Cinque Terre is not one particular location, it means ‘Five Lands’ and refers to five different villages located on the coast of the Ligurian region of Italy. The whole area is part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Why visit Cinque Terre?
The beautifully preserved landscape with the colourful houses on the cliffs facing the sea is the main attraction and one of the main reasons people visit.
The small streets in the villages fill up with people every day coming from all over the world with something in common between all of them: the curiosity of visiting an area that has remained almost unchanged for centuries.
No traffic, no stress, blessed with good weather and their own natural resources of food and wine that have made the area unique and unforgettable. Family restaurants and shops selling handmade artifacts are easy to find on every corner.
For me it was the perfect getaway: five days of relaxing, sunshine and gorgeous landscapes.
The five villages of Cinque Terre
The beautiful scenery in the Cinque Terre villages has been unspoilt for centuries. The dark blue colours of the Mediterranean just had a spark to it and if you’re like me you’ll be inspired by the magical environment. So let me take you around the five villages in a nutshell.
The only village where you will find a proper sandy beach with traditional colourful umbrellas – very unique from the Liguria region. Compared to the other villages it has larger streets and less steep areas with similar restaurants and cafes.
It was my favourite village of the five. Although it had the traditional landscape similar to the other villages it seemed less crowded with people making the atmosphere very relaxed.
The narrow streets full of handmade products are a must that lead you to the main square full of restaurants with a view to the harbour.
The famous Cinque Terre wine, the Sciacchetrà is produced here. With a small hike to Punta Bonfiglio you get to enjoy one of the most iconic view of Cinque Terre.
Down the small harbour there is some fishing boats and also an area where people can be seen swimming. The water is crystal clear and the temperature is actually alright to have a dip!
The very steep landscape and the tiny harbour are some of the unique characteristics of this village. It’s considered very romantic and this where I stopped the longest.
Had a nice lunch further away from the main square as it was very expensive and had some ice cream by the harbour, enjoying the sunshine.
The only village not connected directly to the sea. It’s still easily accessible by train after climbing the 365 steps up the hill.
It’s the only point where you can photograph all five villages at once, I could not do it, but if you do tell me how!!
How to get to Cinque Terre?
If you’re planning to make some stops before you arrive to Cinque Terre it makes sense to fly into major airports, such as:
Milan – Drive 3h | Train 4h
Rome – Drive 4h30 | Train 4h
If you really want to go straight to Cinque Terre and don’t have a lot of time to see other cities I recommend you to fly over to smaller airports, such as:
Pisa – Drive 1h20 | Train 3h20
Genoa – Drive 1h30 | Train 2h
Florence – Drive 2h | Train 3h30
*All times are approximately and may not reflect traffic and other factors. The routes are calculated with final destination: Monterosso.
Always remember that the largest and closest city to Cinque Terre is La Spezia, just in case you’re lost and fighting the GPS and from there it’s still takes about 45 minutes to get to Monterosso.
How to move around the villages?
All villages have a good connection with trains and in between some villages it’s only a five minute ride. You can get the Cinque Terre Pass which covers all train tickets between Levanto and La Spezia and also covers the hiking fees. Get it here.
A ferry takes you to all villages except Corniglia. It also stops in Portovenere, which is beautiful. In one day you can have a taste of Cinque Terre on a hop/off system.
You can see the schedules and prices here.
I have enjoyed a full day doing this and it’s really relaxing you basically just have to decide how long do you want to stay in each village and it’s very easy. I boarded the boat in Levanto that was close to my accommodation.
Although it’s relatively easy to drive over to Monterosso, the drive between villages it’s really not recommended and unnecessary as everything is so close.
Also the streets are very narrow and I really can’t imagine a car going around. Levanto and Bonassola are good options to leave the car and get the train/boat.
Hiking is the oldest way to get around the villages and it’s still one of the activities that attract people from all over the world.
The walking trails are well known with beautiful views along the way, sometimes near the sea, others further way. There are some parts of these trails that a hiking permit is required that comes when you purchase the Cinque Terre card.
When preparing your trip to Cinque Terre and considering walking in between villages, please be aware that some trails are often closed so you’ll have to arrange alternative trails.
You can check which trails are available here.
How long do I need in Cinque Terre?
Some say that it is impossible to see the five villages in one day. I believe that if you have limited time and really want to see them it’s possible. Off course you will miss some experiences but overall you will get a taste of the culture, people and landscape.
So, it’s really up to you. Ideally if you have 3 to 4 days to spare this would be best. With that time you can explore the villages slowly, hike the trails and try all the delicious food in the restaurants around. With a bit more time to spare you can also go out for a swim in the beautiful Mediterranean water.
Where to stay?
Cinque Terre can be very expensive when it comes to accommodation, so either you book it months in advance to pay a reasonable price or you will be paying a small fortune.
A lot of affordable options are just around the villages in the surrounding towns like Bonassola and Levanto. Staying outside the villages of Cinque Terre is also nice because you get to escape the crowds at the end of the day.
You can have a look at alternative accommodations such as La Francesca Resort that I have shown you on my last article.