Cinque Terre is a part of the Ligurian Riviera in northwestern Italy. There are five towns on this beautiful coast: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The villages are connected by a railway line, a winding road and hiking trails. The train ride between the towns takes only a few minutes. Walking the trail through the mountains takes more time, but the views that can be admired during the hike reward the effort. If you are planning a trip to the Cinque Terre, it is worth booking 5-7 days so that you spend at least one day in each town. We went to Cinque Terre in September. It's the perfect time of year. There is no great heat and this is good for trekking. It is warm enough to sunbathe and swim in the sea. We flew by plane from Gdansk to Pisa. After landing at Pisa airport, we walked 1.5 kilometers to the train station and boarded the train. After 1.5 hours (and a quick change in La Spezia) we arrived in Riomaggiore.
We arrived in Riomaggiore around 1 pm. We ate a very good pizza at Kepris pizzeria near the station and went to the apartment.
The most beautiful village in the Cinque Terre Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is the most beautiful town in the Cinque Terre in my opinion. Although Vernazza and Manarola are also very charming. I also recommend a spherical photo from Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore is a very picturesque village located in a deep valley. It is worth entering the labyrinth of narrow passages, winding corridors and steep stairs to look for interesting scenic spots.
If you are wondering where to sleep in the Cinque Terre, I recommend Riomaggiore. There are a lot of apartments of different standards in Riomaggiore. We chose an apartment close to the port so that you can admire the views from the terrace and enjoy this amazing architecture. There are also quite a lot of bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. But if you care about a sandy beach, you should choose Monterosso.
The view from the apartment in Riomaggiore
Our apartment was directly on the port but you had to walk around the narrow streets to get to it. It is worth packing in a backpack so as not to drag and carry suitcases because the stairs are very steep at times. See and book an apartment on the website RioROOMS La Punta House.
View from the terrace of our apartment on the boats at the port of Riomaggiore. It was a 3-level apartment of over 70 m2 with a spacious living room, terrace, bedroom, well-equipped kitchen, bathroom and washing machine. It's important when you travel with a small backpack :-) Maybe it wasn't the highest standard but the location made up for it - see for yourself: RioROOMS La Punta House.
Riomaggiore small town in the valley
Riomaggiore is a small seaside town located in a deep valley. Less than 2,000 people live here permanently, but thousands of tourists pass through the town every day. It was much quieter in the evenings. We visited the Cinque Terre during the COVID pandemic, so there were much fewer visitors than usual - it's scary to think how many people must be there in the high season...
Hiking trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola
We walked the hiking trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola in the morning. It's less than two kilometers. If the route along the coast wasn't closed, it would be just a walk. Due to the renovation, we had to go through the mountains, and this required some effort because the approaches are steep there. However, the views were worth it.
Manarola - view from the trekking trail
We started down the steep stairs along the winding path to Manarola after crossing the mountain ridge. There were very sensational views between the trees along the way.
Manarola - photo from the viewpoint
Postcard from Manarola - probably everyone who visits this beautiful town has such a picture :-) It is also worth coming here in the evening and after sunset because at any time of the day these houses on the rocks look spectacular.
Beach at the marina in Manarola. There is no sandy beach in Manarola. There are two sea bathing areas - one of them can be seen in this photo. If you dream of a sandy beach with fine sand, you should go to Monterosso al Mare.
I love these Italian vibes. There you can find many such interesting places walking around Manarola.
The afternoon sun illuminates the quay at the port of Manarola.
Manarola is a small place - in an hour or two you can walk through all the streets.
The Cinque Terre is a beautiful place to spend your holidays. The towns are not very big. Their location on a rocky coast overlooking the west is fabulous. It is true that at sunrise they are usually heavily shaded, so photographers should rather be prepared for evening photo sessions. Thanks to this, you can sleep longer in the morning :-)
Trains in the Cinque Terre run very often and until late. Therefore, if you do not want to walk between towns, it is worth using trains. The distances are not large, so the journey takes a few to several minutes. In addition, the stations are close to the city centers. The photo shows the train station in Manarola.
The Cinque Terre National Park is a land of stunning coastlines and steep mountains of the Ligurian Apennines. The park includes some of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy. There are 23 named mountains in the Cinque Terre Park. The most famous and highest peak is Monte Malpertuso at 819 meters (2 687ft a.s.l.).
Landscapes of the Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is located on the west coast and therefore you can enjoy amazing sunsets here.
Panorama of Monterosso al Mare
On the third day we took the train to Monterosso al Mare. At the train station in Riomaggiore, in the tourist information, we bought a train ticket for the whole day along with a ticket for hiking trails.
Monterosso Al Mare is not a large town, but it is worth walking along the streets and along the coast to feel the atmosphere of this place.
Sandy beach in Monterosso al Mare. Here you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas to spend a nice day on the beach.
We gave up sunbeds and sand. We set off along the coast. We passed the giant sculpture Statua del Gigante and walked to the small port.
Fun and relaxation on the beach
There is a pebble beach behind the small marina in Monterosso al Mare. There we sunbathed and swam in the warm and crystal clear sea for two hours in peace and quiet. I marked the exact location of the beach on the map.
There are sandy and rocky public beaches in Monterosso al Mare. These are the largest and most commercial beaches in the Cinque Terre. So if you don't like going into the water over rocks, I recommend Monterosso.
The route from Monterosso to Vernazza
We got hungry after sunbathing and a walk in Monterosso. We quickly ate focaccia with tomatoes and olives. Focaccia is a cheap and very tasty dish based on pizza dough but without tomato sauce and cheese. After this simple but filling meal, we set out on the trail to Vernazza. To enter this trail, you need to buy a ticket or the Cinque Terre Card. The length of the trail is less than 4 kilometers, and the walking time is about 1.5 hours, the maximum height is 175 meters.
Hiking trails in the Cinque Terre
There are over 30 routes in the Cinque Terre of which only 4 (those connecting the towns by the shortest route) are paid and are called the Azure Path. To enter the Azure Path you need to buy a Cinque Terre Card. This can be done at the tourist information at the train station or at the entrance to the trail. One ticket includes entry to all paid trails. You can also buy a more expensive version of the card, which is also a train ticket. All longer hiking trails(except the Azure Trail) are free.
The entire coastal area of the Cinque Terre is a National Park and drones are prohibited. The boundaries of the Park extend far into the sea, so even over the water you cannot fly a drone. It was a pity because the landscapes there are insane and you could take thousands of amazing photos and great videos. I sent a form to the park office asking for permission to fly but unfortunately my email went unanswered. It's a great loss because I could take photos and videos that would be a great advertisement for this region.
View from the trail to Vernazza
After about 1.5 hours of walking we arrived in Vernazza. There are several points from which you can take a photo at the end of the trail just before going down to the town. Vernazza looks amazing from this perspective! It's a pity that it's a national park and you can't fly a drone here because photos and videos could be delightful.
What to see in Vernazza? In Vernazza, in addition to the port, the Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia, the Doria Castle from the 15th century, the main promenade and viewpoints, it is also worth visiting the side streets. I really like to enter such mazes :-)
Vernazza - beach in the town center
There is a small beach and bathing area in the main square in the center of Vernazza. There is also the historic church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia on the seashore. In the afternoon, when the castle hill begins to cast a shadow on the beach, all sunbathers move to the rocks by the church.
Walking around Vernazza, we ate ice cream and did some quick shopping because the evening was approaching. We walked a few hundred meters along the trail towards Corniglia to the viewpoint. There we sat on the stones and started a romantic dinner admiring the landscapes :-)
This viewpoint is mesmerizing - you can't move from here. Every moment the view changes and they are all amazing! This peninsula with the town and the castle tower is probably the most famous shot from Vernazza and maybe even from the whole Cinque Terre.
There you can clearly see that Corniglia is situated on a high cliff in the photo taken by Manarola.
To get from the train station to Corniglia you have to climb 343 steps - they are not too steep but quite long.
Corniglia is the only village in the Cinque Terre that is located high above the sea on a rocky cliff. There are steps down to the beach, marina or train station.
We went to Corniglia in the late afternoon and stayed until sunset. It is the smallest village of all five that are in the Cinque Terre. It is worth walking to the end of the main street Via Fieschi to the observation deck. There are a few tables - so if you are as lucky as we are, you might be able to find a place to drink a coffee or an aperol spritz while admiring the scenery and the setting sun.
The Cinque Terre is a beautiful and very colorful region. The towns are not as pampered as in other more famous places, but thanks to that they are not so crowded and have their own natural Italian atmosphere. All you need to do is get off the main heavily commercial streets and escape the crowds of tourists and admire the architecture and amazing landscapes there.
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