When we think of Cinque Terre, we see colorful houses built in terraces on the steep cliffs on the Ligurian coast. Picturesque villages with narrow alleys, small fishing boats in the harbors, idyllic views of the turquoise-green sea, seafood specialties and Dolce Vita – this is how you imagine a Cinque Terre holiday. Here are my best tips for Cinque Terre.
Where exactly is Cinque Terre?
The five villages of Cinque Terre are located south of Genoa and stretch 12 kilometers along the Ligurian coast. Translated Cinque Terre means five countries, more precisely five villages. The nearest airport is Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa.
What are the 5 villages of the Cinque Terre called?
As the name suggests, five picturesque villages line the steep coast: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The towns can be reached by train, boat or by very narrow, winding roads. Since 1998 Cinque Terre has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to protect the landscape above the villages.
The five villages of the Cinque Terre are a tourist magnet. Millions of visitors are attracted every year by the distinctive architecture of the colorful villages. Accordingly, I recommend not to visit Cinque Terre in the high season. I was there at the end of July – in the high season – and was lucky to be led to the insider places by a true Ligurian connoisseur.
Cinque Terre first-hand insider tips – here they are:
A Cinque Terre boat tour - 1 day trip
Levanto was my base during my visit. It’s a town that doesn’t belong to the Cinque Terre and although there’s not so much to see, I found the atmosphere in the village very nice. There is also a very large sandy beach where you do not have to lie next to each other like sardines.
From Levanto, a boat travels along the coast, past the most beautiful places in Cinque Terre all the way to Portovenere. You can book a ticket for 35 Euros online or buy it in the office of the Consorzio Marittimo Turistico in Via Domenico Grillo in Levanto.
The boat stops in each of the 5 villages and you have a fantastic view of the iconic spots with their colorful houses. During the 2-hour trip, one postcard scene follows the next. I don’t think 2 hours have every passed so quickly.
In Portovenere at Arenella Beach, you can expect a flair that is known from Italy of the 60s. You’ll have to dig a little deeper into your pocket for a deck chair and umbrella and accept that your neighbor will get on your back, but you’ll have a few hours of true Cinque Terre 60s feeling. For lunch, you take a seat in the Pizzeria La Lucciola and enjoy the view of the sea and the hustle and bustle along the promenade.
Parking in Levanto:
At the station or on the beach of Levanto you will always find parking spaces. However, you have to pay 2 Euro per hour and there is no discounted daily rate.
Don’t miss this tip for Cinque Terre: Take an iconic photo of Vernazza
Vernazza is one of the favorite places for photographers. Of course, I had to find this popular photo spot. The best way is to take the train to Vernazza. The journey from Levanto takes only a few minutes and the trains run very regularly. The train station is in the middle of the village, where the vibrant life awaits you. You can reach the first spot by walking along Via Roma towards the port and then at Pizzeria da Ercole turn left into the narrow Via M. Carattino. There is a path uphill, where you have a wonderful view over the village and Vernazza Beach.
On the opposite side of this photo spot, you will another popular location for photographers. You have to walk back down the path and up the other side. This place is especially recommended at dusk.
Tip for visiting Cinque Terre: A drive through quiet villages away from the crowds
Things are less touristy when you drive through the tiny villages. From Levanto, you start on the SS332 and have a great view of Levanto. Along the way you will find small villages on uphill roads, surrounded by pines, olive trees and terraced vineyards: Reggimonti, Montaretto, and Framura invite you to go for a walk and you will certainly find very few tourists there. Framura is spread over 3 levels. From the parking lot, there is a nice path down to the coast and to the Spiaggia Arena and on the way there you should stop for lunch at the Gastronomia Enrica Le Cose Buone. A bus will take you back up to the parking lot.
Hiking in Cinque Terre
If you like hiking, you’ll love Cinque Terre. I like hiking trails along the coast, from where I always have a beautiful view of the sea. All five villages are connected by footpaths and you will find different levels of difficulty. The longest path leads from Levanto 40 km to Portovenere with a difference in altitude of about 800 meters. The walking time is estimated at about 12 hours.
From Levanto, a path leads to the next village Bonassola. The trail leads through a disused but restored tunnel. In between, you can go down to the sea and take a dive into the water. The path is also suitable for a bicycle trip.
From Levanto in the direction of Monterosso, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre, you will reach the magnificent viewpoint Hermitage of Sant’Antonio del Mesco in about two hours. In another hour you will reach Monterosso. From there you can comfortably take the train back to Levanto.
The paths are part of the Cinque Terre National Park and therefore you have to pay a fee for the use of the trails.
Cinque Terre Card
The Cinque Terre CARD is recommended if you hike in the region and use the trains. There are two different types of the Cinque Terre Card:
– The use of the ecological minibusses of the park
– The use of all hiking trails
– Wi-fi Internet access
1 day Cinque Terre ticket: € 7,50
2 days Cinque Terre ticket: € 14,50
– All services from the Trekking Card
– Free use of the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line and back (2nd class regional trains)
Price adults off-season
1 day Cinque Terre train and hiking map: € 13
2 days Cinque Terre train and hiking map: € 23
Price adults high season
1 day Cinque Terre train and hiking map: € 16
2 days Cinque Terre train and hiking map: € 29
3 days Cinque Terre train and hiking map: € 41
Driving in Cinque Terre
The car isn’t very convenient in Cinque Terre. The roads are narrow, steep and finding a parking space can become a test of your patience. Parking is very expensive everywhere. At 2 Euro per hour, it adds up. And nevertheless, the car is very practical for some excursions, for example, the drive through the villages. You may also need it because Cinque Terre is only part of your trip. If you’re traveling by car, it’s best to find a hotel, apartment or B&B with parking.
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