What’s not to miss in Cinque Terre, Italy

The five colourful towns of Cinque Terre, in the northwest of Italy, were on my bucket list for some time already. This summer I finally got to find out its beauty. I must say this is one of the most remarkable and romantic places I have ever visited. Each town has something different to offer and picking your favourite is part of the fun. Let me guide you throughout Cinque Terre and point out what not to miss in each town.

I stayed in Cinque Terre for 3 days and it is really worthy of this time if you want to catch the vibe and spend some time in each of the villages. Below I go over every town in the order I visited them.

The postcard view from Punta Bonfiglio, Manarola.

Town #1: Manarola 

Manarola was the first town that I visited and it proved to be my absolute favourite.  Manarola is the oldest and also one of the smallest towns of Cinque Terre. Manarola has one of the most iconic Cinque Terre views.  Walking down the main street, towards the waterfront, stay right and follow the trail up. You will reach the perfect viewpoint Punta Bonfiglio right next to Nessun Dorma. This restaurant offers legendary views, alongside great bruschetta that is still quite affordable.

The town is really easy to get around and I actually recommend staying in this town. Staying there gives you the chance to explore it right before the day trippers arrive or right after they have left. I was staying in Ca’ d’Andrean and I really enjoyed the quiet, peaceful mornings on my little terrace and the late evenings where I could take out some pasta with almost no one around. 

The postcard view from Punta Bonfiglio, Manarola, after sunset.

Not to miss: the postcard view from Punta Bonfiglio 

Town #2: Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore was the second town I visited. It is the ‘largest’ and southernmost town of Cinque Terre. For me it actually felt like a small fisherman’s place. From the harbour you have one of the prettiest views of the town, just follow the signs towards the marina to get there. As I went to Riomaggiore in the evening, the town was quite quiet when I got there. There were just a few people gathering at the beach side as it proved to be the perfect sunset spot. If you are up for it, order a pizza, bring some wine and you won’t regret the view. It was my second favourite in all Cinque Terre.

View from the rocks at Riomaggiore harbour.

Please note that to reach Riomaggiore, you will not be able to hike from Manarola. The hiking trail Via dell’Amore is closed already for years due to sliding rocks. The train is the best alternative to reach Riomaggiore.

Sunset at Riomaggiore harbour.

Not to miss: the sunset at the harbour side

Town #3: Corniglia

Corniglia was the third town I visited, once again by train since the trails were closed. Although coming by train, reaching the town center requires you to walk still 350+ stairs from the train station! Corniglia is the smallest town of Cinque Terre and it is the only one without a harbour. Although it doesn’t have big sights or attractions, it is a great spot to take a well-deserved rest. I really liked the little square Largo Taragio, which is Corniglia’s main square. At the square you will find the Oratory of the Disciplinati, but there are a handful of other little churches to visit in Corniglia as well (e.g. Chiesa di San Pietro).

Not to miss: the square Largo Taragio

Town #4: Vernazza

Vernazza was the next one on my list, and I decided to take the hiking trail from Corniglia which is definitely recommended! I am keen to recommend the hike because the scenery is really spectacular. Also, I was surprised to find myself completely alone at times during the hike without any tourists. However, the hike was dusty, rocky and up and down the whole time. It can be quite challenging, definitely when temperatures are rising beyond 30°C and the trail mostly being in full sun. But if you reach Vernazza, I bet you will agree it was worth every step!

View from the Vernazza harbour.

Vernazza is a picturesque town as well, the best viewpoint and spot to relax is definitely the harbour as well. If you want a bird’s eye view on Vernazza from the other side, it is recommended also to do the first part of the hike to Monterosso. You will only have to do a twenty minute walk for a great shot 😉

View on Vernazza from the hiking trail to Monterosso.

Not to miss: the hiking trail, spectacular views both when hiking from Corniglia as towards Monterosso

Town #5: Monterosso al Mare 

Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost village, divided in an old and new part. You will arrive in the new part if you come by train, like I did, where you will find the biggest (sandy) beach of Cinque Terre. The older part is the most charming part though, with small cozy alleys and locals still around. 

Although there are beaches near all of the Cinque Terre villages, the one in Monterosso al Mare is far more stretched out. The other towns’ beaches could hardly be called a beach since they are tiny and quite rocky. I found Monterosso being the most touristy town, the beaches being completely packed, mostly with hotel guests.

Not to miss: the old part of the town (and the beach if you need refreshment)

In sum, I had a blast visiting each of the towns at my own pace as all towns have their unique characteristics and things to do. I have spent 3 days there in total and I would not do it any other way. If you have been to Cinque Terre already, I can also recommend exploring other towns at the Ligurian coast as they are all bucket list material!

Happy travels!

Laura x

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