Cinque Terre is, quite simply, that place on the Italian Riviera where people take those magnificent pictures (usually at sunset) of colourful village houses tucked away between the cliffs which makes you want to quit your job and hop on the next plane out.
Actually, many people think Cinque Terre (five towns) is one place when, in fact, it’s five different small fishing villages or ‘hamlets’, if you will.
Even though Cinque Terre is a popular tourist attraction, there’s just something different about it.
Perhaps it’s because there are no queues of 100+ people waiting to enter a church tower. Perhaps it’s the crystal-clear ocean water that screams “come jump in!” around every corner as you wind through the cobblestoned streets. Or, perhaps, it’s the nostalgic feeling of an era gone by but still somewhat preserved in these authentic, old towns.
The villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore make up the Cinque Terre.
Monterosso is the biggest of them all and boasts many sandy beaches, rows and rows of beach chairs and beach umbrellas. In comparison to the other four, Monterosso is a chilled spot with way fewer stairs to climb and pebbles to hurt your feet.
Vernazza is special for many reasons. This is where you want to sit at a sea-facing bar in Piazza Marconi with an ice cold glass of wine or spritz and relax as you people-watch and soak in the beauty around you. Remember, this is Italy! When you travel Italy, you have to learn to slow down and relax. Thanks to the horrible floods a couple of years back there is now a small rocky beach. However, many people simply enjoy jumping in the water from the pier.
Corniglia is the smallest of all the Cinque Terre, and that’s probably why it’s so magical. Many people, on their arrival, give the 360+ stairs up to the town from the railway one look, sit down, and wait for the next train to pick them up. But don’t lose heart! There is also a shuttle that operates throughout the day. Even though Corniglia takes some effort (after you’ve climbed the stairs to get to the town, you have to climb down the other side to get to the best swimming spot), the reward is great on the other side. Absolute paradise. There are also beautiful, quaint shops and restaurants in the village.
Manarola is famous for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine which is made from the surrounding vineyards’ grapes. We know, romance in a bottle. This village also boasts a great swimming spot in the small harbour. Sunbathe on the rocks and, if you’re feeling brave, jump in from the high rocks as the water is nice and deep.
This fishing village has a pebble beach as well as a great swimming spot in the small marina that is both lovely for swimming. After a refreshing swim, stroll through the streets with its peeling buildings or stop for a delicious pizza as you enjoy watching how people do life here: men playing cards and women hanging washing and chatting in the streets.
One of the essential things to remember on your visit to Cinque Terre is comfortable shoes so you can enjoy the dreamy ancient footpaths that connect the villages. For those not so keen on walking, don’t stress! There is also a train that runs frequently between the villages as well as boat rides.