From five sleepy Italian fishing villages to one of the most famous coastal landscapes in the world: le Cinque Terre they have undergone some changes over the years, but they are still as beautiful as you pictures.
Today is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with up to 2,4 million people per year visiting the 5 countries (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Rio Maggiore) for walking, boating and sunbathing on its beaches, spectacular cliffs and coastal views.
If you are thinking of a holiday in the Cinque Terre, this guide with the advice of a local is for you.
Someone could point out that, being from Genoa, I'm not a real local: let me tell you, I wasn't born there, it's true, but I've always had a home there and as a child I spent my summers there ... so I am a bit local ! And I got married there too!
So here it is for you 15 tips for your holiday in the Cinque Terre!
1 - Do not come by car
This is the biggest mistake you can make and I'll tell you why.
First of all, given the narrow, winding streets, driving is a real undertaking. If you are not used to it you may have moments of pure desperation!
Second reason: parking spaces are few and they cost a fortune. In addition, some are located high up and, even if there is a shuttle service, it is not so convenient especially if you have to trudge behind the suitcases.
If you really want to come by car, my dispassionate advice is to park it in nearby cities (Levanto, Deiva Marina, La Spezia). Even if you only find a paid place, it will cost you less and if you come out of the high season you have a chance of park for free.
From the towns near the Cinque Terre, then take the train: it's convenient and fast!
2 - First choose where to stay
This is very important: plan first where you want to stay.
The Cinque Terre are beautiful, but each of them has some its own characteristics.
For example, if you come to "stay on the beach" you will not decide to stay in Corniglia which is the only one that is "at the top"
Or if you have walking difficulties, Rio Maggiore not really the best, better opt for Monterosso.
If you come for the nightlife you could even consider sleeping in nearby cities, such as La Spezia, Levanto or further on Sestri Levante. While they don't have the same charm as the Five Countries, they offer more in the way of nightlife.
In short, you have to start first a plan in which country where you want to sleep depending on your needs and to do it properly, it takes time.
Starting planning ahead (well in advance) will also help you find the best hotels and prices. The Cinque Terre are very touristy and "small" as they cling to the cliffs, so you will understand that the space available is not much.
Although despite their size the choice of hotels is quite good, consider that the best quality / price ratio accommodations go away and are often sold out even from one year to the next.
You could therefore find a cheaper hotel, but far from the sea, or a beach hotel at a stratospheric price.
If you want to deepen this topic I suggest you read my post on where to sleep in the Cinque Terre in which I deal with the subject in more detail and where I list you, in addition to the best hotels, also the characteristics of each country and which one you should choose according to your needs.
3 - Come in the best times
The Cinque Terre can be visited all year round. There have even been vintages in which, thanks to the mild climate of Liguria, in December we wore our T-shirts during the day.
That said, obviously the winter months can be very rainy, while the summers can be unbearably hot.
I better months for a holiday in the Cinque Terre they are those from April to June e from September to the end of October, although in the second case you may find rainy days. It is not too hot, the days are pleasant and allow you to walk in the sun without dying melted like ice cream.
In addition, the ferries and all the activities are already in full operation.
Ad April May e October it's cold for me to take a bath, but there are some heroic people who do it quietly, it depends if you are one of them or not!
The important thing is, if you don't want to find yourself crushed like a sardine among other tourists, that you avoid weekends and holidays like the plague like Easter or the May 1st long weekend. During the holidays and the summer months (July and August) the prices are even higher.
Also September it's a nice month to come to the Cinque Terre, because it's still hot and all the services are still available.
During the low season, from October to March, you will have to face more rain, colder weather and fewer restaurants and hotels, but the sea in winter has its own charm, which I love (I like the sea more in winter than in summer ).
4 - Shop first!
If you want to save something and you have chosen to rent an apartment, it suits you do the shopping first, although I understand that carrying 3 shopping trolleys on the train with all the suitcases may not be very convenient.
Keep in mind that you will not die of hunger anyway: every country, however small it may be, has its own grocery stores which sell practically all basic necessities (we call them "bottegoni") and in Monterosso there is also a small supermarket.
The prices are high and not just because as some think we like to "fool" tourists. Simply transporting the goods (so much still arrives by sea) is very expensive and obviously this is reflected in the prices you find in the shops.
If you have the possibility, the best thing is to buy in neighboring countries, such as Levanto and La Spezia which are larger, more easily accessible and offer much more choice.
5 - Bring trekking clothing
One of the most beautiful things to do in the Cinque Terre is certainly to walk its hiking trails.
Do at least one trekking in the Cinque Terre it is a must, a truly unmissable thing. The conformation of the coast in fact, with the mountains that plunge steeply into the sea, offers unique views in the world.
There are paths for all tastes and also quite suitable for everyone: some are closer to the coast and therefore easier, others wind more on the mountain among forests, flowering brooms, vines and olive trees.
However, when you decide to go trekking in the Cinque Terre you have to take one thing into account: you have to go up and down along paths and mule tracks that can be inaccessible, slippery, narrow and sometimes not very well maintained.
it is therefore necessary to use suitable clothing. There are very strict rules on this: at this link of the Cinque Terre National Park in fact you can read:
"On the trails it is mandatory to wear closed shoes, with sculpted and non-slip soles, preferably waterproof and covering the ankle."
If you don't go dressed properly you could even face fines. So strictly no flip flops, heels, very high wedges.
Walking on the paths overlooking the sea can be very dangerous, and there have also been fatalities in the past. Follow the rules, always!
For the rest go calm and enjoy it: fill your eyes with the blue that surrounds you and you will take home beautiful memories!
6 - Wear comfortable shoes!
Even if hiking isn't your thing, wear it anyway a pair of comfortable shoes. In addition to the fact that in the villages you will have to face ups and downs, the pavement is of cobblestones or bricks and walking for many hours up and down taking care not to put the stiletto heel between one stone and another could be nerve-wracking.
Walking on the rocks is beautiful, but dangerous. Algae often make them slippery. with a nice pair of comfortable shoes you are safer from accidents.
7 - Save with the Cinque Terre Card
Whether you decide to stay just one day in the Cinque Terre or a whole week, you will certainly want to travel to visit them all!
You can move in 3 ways, mainly: on the train, walking, by boat.
Il train it is certainly the most comfortable and fastest method.
The Cinque Terre National Park has made available to tourists two very comfortable cards (click on the cards below to know the details of what they offer):
- Cinque Terre Trekking Card
- Cinque Terre Train MS Card
Both cards offer certain services (such as access to the Park and the paths which is subject to a fee) and have different prices depending on the duration (from 1 to 3 days) but also depending on the number of travelers or by whom they are. For example, there is a family card, a card for the elderly, a child card and an adult card.
The Cinque Terre Cards are on sale at Welcome Centers of the Cinque Terre National Park and I am also purchasable online on the dedicated section.
8 - Visit Porto Venere
Porto Venere is a small medieval village in Liguria a few steps from the famous Cinque Terre. Despite its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most beautiful location in the Gulf of Poets, this picturesque town is not yet under the radar of the millions of international visitors who flock to the Cinque Terre.
Yes, the Cinque Terre are beautiful and definitely worth a visit. But there are so many places nearby that are just as beautiful, yet many tourists don't even consider them.
If you want to escape the huge crowds of the Cinque Terre and are looking to explore the area a little deeper, don't miss this lesser known gem in the Gulf of Poets.
Here you can get lost in the narrow streets of the small town, eat excellent fish on the marina, visit thePalmaria Island and the very famous Church of San Pietro.
9 - Rent the bike
Another of the beautiful things to do in the Cinque Terre, even if not many know it, is to visit them by bike!
There are many paths and itineraries and they are truly for all tastes and possibilities.
You can rent a mountain bike, or an e-bike, comfortable, convenient, ecological and suitable for everyone.
You will be able to walk some of the most panoramic paths not only of the Cinque Terre, but also of the Gulf of Poets or of nearby Levanto and anyone can tackle them because there are various durations and various difficulties.
At this link, for example, you can find many routes and tour offers.
10 - Snorkel or dive
Il Cinque Terre National Park it is not limited to its 5 villages and the steep cliffs on which they are clinging: the most beautiful part is the one that "cannot be seen" or the one that is under the sea!
Established in 1997 (but since 1999 it has also been part of the Cetacean Sanctuary) theMarine Protected Area of the Cinque Terre it extends from Punta Mesco in the west to Punta di Montenero in the east, for a total of more than 19 km of coastline.
The particular coastal conformation (with the cliffs that plunge into the sea and descend almost vertical for many meters), the different characteristics of the seabed, the different salinities and the difference in depth have created an environment that boasts an extraordinary richness and variety of animal and plant species.
Here you will find some species, both animals and plants, rare in other parts of the Mediterranean such as the very rare savage savage, or false black coral, and the white warty gorgonian, or above the water the peregrine falcon and numerous species of sea birds, including the herring gull, the cormorant, the gannet and the sea swallow.
Well, and in a place like this you don't want to diving o snorkeling?
There are 3 authorized divers who organize dives.
For those without a license, there are companies that organize boat trips with diving and snorkeling.
11 - Use the boats
If the train is the most comfortable and fastest way to travel and move around the Cinque Terre, the boat is certainly the most typical.
More beautiful because, obviously only from there you will be able see the Cinque Terre from the sea and I assure you that it is really worth it, especially at sunset when there is a crazy light!
The boats connect 4 of the Cinque Terre villages to each other (Corniglia no, it is at the top and it is the only village in the Cinque Terre to be without a tourist port!), But there are lines that also connect them to La Spezia, Levanto, Porto Venere, Lerici and more.
The boats operate every day from April 1st to November 1st (so in the winter months there is none) and tickets can be purchased at the ticket offices near the docking points, they are not bookable and are purchased the same day 30 minutes before boarding .
12 - Don't miss the nearby towns and villages
I have already told you about Porto Venere which is absolutely unmissable during your holiday in the Cinque Terre. But it's not the only one I recommend you visit!
There are other villages, not so famous, but equally characteristic that deserve some of the time you will spend on the Riviera di Levante.
Among these, the ones I recommend most are certainly:
1 - Lerici
Lerici it is much less known than its "sisters" (from which it is only 40 minutes away) but it is truly a small pearl and, if you decide not to go there, in my opinion you will make a big mistake.
PB Shelley, the famous British poet, lived here (and still visit his house nearby, Villa Magni, but he drowned in front of Viareggio, unlike what many Brits still think) and Virginia Woolf defined the Gulf of Poets as "the most beautiful bed to die for I've ever seen ”.
Do not miss a tour in the historic center, a visit to the Church of San Francesco and the oratory of San Rocco, the castle and of course a walk along the seafront!
2 – Tellaro
I've kept a secret for too long, but today I decided to tell you and it's called Tellaro.
This small fishing village, perched on the cliff with its colorful houses worn by the sun and the sea that surround the marina that opens onto the ocean, is seriously one of the best kept secrets of Northern Italy!
3 - I lift
Of all the countries I'm listing you Levanto it is the largest, almost a small town I would say.
It is worth visiting for its beaches (large and sandy), for its beautiful old town and for all the things there is to do here.
I will not go into more detail, but if you want to learn more I wrote this article about things to do and see in Levanto.
4 – Bonassola
If you are in Levanto rent a bike and take the easy cycle path up to Bonassola, you will pass in the old train tunnels and fully enjoy the views that the cliffs on the sea offer.
The town of Bonassola is also a gem. Small and pretty, it has a sandy beach, shops you won't be able to resist and buy something, nice people and lots of flowers!
5 - Moneglia
Also included among "The most beautiful villages in Italy" moneglia definitely worth a visit, especially for its pretty old town, but also for the beautiful sandy beach.
Do not miss Church of San Giorgio.
13 - Try the local wine
Il wine it is far more significant to the past and present of the Cinque Terre than most people believe.
Used to seeing vineyards grown in other parts of Italy, the terraced vineyards of the Cinque Terre may seem strange to you and they are!
These are in fact steep hilly vineyards, terraced up and down the mountain walls, and a visit that every wine lover will appreciate, not only for its evident beauty but also for the difficulty with which the vines are cared for and harvested by hand. .
Not only that, the wines of the Cinque Terre come from a long family tradition of winemaking. Each Cinqueterre and Sciacchetrà bottle is the product of an ancient, unique and complex cultivation process, which contains the essence of family, tradition, hard work and love for our land.
Think that the wine production here can be traced back to Roman times and although they are not very well known, the region has a reputation for quality white wines for which a DOC was granted in 1973. Today, the region is better. known for two white wines, Cinque Terre and Sciacchetrà.
Absolutely to try: the Cinque Terre DOC (dry white produced with native Bosco grapes, together with Albarola and Vermentino) and lo Sciacchetrà DOC (sweet dessert wine)
14 - Taste the typical cuisine
There is, as can be easily understood, a lot fresh fish in every menu of the Ligurian Riviera, but it is the anchovy which has become a staple of our lunches or for a quick snack on the rocks. Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five villages, is renowned throughout Italy for its anchovies: a dedicated festival is even held here in June.
Try them in all possible ways, but my favorite dish is those fried!
I stuffed muscles is another dish you must try. They are homegrown mussels, stuffed with seasonal vegetables or with eggs, mortadella and cheese.
La Monterosso rice cake is a traditional rice cake prepared on the occasion of the Feast of the Madonna di Soviore on August 14th.
Also try the Of Salt cod fritters and whitebait pancakes.
Among the most "Ligurian" dishes there are not only the trofie with pesto (which I still recommend), but also i pansoti, a pasta stuffed with vegetables, which we dress with the walnut sauce.
15 - Book restaurants first
Oh yes, especially if you come in high season it would be better than you booked restaurants first, especially in the more famous ones.
In general, no one ever stays here without eating, the restaurants are able to do even 3 shifts in the evening, but if you want to arrive and immediately find a place to sit (and choose the best table, perhaps by the sea) by booking first, go on the safe side .
Booking early saves you from standing around waiting for a seat to become available!
These are mine tips for a holiday in the Cinque Terre. Do you have other things to ask me? Leave them written in the comments!