It has been exactly a year (I know, this article is way overdue) since I visited the villages and sea shores of Cinque Terre and I still dream about its colorful houses, turquoise water and gorgeous scenery. It is one of the most expensive regions of Italy to visit, but Mamma Mia is it worth it! It is, without a doubt, my favorite place in Italy. If Cinque Terre is on your Bucket List, then this article is for you. If not, you will be adding it to your Bucket List in three, two, one... Done!
How to get there
In Italy in general, but especially in Cinque Terre, the best way to get around is by train. To get to Cinque Terre, you have to get on the train in La Spezia Centrale which will stop at each of the villages along the way and runs approximately every 20 minutes. One train ticket cost 4€ when I was there in 2019. This might be something to consider when you are planning your trip and booking your accommodation. The train will first stop in Riomaggiore, then Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso and will then make its way to Levanto, which is not in Cinque Terre, but on the other side of the park from La Spezia.
Hiking Cinque terre
One of the main reasons people visit Cinque Terre is to hike. You can hike all the way along the coast and up and down the mountains between the five villages and the views are absolutely gorgeous. You need a pass to be allowed to hike in the park called the Cinque Terre Card, but the good thing about the pass is you can purchase the trail & train pass which allows you to take the train as many times as you like without paying for a ticket every time. This is very useful if you don't plan on hiking the whole way through in one day or don't feel like walking all the way back at the end of the day. You can check out the prices here. It also gives you free wifi at the train stations and free access to the bathrooms in the park which is always useful when traveling. The trails can be pretty intense depending on the different sections of the park so I recommend getting a map and looking up the elevation gain and distance before starting your hike. Also, and I feel this should come as a no brainer, but I saw it so many times, please don't wear flip flops on a hike, for your safety and the safety of the first aid crew that will have to come get you if you fall off a cliff.
What to do in Cinque Terre
Other then hike, there are so many things to do in Cinque Terre. You can rent a boat, go to the beach, visit the artisanal shops in all of the villages, sit on a terrace and enjoy the view, attend a tasting of local delicacies... Honestly I could have spent a week sitting on the rocks in Riommagiore and looking at the ocean. Also, don't miss the exceptionally beautiful sunsets. I personally watched from Riommagiore, but I'm sure all of the villages offer a great view of the sunset.
Where to stay
I don't have any recommandations of places to stay in Cinque Terre as there are so many cute little Airbnbs that it's no trouble finding a place to stay. The real struggle is finding a place that is affordable. I do have a few tips though. First, don't stay in Corniglia if you are taking the train unless they offer to come get you at the train station. The train station is at the bottom of the mountain, and the village is on the top. You would have to walk up about 200 steps with your luggage just to get to the village. Consider that! Second, if you are trying to visit Cinque Terre without braking the bank, consider staying in La Spezia. The neighboring city offers more affordable options and is literally a short train ride away from all of the villages of Cinque Terre. There are also hostels, something you won't find in the park.
What to eat
Honestly, it feels like all the food in Italy is delicious. Everything you try will be flavorful and there is no way to do it wrong. But in the region of Liguria, where Cinque Terre is located, is known for its pesto and focaccia (which is a kind of bread topped with anything you might like). One thing that you will also find everywhere and is a good to go option is fried anchovies. There are also plenty of different wines particular to the region the you can try in any of the restaurants. I personally tried a pesto pizza in one of the little restaurants in Riomaggiore that was the best I have ever tasted.
How long should you stay
Well, if you can stay forever, I have no idea why you would ever want to leave this little paradise. You will definitely have very strong legs after a while. But if visiting for a short time is your only option, a day is enough if you just want to hop on the train to each village, hop down for a few pictures and back on to the next one. But if you want to hike and explore the different villages, crooked streets and secluded beaches, I would stay at least two to three days. It also gives you more of a chance to catch at least one sunset if the weather is not on your side.
The best picture spots
One of the reasons most people visit Cinque Terre is to photograph its colorful villages and steep cliffs. As far as photographing the villages goes, the marinas in Riomaggiore and Manarola are tough to beat as their rock shelters around the marina offer a great standing point to photograph the village. They also offer great viewpoints on the sunset. Also, if there is one hike that you want to do for pictures, I would recommend the one between Monterosso and Vernazza. It is one of the longer ones, but it offers great view points on both villages and from the cliffs you can even see Corniglia and Manarola. There are also cute littles bridges along the way and gorgeous scenery with the olive trees and terrasses.
If I could grant a wish for everyone to visit one destination in their lives, I would send them all to Cinque Terre (not all at the same time of course). It is the kind of place that leaves an imprint on your soul and that you will always want to go back to. A little colorful miracle that you wouldn't believe is real if you weren't there witnessing it with your own eyes. I will forever consider myself lucky to have visited and been lucky enough to see, not just one, but three Cinque Terre sunsets.