How to plan your trip to Cinque Terre
This clutch of five vehicle-free towns along the Italian Riviera is what we imagined the Amalfi Coast to be. Lazy vibes and undeniable charm, despite the tourists. Whilst we were disappointed by the Amalfi Coast for reasons we can’t quite put our finger on, Cinque Terre blew us away.
It is a popular destination with day trippers from La Spezia and Genoa, so lunchtimes can be hectic (especially in Riomaggiore), but stay awhile and spend time hiking through the vineyards as we did and you’ll see why we fell in love with Cinque Terre.
Riomaggiore is closest to La Spezia and has the most pubs, so is arguably the busiest of the five towns. Going north, Manarola is quaint with a small swimming harbour, Corniglia is the most peaceful and sits atop the cliff away from the ocean. We based ourselves at Vernazza, a colourful one-street town with a crumbling castle and attractive waterfront. Finally, Monterosso has a more modern feel; it has the most resorts and nightlife out of the five.
WHERE TO STAY
Besides hotels, there are a myriad of apartments and B&Bs to choose from. We stayed at La Rosa dei Venti in Vernazza and it was our favourite place that we stayed in Italy. Overlooking a little creek at the top of the town, it was peaceful, comfortable, with a fantastic shower and balcony.
We stayed in Cinque Terre for three nights and found that we had ample to time to do everything we wanted. We could, however, easily have spent a week there, stayed in more than one of the towns and hiked further up into the mountains.
If you plan on visiting in high season, we would advise booking at least six weeks in advance to ensure you get one of your top accommodation choices. We emailed around ten places including La Rosa, and they were the only accommodation with a single room left.
WHAT TO DO
Aside from exploring the tight streets and cobbled steps, here’s three ideas of things to do during your stay.
Nº 1 - TASTE SOME LOCAL PRODUCE
On our last night we visited the Vernazza Winexperience, a modern terrace overlooking the ocean. Alessandro pairs local wines with cheeses, hams and breads and offers a wealth of knowledge during the tasting. A romantic spot to watch the sunset.
Nº 2 - HIKE THE WALKING TRAILS
You can hike the Cinque Terre walking trails year round, and many of them are free. You may even be able to walk the ticketed trail if there is no one around to check tickets, such as on certain Sundays (as we found) or in low season. We walked from Vernazza to Riomaggiore in a day, stopping off at Manarola and Corniglia in between, then took the train all the way back to Monterosso for dinner. You can take the red trails if you fancy more of a challenge. Enquire at the local tourist office for a map, details on any track closures and timings.
Nº 3 - GET OUT ON THE WATER
Taking a dip in the sea is a perfect way to cool down after a hike! You can also rent a kayak easily and it’s approximately thirty minutes paddle to each of the towns. Alternatively, take one of the many boats for a scenic journey.
GETTING THERE & around
The closest airports are Genoa, Pisa and Lucca.
It is easy to catch the train to any of the five towns from La Spezia or Genoa. We caught a train to La Spezia from Rome and changed trains to get to Vernazza; tickets can be purchased online or at the station (in advance can be cheaper) and you won't need to wait long for a train in the day time.
These towns are car-free, so driving to Cinque Terre isn't advised. You won't be able to use your wheels and are likely to be caught in hellish traffic.
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Comment below with your experience of Cinque Terre. Did you love it as much as we did?