Cinque Terre — The Italian Riviera!

Cinque Terre is a coastal area located in northwestern Italy, nestled among the cliffs of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Liguria region. It is a breathtakingly beautiful six-mile stretch of the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre (pronounced cheen-kweh teh-rreh) means ‘Five Villages’  or ‘Five Lands’ and it is exactly that – five picturesque fishing villages tucked into the mountains with spectacular views of the sea. Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are the five villages that make up Cinque Terre. Each town fills a ravine, and offers a unique mix of Italian culture, and nature at its best. Cinque Terre is filled with quaint pastel colored buildings, an abundance of sun, sea, turquoise blue waters, beaches, delicious seafood, good wine, pure unadulterated Italy — making this a relaxing destination.

“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo.” — Mark Twain

Italy is the country that captures your heart forever — with vibrant cities, gorgeous Italian lakes, rolling landscapes of Tuscany, Mediterranean coast, incredible food, the best wine, amazing and well-preserved history, there’s truly something to enchant everyone. It is no wonder that people dream of visiting Italy! Here are some photographs of the five picturesque villages of Cinque Terre.

What to see?

Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 villages, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties. Over time they transformed from five sleepy Italian fishing villages to one of the most famous coastal landscapes in the world. Cinque Terre has changed over the last few years, but it still looks every bit as gorgeous with perfectly preserved architecture, and a network of stunning trails. Take your time to visit these villages, which are all unique in their own way.

  • Monterosso al Mare — Charming old town, Cinque Terre’s best beaches, beautiful reefs, crystal clear waters, and nightlife, make this village one of the most hospitable of the Ligurian Riviera. It is the only town in Cinque Terre that has large stretches of beach where you can relax and enjoy the sun. Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the five villages in Cinque Terre and it is located on hills cultivated with lemons, vines and olives.
  • Vernazza — Exceptionally colorful and unique with the most dramatic views of the sea, this village is definitely my favorite one of them all. This town is also home to the Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church. Clinging to the rocks is the medieval Belforte Castle with a cylindrical tower, that was built in the mid-1500’s, primarily to protect the village from pirates. Vernazza is the only town with a wide piazza, surrounded by subtle colourful pastels, and lined with great restaurants and bars. This village is the most characteristic of Cinque Terre, and without a doubt one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
  • Corniglia — Quiet hilltop village known for its cooler temperatures, fewer tourists, and fine wines. Perched high atop the cliffside, this town has incredible views, and  it is surrounded on three sides by vineyards. Corniglia is the only town that is not at water level, so you’ll need to hike to get here. The village has charming little streets, lovely restaurants, and it is well-known for a wine called ‘Vernaccia di Corniglia’, so definitely try the local wine with your meal.
  • Manarola — Situated perfectly between two cliffs around a small fishing dock, this village is charming and romantic. This is a slow, hiking-focused waterfront town wrapped in vineyards, and dotted with a mix of colorful homes hugging the cliffs. The piazza is packed with seafood restaurants. Manarola is the town that everyone wants to see when they visit Cinque Terre, as it’s the most picturesque of all the villages.
  • Riomaggiore — Known for its colorful stone houses that seem stacked on top of one another, and its harbor filled with traditional fishing boats, Riomaggiore has a lot to offer with charming streets, bars, and restaurants. The smallest of the Cinque Terre towns, Riomaggiore only has one main street which leads down to the fishing marina where you can catch gorgeous sunset views over the town. This village is well-known for being the start of the famous Lover’s Lane, or Via dell’Amore, trail. It leads straight to Manarola!

What to eat?

Cinque Terre offers some of the best seafood, delicious wines, and gorgeous views that take your dining experience to the next level. Just hanging out at a restaurant sipping an Aperol Spritz on a hot day, sampling local specialties could become your favorite memory from this trip. Most of the restaurants are perched high up in the mountains, which offers amazing views of the villages and the sea. This also means you’ll need to hike a little bit to get there, but the reward is spectacular vistas and sunsets, and nothing can beat this experience. The focaccia here is some of the best we’ve had, and you should definitely try gelato as you are strolling down beautiful streets. Below are some of the restaurants we tried during our time here in Cinque Terre.

  • Monterosso al Mare — Ristorante Miky, La Cantina di Miky, L’Ancora della Tartuga, Il Massimo della Focaccia
  • Vernazza Ristorante La Torre, Ristorante Belforte
  • Corniglia — Osteria a Cantina de Mananan, Cecio
  • Manorala — Nessun Dorma, Trattoria dal Billy, Ristorante Il Porticciolo
  • Riomaggiore — Tutti Fritti, Ripa del Sole, Rio Bistrot, La Lampara Ristorante

How to get there?

Cinque Terre National Park is the oldest National Park in Italy. It covers an area of only 15 square miles, but packs plenty of gorgeous scenery with a mix of rocky cliffs, scenic coves, clear blue waters, terraced vineyards and olive groves. It is located just south of Genoa in northwest Italy. It’s within easy reach from Genoa, Pisa, Rome, Florence and Nice by mainline train.

The easiest way to reach Cinque Terre, and travel between the villages is by train. The closest major cities with airports are in Genoa and Pisa, each of which is an hour away by train. The train stations at La Spezia and Monterosso connect Cinque Terre to other major cities in Italy. We traveled from Florence to Monterosso, which is also the village where we stayed during our trip. Once you reach either of these train stations, you can then take the regional train to each of the five villages.

Once you reach one of the villages of Cinque Terre, it is extremely easy to travel from town to town via the local trains that run frequently in each direction every hour. By train, each town is only a few minutes apart from one another, with the longest train ride being only 15 minutes from Monterosso to Riomaggiore. We highly recommend purchasing the Cinque Terre Card, which gives you unlimited access to the Cinque Terre trains, hiking paths and it is less expensive than buying train tickets separately.

“One of the great joys of traveling through Italy is discovering firsthand that it is, indeed, a dream destination.” Debra Levinson

Few places in Italy are as memorable as Cinque Terre, a land so unique that it has been protected as a national park and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After visiting other cities in Italy like Rome, Venice and Florence, this has been a complete change of pace for us… there’s no must-see sights or churches or palaces or museums… it’s just nature at its best. We spent our day on the beach, and walking the breathtaking paths along the cliffs, surrounded by colorful homes and just absorbing the charm of Cinque Terre! With dramatic cliffs and pretty coastal villages, Cinque Terre is a dream destination waiting to be explored.

Always remember… Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer!