Best of Cinque Terre
Updated: Apr 7
Our journey continues to the Cinque Terre, a seaside paradise of ancient fishing villages. Each village on the rugged Ligurian coastline retains special characteristics that make it a picturesque and natural complex which include Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola e Riomaggiore (from west to east). Suspended between sea and land, overhanging the cliffs, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of wonderful bays and coves creating paths and breath-taking views all to be explored. With colorful houses, unspoiled nature, and a harbor full of small boats and seagulls, you'll feel like you've stepped into a Gaugin painting.
Get your camera ready because this is definitely an Instagram-worthy place and let’s go parakeets!
What not to miss?
A naturalistic oasis characterized by rocks of different origins and ages, high ground, sandy and pebbly beaches, and a linear high, and jagged coastline carved out of the sea and caves is what gives rise to the Cinque Terre National Park. Surely, you will notice that its main features are the colored houses, this is because, sailors could recognize them from afar, and the narrow alleys in order to trap invaders. There are many activities and visits that can be done in this unspoiled place, so let's take a look at the stages of your hypothetical tour.
This is a real mule track that winds its way along the seafront from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, passing through all the other villages. The route is about 12 km long with an altitude of 200 m. The most impressive section of the Sentiero Azzurro is the Via dell’Amore carved into the cliff overlooking the sea, a famous place in the Cinque Terre for its romance which links Manarola to Riomaggiore. The path is full of scenic tunnels and expanses of the sea as a panorama, making it suitable for all couples who love to share special moments such as being enraptured by the immensity of the view between the blue sea and the lush vegetation. It is said that someone decided to draw the words “La via dell'Amore” (The Way of Love) in lime at both ends of the street, as this was a popular destination for lovers. Later, the municipality of Riomaggiore had benches installed with Greek and Roman mythologies representing the sentiment of love.
Also called Alta Via, it starts with Porto Venere a Medieval village situated in the south of Cinque Terre. Porto Venere is not included in the Terre but is nevertheless part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is because it is a place worth visiting especially because, on the way up the trails, you can find your favorite vantage points. along the road “Al Castello”, on the rocky hill overlooking the village you can admire a fortress called the Doria Castle (2-euros entrance fee), which served as the military architecture of the Republic of Genoa. But also, the beautiful St. Peter's Church, with a Genoese Gothic style perched on a spur of rock. Now imagine that you are on this high rock, admiring a sunset in the company of the sound of the sea and the scent it gives off. Isn't it a magnificent setting?
Tips for you: boats leave daily from the port of Portovenere for the Cinque Terre and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino, and Tinetto.
Salto Della Suocera
A stone's throw from Portovenere there is this viewpoint behind Mount Mozzerone. It is a natural terrace between the "sea and mountains" in which you can see the church of San Pietro overlooking the sea, the islands of Palmaria and Tino. Translated in English, its name is “the mother-in-law jump”, to this day, many of us are still wondering why this name was chosen. Mainly in Italy, the figure of the mother-in-law is generally portrayed as a nasty, petulant, and nosy woman. It is said that being mothers of their partners, they tend to be very demanding. Originating in 19th-century peasant culture, mothers-in-law generally chose whether or not to accept their son's partner. Isn't that the rather funny reason?
What else to visit?
We recommend a few beaches to spend your days in the Cinque Terre region such as Spiaggia del Gigante, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore beach, Riomaggiore, Fossola beach, Riomaggiore. Our advice is to dive in the areas near the rocks where the water is certainly very clear and if you look hard enough there are plenty of places where you can dive off some of the cliffs.
Each village in the Cinque Terre is worth a visit, especially for their historic centers, places of artistic and cultural interest.
From Monterosso, characterized by tower-houses painted in bright colors, the narrow Carruggi and numerous monuments to visit such as the church of San Giovanni Battista and its typical façade is in Genoese Gothic style, the church of San Francesco decorated in black and white stripes and the convent which houses magnificent paintings such as that of the Flemish painter Antoon van Dyck. Not forgetting the Castello Dei Fieschi, overlooking the sea.
The historical center of Manarola, the smallest of the villages, with its typical Genoese tower-houses of various colors, its Bell Tower and Castle, the streets of the village, its squares, and its main street Via Belvedere.
But also, the historical center of Riomaggiore with its Church of San Giovanni Battista dating back to 1340, the Castle and its chapel, and the small Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
The historical center of Corniglia, situated on the top of a promontory, with the Church of San Pietro, known for its colorful stained-glass windows, its famous staircase ”a Lardarina” and the small Ciapara square.
In the end, the Historical center of Vernazza with its Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia, The Promenade, the historical alleys, the Bastione Belforte, the cave, and the Doria Castle.
How to get there?
Cinque Terre is located just south of Genoa in northwest Italy and is characterized by the fact that it is not necessarily as easy to reach as other major cities in the country.
The best and fastest option to get to Cinque Terre is by train, once you arrive in Italy. If you come from abroad and want to arrive by plane, the two nearest airports are in Pisa and Genoa. Since all of the five villages of Cinque Terre have a train station and good connections to rather close and big cities like Genoa, Milan, Florence or Pisa, you can take a train from there to the nearest big train station, which is called La Spezia. After getting there, you can take the local train, the Cinque Terre Express, which runs along the coast and stops at all of the five villages, which will also be the best way of moving between them once you arrive.
Next to that, you can also choose to visit Cinque Terre by boat. The most popular town to leave from is La Spezia, but there are also daily and frequent ferry connections from Lerici, Levanto, and Portovenere. You should be aware that they stop operating when the high season is over and that the weather can influence the schedules.
Another option to get there would be by car, even though this is not recommended, since private car access is discouraged in Cinque Terre and the parking lots that exist at the top of each village are very expensive. If you are staying at a hotel, just make sure to ask beforehand about the availability of parking spaces.
Therefore, the villages are all served by the railway line, with convenient stations where you can catch a train. Avoid the car, because you would miss the beauty of walking through these enchanting places.
How many expenses can you expect for your trip to Cinque Terre?
Since Cinque Terre has experienced a lot of popularity as a destination in the last years and therefore is visited by a lot of tourists, prices are rising accordingly. On your trip there, the biggest expense will probably be your accommodation. There aren’t many hotels and hostels in each of the villages and the prices vary due to the location and season, so if you’re on a budget, we would recommend staying somewhere in La Spezia or Levanto, since it’s cheaper to stay there and easy to take one of the frequent trains going to Cinque Terre. Regarding the prices of accommodation, you can expect to spend around 20-30€ for a shared room in a hostel, around 60€ for a private room, and a mid-range hotel price starts at around 90€.
As already mentioned above, the easiest way to get to and around Cinque Terre is by train. The rains from La Spezia and Levanto, which operate most frequently throughout the day, cost around 5€ each for a single journey. The other way of getting around is by taking the public ferry, with one-way tickets starting at around 20€ and daily tickets starting at around 30€.
Regarding food and drink prices, it can be said that Cinque Terre is definitely more expensive than the average city and especially than less touristic cities, even during lunchtime. So, if you’re on a budget, you should stick to grocery stores and takeaway places. Otherwise, you can expect around 11-15€ for a pasta dish and around 20-30€ for a whole restaurant meal.
When to travel there?
Cinque Terre is a destination that you can visit all year round, but there are always some things to think about before deciding on a time. The peak season there is in July and August when the average daily temperature is about 28°C, which could mean that during those months it could get too hot, too crowded, and too expensive. But if you keep that in mind and if you’re there mainly for the beach and hot weather, a trip will still be worth it for sure!
The best time to Cinque Terre is probably in spring from March to May and in September and October, since it’s still warm then, the crowds are thinner and the prices are a bit lower. In winter, you should prepare for seasonal closures, colder temperatures, shorter days, and rainfall.
What to eat?
As the beautiful landscape suggests, the Cinque Terre is the ideal place to enjoy fish dishes: from fried fish to first courses with seafood such as linguine allo scoglio, gnocchetti with prawns, and cherry tomatoes, or nice fried fish served in a cone-shaped cardboard box which is called “cuoppo”. Amidst glimpses and shops, there is a multitude of street food venues, open-air restaurants, and terraces with sea views. Also, we can recommend other dishes that are also linked to Ligurian cuisine:
Anchovies of Monterosso
Fished mainly in the waters in front of the well-known town, they are eaten fresh or preserved in salt. A recipe to try is anchovies Ligurian style with a sprinkling of oregano and garlic accompanied by a glass of Vermentino. Or the floured and fried version enjoyed with a salad of lettuce, baby onions, and radishes. All topped with lemon from Monterosso.
Pansoti with walnut sauce
A real delicacy of Ligurian cuisine, they are a type of filled pasta similar to ravioli. They are prepared with a tasty walnut sauce by combining garlic, marjoram, Parmesan cheese, and breadcrumbs to make a tasty creamy sauce. Walnut sauce should be made with a mortar (like pesto) and Liguria is known to have many walnut trees.
Derived from the name of its locality (Monterosso), it is a delicious sponge cake enclosed in a crumbly pastry, filled with custard, apricot jam, and dark chocolate. it is truly heavenly! The original recipe from 1966 is the one made by Pasticceria Laura in Monterosso.
Very rare DOC wine with an almond aftertaste, perfect with Ligurian desserts and dry pastries. Its name derives from the movement that is made to obtain the wine, i.e. “schiacciare” in Italian meaning to crush the grapes to obtain the wine.
If you want to discover more about local gastronomy, take a look at our blog article about the food in Liguria region, so the region of Cinque Terre!
What to be aware of?
Before venturing out on the Cinque Terre trails, we recommend you consult their status at this link: https://www.cinqueterrehike.com/it/sentiero-azzurro-corniglia-vernazza as they may be closed for specific reasons such as La Via dell'Amore, which was closed due to a landslide or because after the autumn rains, some of their parts are closed for repair. Don't forget to check the prices for accessing the trails, they usually range from 5 to 7 euros. Alternatively, you can purchase the "Cinque Terre Card". For personal advice, you should definitely pack comfortable shoes and the ones for the rocks.
Monterosso Lemon Festival (May)
One day of May is dedicated to this event in Monterosso. The lemons of this village, are a local excellence used as an ingredient in many local recipes such as lemon cream, lemon marmalade and lemon cake, and so on. All the streets of the village are enriched with the yellow scent of this citrus fruit. The festival also includes a prize-giving ceremony for the most beautiful shop window on the theme of lemons and the weighing of the "Biggest Lemon" award.
Curiosity: Starting from the house of the Italian poet Eugenio Montale, the program includes a promenade through the village streets. Those who know this poet know that lemons appear in his poetry as an epiphany, giving a brief moment of happiness thanks to their yellow color and intense smell. So, why not be stolen by the instant happiness of the little things in life, as Montale decants?
Natale subacqueo di Vernazza
Subaqueous Christmas is a very special event, but one that stems from a tradition dating back to the 1980s. The program includes a procession, but not just any procession, but a procession of divers with torches to the port of Vernazza for the reading of the “Diving Prayer”.
Sporting event whose name derives from the combination of the words Schiacchietrà, the fine wine, and trail, the race through nature. This moment of sharing starts in Piazza Garibaldi in the historic center of Monterosso and includes a circuit that passes through the five villages.
The anchovy festival and the salted anchovy festival are two events linked to this delicious typical dish. The first is held in summer, in June, and the other in autumn, around September, at the end of the summer season. Gastronomic stalls scattered around the village, where the anchovies are prepared in the characteristic iron pan in the shape of a fish, combined with sgabei (leavened bread, cut into strips, fried in oil) and served with the local white wine.
Other interesting event:
Feast of St. John the Baptist in Monterosso and Riomaggiore (June)
Feast of San Lorenzo in Manarola (August)
Illuminated nativity scene in Manarola (December)
We hope that this article interested you! If you want to discover more about this beautiful region, don't hesitate to read our article about the best of Genoa! Keep updated with our futures articles by following us on Instagram @thewalkingparrot, and read our others articles about Italy, and France!
See you soon parakeets!