Cinque Terre is one of those places where even if you’re not familiar with the name, then you’ve probably seen pictures of incredible pink, yellow, orange and green houses clinging to the cliffs. The adorable houses not only defy gravity but lend a peaceful, calm vibe to these otherworldly towns. Four of the five towns have direct access to the sea so this means some quality swim time. Whether you’re wandering the narrow streets, tasting the region’s delicacies, having a photoshoot with your squad on the coast or helping locals in the vineyards, Cinque Terre has something for every imagination.
Riomaggiore is the most relaxed of the 5 towns and was originally home to one section of the Via Dell’Amore (The Walk of Love). Unfortunately major landslides and flooding in 2011 wiped out much of the path however you can get a more authentic experience taking a dirt track over the mountain, meandering through vineyards on your way to Manarola.
Before you set off make sure to fill your tummy with some seafood snacks for the road from Mamma Mia takeaway. If you’re planning to stay for dinner in Riomaggiore, my pick is to head to Tattoria Via Dell’Amore. Snag yourself an outside table to watch the sunset and make sure to fill your glass with a drop (or several) of Sciacchetrà, a sweet dessert wine. This amber liquid is smooth with hints of honey and perfect for the end of a meal or paired with cheese.
Whether you’ve arrived via train, boat or using your own legs, Manarola is a town that is all about the food. Obviously being on the coast, all of the towns of Cinque Terre are big on seafood but in Manarola make sure to try the anchovies. The people here take great pride in bringing in the catch, so it’s fresh, salty and delicious! For something different head to La Scogliera and try the Linguine al Batti Batti. Batti Batti is a special type of shellfish only available in the Liguria region.
If you’re not quite so brave to try foods out of your comfort zone then Il Portocciolo, a family run restaurant right on the harbour, will offer plenty of other tasty options. Speaking of the harbour, this is also one of the best places for a swim along the coast. Jump for joy off the rocks into the deep water and float on your back for pretty pastel house watching! If your GoPro/phone/camera hasn’t quite filled up, take a few happy snaps of all the boats parked up around the edge of the harbour or wait for sunset for a heady mix of colours as the lights of the town reflect on the sea.
All the towns are very conveniently connected via train so definitely purchase yourself a daily ticket for the best value. Corniglia is the only village that has no sea harbour and this means more stairs (no skipping leg day here!) but also stellar views! It’s the smallest town and usually the quietest due to being 100m above sea level. If you need motivation to climb the 382 steps up from the train station, here it is.
This region is famous for quite a few unique specialties, but PESTO… This is THE birthplace of the basil wonder topping! It’s is made with fresh basil, cheese, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts then poured over pasta. If that hasn’t gotten your mouth watering, there’s something wrong with your taste buds! So wander the narrow cobbled streets and eat at will. If you follow the signs for Marina you’ll also discover a hidden bay with bright emerald water to shed your clothes and get swimming in!
Vernazza is probably the richest of the towns throughout history and this is reflected in the boutique houses. It was one of the villages most affected by the 2011 floods and much of the village was engulfed in mud, rocks and water. Much effort from locals and others helping out has restored it to its former glory but you can still help maintain some of the vineyard terraces by volunteering for the Tourists In The Wild project.
A fun way to help out the locals to maintain the heritage of vineyards, olive groves and keep Vernazza producing incredible local foods. Also originating from this area of Italy is Focaccia… often served paired with olive oil and salt but also sometimes has sage, onions and olive bits added in. Lunch anyone? Vernazza also has one of the best viewpoints in all the land so head on the walking path to Monterosso and look back on the harbour for your next profile picture!
Monterosso is probably the busiest of the 5 villages and the main reason for this is the BEACH. Pebbles so small they resemble sand, take your pick to spread out a towel or hire an umbrella and chair for a small fee. Certainly an incredible bay to spend your days soaking up sun and cooling down in the beautiful azure waters.
If you can summon the energy to leave your patch of sand, it’s worth checking out the Church of San Giovanni Battista with its distinctive exterior black and white stripes and be sure to try some limoncello. For centuries, the town has been renowned for its production of lemons and other citrus fruit. In fact the local people here even call their version of Limoncello something different here, limoncino and is made from local lemons (of course) and olive oil. The perfect digestif to end your time in this coastal paradise!
You can experience all of this on our Hop-on Hop-off network. Check the website for more details!