When you think of Italy do you think of the romance of drifting down the canals of Venice? Or do you think of the power and prestige of Rome’s Coliseum? Maybe the thought of Italy get’s your mouth watering for a delicious slice of Margherita pizza in its Naples birthplace. One place that probably didn’t cross your mind, but really should is Cinque Terra.
What Makes Cinque Terre unique?
Cinque Terra is a national park and collection of five villages nestled on the coast of the Italian Riviera. The villages from west-to-east are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. They began as communities only accessible from sea preventing any corporate development until the late 1800s. The dazzling cliff top buildings were naturally built to keep out pirates and now make an incredible Italian destination or a great add on when visiting a larger city.
How To Make the Most of a Trip To the Cinque Terra
For the most in depth experience of the five villages, hike the Sentiero Azzurro (The Blue Path). The path covers the full length of the five villages and is still less than 10 miles long. The hike isn’t for the faint of heart as the amazing coastal views comes with difficult stretches of steep inclines and edge of cliff walks. A boat ride is an absolute must to capture the full breadth of the villages towering above. A trip to any of the five cities would not be complete without indulging in the Northern Italian cuisine that includes minestrone, pesto genovese, and focaccia bread. Top area restaurants feature some of the freshest ingredients and wine you’ll ever taste with the produce coming directly from local terrace farms and vineyards.
How to get to Cinque Terra
There are no direct flights to Cinque Terra so you will have to fly into one of four cities nearby and take the train the rest of the way. The fastest stops are to fly into Genoa or Pisa and take direct train routes. Milan is a little further out, but also allows many direct options. Florence is the only fly in city that will require a train layover to access your destination. Booking train tickets can be done easily by visiting Rail Europe and inputting your beginning and ending destination. To expand the scope of your Italy trip all four of these fly in cities have much to offer for attractions and culture.
Where to Stay
Deciding where to stay between the Cinque Terre is no easy tasks as each village has different amenities and character. If you look to visit in the summer make sure to schedule your hotel stay far in advance to ensure a room. To complete the experience and to dive deeper into the local culture look for B&B options.
Monterosso is the largest, most accessible village of the five and offers the only sandy beach (the others are pebble). The multitude of nearby conveniences and the generally larger room sizes makes it perfect for families.
Vernazza is the perfect place for couples. It is a romantic setting centered on the piazza and offering a flawless view of the harbor.
Corniglia sits atop an abrupt cliff and is the ideal stay for the hiker. 382 steps are needed to reach the heights of the village from the path. Corniglia is the smallest and most disconnected of the five villages, requiring more time to reach the train station.
Maranola is considered the oldest of the five and is also the most iconic visually looking in from the Mediterranean. The amenities are all present, with less options than Monterosso, but also more peaceful.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost village featuring buildings stacking against the sides of craggy hills. This is a great starting spot for the Sentiero Azzuro trail or an easy spot to catch the train to the other villages.