A complete travel guide to Cinque Terre

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Cinque Terre is a picturesque Italian destination located in the east of the Liguria region in Northwest Italy. Its charming small coastal towns seated on dramatic cliffs and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea create a perfect vacation getaway. I got to cross this gorgeous Italian destination off my bucket list this autumn. This travel guide to Cinque Terre has everything you need to know to plan your perfect vacation.

The five towns of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is the name given to a collection of five small coastal towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Together with their surrounding hillsides and coastline, they comprise the Cinque Terre National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage site. 


Riomaggiore is one of the larger Cinque Terre towns. This southernmost town of all five, it is tucked between cliffs and is one of the hilliest to walk.

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, Italy


Manarola, sitting on a cliff, is considered one of the prettiest Cinque Terre towns. It is also known to be the most romantic of the five towns.

Manarola in Cinque Terre, Italy


Corniglia is the smallest Cinque Terre town. Located on the edge of a cliff, it requires 382 steps to reach from the train station (or just take the shuttle up the hill). Corniglia is known for its narrow streets and for being the quietest of all five towns.

Corniglia in Cinque Terre, Italy


This picturesque town has a small harbor and is surrounded by cliffs. It is a photographer’s paradise, offering many magnificent viewpoints, both from the trails and from the harbor.

Sunset over Vernazza in Cinque Terre, Italy

Monterosso al Mare

Located the furthest north, this is the biggest town in Cinque Terre, with the largest selection of accommodation options and the widest beaches. If you want to rest on the beach and relax to the sound of the waves, this is your town!

Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre, Italy

Things to do in Cinque Terre

Wander around all the Cinque Terre towns

Take the time to explore each Cinque Terre town. They are all small, so it should take you very little time to go sightseeing. Do some shopping, grab a bite to eat, or find the best spot to snap a few shots.

Go to the beach

Each Cinque Terre town offers either a beach or access to the sea.

  • If you’re looking for beach vacation, Monterosso is your best choice due to its wide sandy beaches. There is a small public beach that you can access for free, while all others are paid beaches.
  • Vernazza offers a small sandy beach by the harbor and a rocky beach behind the cliffs.
  • Near Corniglia, you will find Guave Beach, which is a nudist beach. You reach it by hiking toward Vernazza and following signs for the beach. The sea can also be accessed by following the stairs from Corniglia. The rocks at the beach are popular among tourists for sunbathing and swimming.
  • Manarola does not have a beach. Instead, there is a harbor with deep waters that are perfect for swimming and diving.
  • Finally, Riomagiorre offers a public beach to the left of the harbor.  

Find the best sunset spots

All Cinque Terre towns are picturesque. Manarola is considered the prettiest and most romantic of all, but I found the sunset views to be perfect anywhere. You can’t really go wrong. Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Monterosso have panoramic views that are easily accessible from a harbor or a beach. Corniglia and Vernazza’s scenic views are best from trails. You can find your own favorite views.

Sunset over Corniglia in Cinque Terre, Italy

Enjoy an aperitivo or a meal with a view

If you’re sticking around Cinque Terre for a bit longer, take the time to enjoy the view over a meal or a drink. Just remember that, even though a fair number of restaurants operate on first come, first served basis, some require prior reservations.

If you’re looking for a place to enjoy the view without a reservation, try Nessun Dorma in Manarola. This restaurant offers the best views of Manarola and does not take reservations. Instead, you are given a ticket at the entrance and wait for your turn. The line might seem long, but it goes very quickly, as most people come for a drink and leave. Make sure you grab a number before getting in line. The restaurant only offers cocktails, appetizers, and light meals. A server takes your order, then your food arrives with a ticket that you take to the register before you leave.

PRO TIP. If you’re looking for a unique experience, Nessun Dorma offers pesto classes and winery visits with local winemakers overlooking Manarola.

Explore Cinque Terre by boat or kayak

All the Cinque Terre towns are located on a coastline, facing west out over the water, which makes the water one of the best places to take in the sights. Kayak rentals and boats tours are available. A popular option is a sunset boat tour with aperitivo and snorkeling. You can also choose to rent a boat or a motorboat for either a half-day or full day. Another cheaper alternative is taking a tourist boat through all the towns, but these can get very crowded, especially during peak season. 

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, view from a boat

Savor all the food: pesto, seafood, and gelato

Indulge in Italian food. The towns are all located on a coastline, meaning they offer a lot of fresh seafood options. The Liguria region is also known for pesto sauce. Pesto, made of garlic, pine nuts, basil leaves, salt, olive oil, parmesan, and pecorino cheeses, is served in almost all restaurants, paired with pasta, bruschetta, or lasagna. Pistachios are also very commonly served with desserts such as tiramisu or croissants. Last, but not least, is gelato, the Italian version of ice cream – lighter in calories and more flavorful.

Go hiking

The dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, and colorful small towns scattered across the coastline make Cinque Terre a dreamy hiking destination. Though all the towns are connected by a hiking trail, the trail from Corniglia to Manarola and Riomaggiore is currently closed due to construction that is supposed to finish by 2025. However, there are alternative routes that are still great options. Below are a few trail suggestions to get you started.

Manarola view from a hiking trail in Cinque Terre, Italy

Blue Trail

Blue Trail is the easiest and the most popular trail in Cinque Terre, taking you through all the towns in either direction. It is the only paid trail. Altogether, the trail is 7.5 miles (12 km) long, with Easy to Moderate sections. There is typically construction on the trail, which can sometimes cause closures. Currently, the only open sections are from Corniglia to Monterosso.

Corniglia-Volastra-Manarola Trail

I hiked the trail from Corniglia to Manarola due to Blue Trail closures, ultimately finding this trail to be my favorite. You will enjoy beautiful views of Mediterranean Sea, the towns of Corniglia and Manarola, and the surrounding terraced vineyards. The trail is 3.6 miles (5.8 km) and rated Moderate. It can be steep and narrow at times, especially during the decent to Manarola. Save some energy by hiking from Corniglia, as there is more downhill travel in that route.

Manarola-Riomaggiore via Beccara Trail

Another alternative route to get around Blue Trail closures takes you from Manarola to Riomaggiore. The trail is only one mile (1.6 km) long but can be challenging due to some steep steps. However, the views are well worth the effort.

Monterosso-Levanto Trail

If you hiked to all Cinque Terre towns and are looking to do even more hiking, consider taking the trail from Monterosso to Levanto. This five-mile (8 km) trail will give you a view of all five Cinque Terre towns from its highest point. Hiking from Levanto will help you avoid climbing stairs.

Helpful tips when hiking Cinque Terre

  • Flip flops or any open-toed shoes are not allowed on Cinque Terre trails. The rocks are slippery, and there is a lot of dust on the trail.
  • Hiking poles might come in handy, especially with steep inclines.
  • Cinque Terre faces west. If you want to avoid the afternoon sun, consider hiking early in the morning. Trails tend to get busier later in a day.
  • Bring sunscreen and plenty of water when hiking during warmer months.

Try Cinque Terre wine

Cinque Terre is known for its wine, specifically white wine and sciacchetrà, a sweet wine made form dried grapes. The wines are made from three types of grapes: bosco, albarola, and vermentino. You will taste minerals as well as the flavors of wildflowers, herbs, honey, and citrus. Their vines grow on terraces and dry-stone walls characteristic to the area. Wine production is small in scale, and all the work is done by hand. 

You will find wineries offering wine tastings in and around each town, where you will get a sample of three or four wines – typically served with olives and focaccia bread. Note: reservations are required at some wineries.

Visit Porto Venere

Porto Venere is another charming seaside town with a row of colorful houses, a castle, and two churches. If you have extra time, I highly recommend making a stop there. It is a bit less popular of a destination because it is more difficult to reach; you either have to take a boat from Riomaggiore or a train to La Spezia and then take a bus.

San Pietro church in Porto Venere

Visit the medieval churches

Every Cinque Terre town has at least one church. Most of the churches were built in the Middle Ages in the Gothic style. They are all open to the public and free to enter. Some are still in operation, holding daily or weekly masses. Be respectful when you visit.

Logistics guide for your Cinque Terre trip

How to get to Cinque Terre?

By plane. The closest airports to Cinque Terre are either Pisa or Genoa. From there, you can easily catch a train with connections either from La Spezia or Levanto. 

By train. You can get to the Cinque Terre towns by train from any major town. If you are arriving by intercity or regional trains, you will need to change trains in either La Spezia or Levanto. 

By boat. You can get to Cinque Terre by boat from La Spezia or Levanto. Note that Corniglia is the highest located coastal town in Cinque Terre and cannot be reached by boat. It is the only town in Cinque Terre that does not have a harbor.

PRO TIP. Do not rent a car to visit Cinque Terre, as you will have to pay for the rental, gas, and parking in lots outside of the towns. Plus, you cannot drive in any of the towns, and it is cheaper and easier to use other modes of transportation to get around. Only local residents are allowed to drive in Cinque Terre.

How to get around Cinque Terre?

By train. Train is the fastest way to get around Cinque Terre. Trains run frequently between towns, though they offer no pretty views, because their tracks primarily run through tunnels. The price of a single ticket is the same on a line from Levanto to La Spezia.

On foot. If you’re staying in a Cinque Terre town, and you want to do some hiking, there are hiking trails that connect all five towns and are worth exploring. The level of difficulty and distance varies between towns. 

By boat. You can take boat rides between towns to enjoy a distinct perspective of Cinque Terre and its lush scenery. This is the priciest option for getting around the area, though the price of such rides differs between towns. Fortunately, you can opt for a day or afternoon ticket to save money.

PRO TIP. If you’re planning on spending one or two days in Cinque Terre, consider getting one of the two available Cinque Terre cards. One helps you save money on train rides, and the other combines train and trail fees together.

Where to stay in Cinque Terre?

Where you should stay depends on your budget and the activities in which you want to engage while there. If you’re looking to save money, I recommend staying in La Spezia or Levanto; these two are bigger cities with wider selections of accommodation options than the smaller, pricier Cinque Terre towns. However, if you’re planning on spending more time in the national park, I recommend staying in one of the five towns. Since the towns are small and accommodations are limited, you’ll need to book well in advance, especially considering that most lodging takes the form of individual Airbnb listings and privately owned hotels and guest houses. The biggest Cinque Terre towns with the largest accommodation selections are Monterosso and Riomaggiore. 

I chose to stay in Corniglia. Due to its location up on a cliff, I either had to take the shuttle to reach the town or climb a staggering number of stairs. Even though Corniglia is known as the quietest of the five, my Airbnb was located on the main street across from one of the local bars, making it rather noisy at night. Nonetheless, being centrally located made it a perfect starting point to get to hiking trails.

Morning view of Corniglia in Cinque Terre

When to visit Cinque Terre? 

Cinque Terre is an extremely popular tourist destination, meaning that you will find plenty of crowds there. If you can, avoid visiting in summer so you don’t have to worry about uncomfortable crowds and hot weather. Shoulder seasons are your best options. Spring and autumn are optimal for hiking, and you can still enjoy warm weather and beach time. While the sun makes this destination’s turquoise waters and beautifully lit colorful buildings look especially picturesque, rain on the contrary makes it gloomier and more dangerous for hiking due to steep trails and slippery rocks. Just remember that late autumn and winter are your rainier seasons.

How many days to spend in Cinque Terre?

I recommend spending between three and five days in Cinque Terre to fully enjoy each town and engage in all the activities that appeal to you. Cinque Terre offers many modes of transportation to give you different perspectives from which to enjoy each town as well as multiple cultural experiences that are not to miss. However, if you only have one day to explore this gorgeous destination, it is still well worth a visit since you can see all five of the small and easy-to-navigate Cinque Terre towns in one day. 

Is Cinque Terre dog friendly?

I found Cinque Terre to be very dog friendly. Dogs are allowed on trails, as well as boats and trains (though they must have a leash and a muzzle). Small- and medium-sized dogs do not require any additional fees to board public transportation. Restaurants are also welcoming to dogs, even if they don’t offer any dog menus yet. Note: There is limited space on outside patios, and tables are close together, so be respectful if you do bring your dog.


Cinque Terre is a picture-perfect destination and a highly enjoyable combination of nature, history, and culture. It is great vacation spot for everyone, whether you are looking to relax on the beach, hike along a beautiful coastline, or savor fresh and flavorful food.

I hope this guide to Cinque Terre covered everything you need to get started planning your ultimate getaway. Let me know in the comments if there is anything else you’d like to know. Happy exploring!

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