The Cinque Terre are known all over the world for their beauty: ancient fishing villages that overlook a very characteristic stretch of the Italian coast. Despite having points in common, such as the bright colors of the houses and the construction between the mountains and the sea, each one retains its own peculiarities for which it deserves to be visited.
We discovered them in a long weekend at the end of September, taking advantage of sunny summer days and clear skies. We tell you what struck us most about each of them and what you cannot miss during their visit.
Manarola and Corniglia
Manarola is the first village we visited and one of those that most remained in our hearts. Although together with the nearby Corniglia it is one of the smallest villages, it offers different views for unforgettable shots. This is why it is often considered a favorite of photographers and painters.
Its colorful village is all perched along the promontory and at sunset it lights up with warm shades, from yellow to orange that change in shades as the sun gives way to the evening lights. Once you arrive at the marina, take the road on the right which leads to a splendid panoramic point. We have been there at any time and we assure you that the show is truly unmissable.
Here you will find the panoramic Nessun Dorma, not to be missed for tasty aperitifs with a view.
During our stay in Manarola, we decided to take the high path that connects it to Corniglia passing through the small village of Volastra. After a short but intense (very intense) uphill stretch, you will find yourself on the terraces where the local vine is grown, from which the famous sciachetrà sweet wine is produced.
In mid-September the harvest was still in progress, which is carried out by hand due to the steep slope of the terraces. On these hills, however, rack-and-pinion transport systems were installed to bring the grapes to the village, at the foot of the hill.
Once you arrive in Corniglia, you will have the opportunity to take a stroll along the main street, have a snack of focaccia and relax a bit. For the return, we chose the train. Be prepared for an infinite number of steps (luckily downhill) to get to the station or take advantage of the bus service available. However, in our experience, this is the best direction to appreciate this path.
You can find the complete itinerary of our trail on Gaia GPS. from this link you can download the itinerary in GPX / KLM format or print it.
The easternmost village of the Cinque Terre is certainly very characteristic. The houses with intense colors are all gathered around a small cove and represent for us the most complete palette of colors that we have seen: from brick red, to yellow, to pink and cream: a truly intense chromatic set, which gives the best observed from the rocks in front.
The village is certainly worth a visit, among the buildings of greatest interest the church of San Giovanni Battista and the Castellazzo, recognizable by the unusual clock. Here also begins the famous Via dell'Amore, which connects the village to Manarola. Closed in 2012 due to a landslide, it should reopen next year.
On the main road, you can't resist stopping for a tasty snack: the mixed fried fish box. An absolutely unmissable takeaway delicacy. We have stopped by Il Pescato cucinato, really good and perfectly fried.
Vernazza is the second village where we decided to stay. The view of the small port, with the church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia and its bell tower, make it absolutely unique. On the opposite side from the church, there are the remains of the Doria Castle, on which the cylindrical tower known as the Belforte stands out.
For us, the most beautiful view of the village can be seen along the path towards Monterosso. From the access point of the path (for a fee until 6 pm), you will have to walk for about 5 minutes and the view of this village, squeezed between the sea and the mountains will open in front of you.
Vernazza is also the Cinque Terre village that was most severely damaged by the flood of 2011, which destroyed its heart and invaded the main street with mud and water. Some signs are still visible along the wall that separates the beach from the square and along the walls of some houses.
And like any village in the Cinque Terre, as soon as darkness falls and the lights come on, the show begins!
Among the five villages, Monterosso is probably the one that struck us the least. Here the village does not have the classic perched arrangement of houses, but it is the only one among the Cinque Terre to offer a real sandy beach.
It consists of two distinct parts: the historic village and the new village (Fegina), where the station is also located. From here, take the beautiful seafront promenade, which runs along the beaches and after a short tunnel (or scenic route that goes around the promontory) you will find yourself in the heart of the town.
Here it is pleasant to discover the absolutely original alleyways and churches, such as the Oratory of the Confraternita dei Bianchi, characterized by another concentration of skulls and skeletons and the Oratorio dei Neri, with its particular black and white striped facade.
While waiting for lunch, we got lost in its small alleys, until we reached the church of San Francesco and the convent of the Capuchin friars attached, located on the San Cristoforo hill that separates the old village from the new one.
Before your trip
- How to reach them? Many recommend arriving in La Spezia and then traveling by train. We preferred to reach them directly by car, we were much more free in moving with the luggage. All the villages have paid parking spaces before going down to the center, specifically we used the following: in Vernazza, we recommend the guarded parking Vernassoa. You book in advance and they will accompany you by minibus to the start of the pedestrian area (+39 3484432040, € 15 per day). In Manarola there is a large car park, rates vary according to the length of the stay. At Riomaggiore, there is a multi-level parking with variable rates (3 hours € 9)
- How many days? We spent 5 days, it was enough to visit the villages, go for a hike and have time to relax on the beach in the late afternoon
- When to go? The Cinque Terre can be visited in all seasons, not just in summer. From spring to early autumn, they can also be discovered via the various scenic trails. A curiosity: at Christmas, the hill near Manarola becomes a large nativity scene, making the village an original destination even in that period
- Where to stay? We decided to stay in two different villages, starting from two days in Manarola, at Affittacamere Da Paulin close to the sea, it has a nice balcony and the structure is really clean and cared for. Next, we moved to Vernazza, where we chose to stay at The Terrace. The strong point is the terrace on the top floor which overlooks the roofs of the colored houses and whose view extends to Castello Doria.
- Where to eat? At Cinque Terre you can find excellent fish restaurants or opt for takeaway cuisine. We can recommend you as restaurants:
- Trattoria dal Billy in Manarola, fish restaurant with excellent value for money, we especially recommend the fresh homemade pasta dishes
- Ristorante Belforte, in the small tower with a splendid view over the center of Vernazza, it offers excellent fish dishes
- For a good lunch with excellent value for money in Monterosso, we recommend the family-run Gastronomia San Martino
- If, on the other hand, you want to dine in peace on your balcony, we recommend you as a takeaway deli Cappun Magru in Manarola is recommended by the locals to try the typical dish that gives the structure its name. In Vernazza we recommend instead Pippo a Vernazza trofie with pesto are delicious and the portions really generous