“Cinque Terre” translates to five lands. It is made of five picturesque towns, perched along the rugged cliffside of the Italian Riviera. The coastline, villages and surrounding hill are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In each of the towns you will find colourful terraces, winding streets, sweet elderly men whistling, dozens of fishing boats, mountains covered in vineyards and some of the best sunsets you’ve ever seen over the sea.
In 2011 the Cinque Terre was struck by heavy storms, landslides and flooding that killed 13 people and almost destroyed the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza. It has since been rebuilt, making me appreciate the resilient colours of the towns and friendly locals even more. I hope that visitors will continue to appreciate and care for this beautiful colourful corner of the world.
I previously visited Cinque Terre when I was backpacking solo about 2 (3?) years ago after a little err… hiccup in my life, and have since reflected on my time there as a safe haven and significant period of personal growth. It was honestly my own Italian “Eat, Pray, Love” but with a lot more wine and pesto pizza. Coming back years later with my closest friends Sarah and Anna was just as beautiful as the first.
About the towns
Riomaggiore is the first village from La Spezia that sits in a small valley facing the sea. Fishing boats line a tiny beach, with one main road trailing back in to town with slightly more bustling restaurants and boutiques than the other towns.
Manarola is my personal favourite town, as I find it quieter and more romantic. It also may be the oldest of the five towns, with the San Lorenzo church cornerstone dating back to 1338. Walk from the church through the main street to the sea for sunset looking back over the town.
Corniglia sits 100 metres high above the sea and requires a lot of stairs or shuttle bus from the train station below. It boasts beautiful views but I did not prioritise visiting again on my last trip.
Vernazza is the favourite town to a lot of people. It has a main street leading to a main square, that overlooks a protected bay to swim in, or jump off the rocks to the rougher sea on the other side of the break wall. I recommend walking the first hill of the Vernazza to Monterosso trail to get the best view back over the town.
Monterosso is a beautifully blue, rocky seaside leading through to the quaint town. Sunbathers flock to the paid beach, but if you continue walking through the tunnel there is another beach for free in front of the town. Monterosso also has the most restaurants, cafes and shops of all of the towns that therefore draws the crowds.
How to get there
Catch a flight to Pisa and make your way to the Pisa Central Station to catch a train to La Spezia, the closest city to Cinque Terre. Once there you can catch the local train that takes roughly 15 minutes to the first town of Riomaggiore. If you are already in Europe I highly recommend the train as my favourite mode of travel, being able to store luggage within reach while watching the colourful towns roll past.
How to get around
The easiest way to get around the 5 different villages is to buy a Cinque Terre ticket and take the train which is less than 5 minutes from one village to another. If you’re up for it, it’s also great to walk to different villages and finish your day with some tasty local pasta. I promise you it’ll be some of the best pasta you’ve ever had. Also, the villages in Cinque Terre are so small that you could visit multiple villages within one day!
What to eat
As the Italian Riviera is the home of pesto it is the first thing you should try. Pesto pasta. Pesto pizza. Pesto on breadsticks. I guarantee you won’t regret taking a few jars home. After pesto there is of course the freshest seafood, pasta, pizza and gelato. Oh, and did I mention the local wine?
What I wore
H&M shirt, shorts and scarf, New Look shirt, River Island vest, Charles & Ron bag and belt, Raybans and Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses from Solaris Malta, and Vans trainers.