Cinque Terre, Italy is made up of five villages (hence the name), that are located on the Italian Riviera, just above Tuscany. Centuries-old, the brightly colored houses of the villages are set upon the rugged cliffs of the coastline; almost as if they were birthed from the Mediterranean Sea itself. Though the coastline is often described as rugged and even inhospitable, there are still plenty of ways to explore all five of these centuries-old, charming, seaside towns.
How To Get There
One of the appeals of Cinque Terre is its location, out of the way on the far West coast of Italy, it is accessible mainly by train and boat. In the summer months (March through October), there are daily ferry connections from places like La Spezia, Lerici, Levanto, and Portovenere, though be advised that the ferries do not run in bad weather.
Tickets come in one-day or half-day options, allowing visitors to take unlimited boats and get on and off at their chosen spots. Tickets start at around $15 for a three-island round trip. Travelers can access other ticket prices and the ferry timetable here.
The train is definitely the best way to get to Cinque Terre and is a good way to get around when you arrive, as it stops at all five towns. The Cinque Terre Express the line to take once travelers arrive in Italy. There may be a need to transfer at least once (depending on your origin point), before getting the Express.
Getting Around Cinque Terre
As mentioned above, the Cinque Terre Express is a great way to get around all five of the towns—Monterosso, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Visitors who want to explore more than two of the villages should purchase the Cinque Terre Card, which includes unlimited train runs on the Express’ La Spezia—Cinque Terre—Levanto line, and also grants access to all the hiking trails in the area. The cost is about $20. Tickets can be purchased online or in any of the Cinque Terre villages.
There is also a bus service between the towns if visitors would prefer to take in the views while they travel. Buses have air conditioning and an audio guide. Buses can be used for free with the Cinque Terre Card, otherwise, the cost is about $2.
Perhaps the best way to explore the lovely towns of Cinque Terre is on foot. After purchasing the Cinque Terre Card, visitors have access to all hiking trails, including the main trail that runs along the coast. This is a great way to see the countryside and its incredible views while traveling at your own pace.
What To Do In Cinque Terre
The great outdoors is the main attraction of Cinque Terre, as most tourists come here for the hiking, scenery, and dramatic, cliffside landscapes. And of course, Cinque Terre is near the water, so visitors who want to take a dip, go scuba diving, rent a kayak, or simply sunbathe will find everything they’re looking for.
Hiking is one of the most popular activities in Cinque Terre. Because it is a National Park, there are a plethora of trails that connect the villages and wend their way up the hillside. Upon arriving in Cinque Terre, head to the tourist information center to learn more about the surrounding trails. Guided tours are also available.
Tips For Hiking In Cinque Terre
- There are 48 hiking trails in Cinque Terre National Park
- All trails are free, except for the Monterosso-Vernazza trail and the Vernazza-Corniglia trail. Visitors with a Cinque Terre card can access these trails for free. A separate trekking card is also available for purchase at around $9/day.
- The most popular footpaths are marked and easily accessible, though some are steep and do contain stairs. The footpaths range from easy to challenging, however, there is something for everyone. Visitors should plan ahead and pack accordingly if they plan on hiking.
There are several beaches in Cinque Terre for those who prefer a relaxing day in the sun or a refreshing dip in the bright blue waters. From rocky shores to soft sand; bustling to serene, Cinque Terre’s beaches are both distinctive and beautiful with the scenery of the surrounding coastline and the Mediterranean stretching to the horizon.
- Those who like quieter spots will enjoy the Guvano beach, located near Corniglia. Accessible via the Vernazza-Corniglia trail, simply look for the sign that reads ‘Spiaggia Libera’ (Public beach). However, be advised that Guvano is known as a nudist beach.
- Adventurous swimmers will enjoy the harbor area in Manarola—though it doesn’t have an actual beach, travelers can climb a ladder up to the rocks for some deep-water swimming.
- Many of the beaches can get very crowded. For those who don’t mind a busy beach, the stony beach in Riomaggiore has lovely scenery and crystal clear waters for swimming. Monterosso also has beaches of its own; a long, sandy beach with a bustling promenade where visitors can grab a bite or a drink, and another (located near the trailhead to Vernazza), that is located near the boat rental area.
Other Things To See And Do
Though the Cinque Terre region is known mostly for its outdoor activities and breathtaking scenery, there are other things to do in the area.
Take A Boat Tour
Those that want a break from hiking can purchase a boat tour around Cinque Terre. Many tours provide a meal and drinks and will take visitors to the best spots for both swimming and sightseeing.
Winemaking was once one of the most important industries in the region and many still exist today. Wineries like Cantina Cinque Terre offer tours and tastings for those who like a glass (or two) of vino.
Check Out The Nearby Towns
Visitors staying in Cinque Terre for several days may want to check out some of the surrounding towns, as they are also lovely and have their own charm, scenery, and things to see and do. Forte Dei Marmi, Portofino, and Ligure are just some of the beautiful nearby small towns to explore for those who want to venture out of Cinque Terre.
Whether traveling to Cinque Terre for a day trip or spending the week, visitors will find plenty to see and do including hiking and swimming while exploring the historic seaside towns. The rugged terrain makes for fantastic scenery that complements these bright, vibrant villages that are perfectly situated in the Mediterranean Sea.