What is the Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre is a National Park of 5 picturesque villages with a backdrop of vineyards and perfect blue seas. It has everything that you could want, beautiful architecture, amazing nature and Italian food – love love love! In this Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide, you will learn everything you need to to enjoy yourself as much as possible.
What does Cinque Terre Mean?
Cinque Terre means ‘5 Lands’ representing each of the 5 villages in the National Park. The 5 villages of the National Park are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each village has their own charm and specialities to offer.
Why Visit Cinque Terre?
The aim of the game is to try and appreciate the architecture of each of the small towns as well as the scenery surrounding them! I will show you in this Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide that there is something for everyone and every taste in Cinque Terre. If you are interested in a calm day by the sea or an energetic hike, you will find something to enjoy!
Are you a Disney Fan? Cinque Terre was actually one of the locations that inspired The Disney film Luca.
Cinque Terre Card
The Cinque Terre card is the way to pay for access to the National Park paths as well as transport within the park.
There are different levels to the Cinque Terre card. If you only want access to the national park and do not want to use the trains it is cheaper. Although if you want to use the trains in between each village the train card is the best choice. The cards get cheaper per day the more days you visit. You will also be given a Cinque Terre Map when you buy a card – yeh I love maps!
You can buy a Cinque Terre card within the train stations as well as the Tourist Info points. With the Cinque Terre Card you also get free Wi-Fi, access to public toilets and buses between the villages with extra stops.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
Wherever you choose to stay: Book. Your. Stay. In. Advance.
I visited in September and was camping and assumed that as this was outside of school holidays I would be ok to turn up without a booking – how wrong was I?! Very! I turned up at 1, 2, 3 campsites only to find they were full. Finally, I luckily managed to nab the last free pitch on the 4th campsite. I searched other options and the minimum per night in the region was €200 – way outside of my budget.
If you want to stay in the actual villages there are many house rentals and airbnbs in each of the villages. Remember that some of the villages do not have road access so you may need to carry you bags for a while to reach your accommodation.
If you do not want to stay within one of the 5 villages, Levanto and La Spezia are just next door. They are also handily included in the Cinque Terre train card so staying out of the national park is a great way to save a little bit of cash. I stayed in a campsite in Levanto and I really enjoyed exploring Levanto, it has a beach a really nice old town with lots of restaurants to eat at. If you can’t choose between the 2, La Spezia is where all of the cruise ships dock. By principle I tend to avoid places like this because of the crowds….but maybe you love crowds?
How to get between the villages of Cinque Terre
There is a train line between each of the 5 villages and is the easiest and quickest way to travel between the villages. The trains run every 20-30 minutes and run as late as midnight so you don’t need to rush after sunset or dinner.
There are also buses that run between some of the villages that are connected to roads.
If you are feeling energetic, you can hike between each village. I did this and I absolutely adored it! This is also a sure way to lose the crowds. The hikes are not easy and you should definitely have at least trainers if you are going to do it. Flip flops would not be a good idea at all….If you are going to hike make sure you bring lots of water with you. There are free taps with drinking water in each village so you can fill up your bottle ahead of each walk. It also means reusing your bottle, yay for helping the environment!
When I visited there were 2 costal paths that were closed (between Corniglia-Manarola and Manarola- Riomaggiore). They are being remade and will hopefully be open 2022. This means you need to take the ‘over the top’ option. Not for the faint hearted but the views are magnificent!! Make sure to check for information about the status of the paths. The paths are well marked out and numbered so not very difficult to get lost.
How long to stay in Cinque Terre
Forever? Find an Italian pasta chef marry them and never leave? Or is that just my dream?!
I would say the minimum is 2 days. It is possible to see each village in 1 day but you will be rushing between each and you won’t have enough time to really appreciate them. I spent 2 days (3 nights) in Cinque Terre and I feel like I saw everything but I could’ve spent longer. In those 2 days I saw each village and was able to walk between each. They were full days and I was tired at the end. If you want a more relaxed pace, 3+ days is the best way forward.
What to do in Cinque Terre
In this ‘Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide’ I am not going to tell you to overplan your days as you need make sure you relax as you enjoy. This is my perfect day itinerary:
- Arrive in any village – stop for coffee – explore and get lost – stop for lunch – walk to the next village – cool off in the sea – ice-cream for energy – stop for wine/aperol spritz – get lost in the village – REPEAT.
(This is Italy after all so you need to explore with your eyes AND your stomach.)
Get lost in the streets
The villages have lots of winding pathways and roads to explore. Try and lose yourself and the crowds in each of these streets. You never know what you are going to find or stumble upon.
As each village has swimming spots which is the perfect activity to cool off after exploring the villages. My favourite spot was actually in Manarola harbour. The water is deep and really clear and you also get a beautiful view of the village from the water. If you prefer sandy beaches, Monteresso has 2 large ones although they tend to be quite busy.
Eat the seafood
I had one of my favourite dishes in Italy in Cinque Terre. It was a Swordfish Truffle pasta with some red wine and a Tiramisu to die for. It was from Trattatoria Dal Billy in Manarola. The slogan of the restaurant is ‘where lobsters die a happy death’, so maybe not the best for vegetarians.
Drink the local wine
The Cinque Terre is actually in an Italian wine region. When better than to try the local produce than in a beautiful location like the Cinque Terre.
This is definitely a way to escape the crowds, although it does come with the price tag. I chose not to do a boat trip because I was on a tight budget but I spoke to many people that did and loved it. The sunset tours are a very popular choice.
Sunset over the sea
At the end of a long day exploring make sure to take in the sunset over the sea. Watch the colours of the buildings change as the sun goes down.
When to visit Cinque Terre
Due to the rise of Instagram fame coupled with cruise ship destinations, Cinque Terre is starting to suffer from over tourism. If you do not like crowds, definitely try to visit in low season. High season is during European Summer as well as over the Christmas period.
Respectful touristing in Cinque Terre
As I mentioned earlier, there has been a boom of tourism in the Cinque Terre in the last few years. You can only imagine as a local how frustrating it must be to see tourists disrespecting your home village. Do remember that often you are in people’s front garden and treat that with the respect it deserves. Normal things: take rubbish home, don’t destroy their plants and be quiet at night time.
Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide is now completed!
So that is the finale of Cinque Terre: A Complete Guide. Now you are ready to visit and enjoy everything the Cinque Terre has to offer!