There is no news that the five towns of Cinque Terre in Italy are probably one of the most charming and picturesque destinations in Europe and in the World!
So, if you finally decided to visit this unique region and are about to start planning your trip, here are some tips!
Located in the Cinque Terre National Park, and being a part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is formed by five towns (as the name translation clearly states – Five Lands).
Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are five magnificent towns that make this coastline destination a real treasure for all the breathtaking view chasers.
From solo travelers to large families, Cinque Terre is perfect for all sorts of tourists. You will also probably find that this location is one of the most popular destinations for travel couples in the world because of the romantic scenario this location offers.
In our opinion, Cinque Terre towns are a very photogenic destination that brings to life the most romantic side of Europe and the most traditional side of Italy.
We were there last year (August 2020) during the Coronavirus pandemic, which was positive for us because the number of people was significantly lower than in a “normal” year.
During our road trip through Europe in a campervan, we spent 2 weeks driving through Italy. After beautiful Provence and French Blue Coast, our expectations were high, but Cinque Terre didn’t disappoint us! We had a great time in this region and totally recommend visiting it, but how should you plan your trip there?
That’s what you are about to find out…
1. How to Get There
There are always 2 main problems in this area during the high season. Ligurian Riviera can get quite pricey and almost impossible to find a parking spot.
So, regardless of your departure location and to save your nerves and money, we recommend you to choose a nearby city La Spezia as your base. The place itself is nothing special, but it offers the easiest and the most affordable way to reach Cinque Terre.
If you are flying in, you will most likely want to go to either Florence, Genoa or Pisa (take the opportunity to visit this iconic city if you can!) and then you need to catch a train or bus to La Spezia. Take into consideration while planning your trip that Italian transport timetables are very “flexible”, by which we mean, they are never on time!
On the other hand, if you don’t need to fly to reach La Spezia, you will find several trains and buses available from different locations in Italy. Also, consider renting a car or a campervan because the region is amazing for a road trip. It might be a good option, trust us we know it because it’s what we did!
2. Where to Sleep
Once in La Spezia, there is an endless amount of options where to sleep, the choice depends on your budget and the level of comfort you require.
If you are on a road trip, as us, we definitely recommend you to stay close to the train station. Using our favorite app Park4Night, we found a nice neighborhood in this area with a free parking for our Benny, close to a sports center.
There was a great pizzeria where we ate every day because the food was delicious and the prices were very fair. The best part of this location was the community, which received us very well. We felt we were part of the family already! Those people were so friendly!
But in case you are uncomfortable sleeping and leaving your van on the street, you can find several camping sites around La Spezia (to the north from Cinque Terre towns) or in Levanto (to the south).
If your budget is limited and/or you want to have a very local experience, we advise you to adventure yourself with Couch Surfing. There are always a couple of possibilities and people from that city were very friendly and welcoming, so the odds are that you will have a good and comfortable time for a small amount of money.
3. How to Move Around
This was actually the big question for us when we were planning our trip because we were unsure if the access to Cinque Terre towns was easy. The truth is, it’s not that straightforward but definitely nothing too complicated.
Cinque Terre by car
Going there by car isn’t the best option in our opinion because the road to Vernazza is very narrow and difficult, plus it ends one km before the town so on hot summer days you will have to do a bit of an unpleasant walk.
Cinque Terre by train
For us, the best access to Cinque Terre is by train. The trains go from La Spezia station to all of the 5 Cinque Terre towns and there are plenty of trains throughout the day.
A single ticket between 2 stops is 4€, so if you would like to visit several villages, we recommend you buying a day pass – the Cinque Terre Treno Card. As in March 2021, the cost is 13€ per adult and it allows you to travel all day, making it easy to visit all villages on the same day and return. Like a hop-on-hop-off bus, the train is a relatively fast and practical way to explore Cinque Terre.
You can buy this pass at the train station in La Spezia, Levanto or at any of the five villages. It is also available online in case you prefer to skip the line.
Please note that during the high season, thousands of tourists go there, so you might have to wait until you get a spot on the train, and most likely you will be traveling in a crowded carriage.
Cinque Terre by ferry
Another option for you to commute between La Spezia and Cinque Terre is by Ferry. Scheduled passenger ferries run from La Spezia to each of the five towns except to Corniglia because there is no harbor there.
Hiking in Cinque Terre
For those more adventurous and in good shape, there is a final option, which is hiking. There are several walking paths along the Park, but because of the SVA numbering system, sometimes tourists get confused about which path to use.
The Azur Trail is the most popular and connects all the villages. However, due to the unstable environment and landslides, some parts of it are closed. It is still possible to walk through all five towns of Cinque Terre but the path is steeper and longer than the usual path along the waterfront.
There are day passes available at any train station in the area and also at the official website. You should be looking for a Cinque Terre Trekking Card.
4. What to See
When visiting iconic places like Cinque Terre, we always plan in advance what are the must-see points for us, and leave the remaining time to explore freestyle.
Each of these five beautiful towns has its own charm and unique atmosphere. We recommend visiting them all regardless of their similar architecture because they all offer different experiences and have a distinct history.
You can choose what to see first and where to go next depending on what you want to do in every village. Below you can find what route worked best for us and what were the main activities to do in each village at every time of the day.
It was our first stop while discovering the magic Cinque Terre. Just a few steps from the train station we got into the colorful narrow streets of the village that led us to the harbor.
After walking around and enjoying the views, you can take a break and get some shadow. The rocks with a view on the picturesque harbor are a great spot to enjoy yourselves and the local food!
Fried fish boxes are a famous delicatessen of the region. Riomaggiore is a good place to try them and there are plenty of kiosks offering this specialty. We could not miss it and we were tempted to buy our fish box here, but it was still early, so we decided to try it a bit later.
After Riomaggiore we headed directly to Vernazza where we wanted to stretch our legs and to see a few historic monuments.
In this village you will find the Dorian Castle, the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, and the Sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio.
Monterosso Al Mare
After walking up and down in Vernazza, we decided to have some relaxed time and there is no better place in Cinque Terre than Monterosso!
It is the only village of the five with a proper sand beach, so the main goal was to suntan, swim, and get some rest after a lot of walking.
And by that time we were already hungry, so we bought our long-awaited fried fish box with a cold local beer, of course!
In the end of the afternoon, and after stretching in the sun, it was the perfect time to visit Corniglia.
It is the only village not adjacent to the sea, so we found a beautiful panorama. Our goal was to discover one of the dozens of terraces available and appreciate the magnificent view from above.
After a long day of exploring the five unique towns of Cinque Terre there was missing only one – Manarola. And it is definitely the case where you can perfectly apply the saying “last but not least”.
We planned our visit in the way to finish our day in Manarola and we did not regret it! This was our favorite village and it is just pure magic at sunset!
It also has a wide variety of restaurants and the most iconic bar on the top of the hill opposite to the village center – Nessun Dorma. People literally queue there for hours just to have a drink there! But we may admit, that the service looked outstanding, as they were offering some snacks and wine to cheer up the people in the line!
5. Good To Know
As mentioned previously, it’s important to take into consideration that Cinque Terre is a very popular touristic destination, and consequently, there are a few little things to remember when traveling there:
We hope we helped you to make the decision to visit this amazing destination that has so much to offer. Memorable moments, great food, and tasty wines, but most of all, breathtaking panoramas!
Do you feel more confident and inspired to plan your trip to the charming towns of Cinque Terre?
If you feel we missed something or have any questions, drop us a comment! We love to hear from you!
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