Table of Contents
In this Cinque Terre travel guide I discuss a fabulous itinerary for couples including helpful tips for a perfect romantic getaway!
Nestled in the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera lies a hidden gem that feels untouched by time – the Cinque Terre.
🐟 Cinque Terre Travel Guide to the 5 Fishing Villages
The Cinque Terre’s enchanting cluster of five pastel-painted villages are called:
- Monterosso al Mare
These beautiful villages are strung along a short stretch of cliffs lined by azure blue waters.
The Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a unique blend of natural beauty and human endeavor, where century-old vineyards cling to steep terraces, narrow lanes reveal picturesque vistas, and every sunset is a masterpiece painted across the Ligurian Sea.
These five villages are not directly accessible by highway. We chose to stay in Vernazza, but each village has something unique to offer.
For example, Monterosso is the largest of the five villages and it has the best traditional beach, Fegina Beach. Riomaggiore is known for having some amazing sunsets down by the harbor.
The Cinque Terre is a place that leaves you in awe of its simple beauty and the resilience of the people who carved a life out of this rugged landscape. These small fishing villages make it feel like you’ve stepped back in time to bygone era where time passes a bit more slowly.
What is the Best Way to Get to Cinque Terre?
The Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Lands,” is located on the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of Italy. It is situated in the northwestern part of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia.
If you’re traveling from another destination in Italy, it’s best to arrive by train on the La Spezia Line. On our particular trip, we took the train from Pisa, but you’ll find that Genoa and Milan often have trains available as well.
Cinque Terre Travel Map
Use the interactive Cinque Terre map below to help you plan your upcoming trip.
Why Choose Cinque Terre for Your Vacation?
If you’re looking to disconnect from the fast-paced modern world and immerse yourself in the richness of nature, history, and Italian culture, Cinque Terre is your perfect couples getaway.
The spectacular beauty of the rugged coastline, the genuine warmth of the locals, and the many hiking trails connecting the five villages make Cinque Terre an unforgettable destination.
Plus, we love going places we don’t need car – it offers more bonding time without having the challenges of driving.
The Cinque Terre Express Trains are the quickest and most efficient way to travel between the five Cinque Terre villages. It runs every 20 minutes between Levanto, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore and La Spezia train stations.
Cinque Terre Italy: Ideal Time to Visit
While Cinque Terre Italy is beautiful throughout the year, the best times to visit are during the shoulder season, spring (April to June), and fall (September to October).
My husband and I chose to visit in May, and we had great weather! Both shoulder and peak season offer pleasant weather, perfect for hiking and exploring the villages. However, the summer can be pretty crowded and hot, while winters are quiet but carry the risk of occasional rain and closed trails.
Whether it’s peak season or not, the Cinque Terre villages become crowded with day trippers that visit in waves off the trains. By evening, the major crowds tend to die down and this is when I enjoyed them the most.
For this reason, I highly recommend at least a one night stay but ideally longer. To see several of the villages, I would recommend a minimum of 3 days.
Where to Stay: Cinque Terre Hotels & Inns
For those who plan to spend a few days in the Cinque Terre, Vernazza is our perfect base location for hiking and enjoying the villages. We stayed at Camere Giuliano Basso’s quaint rustic inn that he built by hand, which sits slightly above the city center in the hills to get more of a local flavor.
Camere Giuliano Basso is one of the highest rated properties in Vernazza, which is no surprise considering his hands-on customer service.
Giuliano is the owner and has taken great pride in his establishment as a stone mason, designing and building his Inn. He greeted us at the train station, and helped carry our bags to his establishment. He is well-known in the town, and locals could easily point out his Inn when we asked for directions.
Giuliano was an exceptional host and greeted us at the train when we arrived. As we walked, he shared stories of the village like the massive flood years ago, and how the city came back together and rebuilt it. If Giuliano hadn’t assisted us, we would have had to carry our luggage up very steep cliffs and uneven terrain. This particular property is not recommended for those needing ADA accommodations.
Here several other top rated Cinque Terre Hotels if you’re looking outside of Vernazza:
- Locanda Il Carugio in Corniglia, Italy
- Stella Della Marina in Monterosso al Mare, Italy
- Cinqueterre Residence in Riomaggiore, Italy
🎒 Pro Tip: I highly recommend a suitcase backpack or a simple carry-on bag when staying in the Cinque Terre. Packing light was truly a savior on not being miserable getting up and down stairs and hills, and on and off trains. Also, don’t forget to pack comfortable hiking clothes and shoes! 🥾
🤿 Fun Things to Do in Cinque Terre ⛱
Each village of Cinque Terre has its unique charm, and I recommend spending time in each one if you have plenty of time to explore.
However, most of us don’t have unlimited time, so here are the some highlights to help make your Cinque Travel planning easier.
Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of Cinque Terre, is a postcard-perfect blend of narrow alleyways and multi-colored houses perched dramatically on steep cliffs. It is one of larger and livelier towns, ideal for seeing spectacular sunsets.
Church of San Giovanni Battista of Riomaggiore
For cultural immersion, consider visiting the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a charming 14th-century structure. While it is hard to reach with very high stairs, the view is totally worth it! And, in the evening time the streets are full of lights which makes a romantic place to stroll for couples. Many locals hang in the square near the church and stay till the late ours of the night. I found it to be a welcoming place as a tourist.
Manarola, the second smallest of the villages, is known for its vibrant, pastel-colored buildings that seem to rise from the sea. It’s a paradise for wine enthusiasts, home to some of the region’s best vineyards producing the famous Sciacchetrà wine.
I was under the impression that the Via dell’Amore was reopen to visitors on my trip. Unfortunately, this famous scenic walking path which connects the five villages of Cinque Terre has remained closed since 2012. It has been rumored to reopen “soon” but who knows when. It’s known for having some spectacular views and well worth seeing once it becomes accessible again.
Unlike the other four villages, Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea but perched atop a hill, surrounded by vineyards and terraces. The climb to Corniglia might be challenging (there are 377 steps), but the view from the top is worth the effort.
The village’s charm lies in its quaint, narrow streets and the panoramic views from its unique vantage point. It is the least popular of the five towns since it’s the furthest away, which also adds a more local feel.
One of the main highlights in this small village is the Church of San Pietro, a beautiful Gothic structure built in 1334.
Vernazza is small and easy to navigate with its colorful buildings and picturesque sea views. Arguably the most picturesque of the five villages, Vernazza is a colorful, vibrant town with a natural harbor and a beautiful small beach. It also is my personal favorite village in the Cinque Terre because it is small, yet still offers plenty to do.
Castello Doria or Doria Castle is an ancient fortress with a cylindrical tower, is one of its main attractions. It is prominently on the water was built in the 15th century to defend the city from attacks by water. There is a fee to see it. There isn’t much of a castle to view, but the oceans-cape and the city make it spectacular!
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the largest and the most resort-like village of Cinque Terre with more hotel options. The village is divided into two parts, the old town and the new town (also called Fegina).
For food and wine lovers, Monterosso is an ideal place to do a food and wine tour, and then walk it off! There is plenty to see being the largest city in the Cinque Terre.
Spend Time at the Beach
Monterosso’s Beach is known for having the best beach area, making it an excellent spot for swimming and sunbathing. You can usually rent two beach chairs and a sun umbrella for approximately 30 € per day (or 25 € round less than 4 hours).
🍷 Pro Tip: Have a romantic picnic at the beach! Pick up locally made wine and treats while swimming or relaxing by the water. You’ll find really delicious snacks and amazingly great cheap wine at the local shops.
Church of San Francesco
Perched majestically on a cliff in the Cinque Terre National Park, stands the Church of San Francesco. A testament to the Franciscan Order’s historical influence, the church, built in 1618, captivates visitors with its humble yet profound architecture. The unassuming facade hides an interior brimming with exquisite artwork.
I’ve seen the this trail to the church mentioned as a strenuous hike, but I found it to be relatively easy for the Cinque Terre. The walking path is steep but a gradual incline taking roughly 13 to 15 minutes for the average person.
The Church of San Francesco also houses a small convent that has been transformed into an intriguing museum, offering a fascinating peek into the area’s cultural and religious history. It’s a hidden gem in the Cinque Terre that’s absolutely worth the detour.
Castle of Monterosso Ruins
You can also visit the ruins of the Castle of Monterosso. This castle once included expansive grounds with a monastery, multiple town gates, and 13 towers built during the 16th century. These days the ruins have three circular tower and one square tower that are located near the cemetery on San Cristoforo Hill.
Recommended Cinque Terre Tours
When I’m traveling abroad, I prefer to take a guided tour to learn the most I can and get a local’s perspective.
There are numerous tour operators offering various packages, but I usually prefer booking through Viator since its a brand I trust. My husband and I prefer the outdoors, so the guided hiking tours or boat tours were ideal to fully explore the beauty of terrain.
For a romantic experience, you may want to consider the sunset boat tour. This intimate boat tour offers the opportunity to snorkel and later be served Peritifs and Prosecco while basking in an Italian Rivera sunset.
Whether you take a guided tour or go on your own, hiking is a must-do in Cinque Terre. The Blue Path (Sentiero Azzurro) is the most popular one, connecting all five villages.
Remember, the essence of Cinque Terre lies in its simplicity and authenticity.
Enjoy each moment, embrace the slower pace of life, and let the vibrant beauty of these five lands capture your heart.
🍕 Restaurants in the Cinque Terre
When in the Cinque Terre, take the chance to dine at local trattorias and enjoy the traditional Ligurian cuisine.
Our favorite meal was at the Belforte Restorante. Although the menu was pricey, but the view and quality provided was worth it to us. I recommend booking in advance if you visit during peak season.
We both had delicious Mediterranean dishes, locally made wine, and finished with Limoncello!
A few other top choices for restaurants in the Cinque Terre include:
- Gastronomia San Martino in Monterosso al Mare – No frills, casual but quality food
- L’Ancora della Tortuga in in Monterosso al Mare – Michelin star restaurant & amazing view!
- Pippo a Vernazza in Vernazza – Yummy, casual street fare
Final Thoughts on Cinque Terre Travel
I hope you enjoyed my Cinque Terre travel guide!
While in the Cinque Terre I encourage you to escape the crowds and hike through the vineyards. In Maranrola, there is a path after the San Lorenzo church. Hike up the hill and you will see some of the most spectacular views of the vineyards and the Italian coastline.
I hope you enjoyed our Cinque Terre travel intinerary! We are next headed to Venice if you would like to tag along!