town with the most ‘touristy’ feel to it, in my opinion it lacks coziness and is therefor my least favorite of the five villages. But keep on reading, because as you head further south it keeps on getting better and better!
Maybe the cutest of the five towns, Vernazza is the perfect place for a stroll, a glass of Spritz and a bit of dolce far niente. Coming out of the train station, the main road will lead you straight to the tiny harbor. It’s not far but with all the shops selling food, souvenirs and gelato it might take you a while to finally get there.
There’s a hiking path between Vernazza and Corniglia, leading you through an much quieter part of Vernazza and offering beautiful views of it. Head to the travel guide section of this post to read all about it.
To get to see the village in the middle you’ll have to do a bit of effort. Exactly 365 steps lead from the train station to the town’s center but the views make it worth each and every one of them. Corniglia’s very green and much calmer than the other villages – I guess not everybody has the courage to climb all those steps – so if you need a moment away from the crowds, get there pronto!
Heading further south, it goes from colorful and cute to still colorful but somehow more and more impressive. The rocks rising out of the rough dark blue water and the houses balancing right on the edge of them are just stunning!
Like the other villages, Manarola’s busy during the day but there’s an easy way to get away from it. Getting out of the train station, don’t go straight to the left where everybody else goes and where you’ll get to see the views below. Of course they are the best part, but the other part of Manarola definitely deserves a visit, too. It’s not just beautiful but also super quiet. I walked around here in the middle of the day and saw almost nobody! Or do go left, walk passed the main area and climb the hill leading away from it for some spectacular views that you won’t need to share with hundreds of other people.
In a place like Cinque Terre, picking your favorite isn’t an easy task. But if I had to chose, I’d probably pick Riomaggiore. I mean when you spend 2 hours just sitting on a rock watching the same view, it has to be pretty amazing, right?
The town’s center, with its restaurants, souvenir shops and steep tiny alleys is beyond cute, the path leading up to the highest point and down to the water unexpectedly quiet and the harbor… the harbor… well… you’ll have to look for yourself because I have no words for it… #WorstTravelBloggerInTheWorldHahaha
CINQUE TERRE – PRACTICAL TRAVEL GUIDE
When to go
Cinque Terre can be visited all year, although in winter you’ll have to keep your fingers crossed for good weather. This is however the time where almost nobody else visits, so if you’re lucky it might just be the perfect time. In summer it gets extremely crowded and there’s talk about limiting the number of visitors. I didn’t find any specific information about a date yet, but make sure to check before you go. I visited Cinque Terre at the start of April, when the tourist season was just starting, and think it’s a good time if you can handle some tourists (go on weekdays because it’s obviously busier in the weekends) but still want a good chance at nice weather.
How to get there and how to get around
The closest airports are Genova or Pisa, but Florence is also a possibility.
- From Pisa: At the airport you can take a shuttle train to the central train station, from where trains go to La Spezia. In La Spezia, jump on the local train that connects the five villages and drives towards Sestri Levante.
- From Genova: Take a bus from the airport to one of the two train stations and from there, take a train going towards La Spezia. Not all the trains stop in Cinque Terre and you might have to change trains somewhere along the way.
- From Florence: Take the bus from the airport to Santa Maria Novella station, followed by a train to Pisa. From there, follow the instructions above.
For information about trains, check Trenitalia‘s website. Don’t forget that in Italy, just buying a train ticket isn’t enough, you need to ‘activate’ it at one of the machines on the platform. Inspections on the trains are very regular and fines can be high.
To get around Cinque Terre, take the local train that connects the five villages. Trains are regular in high season but a bit less frequent during off-season or at night and prices are around € 2 per ticket. If you’re in for a little hike and want to see more spectacular views (who wouldn’t?) you can also hike in between the villages. The trails between Riomaggiore and Manarola and between Manarola and Corniglia are closed due to accidents in the past but you can walk between Corniglia and Vernazza (medium hard, about 4 km, took me about 2,5 hours including lots of stopping to admire the views) and between Vernazza and Monterosso (I didn’t do this part but apparently it’s a bit more difficult than the part between Corniglia and Vernazza).
I absolutely recommend you walk at least 1 of both options because the views are nothing less than stunning!
The Cinque Terre Card covers the hiking trails and there’s also an option that includes unlimited train travel between the villages. Check the website for all the details.
Where to stay and what to eat
I’d recommend staying in Vernazza, seeing it’s the cutest and most accessible of the five towns. Accommodation isn’t cheap, there’s not really any budget options and double rooms start from around € 100 per night.
For food, anywhere’s good basically ’cause well, it’s Italy baby! 🙂 For the best spots in Manarola, check out my friend Christina’s post about where to eat in Manarola.