Exploring Cinque Terre villages in the right way

You are preparing your trip to Cinque Terre villages and you just don’t know where to start, what to do and which is the best way to explore these magnificent towns to maximise your experience.

You’ve probably heard from others that you can go by boat, by train or simply follow the hiking paths which connect the villages (Sentiero Azzurro as the locals call it).

But the big question is which is the best way to explore the Cinque Terre towns and not to miss anything that this beautiful place has to offer.

Cinque Terre villages
Cinque Terre villages

Best way to visit Cinque Terre Italy

Here is the best way to visit this area and the best things to do and see in each of these five villages.

First of all, you need to get to La Spezia, the place where everything starts if you want to explore 5 Terre and also Porto Venere area ( but this is another subject).

If you travel by car, find a designated area and park your car there; parking fee might be a little bit expensive but this is a touristy area so don’t expect to pay just a few euros for the entire day.

If you come by train, then the final destination from your train ride is La Spezia railway station.

The first thing you should do after arriving in La Spezia is to buy the Cinque Terre Train Card which costs around 16 euros for one adult. In this price you have included :

  • the train ride from La Spezia to Levanto
  • access to all trekking paths
  • reduced admission fee to the Civic Museum in La Spezia
  • use of bus services within the parking area.

If you plan to hike some paths and take the train at least 2 times in a single day, then buying a Cinque Terre Train Card is the best thing you should do. There is also the Cinque Terre Card but that is just for access to the path, the train is not included.

The paths between the Cinque Terre villages are spectacular and hiking at least one of these is the best way to admire the beauty of the place.

Some paths are easy walks while others are a little bit more tiring and you can choose which suits you best.

The total length of the hiking path has 11 kilometres and takes you around 5 hours to walk with a total elevation difference of 500 meters between the highest and the lowest points of the trail.

Cinque Terre Villages

La Spezia to Riomaggiore

For the first part of the route, from La Spezia to Riomaggiore I recommend you to take the train.

It is the fastest and most convenient for this part of the route as the view from the train is spectacular.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is considered the quietest of the Cinque Terre towns with colourful houses built in the typical Ligurian style all gathered around a small natural harbour carved out in between the rocks.

This village is considered by many to be the best place from the 5 Terre area where to see the sunset.

Riomaggiore Italy sunset
Riomaggiore Italy sunset

For those interested in unique experiences we suggest you rent a kayak and explore the waters of the Marine Protected Area along the Cinque Terre coastline, one of the most beautiful Italian rivieras.

From Riomaggiore starts the famous Via Dell’Amore, Lover’s Lane, a wonderful path famous for its romantic atmosphere and breathtaking sceneries.

Unfortunately, because of a landslide, the route is closed until April 2022.

Riomaggiore to Manarola

As the Via Dell’Amore is closed at the moment, we recommend you to take the train from Riomaggiore to Manarola.

Manarola

Manarola is considered to be the prettiest of all the Cinque Terre villages located on a steep promontory of dark rock with its small port and colourful houses.

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

Once you get off the train head to the small harbour from where you can admire the colourful houses perched on the cliffs.

Get lost on the narrow streets of this small Cinque Terre towns and visit the Church of San Lorenzo, a beautiful gothic Ligurian church dating from 1338.

Manarola to Corniglia

Travel tip: the bad news is that at the moment this part of the blue trail is closed, so we recommend taking the train from Manarola to Corniglia.

Corniglia

Corniglia is the only village of all the Cinque Terre villages that is not built near the sea. It rises on top of a rock, almost 100 metres from the sea level.

Corniglia Italy Cinque Terre
Corniglia Italy Cinque Terre

The tiny village is surrounded by vineyards and to get to it you need to climb almost 380 stairs or take the shuttle bus from the train station to the city centre.

In this magnificent village, you can visit the 18th-century square largo Taragio and its Oratory Santa Caterina.

Corniglia to Vernazza

It’s time to do some exercise and use your feet; take a bottle of water, a suncream and a hat and follow the path to Vernazza.

Vernazza

This beautiful town surrounded by very steep olive groves terraces was founded in 1000 A.D.

Its main attraction is the castle built in the middle of the 15th century to protect the area against pirates.

Vernazza Cinque Terre
Vernazza Cinque Terre

 

The village of Vernazza is one of the most picturesque places from the Cinque Terre Italy with charming piazzas with many bars and seafood restaurants neighbouring the colourful houses.

Take a few minutes and visit the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia, a beautiful church built on a rock over the sea and the Tower of the Doria Castle, located above the bay.

Vernazza to Monterosso

To most scenic way to get from Vernazza to Monterosso is to follow the path which climbs the hills and allows you to discover one of the most spectacular views from the area, the one of Monterosso and Vernazza.

The path begins with a long staircase crossing the vineyards and orchards and goes up and down the hill until you get to Monterosso.

The total length of the path is 4 kilometres and it will take you around 1.5-2 hours to get from one village to another.

Monterosso al mare

Monterosso is the biggest from all Cinque Terre villages and is surrounded by hills cultivated with olives, vines and lemons.

It has amazing pebbles beaches, crystal clear waters and beautiful colourful houses climbed up on the cliffs.

Monterosso Cinque Terre
Monterosso Cinque Terre

Monterosso is divided into two parts: the old town known as Aurora where you can find the ruins of the medieval castle and the new town Fegina which is a very vibrant place with many restaurants and luxury hotels.

From all the hotels from Cinque Terre towns, my favourite one is Roca Du Ma Pasu, a beautiful hotel close to the beach and the train station and to everything you want to visit from Monterosso.

Take some time and explore this magnificent village, taste their traditional food and extraordinary wine and let yourself lost on the narrow streets bordered by the traditional Ligurian houses.

And for your way back to La Spezia I totally recommend you to take the ferry and admire these amazing villages from the sea.

The price for a day trip ticket costs around 30 euros and is valid for the whole day.

This is the best way to explore Cinque Terre towns and to fully enjoy the breathtaking views of the area.

If you have ever been to Cinque Terre please share with us your experience and impressions so we know what you think about this place.

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