Cinque Terre exists out of five small village in Italy, Liguria. The villages are connected by a walking path (of which some unfortunately are closed due to landslides) and are famous for all the colored houses. This Cinque Terre in a Nutshell – Quick guide tells you how to get there and gives a small insight in the different villages. Last but not least, I’ll tell you why you should visit them. First of all, I have to be honest; I really wanted to visit but I was a bit afraid to. Due to the popularity, I thought it would be overloaded with tourists and it wouldn’t live up to the pictures. However, it was truly amazing and I would surely recommend it to everyone.
Easiest is to fly into Pisa or Genua, both are approximately a 1,5 hour train ride away from the 5 villages. You can buy tickets at the train stations at one of the ticketing machines and fares are around 25 euros. During the trip, you have to change in either La Spezia or Levanto for the Cinque Terre Express that stops in all the villages.
I visited Cinque Terre in October 2019, and to me mid-October was the perfect timing. Beforehand, I heard horror stories about how busy it would be, and yes, it still was, but way worse than I expected. When we walked from Monterosso to Vernazza, we were wondering what that would be like in summer when you would have to stop 100 times to have people pass.
We had about 2,5 days in Cinque Terre as I flew in Friday evening to Pisa, we took the 8:20 train to Vernazza the next morning and flew out of Pisa on Monday evening. As there are 5 villages, so I expected to have to hurry. However, we ticked everything of (in a relaxed manner) on Sunday evening already.
So, personally I think that the perfect traveling time in Cinque Terre is 2 days in shoulder season.
You basically have two options to get around Cinque Terre and hop from village to village. First of all, the villages are really small, so within the villages you will explore by foot. There are hiking trails between the different villages and the average walking time between them is about 1,5 – 2 hours. Unfortunately, some of the hiking paths are closed and you can only hike from Monterosso to Corniglia. Once you enter the hiking paths, you will have to pay the National Park entrance fee of €7,50 (called Cinque Terre (Parc) Card).
The easiest way to travel is by taking the Cinque Terre express, which costs you €4,00 for a single fare. Next to that, there is an option to buy a Cinque Terre card that allows you to travel the CT express train as much as you want for €16,00. Since we visited the villages for 2 days and hiked where possible, this wasn’t beneficial for us.
What is a Cinque Terre in a nutshell guide without quickly discussing the actual 5 villages that make up Cinque Terre? There are more articles to come with more specific tips on Cinque Terre to elaborate on this quick guide.
To start with, this is the largest one of the villages and the first in line (starting at the top looking at the map): Monterosso Al Mare. It is the only village with a proper beach and there is a ‘city center’ that consist of a little bit more than one street. You’ll even be awarded with a small boulevard. As said before, we visited in October, which meant the beach season was over and all the umbrellas were already gone. In case you want to spend some more time in the area and are in desperate need of a relaxation day on the beach, Monterosso is the place to be.
During our trip, Vernazza was our home-base. Take your time to wander up the stairs to discover all little alleys in Vernazza. Vernazza has a small little square next to the small ‘harbour’, so you will feel the holiday vibe straight away. Climb the bell tower, visit the most famous view of Cinque Terre or enjoy a drink on the square. Not bad either: visit the viewpoint on the other side of Vernazza en route to Corniglia.
This is the smallest village and also the only village that is a bit higher up. Therefore, Corniglia has no water access and you have to walk up a stairs of slightly over 250 steps to reach the centre of Corniglia from the train station. Lucky for you, there are small busses going as well in case you don’t feel like the walk..
To be honest, I would say that you can skip Corniglia. I expected it to be quieter as it was harder to access, but this wasn’t really the case. However, as some hikes are closed and Corniglia is the end of the trail coming from Vernazza that is currently open. When passing, why not have a quick look anyways (and! you actually skip the stairs when coming from Vernazza).
When you would ask me about my favourite view, it would definitely be Manarola. The view from Nessun Dorma, one of the restaurants there, is a-ma-zing. Also in Manarola you’ll find people sunbathing (locals too!) and cliff jumping is a thing here. Just go and enjoy the vibe.
When you have already done some research, Riomaggiore probably looks familiar to you. The harbour or Riomaggiore is the most famous place, which you could tell from the amount of tourist being there. On the other hand, we were able to find two really nice bars. Riomaggiore is the liveliest of the all. Although, I would still prefer Vernazza or Manarola.
Next to this Cinque Terre in a nutshell – a bar and restaurant guide to Cinque Terre is now available. During the trip, we were able to discover quite some nice restaurants and bars that deserve a visit. Check it out here.