These five villages in Italy are not to be missed. They have to be included in any bucket list or once in a lifetime experiences.
Five colorful villages perched on the cliffs of the Italian coastline with an authentic Italian feel.
Italy has always been and still is a dream for people all over the world.
I had the chance to visit these amazing villages a few times now.
This was my third time in Cinque Terre and somehow it is like the first time.
I always have the same joy and excitement to see these places.
In August we had some days off, so we found a cheap flight to Milan and from there we took the train to Liguria Region and establish our base in La Spezia.
It was the perfect place in terms of cheap accommodation, good transport connections, and cheap food.
We spent two days in Cinque Terre.
– The first day we had some type of hop on/hop off by train and visited the 5 small villages
– The second day, we had time to get to know each corner of the village and between them with an amazing 1-day hike.
What is Cinque Terre?
There are five small colorful villages built on the mountain terraces on the Liguria Coastline: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.The Cinque Terre is famous for its beauty. Over centuries, people built small fishing villages and then carefully built terraces to cultivate grapes and olives on the steep landscape. The view is simply breathtaking.
All these villages were linked with narrow trails. In the past, this was the only way to connect and to access these villages.
Today the villages are connected also by train which made the access easier and with easy access also came the touristic avalanche. Although the small villages are very touristic today, they still have an authentic Italian charm of “La vita e Bella”.
Hop on/Hop off by train in Cinque Terre
In this article we will tell you about our first day in Cinque Terre and the way we choose to visit it: Hop on/Hop off by train
So, we took a two days Cinque Terre Train Card which included several services like trains, buses, trail access, and paid 29 Euros.
More information about the card you can find on incinqueterre.com.
So first thing in the early morning, we went to La Spezia Centrale Train station, bought the 2 days Cinque Terre card, and jumped in the first train to Cinque Terre.
In only 15 minutes we arrived in the first village, Riomaggiore.
So Riomaggiore was our first stop in our Cinque Terre experience.
It was early morning and we were lucky not to be crowded, therefore we had time to enjoy the village.
The village dates back to the 13 century when few people moved from the hills to the sea and built few houses on the rocky, steep seaside shore. The houses had two entrances: one on the front and one on the back to be easier to escape in case of pirates attacks.
The village was built in the valley of the Rivus Maior, hence the name of the village: Riomaggiore.
The small village is divided by the train into two parts.
The seaside part where we found very narrow golf with colorful little boats and fishing nets. This was the most beautiful and picturesque part. We couldn’t get enough of it.
And the upper part surrounded by terraces, which was the heart of the small village with a lot of restaurants and shops. Here the streets are very steep and difficult to navigate to.The entire place is like a labyrinth of alleys and steps. It was a pleasure to get lost on those narrow alleys.
In Riomaggiore starts the famous hiking trail “Sentiero Azzuro” or “The blue trail”. The first section is between Riomaggiore and Manarola and it is called Via dell’ Amore (Love’s trail). Unfortunately, due to rock slide is closed.
After a few hours of strolling up and down the streets, we went back to the train station to take the train up to the next city. But we had a great surprise at the train station. It was crowded. Full of tourists from all over the world were inside the station.
The good news was that the train system is prepared for the crowd and everything functioned very well.
But to escape the crowd, we jumped the next 3 villages and went directly to the last one, Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare
This is the only village with a large beach among the five.
The history of Monterosso dates back to 5 century when the people living in the hills moved down to the sea, trying to escape from the barbarian tribes. The village is named Monterosso because the ruling family used to have red hair. “Monte dei rossi” means “Mountain of the red-haired”.
From the train station, we exited directly to the beach of Monterosso, which runs along the coastal line. This was the new part of the city with a small boutique hotel, restaurant, and beach facilities.During the summer is packed with tourist that use each centimeter of beach. At the time of our arrival, the small promenade and beach was already full.
But we loved the long promenade flanked with nice bougainvilleas and palm trees. Even the crowded beach with its colorful umbrellas had some Italian vibe.Passing through a pedestrian tunnel, we reached the old part of the village. Here we found a nice historical atmosphere with small streets, pastel-colored houses with an Italian feel.
Of course, we bought a very tasty gelato (ice cream) and enjoy it on a beach watching the people passing by.
Then we went straight to the train station and took the train back to the next village.
In a few minutes, we were in a new village: this time in Vernazza
It is said that Vernazza is the pearl of the Cinque Terre.
I think it is completely true. This was also our favorite village from the five.
Vernazza was the only village with a natural harbor, which means that they could trade very easily goods with other couriers. As a result, Vernazza was the richest one with important political power. Back at the day, there was no beach, main square or pontoon. The waves were splashing directly at the houses.
From the train station, we took the main street, flanked with colored houses, shops, and restaurants till the end of it, where we found a small piazza and a small sandy beach where the locals took a break from their daily routine to cool off the August heat in the perfect Mediterranean water. We stopped on a beach under the shadow off a tree, eat some snacks while we were observing the peaceful life of the locals. Although it was the full season and all the locals were very busy, somehow they found time to meet in the piazza to chat and to take a bath. They didn’t spend more than one hour after which they went to their usual routine.
I always admire the Italian way of life: “La vita e Bella”. And I always tried to follow this way of life…at least for a while.
I can tell you it is not an easy thing to do. Italians have this way of living and acting in their gens.
After enjoying that moment in the small pizza by the sea, we decided to continue our visit up the hill, on the trail towards Monterosso. We knew there was the best panoramic view over the small village. The trail was difficult but once there, we forgot everything. The view of Vernazza from above was perfect!
It was difficult to leave this view but we had to continue to the train station and then to the next village: Corniglia
This was the smallest and quietest village from Cinque Terre. Maybe because it is located on a hill at 100 m above sea level and a little difficult to reach.
Corniglia doesn’t have a harbor. The railway station of Corniglia lies at sea level and there are different ways to get up to the center of the village: the stairway with 382 steps or by bus. There are regular buses that run between the train station and the village center.
The history of the village goes back to Roman times. According to the legend, Corniglia village was founded by a wine producer, who named the village after his mother, Cornelia.
We reach the train station at about noon and it was already very hot, so we decided to wait for the bus and not to take the stairs.
The bus ticket is included in the Cinque Terre Train card.
We waited for a while and got lucky to take the second bus because there were so many people waiting in the queue. Once in the village, we noticed that Corniglia was a little different comparing with the other villages. The houses were smaller and wider.But the first thing that we did was to stop to a small terrace under the shade of the trees and try some cold lemonade and homemade cake.
After catching your breath we started to walk around on the small village streets without a certain aim. We enjoyed the village walk for about an hour and then went back to the bus station and train station to our next destination: Manarola.
It is the perfect place to watch the sunset.
Manarola is older than Riomaggiore and was built before the Roman times. It is believed to have been founded by the locals of Volastra, a village located above Manarola, on top of the hill.
They started to arrange terraces down the hill and plant olive trees, lemons and vineyard. In time, part of the population moved down to the sea and founded a small village.
The name has a roman origin: it comes from a name of an altar dedicated to the Mani Gods, “manium arula”.
From the train station, we took a pedestrian tunnel, which took us to the main street of Manarola.
We head towards the sea and we reached to a piazza and the harbor.The water there was deep and perfect for swimming. But we didn’t dare to jump in.
We preferred to head to the Manarola-Corniglia trail on the skirts of Manarola. Currently, the trail between Manarola and Corniglia is closed, but you can still go to some point from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view over Manarola.
We sat and watched the sun setting over the small village. It was simply magical.
Cinque Terre is a dream place and I can never get enough of it. I m sure that I m not the only one.
A set of five remote colorful villages right by the Mediterranean coast backed by vineyards terraces and olive trees, interconnected by a breathtaking network of trails. Well! It is like one of the most beautiful places in the world.
How to get to
The closest airport to Cinque Terre is Genoa, but unfortunately, it is a small airport and there aren’t many international flights.
The most convenient way is to fly to Milan or Pisa.
From all major cities, trains are connecting them to the Cinque Terre, la Spezia, and Levanto.
You can stay in one of the five villages but because there are so popular, accommodation will be expensive even for hostels. Not to mention that there aren’t so many hotels. There are mostly apartments and guesthouses.
The best places to stay are La Spezia and Levanto, the neighboring cities. Both are on the Cinque Terre train line and had everything cheaper form accommodation to food. The distance to the five villages by train is only 10-15 minutes.
Cinque Terre Train Card.
Because the road passes way above the villages, to use the car will be torture, so the easiest way to see Cinque Terre is by train. The train stations are in the center of the villages, making easy to handle.
To take the train you have options like:
- Take individual train tickets in each train station. Which we do not recommend. At the end of the day, it will be more expensive than a daily card. And you will lose more time.
- Take a daily card: Cinque Terre Card Train. You can find all the information on their official website.
The Cinque Terre Card Train includes all the services of the Cinque Terre Trekking Card and unlimited train travels on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line, bus ticket, and toilets entries.
1 day Cinque Terre Train Card Euro 13
2 days Cinque Terre Train Card Euro 23
1 day Cinque Terre Train Card Euro 16
2 days Cinque Terre Train Card Euro 29
3 days Cinque Terre Train Card Euro 41
Cinque Terre train family card (2 adults + 2 children to 12 years old) daily: Euro 31,50
Cinque Terre family train card (2 adults + 2 children to 12 years old) daily: Euro 42
Low season: from 4 November 2019 to 15 March 2020.
High season: from 16 March to 3 November 2020.