We arrived to Cinque Terre on a Friday morning and stayed till Sunday. This was just enough time for us to visit 4 of the beautiful 5 villages by the sea. Cinque Terre, which means Five Lands, comprise the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the Italian region of Liguria. Did you know all of them are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List?
Driving into the region may be fun, but there are no cars allowed in the tiny town centers of the Cinque Terre. So train is the best way to get there. And that is exactly what we did.
The Cinque Terre Card bundles the price of the trains between the villages (but not ferries) and a hiking day-pass. It’s 16 € and a 2-day pass is 29 €. If you are thinking whether you should get the card or not, ask yourself: will you be hiking and taking the train three or more times in a day? If yes, buy the Cinque Terre Card. As we wanted to travel by boat we decided not to get the card (which afterwards I regret a bit). So my advice is just get the card, just get it.
Our Bed&Breakfast was in Riomaggoire and I might be biased when I say it was my favorite village. Our B&B was called Dai Baracca and I can definitely recommend it to anyone. The owners were really friendly and helpful and the breakfast was amazing with fresh focaccia, bread and cake & berries, fruits and yogurt…
As you make your way into the village from the train station you will find plenty of restaurants, shops etc. to choose from. It is only natural that in a place like this the prices are a bit higher – but you can easily get pasta and wine for 20 e which for me (used to the prices in Finland) is pretty good.
We took a boat from Riomaggiore to Manarola on the same day we arrived. The boat ride lasted around 5 min and return ticket costed 7 e. On a beautiful summer day the boat was definitely the right choice. You can also walk/hike or take a train from village to village.
Manarola might be the most famous, photographed and beautiful village out of all five. So when you see a photo from Cinque Terre it is probably from here.
On Saturday we took a boat to Vernazza. We climbed up to the Doria Castle which was built in the 15th century as a lookout tower to protect the village from pirates.
There is this picture from Vernazza that I’ve seen all over the internet (like this one) and I really wanted to get a shot like that myself. The spot with the amazing view is between Monterosso and Vernazza but I was disappointed to find out that we would have to pay to go there (most of the trails are free. The exception is the sentiero azzurro, also called the blue trail, because it’s the most popular. In high season you’ll pay for that).
I mean I know tourism is the main income for a place like this – but still, I felt a bit annoyed as we were already paying for the boat ride and we only intended to walk couple hundred meters, not the whole 12km trail. It was like 7,5 e which is not a lot when you are already there and it is not a place you go to everyday… but out of principles decided no to pay for walking 200 meters. Have to admit I also regret that a bit afterwards – so just get the Cinque Terre card and you will have no problems like this 😀
After Vernazza we continued to Monterosso. Monterosso is the most northern village of the Cinque Terre and has the best beaches of the villages and also the most wine shops, artisan shops, hotels and restaurants.
Monterosso was definitely worth the visit but in my opinion visually not as stunning as Manarola, Riomaggiore and Vernazza. If we would have stayed longer I am sure we would have gone sunbathing to the beach in Monterosso but no we just settled in walking around and wandering from little shop to another.
We didn’t go to Cornelia at all because you can’t go there by boat. Unlike the other villages of the Cinque Terre, Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea. Besides, I rather take my time in a fewer places then try and rush them all through.
To sum up, I think June was really good time to visit Cinque Terre. It was not too crowded and it was not too hot to walk around and explore the villages. The view of multi-coloured terraced houses on rugged and steep hills stretching upto deep cliffs overlooking the sea is something you have to see and experience at least once in your life.