Cinque Terre is a UNESCO national park in Liguria, Italy. It is a hilly, coastal area with five colourful fishing villages clinging to the rocks. The walks between these villages deliver some stunning views.
The Cinque Terre villages, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are connected via train, ferry and walking paths. Tourists are asked not to bring cars. Local trains and ferries run from Levanto in the North and La Spezia in the South (also Porto Venere for the ferry). It is possible to visit all villages in one day. However, if you’d like to soak up some atmosphere after the day-trippers go home it is best to spend a couple of days there. Read on to find out how we spent 48 hours in Cinque Terre.
Day 1: am
Leaving the car in Levanto, we hopped on the ferry to Vernazza (10€ adult / 6€ kids – one way). In my opinion, Vernazza has the most picturesque harbour of the 5 villages, Arriving by boat, passing the vertical cliffs, was pretty cool. A top choice for somewhere to stay would be Affittacamere PZ (160€-260€ room only, + breakfast 7€ p/p) which is up above the harbour. Some rooms have terraces jutting out over the rocks with sweeping views. Unfortunately they were full so we headed to Solemagia (80€-€130, room only), a small guesthouse in the tiny pedestrian streets near the train station. The rooms are simple, but nicely done and you get a feel of what it would be like to live in Cinque Terre.
Gastronomic options are a bit low in Vernazza. Gemmy, the lovely host at Solemagio, recommended a small Italian streetfood takeaway by the station. Pippo a Vernazza (€) is run by a charming young couple. On their recommendation we ordered some traditional handmade pasta dishes and a couple of glasses of local white wine. Everything was delicious and inexpensive. We ate in but you could grab something and take it down to the harbour.
We were there for some downtime R+R after working at the Monaco Yacht Show 2018. Therefore, we decided to save the serious walking for the following day and spend an afternoon strolling around Vernazza. The colourful buildings are piled on top of the rocks and each other, full of little shops and cafés. Delicious gelato can be had at Gelateria Vernazza, on the main street, or Gelateria il Porticciolo, in the harbour. There are fantastic views from the ruins of Castello Doria. For drinks with a view, head up to Ristorante Bar La Torre, a short way into the Sentiero Azzuro (Blue Trail Path) to Corniglia. Be warned: there are a LOT of steps.
In the evening we caught the train to Monterosso (5 mins). Monterosso is bigger and more touristy than Vernazza, probably because it has the only real beach in Cinque Terre. It also has Ristorante Miky (€€€), an elegant dining option. We had local anchovies, cooked 7 different ways, to begin with and then I had Branzino (Sea Bass) with sliced, steamed potatoes and capers. Very good. The pasta also looked amazing. Reservations are recommended.
Day 2: am
The Sentiro Azzuro is the walking path that connects all 5 villages. It is the easiest and busiest path. You need to buy a pass, available here. Currently, following heavy damage by flooding in 2011, it is only open between Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza and Corniglia. We followed it to Corniglia. There was a fair amount of climbing and descending, often on steep uneven steps but the views were amazing. This section took us just over an hour (3.2km).
After a brief look around Corniglia, the smallest and highest of the villages, we joined Route 587. This path goes up steeply at the back of the village. It took us about 25 minutes, and my heart was pounding, SO many steps! After turning onto Route 586 to Volastra, the path flattens out. The views are absolutely stunning. What amazed me is that they are growing vines on the incredibly steep hillside. All harvesting of grapes is done by hand. Stop at Locanda Tiabuscion in Volastra for a macchiato. Then head down, and down, and down into Manarola. This trail took us just under 2 hours in total (5.8km), we are fairly fast walkers. We saw quite a few people on this trail but nowhere near as many on the Senteiro Azzuro.
Marina Piccola (€€), just above the harbour, has great sea views. We had mussels in tomato sauce, fritti misti, and pesto pasta which is a Ligurian specialty. We washed that down nicely with some white wine from the vineyards we had passed. To find out more about Bosco, Albarola, Vermentino and the dessert wine, Sciacchetrà, you could book a vineyard tour.
After lunch we strolled around Manarola and then took the train to Riomaggiore. Here we had a drink overlooking the ocean. The weather was fabulous. Sunny and warm. This was the beginning of October and there were a LOT of tourists, I can only imagine how packed summers must be.
For a sundowner in Vernazza, head down to the harbour. There are a few bars in the square down there. Ananasso Bar is probably the best spot to see the sunset.
Ristorante Gambero Rosso (€€), in the main square, has tables outside, however, it chilled off after sunset in October so we headed in. The back wall of the restaurant exposes the rock that it has been built up against. It was busy, so we had to wait. I had Tegame di Vernazza, sliced potatoes with anchovies and tomatoes. I found it a bit heavy on the potatoes and lacking in flavour. My Aussie had Tagliata di Manzo, slices of beef, and apparently that was delicious.
If you are planning a trip to Cinque Terre then, I hope you found this guide useful. XO