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The Five Towns of Cinque Terre

Located on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a rugged coastline, made up of “The Five Lands”  or the five villages: Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, and Manarola.

The Cinque Terre is so appealing because it does not display any modern developments in its architecture. Many of the residents over the centuries have built terraces on the cliffs that overlook the sea from the coast. The villages are only connected by paths (specifically the Blue Path of Cinque Terre that connects all five villages and is a famous hiking trail), boats, or trains—nope, no cars.

You definitely will not need to spend more money renting a car if you choose to visit the Cinque Terre; you can just focus on these almost mythical lands themselves.

Vernazza

Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

One of the truest fishing villages of Italy’s Riviera, Vernazza is a gem with no car traffic on its streets. There are quite a few sites to see in this coastal town. The Santa Margherita d’Antiochia is a famous church in Vernazza, which was built in 1318. It’s built on a rock right in front of the sea.

Appropriately, it has a rich story behind it—traditionally, it’s said that this church was built because the bones of Saint Margaret were found in a box on the beach. Another unique place to visit is the Doria Castle which was built in the 15th century, strategically placed to protect Vernazza from piracy.

In Vernazza, as in each of the villages, there are not only hotels to stay in, but B&Bs, and farmhouses, not to mention wine bars andrestaurants.

Corniglia

Corniglia Cinque Terre Italy

Corniglia is a village that dates back to Roman times, and sits on a steep cliff, surrounded by vineyards. It’s divided into four sides, with the first three overlooking land, and the fourth above the coast. From this height, you can see the four other towns.

The only village not reachable by boat, one must climb up the Lardarina staircase (33 flights and 337 steps) in order to reach it. If you don’t want to brave the stairs, there is also a road and a bus that will take you into the village.

The Church of San Pietro is certainly a place to go—built in 1334 over a ruined 6th century building, the church was constructed in beautiful Baroque style with some Gothic elements as well. The ruins of a Genoise fortification, documented to have existed in 1556, and located on a cliff overlooking the sea, is another sight not to be missed.

Like the other towns of Cinque Terre, Corniglia life is centered around history and the coast.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare Cinque Terre italy

Monterosso al Mare, the most modern and resort like of all the towns, is uniquely protected by hills and olive groves. In the 16th century, Monterosso defended itself from vikings by erecting 13 towers, of which only three remain today.

One of these remaining buildings, the Aurora Tower, separates the old part of this village from the new part. Aurora is definitely a must see.

There are also quite a few unique churches to explore like the Abbey and Church of San Francesco, which was once transformed into a hospital, and then into a warehouse in the 1800s. But  in 1894 it was restored, and now houses important art like The Crucifiction (attributed to the painter Van Dyck).

For anyone more interested in nature or lounging, Monterosso actually  has the only beach (with sand) in all of the Cinque Terre, and is beautifully preserved. An anchovy musuem and aquarium add to the interesting activities in what I would call the busiest  town.

>> Make sure you follow these tips for the best Cinque Terre experience.

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre Italy
Riomaggiore is known for its wine, which is produced by the village’s local vineyards. It is also known for its history, which dates back to the 13th century. You can still visit the Castle of Riomaggiore, originally built in 1260 after the dominion of Nicolo Fieschi.

Back then it was used as a fortress. Now it is used for cultural activities. For adventurous souls, scuba diving off the coast is also offered. Besides Monterosso, Riomaggiore is the only other Cinque Terre village to have diving available.

Manarola

Manarola Cinque Terre Italy

Manarola is the calmest of the five towns, perhaps because it was the last to be discovered by tourists. There are natural paths to hike, including one called Via della Amore (The Lovers Path), which is a very scenic and easy path that leads to Riomaggiore.

You can also go swimming in the Mediterranean in a little cove on the coast. It’s very calm, cool water—and virtually a Mediterranean swimming pool. Once you dry off, there are plenty of historic churches to visit, as well as the ancient 8th century bastion/castle of Manarola.

As for wine, Manarola’s local Sciacchetra was even lauded for its high quality in early Roman documents. When in Manarola, drink like the ancient Romans do!

Which is your favorite Cinque Terre town and why?

Written by : Stephanie Photo Credits : tylerco83 / Alexandros80/  leemcarthur /  Allie_CaufieldRob Inh00d

Ready to make that dream trip to the Cinque Terre a reality?  Click here to see how I can help.

  • User Gravatar
    erin :: the olive notes
    May 14th, 2010

    one of my favorite places!!!

    well, and within the CT it’s hard to pick a favorite town, but each town has a favorite thing:
    -best guesthouse – Monterosso
    -best focaccia – Vernazza
    -best swimming hole – Manarola
    -best quiet/calm streets to escape – Corniglia
    -best mosaic tunnel :) – Riomaggiore

    Nice, Erin! Thanks for listing your favorites :)

  • User Gravatar
    regina
    May 14th, 2010

    As always, your amazing pictures have me ready to pack my bags and go! Have not been to the 5t in 10 years, thanks for this reminder of its beauty!

    Glad I could provide a little Friday inspiration!

    .-= regina´s last blog ..The Psychology of Sales in Italy =-.

  • User Gravatar
    linda
    May 14th, 2010

    What’s the best play to stay in Cinque Terre? I’m planning to go this fall!

    Best is a loaded question as everyone’s “best” is different and means different things :) Rick Steves covers the area pretty well in his guidebooks, or you can try Venere.com for accomodation. You can certainly contact me if you need one-on-one assitance Linda.

  • User Gravatar
    don
    May 15th, 2010

    Stephanie – I first visited the Cinque Terre in 1990. Since it was very hard to get to from a tourist standpoint, the guidebooks ignored it. It was the last paragraph (and only a paragraph) in our guidebook “Let’s Go Italy 1990″ in the Italian Riveria section. There were no hotels, almost no restaurants, and best of all, no tourists. We basically stumbled upon it by accident. I’ve been back a number of times since then, and one year, the evil Rick Steves discovered this place, and a few years after I found it, I awoke there one morning to a train of dozens of people descending down the street, all with Rick’s “Back Door” guidebooks in hand – written in German, Japanese, etc, as well.
    My little secret was discovered.
    Now everytime I see someone advertise it, I sigh. It’ll never be the same – in fact, the room I stay for $20/night for the 2 of us (at the time that 10 bucks seemed extravagant for some of the places we found) is now 120 Euros a night, and higher during the off-season.
    And more importantly, Corniglia is the only town not on the water – it is high up on the cliff tops, not even close to the sea. Your picture of Corniglia is just another picture of Manarola.
    Sigh.

    Thanks for popping by to comment. Well, yes, travel is a double-edged sword. And thought your secret is now out – perhaps going at a less-trafficked time of year would be an option. And upon closer inspection of the photo, I think you are correct. The photog incorecctly labeled it as Corniglia, so we have swaped out the photo for another. Thanks

  • User Gravatar
    Amy N
    May 16th, 2010

    I’ve just started following your blog, and wanted to complement you on its beautiful design. Gorgeous! Cinque Terre is fairly close to my husband’s favorite little town… Marina di Carrara. He was born in the hills above Carrara, and we get back there every couple years. One of these days, we will make the trek to the Cinque Terre.

    Thanks for following and for the lovely comments. Hubby’s town sounds lovely indeed :)

  • User Gravatar
    Crystal at Driver in Italy
    May 16th, 2010

    Great article. I think my favorite definitely has to be Monterosso for its fantastic beach.

    The beach does look great there, I agree.

    .-= Crystal at Driver in Italy´s last blog ..Inside Italy Culture: Food =-.

  • User Gravatar
    paulag
    May 17th, 2010

    Experienced a magical 2 days (not nearly enough time) with my husband & two sons, 18 & 12, in CT summer 2007. Without a doubt one the most picturesque spots in all of Italy and one of our most memorabe adventures. Getting there was half the fun. The boys loved the tunnels throught the mountainsides, and one “oneway” tunnel in particular that they dubbed “the batcave” . Wish I could be there right now!

    Great to hear your kids loved it too! And I’m with you – rather be there right now.

  • User Gravatar
    Ranyo
    May 17th, 2010

    I love Manarola and Corniglia, but Vernazza has to be the crown jewel. Sitting on the harbor watching the sun go down passed Monterosso is on of the most picturesque experiences in Europe. Head up the road to Piva’s, a right before the pharmacy, and enjoy some of the best seafood risotto in the world. Then go over to the Blue Marlin for after dinner activities. They make some mean a@# drinks there!

  • User Gravatar
    Ranyo
    May 17th, 2010

    Linda, Hotel Gianni, http://www.giannifranzi.it/index2.html is a little pricey but the views over the Ligurian are insane!! Check out the website.

  • User Gravatar
    Brittany
    May 20th, 2010

    I just visited Cinque Terre in April on Little Easter. It was the most perfect day to hike the trail, which was filled with tourists and locals. We stayed in Riomaggiore in an apartment that overlooked the harbor. I was so amazing! Cinque Terre was one of my favorite parts of my Italian vacation and I can’t wait to go back!

  • User Gravatar
    CyanBloodbane
    May 21st, 2010

    Riomaggiore has the most amazing Spaghetti Carbonara!!! I visited there two years ago, and am travelling to Levanto (just up the coast from Monterrosso) this summer. :)

  • User Gravatar
    Nancie
    November 16th, 2010

    Each of these towns looks amazing. Definitely on my want to visit list. Great post.

    Thanks Nancie. So many great places to visit….too little time!

  • User Gravatar
    melandroweb
    November 28th, 2010

    After the visit also Liguria Lucania. Good things

  • User Gravatar
    sandrodc
    January 10th, 2011

    I love the Cinqueterre as a whole, but if I had to choose it’d stick with Corniglia. Cutest little square, best Lasagna al Pesto, breathtaking views of CT coast in both directions and a gorgeous ‘beach’ with a crowd of a handful at peak hours.

    What more can one ask for? :)

    Those are some great reasons for your Corniglia pick! Thanks for popping by to comment :)

  • User Gravatar
    Mike
    February 16th, 2011

    I love the article!! Anyone looking for a cheap and amazing place to stay in Riomaggiore should check out Mar Mar, an apartment rental service that is owned by some very nice expats! I used to take study abroad students to the cinque terre for a break from the “big” city of Roma and the amazing people at Mar-Mar would set us up with BEAUTIFUL apartments for little more than 30 euro per person. One even had a shower that was built into a cave in the cliff that the house was built against!! Just a little fyi however… the photo you have for Riomaggiore is actually a second picture of Manarola. Thanks for bringing back the amazing memories I have of such a beautiful place!!
    Cheers!

    Wow, thanks for popping by and sharing that tip with us Mike!

  • User Gravatar
    Chuck Norton
    February 18th, 2011

    Spent 5 days in the region 4 years ago. We stayed in Monterosso. Still have great memories of the time there with my family Kids enjoyed the train rides and walking along the cliffs, wife and son enjoyed the trail hiking. We were there during Lemon Festival. Fun times. Food was GREAT! My son still says it was the best Spaghetti dinner ever! People (locals) could not have been nicer

    I’m always glad to hear such great things from another traveler’s perspective. Thanks for popping by to leave the comment. I’d have loved that Lemon Festival for sure! ;)

  • User Gravatar
    rory
    March 6th, 2011

    Is this where they made “the talented mr ripley” ? I looks really like it – gorgeous place I hope it doesnt get destroyed with tourism

  • User Gravatar
    Jess
    April 13th, 2011

    I love all 5 of these towns. I tell everyone going to Italy they must try and make it to CT. My favorite is Corniglia. It had the least tourists and was so peaceful. Despite the fact that all these towns are so close they all have their own culture and feel. I loved hiking all the trails, even though it was BOILING while I was there. I think the history is so interesting as well!

    Thanks for sharing your favorite and your observations here Jess! I agree, everyone should go.

  • User Gravatar
    Adam Allegro
    May 17th, 2011

    I have been looking forward to seeing/photographing these towns for quite some time now. Will most likely make it there this summer. Thanks for a great summary! I have loads of photos from around Italy, along with shots from the other wonderful coastal vacation spot, the Amalfi Coast on my photoblog, http://catchthejiffy.com/. Thanks for the awesome writeup, I love your site!

    Thanks for the nice words Adam. I’ll have to take some time to look through all your photos as well.

  • User Gravatar
    :D'anne
    June 10th, 2011

    I LOVE Corniglia. I was just there last month and stayed for 4 days. The town itself is just lovely with it’s gorgeous vistas of the sea and the beautiful terraced vineyards and lemon groves. I suggest staying with Maria and Nadia at http://www.eterasse.it/en/index.php Their flats are clean and comfortable and the breakfast Nadia makes every morning . . .DELICIOUS!!
    Plus, not as many tourist stay in Corniglia because it so small and you really get to see how the locals live. Cinque Terre was one of the best experiences of my life.

    Thanks for sharing Corniglia link Dee – I’ll have to check it out. I’m always a fan of mingling with the locals.

  • User Gravatar
    Mr.Loto
    June 20th, 2011

    One of the most beautiful in the world, I often go to Monterosso and I like to do the walking through the paths that connect the five lands … have placed special.
    The only drawback is that they are very expensive places, typical of the Liguria.

    Greetings

    Thanks Mr. Loto. I agree it can be expensive, but there are so many ways to save some pennies and stick to a budget, that it shouldn’t stop someone from going.

  • User Gravatar
    Andrew
    February 6th, 2012

    Monterosso is my favorite as it is the first I saw many years ago. At the time we didn’t make it to any of the others. Since then I have been back to see the others, but there is still a place in my memory for the one with the beach.

    How nice Andrew. I hope you get a chance to make it back again one day!

  • User Gravatar
    Dayna
    February 22nd, 2012

    I loved all the towns in the Cinque Terre! The view hiking down into Vernazza has to be one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed, can’t wait to go back! Very sad about the flooding that destroyed Vernazza and Monterosso, they are working on rebuilding at the moment.

    Very sad indeed Dayna. I have no doubt that they will bounce back soon – and even stronger than before :)

  • User Gravatar
    Barbra @ 30DaysInItaly
    March 22nd, 2012

    I really enjoyed reading this article about the Cinque Terre; the photos are gorgeous. As your readers may know, two of the five Cinque Terre villages suffered devasting mudslides in November 2011, and restoration efforts are now underway. This is no way affects tourists ability to visit the Cinque Terre. An interesting Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/WeCanRebuildMonterosso which posts daily photos of the local people’s progress in rebuilding. It’s a nice way to get a bit of an insider look at the Cinque Terre.

    Thanks for sharing that Barbra. There is a similar Facebook Page called RebuildMonterosso. It is such a beautiful area, and a shame what happened, but I have no doubt things will be back to normal there soon. I don’t think Monterosso is ready for overnight guests, but there is no reason that you can’t stay in any of the other 4.
    Barbra @ 30DaysInItaly recently posted..How to Save Money on Transportation in VeniceMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    Jo Anne
    April 4th, 2012

    Thanks for the great article, we are going in May will be based in Lucca and plan to take the train to Levanto, and would like to visit all 5 of the villages, is this realistic to do in one day?? Can you take a bus to each village? We would like to get in as much as possible in one day and are doing the day trip out of Lucca on our own, thanks for any information you can pass along.

    You’re welcome Jo Anne. The region is easily visited by train. And on foot. Personally, I would stay over at least one night, you don’t get the best of the area if you have to rush throught it in a day. Enjoy Lucca as well – it ranks up there as my favorite place in Tuscany :)

  • User Gravatar
    Kathi
    April 15th, 2012

    My husband and I will be staying 5 nights in Monterosso in September. We spent 3 nights in Monterosso in July, 2009 and enjoyed every minute. Can not wait to return! Hope to get a room at Hotel La Spiaggia, I have heard great things about it. But other hotel recommendations and restaurants would be greatly appreciated.

    Kathi, since Monterosso was affected by the flooding, I would make sure you contact La Spiaggia directly to see if they will be fully operational for your dates. For food you can try Miky – both Ristorante the Cantina, La Barcaccia, Belvedere, and Focacceria de Ely for more casual or take-away. Make sure to visit the TI near the train station for the most up to date info when you arrive. Feel free to get in touch if you require further help and have a great trip!

  • User Gravatar
    Karen
    May 6th, 2012

    Can you tell me the best way to get from Barcelona to Cinque Terre. I wanted to do an overnight train, but the Elipsos does not run on the date I had hoped to arrive.

    If the train isn’t an option, I would check into flying. I don’t cover Spain, so another option would be to post your question on a forum like Trip Advisor or Fodors. Good luck!

  • User Gravatar
    DUSAN
    May 14th, 2012

    Cita con atmosfere straordinarie di livello artistico e ambientale fantastico, dobbiamo gli curare con orgoglio e con certa sensibilità……..!

    Ciao Dusan! Certamente è una bella terre :)

  • User Gravatar
    Marietjie
    May 15th, 2012

    H i, thanks for all the info…. We will be travelling from South AFrica in JUne and would like to know which of the 4 (excl Monterosso) would you recommend to stay in since we will be coming from tuscany and only have 1 night before we head off to Rapallo. Do you have any accomodation recommendations maybe?
    Thanks

    Personally, I would try Riomaggiore or Manarola, thought to be honest, at this late date if you’re just booking, you may have a tough time. There aren’t tons of places and June is high-season. Good luck Marietjie!

  • User Gravatar
    Barbra
    July 6th, 2012

    I stayed in Corniglia and loved it. But picking a favorite would be hard! However, each of the towns does get really busy with tourists between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Next time I may choose to stay in one of the less busy towns such as Levanto or (heading north from the Cinque Terre): Bonassola, Moneglia, Sestri Levante, Chiavari, Rapallo or Santa Margherita Ligure.

    It is hard to pick a favorite Barbra. But why choose? Visit them all ;)
    Barbra recently posted..Venice AirportMy Profile

  • User Gravatar
    Richard
    October 7th, 2012

    Thank you for this article that i stumbled upon while doing some research for my upcoming trip to Italy. I will be spending a couple of days in Florence in early December and am thinking of doing at least a day trip to this beautiful place. Sadly, some people have advised against going to CT in December due to the unpredictable weather and that most places and the trails might be closed. I’m still keeping my options open though as I’m not sure if I’ll ever have another opportunity to see CT again. I’ll probably just check the weather a few days prior. Would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thank you in advance.

    Thanks for your kind comment Richard. To be honest, I’d prefer you did more than one day and I agree that December isn’t the ideal time to visit. I’d leave it off this time and plan on returning to Italy again to spend a few days on the Cinque Terre in the nicer weather. It’s a good excuse to go back! Bologna or Lucca would make great day trips from Florence and are easy to get to by train.

  • User Gravatar
    Westray
    November 24th, 2012

    We are staying in lucca this April with 2 young kids ( age 8&7), which cinque terre town is best to visit for the day. We are traveling there by train. (from research it looks like going via la spezia is the way to go. True?

    CT is an easy day trip from Lucca, though I’d recommend you spend more than one day. You can connect in La Spezie, but you can find more info on the train stations and routes on trenitalia.com. It’s hard to pick the best town for a day without knowing what your interests are, but I’d eliminate Corniglia from the group. Have a great trip Westray!

  • User Gravatar
    Rita Bonnici
    February 5th, 2014

    Hi Robin I loved reading your site about CT
    It’s captivating. Myself and husband plan to travel there from Australia in July. Would love to spend 4nights on the islands (first time) travelling from Milan.
    I had thoughts to spend one night on each island. Is that necessary or staying at one place would easy reach all islands.
    Plan to catch train from Milan. Where is the best place to stop to start our tour of CT.

  • User Gravatar
    the heart of cinque terre
    November 30th, 2014

    You forget to visit ‘Prevo’, a tiny hamlet of Vernazza located exactly in the center of Cinque Terre National Park, along the Blue Path (Sentiero Azzurro), 2 km far from Corniglia and 2 km from Vernazza.
    Prevo is the highest and most impressive spot of the Blue Path (Sentiero Azzurro) at 208 meters above sea level, that overlooks the famous Guvano Beach, the only beach in the Cinque Terre truly wild and untouched.

    more info: http://www.theheartofcinqueterre.com

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