The charms of the Cinque Terre

Travelwise

Cinque Terre is a rugged coastline on the Italian Riviera composed of five beautiful hillside villages within Liguria, in the northwest section of Italy. The villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and the surrounding hillsides are part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of natural beauty and some of the best views in all of Italy. 

Cinque Terre, Italy (Bruno Rijsman, via Wikimedia Commons)

Monterosso is the largest of the five coastal villages, located on hills cultivated with lemons, vines and olives. Its amazing beaches, beautiful reefs and sea’s crystal-clear waters make this small village one of the most popular on the Italian Riviera. The town is divided into two parts marked by the medieval tower of Aurora. The old town of Monterosso is dominated by the ruins of the castle with narrow medieval streets, multi-colored terraced houses, shops, and restaurants. Beach lovers should definitely stay in Monterosso as the town has several beautiful and colorful beaches, both private and public. 

Vernazza is a small fishing village located in the heart of Cinque Terre and classified as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It was founded about 1000 A.D. and was ruled by the Republic of Genoa starting in 1276. The medieval castle, Belforte, was built in the mid-1500s, primarily to protect the village from pirates. For some of the best ambiance in the region, Vernazza is the place to go. It is the perfect starting point for hikes along the Blue Trail, connecting Vernazza with Monterosso and Corniglia. 

Corniglia is an ancient Roman village located in the heart of the Cinque Terre National Park, 600 feet above sea level, with a long and rich agricultural tradition. The village is surrounded on three sides by vineyards and stone terraces. You must climb the Lardarina staircase of 382 stairs to reach the village, or you can take the shuttle bus up from the train station. It is definitely a place for hikers and nature lovers. There are bars and restaurants but no real nightlife. The terrace and the bar La Terza Terra are among the best places to enjoy the sunset in Cinque Terre. 

Manarola, built on a high rock 230 feet above sea level, is one of the most charming and romantic of the Cinque Terre villages. The tiny harbor features a boat ramp, a tiny piazza and picturesque multicolored houses facing the sea. The harbor area is filled with colorful rowing boats and becomes the main sunbathing and swimming spot of the village from morning until dusk. Although there is no real beach, it has some of the best deep-water swimming around. Manarola is the perfect place to spend a lazy day sunbathing and watching people jumping off the cliffs. You can enjoy lunch at one of the fish restaurants in the small square next to the harbor. 

Riomaggiore is the most southern village in Cinque Terre, situated just a short distance from Manarola. The town climbs up along the ridges overlooking the sea and is characterized from the typical stone houses with colored facades and slate-roofs. Stroll along the main street Via Colombo down to the sea where a small harbor and marina are framed by lovely pastel houses and filled with brightly colored fishing boats. In Riomaggiore you can also find some of the best spots to capture the sunset in Cinque Terre. As the sun starts to set, many people gather to sit on the rocks by the harbor. You will find nightlife here with numerous restaurants and bars open until 1am. 

There are three ways to move from one village to another: you can either walk, take the train or the boat. Hiking is the best way to explore the spectacular coastlines of Cinque Terre. 

When visiting Milan, Pisa or Florence, include a train ride to Cinque Terre and spend a couple of days visiting these charming Italian villages. It is truly a bucket list trip! Contact your professional travel advisor, who will guide you on your adventure as you explore this beautiful destination! 

About Nancy B. Alligood, CTC 25 Articles
Nancy B. Alligood, CTC is general manager/owner of Warwick Travel Service, Inc.and can be reached at 757-599-3011 or at n_alligood@warwicktravel.com.