Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera and it is located in the Liguria region of Italy, west of La Spezia. Cinque Terre translated in English as “the five lands” and it comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Undeniably one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, Cinque Terre seems like it was created to grace picture postcards. The five towns are crouched on steep hills and atop high cliffs overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Italy will not get more scenic and authentic than this because visiting the five lands will not only be a good exercise for your body, but it will also offer you the chance to taste some of the original Italian culture. Most villages are reachable only by trains so make sure you pack your training shoes because walking is a must there, especially since cars aren’t allowed in the older sections of the towns.
Monterosso al Mare is known for having the best beaches out of all Cinque Terre and most wine shops, artisan shops, hotels and restaurants. The village is divided in two sections, the Old and New town, which are connected by a tunnel used mainly by pedestrians. If you don’t want to lose a neuron or two trying to navigate through the narrow streets, you should explore Monterosso al Mare on foot. Make sure you stop by at the Church of San Francisco, a monastery that boasts a Van Dyck painting.
Corniglia is one of the smallest and most peaceful villages in the region but is just as charming as the other towns are. Unlike the other Cinque Terre villages, Corniglia is not directly adjacent to the sea, but instead it is situated on the top of a promontory about 100 meters high, surrounded by vineyards and terraces which descend abruptly into the sea. The location is best reached by climbing 382 stairs but if you’re lucky you might catch one of the buses available on the road. One of the most impressive attractions in Corniglia are some Genoese fortifications built in the XVI century.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost Cinque Terre village and it has a lot of wow-factors, like the houses clinging to the steep hills. The village dates back to the XIII century and it is known for its locally-produced wine and historical buildings. Riomaggiore boasts a very beautiful small beach, as well as a lot of shops and restaurants. Hiking the Via dell Amore to Manarola is one of the main tourists’ favorite attractions, but the Church of San Giovanni Battista situated on the hillside should not be ignored.
Manarola is also located at the top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean and it is the second smallest village in the group, but also considered the oldest. Filled with narrow stone streets and charming beautiful buildings, Manarola is a fishing village that is also famous for its wine like any other respectable Italian settlement, a reputation that goes back to the Roman times. Manarola is a great place for hikers who can explore the hills and vineyards, but also walk to Riomaggiore, which is perhaps the most famous walk in Cinque Terre.
Vernazza is considered the most picturesque town in Cinque Terre and after the devastating flood of 2011 the village has reclaimed its reputation. A very small and charming fishing village, Vernazza has the best harbor in the region. The village sits atop a cliff overlooking the sea and it is a great place to explore by foot, which is in fact the only way because cars are not allowed to roam the narrow streets that are marked with frequent steps. A walk between Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare takes only 90 minutes so make sure you enjoy the beautiful sceneries along the way.