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
Monterosso 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.
The 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.
The 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.
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.
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
There 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.