The Villages in Cinque Terre

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You don’t need to know a lot of Italian to figure out that ‘Cinque Terre’ means ‘Five Lands’, and the five lands that the name refers to are the five beautiful villages that dot the coastline on this section of the Italian Riviera. Combined, the villages are one of the most famous and popular destinations on the Riviera and although there are some similarities, each village has its own unique charm and appeal.

Monterosso al Mare

cinque_terra_072Monterosso is the most individual of the five villages and the most touristy as well.

It actually has more of a beach resort feel to it because it features a nice beach, and the buildings don’t rise as steeply up the cliffs as they do in the other villages.

 

It also has the most places to stay out of the five villages; Over 40 different accommodation options to choose from, and they include some of the largest and smartest hotels within the national park.

So, if you like to have a larger selection of places to stay and dining options, Monterosso could make a good base for you while exploring The Five Lands.

 

 

Vernazza

cinque_terra_039The next village south from Monterosso is Vernazza.

The village truly is beautiful with its brightly coloured buildings, very small beach and harbour tucked into a tiny inlet.

Tourism is just as big here but the commune remains a true fishing village too, and also continues its centuries long traditions of making wine and olive oil.

There are some nice sights to see here too including the Doria Castle that was built in the 15th century as a lookout tower, and the tiny Chapel of Santa Marta.

If you’re feeling energetic, a popular hike takes you up a steep trail from Vernazza to the Sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio. It takes about an hour to walk there but the views are fantastic.

Here are some nice properties if you want to stay in Vernazza.

Corniglia

cornigliaThe third village heading south along the Cinque Terre coastline is Corniglia.

This village is different in that it’s not right on the coast, but perched on a promontory overlooking the coast.

Like Vernazza it features brightly coloured homes, and you wonder how they constructed the buildings and pathways so expertly onto the man-made terraces of the promontory.

Of course, being above the coast you can enjoy the wonderful coastal views while the village is further surrounded by vineyards.

Visiting this village you’ll need to be prepared for a climb as there are 382 steps rising from the train station into the heart of the village!

You can find some really cozy and typical Italian style properties for your stay here in Corniglia.

 

Manarola

Monarola is the second smallest village of the Cinque Terre. Again it features brightly coloured buildings set into the rising hillside, and as you wander the narrow streets you’ll pass many a small fishing boat parked outside houses just like cars would be in any other town!

Look for the water wheel in the village, and walk one of the popular Cinque Terre hikes called Via dell’Amore (meaning Love’s Trail).

It goes between Manarola and the next village to the south, Riomaggiore.

Not so many accommodation possibilities here, but a few nice ones.

Places to stay in Manarola.

Riomaggiore

The southernmost of the Cinque Terre villages is Riomaggiore. The buildings rise up the hillsides from the coast almost in a ‘V’ formation, resulting in a narrow main central street that ends right at the water’s edge. Here there’s a small boat launch from which the fishermen take their daily, and often night-time, outings.

The main street is lined with a number of bars, restaurants, and shops, and Riomaggiore is second to Monterosso for its number of places to stay.

Many properties available in Riomaggiore, making this village another good base for exploring Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre Hiking Trails

cinque_terra_099There are many small hiking trails rising from the villages and criss-crossing the cliffs along this rugged stretch of coastline.

The majority of these trails can be hiked for no fee but if you want to take the Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro) that links all five villages together there is a small fee to pay.

You don’t have to hike the whole length in one go, and in fact, hiking from one village to the next then staying the night is a great way to get to see each of the Five Lands.

 

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Cinque Terre – The Five Lands

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The Italian Riviera is beautiful, to say the least, but beauty doesn’t come much better than the Cinque Terre portion of coastline in the Liguria region of Italy.

Not only is this a national park, it is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed on this coveted list for its cultural importance thanks to the five charming coastal villages that give the area its name. You can read more about the villages on the Villages in Clinque Terre page.

 

Where to Stay

Despite the small sizes of the villages they are well set up to welcome visitors so you’ll find many excellent places to stay.

Ranging from hotels to hostels and villas there are over 200 places to stay in Cinque Terre.
An overview here

When looking for a place to stay check the exact location. Not all accommodation is within the boundaries of the national park but may be in one of the larger towns of the area.

Also note that there are no 5 star hotels in or nearby to the villages so if you’re used to luxury you’re not going to find that here.

The appeal of Cinque Terre is very much the more rustic feel of the place, but if you want facilities, aim for one of the 4 star properties.

 

Getting to The Five Lands

This section of the Italian Riviera is hugely popular with tourists from all over the world, and much of the appeal is its inaccessibility.

Most places get plenty of visitors because they’re easy to get to, but it’s the opposite here!

Set onto the rugged cliffs that overlook the Ligurian and Mediterranean Sea, the villages remain difficult to get to and cannot be accessed by car.

There are trains, pathways, and even a ferry that connect the five villages together, and the fact that you have to arrive here this way is very much part of the charm of visiting.

So the best option is to leave your car behind and come here by train from Genoa or La Spezia.

Genoa has the advantage of size and an international airport. The city is the sixth largest in the whole of Italy, and you can fly here from various cities in Europe then catch the train to Cinque Terre.

You won’t need a car to get around the five villages either, and coming with a car is a bad idea as you’ll just have to park it somewhere and leave it for the duration.

 

When to Visit

Like the rest of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre has a mainly Mediterranean climate.

The best times to visit are during the summer months when it is hotter and drier with average highs around 27 to 28C in July and August.

Of course the drawback is that this is when most other people prefer to visit too, so it will be crowded.

Spring or autumn are good alternatives though from September and into October rainfall does become heavier.

May or June is often the best time for a visit.

 

Picture Gallery

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Click on picture to see more and larger images

 

Staying outside the five Cinque Terre villages

The small village Levanto. A great place with some good restaurants and bars. Not too difficult to reach by car.

Bed and Breakfast Villa Margherita was our home while we explored the coast between Genoa and Riomaggiore.

The best central hotels and by the water are sold out quickly, so it’s a good idea to book well in advance if possible.

Our review of Villa Margherita: To be Italy, it was a good breakfast. Did almost expect only some jam and croissant, but we were positively surprised with a lot of choices. Great service, friendly staff, and english was no problem. Free parking and wifi. The beds a little to hard for our taste, but not too bad.

It is possible to hike to Monterosso as is 3 kilometers from Levanto. You can easily take the train to all villages from here as well.

An overview of hotels in Levanto here

We can also recommend a day-trip to Genoa if you have the time. Genoa is 1,5 hour by train from Levanto, so it may be too far away to stay in Genoa if you plan to explore Cinque Terre more than one day (would recommend at least 3 days here to see it all).

Read more about the villages