making the most of your trip to the Cinque Terre
A visit to the Cinque Terre is unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Located on the Italian Riviera, these five towns are nestled on and in between the mountains and seaside. The neat thing about the Cinque Terre is that you can hike between all five towns (if the paths are open) to visit them all in one day. Not only are the hikes between the towns beautiful, but each town has its own character and charm that is incredible. If you are looking to go to Cinque Terre anytime soon, here are a few of my favorite tips!
Choosing a town to stay in:
It is hard to choose a town to stay in because they are all so beautiful and different. I’ve stayed in both Monterosso and Vernazza but my favorite is definitely Vernazza.
Monterosso is the biggest and busiest town of all five. There is old town Monterosso which has tiny narrow streets and is essentially your classic Italian village. There is beach access in Monterosso and it can be perfect if you are planning to hike the trail because the trail begins (or ends) in Monterosso. If you plan to stay in Monterosso, stay at Hotel Marina because Eraldo and Marina serve the BEST breakfast of crepes, omelets, cheese, cappuccino, and a variety of other things—plus they have free lunch!
Vernazza is probably my favorite of the towns because it is just so darn beautiful! I would definitely recommend staying here because it is quaint, quiet, and just overall gorgeous. At the end of the day, the streets were empty of tourists and the scenery was splendid and awe inspiring. I would recommend doing an airbnb because you can typically find great places for great deals! We stayed with Vernazzarooms and it was an incredible experience for us. Also, the gelato in Vernazza is amazing! Find the gelato place located next to the restaurant Il Barato and you will be in heaven.
Corniglia is a close second to Vernazza for my list of favorite towns. Corniglia is different from the other towns because it is located up on the mountain rather than down on the water. I love Corniglia because it is quiet surrounded by mountains and has incredible views. I’ve heard you can get beach access to Corniglia by walking through the old train tunnel by the new train tunnel but I’ve never been myself! If you are staying in Corniglia and want to go swimming one day, I would just google where to find the old tunnel.
Manarola is also a beautiful town, located on the water. I have spent less time in Manarola than the other three but it is definitely a great option for a place to stay!
Riomaggiore is the most residential of all the towns. Many people stay in Riomaggiore because it is closest to La Spezia where many people go to work in the city. Addtionally, Riomaggiore has many places to stay and is ideal for travelers. I also have spent less time here so I cannot recommend anything specific, but really all five towns are great.
Staying in towns outside the Cinque Terre:
After a day trip to Portovenere, my sister and I wished we had been able to spend longer there and stayed the night. We figured it could have been just a good of an option to explore the Cinque Terre from Portovenere. Staying in Vernazza was wonderful, but Portovenere is like the town of our dreams! The only problem with staying in Portovenere is that it is not accessible by train and can only be reached by car or boat. We concluded that it would have been great if we had stayed in Portovenere and taken the boat to Monterosso to hike. Then at the end of the day, we could have boated back to Portovenere. Although we did not do this, it seems like a great option to me as long as you make sure you will be able to catch the last boat home!
Hiking in the Cinque Terre
There are so many tails to hike throughout the Cinque Terre and around the Cinque Terre but I will tell you what you need to know.
First, some of the trails may be closed during your visit. Although the trails along the coast from town to town may be closed, there are other trails that can take you from one town to the next! These trails are often a bit longer and instead of going along the coast, they go up the mountain and come back down. If typical trails (blue trails) are open, I would definitely recommend doing those but I will warn that they can get crowded. To avoid this, get an early start in the morning before all the day trippers come! Buying a hiking pass for the blue trails costs 7 euro by itself and included with train access between the town costs 16 euro. The trains each way between towns cost 4 euro each.
I would HIGHLY recommend doing the hike from Corniglia to Volastra then from Volastra down to Manarola. This is not a part of the normal blue trail but instead is part of the red trail. This hike is TOUGH in either direction you choose to walk it but the rewards and views are incredible. On the side from Corniglia to Volastra you will walk through some of the most beautiful vineyards that have taken years of hard work, cultivation, and innovation to create. On the hike from Volastra to Manarola, you will encounter some of the best panaoramic views ever! Throughout the entire hike you will encounter spotted lizards, colorful wildflowers, and beautiful views of the ocean and towns below. This hike is one I will DEFINITELY recommend. You will probably be sore the next day.
Lastly, there are small little hikes you can do around the town you are staying in. Each town (if I am not mistaken) has a cemetery, or church above it that you can hike to. These cemeteries and churches usually have stunning views of the town and are great places to watch the sunset.
Boat Tours: Taking a boat tour in the Cinque Terre is a great option but can be a little pricey. For a day pass it costs 32 euro which allows you to hop on and off at the different villages. Additionally, you can choose the boat tour that allows you to visit other villages such as Portoverne or other neighboring islands. Considering the Cinque Terre pass is 16 euro for an entire day which gives you access to trains and hiking the trail, the boat tour is a little more expensive. However, taking a boat tour is a great way to spend your afternoon if you are wanting to catch some rays and enjoy the sun! I felt like the 32 euro was worth it because we got to visit a beautiful new town, ride on a boat, and soak up the beauty of the Italian Riviera.