Cinque Terre Italy travel guide for an amazing holiday

Cinque Terre Italy

Italy is one of the most popular destinations from Europe with many amazing cities, breathtaking sceneries and extremely tasty food.

No matter if you are a history fan, or you like nature, visiting Italy is one of the best things you could do!

And one of the most picturesque and charming places from all over Italy is the 5 Terre area which translates as The Five Lands. It has a special vibe which makes you want to come back again and again!

 

1. Location

This spectacular area is located in Liguria on the northern part of Italy right on the coast, on the western part of La Spezia province. It comprises 5 beautiful towns, 4 of them with direct exit to the sea.

The towns are surrounded by hills crossed by many trails which goes from one town to another.
Over the years people built their houses on these steep hills and made trails and streets to get from the top of the hills down to the sea.

 

2. How do you get to Cinque Terre Italy?

To get to 5 Terre you first need to get to La Spezia.

The five towns from the area are not accessible by cars. You can reach them only by train, on foot or by sea.
To get to La Spezia, you need a car or you can take the train or the bus.

Trains are comfortable and fast but sometimes you might need to change trains and wait for connections in big towns nearby the area. Florence and Pisa are two of the main railway stations where you need to change the train in order to get to 5 Terre.

cinque terre things to do
cinque terre things to do

Buses are usually the cheapest from all these 3 alternatives, but it might take you longer to get from where you are to La Spezia. Bear in mind that buses are not available from certain cities.

In my opinion, cars are the best option when moving around Italy.

You have the freedom to plan your own itinerary, to stop whenever you want and to stay in a certain place for how long you’d like to.

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If you choose to travel by car, then once you reach La Spezia park your car in a designated area and from there take the train to visit all the 5 cities from the Cinque Terre Italy area.

No matter if you travel by car, by bus or by train, from La Spezia you need to take the 5 Terre Express train to go to the five towns or the designated bus which connect each of the towns with La Spezia.

There is also a special access card within the protected area which gives you access to the train, to the bus, to some museums and to the Blue Path. The price starts from 16 EUR for one adult, one day and gives you access to the train.

 

3. Climate

The area has a particular climate because of the nearby Alps. The mountains protect the area in winter determining a mild climate with positive temperatures and during summer, the winds from the mountains cool off the place, making it a great destination for your summer holiday.

The hottest months of the year are July and August with average temperatures of about 28 degrees Celsius and the coolest month is January with average temperatures of 8 degrees Celsius.

The wettest month of the year is October with more than 10 days of rain.

During spring and autumn, there might be heavy rains which lead to flooding. Almost every year the hiking trails from the hills which connect the villages suffer because of flooding and restoration works should be done.

 

4. Best time to visit Cinque Terre Italy

Summer is considered to be peak season in 5 Terre area. June, July and August are summer months.
The days are sunny and warm with almost no rain.

If it happened to rain, there are warm and short summer rains which do not last for more than half an hour and do not ruin your day. It just cools off the place!

Spring and autumn are shoulder season.

The days are sunny and warm, but rains are more likely to come. They usually last for longer than in summer and flooding might occur. The average temperatures are usually between 10 to 20 degrees Celsius, autumn months tending to be warmer than the spring ones.

Florence to cinque terre town
Visit Italy cinque terre town

Autumn months are September, October and November, while spring months are March, April and May.

Winter is generally the season when tourists are gone and a strange silence lay over the area.

The days are shorter and colder, with temperatures between 5 to 15 degrees Celsius. High-temperature variations in a single day are something common around the area. So, dress up with more layers of clothes just to be prepared for all kind of weather and temperatures.

When speaking about the best time to visit Cinque Terre Italy, you have to take into consideration what you would like to do in the area.

If you are interested in visiting and sunbathing, then middle of May to the middle of September is the best time for you to go. There might be tourists everywhere, but the water temperature and the weather is perfect for spending a few days at the sea.

If you are more of a mountain person and you like hiking and mountains, then the best time to visit the area is from the middle of April to the middle of October.

My advice is to avoid going in July and August not just because of the crowds but also because it is too hot for hiking.

 

5. The 5 towns of the Cinque Terre area

 

5.1 Riomaggiore

The first of the 5 towns from 5 Terre protected area, Riomaggiore is famous for its colourful houses built one in top of another, or at least this is the first impression you have when you look at them.

Riomaggiore Italy sunset
Riomaggiore Italy sunset

There is also the small harbour full of traditional fishing boats, a wonderful place to relax and admire the steep hills and the sea!

Like all the 5 towns from the area, Riomaggiore is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The city was founded many years ago in the 8th century by some Greek refugees. The city was completely destroyed and was rebuilt on the 13th century. What you see today is from those times!

Things to do in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre Italy

1.  Via Dell’Amore (The Way of Love), one of the most beautiful paths from the area which starts in Riomaggiore and ends in Manarola. This is the shortest path from the area; in about 15- 30 minutes you reach to the following town, Manarola.

2. Visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a gothic church built-in 1340. The church was completely renovated by the 19th century and is home of a mechanical organ dating from 1850, an art masterpiece by Domenico Fiasella “ Preaching of John the Baptist” and a wooden crucifixion created by Maragliano.

3. Visit the Medieval castle of Riomaggiore, a castle dating from 1260. It is built on the highest hill from the area and is a great observation point. The view from the top is breathtaking!

Where to sleep

Alla Marina Affittacamere is our suggestion for Riomaggiore. This wonderful hotel is located just 4 minutes away from the train station in an old building completely renovated in 2011.

 

5.2 Manarola

The second city from the Cinque Terre Italy area is Manarola. It is by far the most romantic city from the entire area and the oldest one, according to the historical documents found! It is built in ancient times, up on high cliffs, at an elevation of 70 metres above sea level.

Manarola is located very close to Riomaggiore! There are only 500 metres between these two cities!

The colourful houses and the small harbour with its traditional fishing boats appear in Manarola picture too!

Manarola Italy cliff City Port Sea
Manarola Italy cliff City Port Sea

The streets winding between the houses and climb from the sea up to the top of the hills. Take your time and explore them! The view is amazing!

Things to do in Manarola

1. The Church of San Lorenzo built-in 1338 in gothic Ligurian style. The church was built to venerate San Lorenzo the martyr.
It is located in a wonderful area with a great view over Manarola and right at the starting point of Via Dell’Amore, the path which leads to Riomaggiore.

2. Presepe, only during winter times. Presepe is a representation of the Jesus birth scene, a common scene among Christians. The largest Presepe from the whole world is here, in Manarola.
Generally, it is open from 8th of December till 31 of January

Manarola cities on the coast of Italy
Manarola cities on the coast of Italy

3.Groppo. Groppo is the place from where you can buy local authentic wine. You can try it first and then, if you like it you can buy it. In the area of Cinque Terre Italy, you can buy a really tasty wine, name Sciacchetrà, a very high-quality wine, very sweet.

4. Hike the Manarola to Corniglia trail. This is a pretty difficult route, with a pretty steep ascending; you will ascend from the sea level to 400 metres. The views are incredible and it is a very good opportunity to take some memorable photos!

Where to sleep

Hotel Al Terra Di Mare is our recommendation for Manarola, the second of the 5 towns from the area. The rooms are spacious and clean overlooking the valley or the sea.

 

5.3 Corniglia

Corniglia is the only town from the list of five located in Cinque Terre which does not have direct access to the sea.

The town is located on top of the hill offering amazing views over the area.

From the train station to the centre of the town you have to climb 380 stairs. It might look difficult but worth the effort.

Cinque Terre to Milan by car
Corniglia Town

Unlike the other towns from the area where fishing is a top activity for most of the locals, in Corniglia farming is the main activity. There are vineyards everywhere you look and from this small town, you can get one of the best wines from Italy.

The grapes are cultivated on terraced fields and because of the soil and the sun, here it is obtained a very good quality white wine known since 1300.

Things to do in Corniglia

1.Church of St. Peter. This Baroque-style church with Ligurian and gothic elements is located in the main square of Corniglia town considered by many as the middle of the Cinque Terre Italy region. The church was built in the XIV century and stands out because of its Carrara white marble rose window.

2. Belvedere di Santa Maria is a beautiful viewpoint which offers 180 degrees of sea views. To get to this viewpoint you have to follow Via Fieschi all along with the town until you reach this wonderful point.

3. Guvano Beach. This hidden beach can be seen from your trail when you go from Corniglia to Vernazza. It is considered the “most naturist beach” from the area.

Corniglia Cinque Terre
Corniglia Cinque Terre

Until a few years ago you could reach this strip of sand by foot, walking 15 minutes in the complete dark inside of a railway tunnel but it is a very unsafe walk so the authorities decided to close this trail.

That is why today, you cannot reach it on foot or by bus. You have to rent a kayak or take a boat tour from Corniglia harbour to this beach.

Once you reach the beach you will discover an untamed beach with pebble sand and turquoise waters, a real paradise on earth.

Where to sleep

A cosy and chic B&B called Corte Del Gallo is our recommendation for this town. The B&B is located 1 kilometre away from the centre of Corniglia and overs amazing views over the sea. It has a nice outdoor garden where you can have breakfast and enjoy the view!

 

5.4 Vernazza

Vernazza is probably the town most photographed from the entire Cinque Terre Italy area. It is the most beautiful and representative city of all five.

The town was founded in 1000 A.D. and was included in the Republic of Genoa starting with 1276.

The town is indeed spectacular and the best way to admire its beauty and to enjoy the view is from the sea.

We recommend you to take a boat from Corniglia or Monterosso and arrive at this city from the water.
The city is surrounded by very steep hills with many olive trees and vineyards displayed on manmade terraces.

Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy
Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

The town’s port is indeed amazing, offering unique views of the colourful houses built on top of the cliffs.

Things to do in Vernazza

1.The tower of the Doria Castle. This wonderful tower was built in the XV century to protect the town against pirates. The tower is located above the bay and the picturesque port of Vernazza.

2.Visit Vernazza Harbour. This is the only natural harbour from 5 Terre area. Right near the harbour, there is a small beach with sand, a great place to relax and spend a sunny afternoon.

Vernazza harbour is also the place where you should go if you are looking to take a boat trip and admire the area from the sea.

Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy Town
Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy Town

3. Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia is a unique church built over the rocks right near the water. It is a very small church with Ligurian and Gothic influences which were built in the XIII century. The place of construction was not chosen without a purpose. According to the local legend, the reason why the church was built so close to the sea is that on a beach nearby appeared a box with the bones of St Margaret.

Where to sleep

Affittacamere Bendetta e Isabelle is our proposal for Vernazza. This is a brand new guesthouse located close to restaurants and shops with clean rooms and good breakfast.

 

5.5 Monterosso al Mare

The last of the five towns from Cinque Terre Italy area is Monterosso al Mare. It is the biggest and the oldest town of all five.

The history of the town goes back to the Middle Ages when the town was born. According to the historical notes, the town grew under the Republic of Genoa and was considered a key point in the defensive policy of the republic.

In the town were built several towers to protect the area against pirates.

The remaining of these towers can be seen even today; the ruins of three such towers can be visited during your trip to 5 Terre.

Until the railway was built, the town of Monterosso was accessible only by foot and boat and this contributed to a major decline. Things have changed when the railway was built in the XIX century and people found it easier to move around.

Things to do in Monterosso

1. Visit the Old Village. The old part of Monterosso is dominated by the remaining of the medieval fortress and the Aurora tower and the Fieschi Castle.

In the old part of the town, you can find the Capuchin Monastery built in the XVII century and the Church of St John the Baptist built in the XIII century.

Before leaving the old part of the town take some time and walk along the narrow streets and the colourful houses. It is a very good place to take some amazing photos!

2. Follow the trail to Cape of Mesco from Cinque Terre Italy. This is a very popular trail and the only way to get to San Antonio Monastery. It is an easy walk from the town to Cape of Mesco; it took you around 1 and a half hour to get there if you want to do some stops on the road to admire the view.

Monterosso Cinque Terre
Monterosso al mare

3. Spend some time at the beach. In most beautiful and the largest beach from the entire area can be found in Monterosso. It is a beach covered with sand, which is pretty unusual for these places, where rocks are everywhere.

The access to the beach is free, but you’ll have to pay if you want an umbrella, a sunbed, or you need to go to the toilet. So take with you some money to buy something if you want.

Where to sleep

Roca Du Ma Pasu is a wonderful hotel located close to the beach in the town of Monterosso.

It offers clean and modern rooms, some of them overlooking the sea. Bars and restaurants can be found in the nearby area, so everything is within walking minutes from the hotel.

This is everything you need to know before going to 5 Terre: what to see, where to sleep and how to get to this magnificent area!

After seeing so many beautiful places from Italy, I can tell you for sure that this area is among the best places to visit in Italy.

It has a special vibe, amazing sceneries, fresh and tasty food and really welcoming people! Check it out and I am sure you will be delighted!