The 5 Lands
Named after its five tiny villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso), the Unesco-listed Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre encompasses some of Italy’s most picturesque and environmentally sensitive coastline. The villages are linked by the 12km Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro), a magnificent, mildly challenging 9km (five-hour) trail. The Blue Trail is just one of a network of footpaths and cycle trails that crisscross the park. If water sports are more your thing, you can hire snorkelling gear and kayaks.
Things you may not know!
- Cinque Terre grapes produce two local wines, Sciachetrà and Cinque Terre
- Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union
- On October 25, 2011 the region was damaged by over 1000 mudslides. The local area is slowly recovering with the help of the Save Vernazza Project of which Busabout is a big supporter.
1. Visit the 5 Villages
The reason you’re going, or at least thinking of going to Cinque Terre is to see the 5 villages dot along the coastline. So here’s a brief description of each one (in order from La Spezia):
Riomaggiore: This is the most visited as it is the village that is closest to La Spezia. Riomaggiore has one main street running through the middle with a rocky harbour and beach, castle and some very nice restaurants and bars.
Manarola: Manarola also has one street running through the middle of the town with a harbour area. In the harbour you can sunbake and swim but it isn’t the least bit “beachy”, just concrete and rocks to lie on, however the water is crystal clear and gorgeous. There is a beautiful lookout point where you can take some nice photos of the town and is very popular at sunset.
Corniglia: Corniglia likes to be a little different with the village situated up high on the cliffs looking out to the ocean below. There are 365 steps to get from the sea to the town centre but it is worth it for a little peace and quiet.
Vernazza: Rumored to be the most beautiful of the five villages, Vernazza is very photogenic being back on the waterfront. There is also one main street through town, a castle, old ruined fortress walls and a church that was built on the water. This is the best place to sit at a bar on the waterfront with a drink in hand while watching the sunset.
Monterosso al Mare: Monterosso al Mare is the largest of all five villages being mostly flat. There are several streets that make up the Old Town and has the biggest beach of all the villages.
2. The Blue Path
The Blue path is the most recognized hiking path, that travels from one end of the Cinque Terre to the other through the 5 stunning villages along the cliffs and colourful harbors. The path is 12km long and reaches a height of 500metres. The whole trip is marked by blue and white stripes and will take you around 5 hours to complete. To hike along the Cinque Terre’s paths you will need to visit an information centre in the town you start at to purchase a National Park pass called the ‘Cinque Terre Card’ and to check that all the paths are open.
3. Go to the beach!
If you want to jump into the beautiful blue waters and cool down from the summer heat, then there’s somewhere to swim no matter where you are along the Cinque Terre. However the beaches differ quite a lot between sand, stones and pebbles. Monterosso has the most famous beach out of the 5 villages with beautiful white sand, umbrellas and sunbeds to enjoy, but with a pebbly shore. There are also beaches of pebbles and stones in Corniglia and Riomaggiore and stone beaches in Vernazza and Manarola. If you want to take your kit off and hit the coast’s nudist beach, head to Guvano which is located between Corniglia and Vernazza.
4. Via dell’Amore
The famous ‘Way of Love’ is a short walk, linking up the two villages Riomaggiore to Manarola that overlooks the sea. The path gets its name because after WWII it became a secret point for boys and girls to meet from the two towns. You might see a cluster of padlocks under the tunnel near Manarola from the new tradition of lovers closing a padlock together. From time to time the path closes for safety reasons, so check out the nearest information centre to check it is open before embarking on the walk.
5. Visit Portovenere
Portovenere is not too far from the Cinque Terre on the edge of La Spezia Bay. From Portovenere you are greeted with some of the best views of the coastline. Portovenere is an ancient village with narrow streets, a Roman temple to Venus that was converted to the church of San Pietro and a beautiful fortress. Definitely the place to go for the dramatic scenery the coastline has to offer and also a great place to watch the sunset.
1. La Lanterna
Not too far from Riomaggiore’s harbour, La Lanterna is a charming little restaurant where you can enjoy fresh seafood caught straight from the sea. Choose from menu items which change depending on the latest catch, but make sure you try the desserts too as the babà al limoncello (brioche soaked in lemon liqueur) is divine.
2. Da Aristide
Located up on the hill not too far from the station in Manarola you’ll find Da Aristide - beautiful place to relax and enjoy some of the local delicacies. While here try the massive plates of stuffed anchovies, lemon soaked grilled octopus, fish ravioli or the homemade pasta with mussels and eggplant… yum!
3. Il Porticciolo
Il Porticciolo is located on the main strip in Manarola on the way down to the harbor, which makes it the perfect spot to feast on some seafood. The usual favourite among guests is the spaghetti with mussels and crispy fried squid.
4. Focacceria Enoteca Antonia
The best place to try local specialties is always at a market and the food at Mercati Centrale will make you dream of moving to Italy. There are artisan cafes located upstairs where you can try well-prepared food or downstairs you can sample lots of local products such as fresh cheeses, fruits, breads, cakes and oils. Make sure you try the tripe sandwich that can be bought from the Nerbone store.
5. Caffe Matteo
Cafee Matteo is the perfect place to go to if you’re stuck for somewhere to eat as it stays open all day long while other places tend to siesta. Located high up in the town of Corniglia, Caffe Matteo is famous for its pesto lasagne.
1. Bar La Conchiglia
A rising new favourite in Riomaggiore, Bar La Conchiglia is a nice place to go for drinks with scenic seaside views near the harbor.
2. Bar Centrale
Bar Centrale is the perfect place to unwind after a full days hiking, or just to relax and recharge the batteries. It is located in the centre of Riomaggiore, which makes it a very popular venue with tourists.
3. Il Casello
Located in Monterosso, Il Casello is a typical Ligurian pub where nothing much happens, which makes it perfect to relax and unwind with a drink in hand and watch the sunset by the beach.
4. Fast Bar
Fast Bar is a very popular place with tourists getting some of the best and cheapest drinks in the town of Monterosso. They are open all day long for breakfast, lunch and a light dinner, but is perfect if you’re craving a cheap cold beer or a strawberry daiquiri.
5. Pie’ de Ma’ Wine Bar
If you’re looking for somewhere a little bit of romance and a classy drinks menu then Pie’ de Ma’ Wine Bar draws in a crowd that would appreciate the impressively long wine list.
Click the coloured pins to find out how to get here
Had the most amazing time helping at the Save Vernazza Project. A fantastic insight into the local culture and a great way to give back."