Cinque Terre, located along the picturesque coastline of the Italian Riviera, is a collection of five charming fishing villages that have captivated travelers for generations. Known for their colorful houses perched on cliffs, vineyards, and breathtaking views of the Ligurian Sea, this stretch of coastline offers a quintessential Italian summer experience. Here is an overview of the top five things to do and see in Cinque Terre:
Explore the Five Villages
1The five villages of Cinque Terre—Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare—are the heart of the Cinque Terre. Each village has its own distinct character, but all are filled with narrow streets, lively harbors, and vibrant colors. Take the time to wander through the cobblestone streets, soak in the coastal atmosphere, nosh on Ligurian bites (fried anchovies are common street food) and discover hidden gems tucked away in the alleys. For beach lovers, Monterosso is the best beach option (though there aren’t any majorly wow-worthy beaches in general in this area). For charming towns to base yourself, check out Vernazza or Manarola.
Debating between Cinque Terre vs. the Amalfi Coast? Read my piece on both regions to better understand the differences between these two famous coastal areas!
Hike the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path)
2One of the best ways to appreciate the beauty of Cinque Terre is to hike the Sentiero Azzurro, also known as the Blue Path. It’s worth noting that due to maintenance and landslides, certain sections of the trail may be closed. While we were visiting in 2021, this path was closed so we went on an extra-difficult version of this hike that took us way beyond the normal path. If Sentiero Azzuro is available, go this route! This trail connects all five villages and offers stunning coastal views. The most famous section is the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola, known as the Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Path).
Take a Boat Trip
3Another great way to experience the Cinque Terre is by taking a boat trip along the coast. Several companies offer boat tours that allow you to admire the villages from the water, providing a different perspective and amazing photo opps. If you’re up for a bigger day, you can head to nearby Portovenere or head to Portofino by boat as well, though expect a bit of a splurge for a full-day offering. For those wanting to travel by water but less inclined to splurge, a ferry connects the towns as well. For a few euros each way you can zip along the coast from one town to the next.
Soak Up the Sun
4While Cinque Terre’s beaches aren’t the world’s most wow-worthy, the coastal cliffside location makes for incredible views with lovely outcroppings to soak up the sun, Mediterranean-style. The most popular beach can be found in Monterosso al Mare, offering golden sands and clear turquoise waters. Vernazza also has a small beach nestled within its harbor, providing a tranquil spot to relax. While Corniglia doesn’t have a beach directly accessible from the village, it offers a unique alternative. You can climb down the steep stairway called “Lardarina” to reach a rocky outcrop by the sea, known as “Spiaggione di Corniglia.” Here, you can find sunbathing spots and enjoy the rugged coastal scenery. Riomaggiore doesn’t have a sandy beach, it has rocky ledges and platforms where you can relax and catch some sun. The area around the marina and the harbor is a popular spot for sunbathing and enjoying the coastal views.
Sample Ligurian Fare
5All of Italy’s 20 regions are home to their own unique cuisine and Cinque Terre is renowned for its delicious Ligurian fare. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy fresh seafood, pesto Genovese, fresh-baked focaccia, and some locally produced wines. Many restaurants in the villages offer waterfront dining with sea views. Additionally, you can visit the vineyards scattered throughout the hillsides and sample some local wines from the region. One of our favorite restaurants was a hilltop spot called, Trattoria Da Billy, a casual outpost where you can enjoy a 12-course menu with local vino.
Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favorite town and highlight from the region?