The 5 Villages of Cinque Terre

You’ve seen the pictures right – the pretty pastel colour houses perched high on the rugged cliffs with the sparkling sea below?  Cinque Terre, or the ‘five lands’, is the stretch of the Italian Riviera coastline that is made up of five little fishing villages each with their own distinct character. It’s now a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site and draws 2.4 million visitors a year to hike, boat or train their way through the dramatic and picturesque coastal villages. Do you have it on your bucket list? Here’s everything you need to know to plan your next trip and make the most of your time in the Cinque Terre.

If you are tight on time, you could see all 5 villages in one day, but that means a very early start to a long day. We stayed 2 nights, which allowed for a good 1.5 days of touring, and that seemed to be the right amount of time, but still at a fast pace. Depending on when you go, we visited in April which is supposed to be the shoulder season, we still found it full with tourists. Between 10am and 4pm the villages are jampacked with people, but in the evening, it was calm, quiet and much more relaxing.

Starting north to south, the villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. By train, it only takes about 5 minutes to travel from one village to the next. Or there is a ferry service, which connects all the villages but one, Corniglia. I can only image the views from the water, unfortunately the time we were there it was rough waters and they were not running. Or you could walk village to village, but of course you need to allow for that extra time. Now for the villages…


The biggest and busiest, it has a definite resort-like feel with noticeably more restaurants and shops than the other villages. It’s the only flat village and offers two beautiful beaches, one sand and one pebble. The village is split into 2 distinct neighbourhoods, the Fegina (beach area) and the Vecchio (historic center) which are connected by a picturesque promenade and a tunnel that cuts through the rock. When you arrive by train, you will be in the Fegina neighbourhood.


Is the closest of the 5 villages to remain a ‘true’ fisherman’s village with its natural habour and abundance of colourful boats. It is home to Castle Doria, a 15th century lookout tower, which was allegedly used to protect the village from pirates and a beautiful Church (Santa Margherita d’Antiochia) built in 13th century. This village is scenic and charming, with one-street and its narrow laneways and maze of stairs, almost all of the pastel houses have sea-facing views.


It is the smallest of the villages and the most unique – as its location is off the sea and sits atop of a rock formation 100 meters high. When you reach it, by train or hiking only, you will have to climb 382 stairs to reach the village center. It is quaint and quiet, and leads you to a large sea-facing terrace where you can view all 5 villages at one time.


Is the oldest and probably the most instragrammed village of the 5. If you arrive by train, you will go through a short tunnel and then can do one of two things – go left and go towards the sea (which is where you will find most people venture to) or turn right and take the steep hill where you will be amongst the hillside grapevines with a scenic view over to the village. Once you make your way down to the sea, take the walking path out to the point. This is the place to take that beautiful, picture postcard shot we all instantly recognize in photos.


Is incredibly photogenic with its steep colourful tower houses that frame its tiny habour. This village has the best views from the sea (and at night), so if you were to take a ferry this would be a good destination to arrive/depart from. It is well known for its locally-produced wine and varying shades of blue water.

Aside from the vast number of people who visit these tiny picturesque villages and the underwhelming options for accommodations, you still need to add this destination to your travel bucket list. It is unbelievably charming and beautiful. 

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  • Michael Hodgson

    “If you are tight on time, you could see all 5 villages in one day…” OR if you are simply feeling adventuerous and have a bit of fitness, you could do as we did one day and simply run the trail along the coast connecting all the villages, stopping in each along the way for a few photos, a cup of tea or a beer or a sandwich, and then run back to where you are staying. Not recommended unless you love to run of course and you must get a very early start to the day.

    • admin

      Thanks for your comment Michael. As a runner and hiker, I would have loved to have done that. Unfortuntely when we were there the trails were quite muddy. I can only image the views, such a fantastic way to see it! Thanks for stopping by and reading the post.

  • Candy

    Corniglia looks like an amazing place to explore. I love visiting small villages as they are always so unique and special. The rock formation looks like such an awesome site to see in person.

    • admin

      It is amazing how different it is from the other 4 villages; and it has amazing views as you are very high up and on the edge of the cliff. Thanks for commenting, and definitely you should add it to your place to go and see.

    • admin

      Wow, two weeks, that would definitely be a relaxing holiday. Corniglia is small, but it is definitely worth visiting. The stone work, the narrow passage ways, the views – make this a unique village to see. Thanks for commenting.

  • Nicola Hilditch-Short

    This is a great guide, mostly because you see so many photos of the same view of this amazing place and never really get to know much about what it really is and what its like. I love the idea of exploring all these little villages within what always looks like such a huge place. Seeing the details of everyday life as well as taking in the panoramic view. it makes me want to visit even more!

    • admin

      Thank you for your comments Nicola. It is definitely worth visiting. Appreciate you taking the time to share your kind words.

  • Jenn and Ed Coleman

    I guess you could run through Cinque Terra but really, it seems like the sort of place you would really want to meander. I could see slowly travelling to each one and staying the night all five. That way you could see everything in both morning and evening light.

    • admin

      Yes, it is the kind of place to slow down, if you had the luxury of time. Riomaggiore at night from the water’s vantage point would be the best, and we missed out on that opportunity. Thanks for commenting.

  • Susanne

    I’m a total fan of Italy. My previous vacations there were always gorgeous. This region has been on my wish list for a long time, so I’m looking forward to reading you such a great report. Thank you!

    • admin

      Susanne, I couldn’t agree more about being a fan of Italy! It’s such a beautiful country to travel to. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your kind words.

  • Heather

    Cinque Terre is definitely on my bucket list. I never stopped to think of its meaning but it makes sense all of a sudden. Light bulb! I would want to see all 5 villages and probably take more than one day so I didn’t have to rush and could get all the photos I wanted. But if for some reason I had to choose, then I would want to see Manarola and Vernazza the most-for the photos and to visit the one most like a true fishing village!

    • admin

      Thank you Heather for taking the time to read my post and comment. It is funny how everyone has a favourite village, personally I find it hard to pick a fvourite as they are so different and you appreciate what they each have to offer. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Himanshu

    That picture is one of the most inspiring travel photographs for me. The colors, hues and location make it a must visit for me and your article further give me more reasons. Cinque Terre is now high on wish list and great to know they are UNESCO heritage sites too. Can we do all five lands in a day?

    • admin

      Yes, I supposed you could, but it would mean that you are not really exploring each village in any great lenghth of time, and it would have to be an early start and late day. You would also have to take the train between each village and not experience any of the walking trails or boat. Thank you for taking the time to visit the site and hope you one day get to see this beautiful place.

  • Kevin | Caffeinated Excursions

    You are so right that even avid travelers have most likely only seen the famous picture without knowing anything about these fascinating villages! I feel like I could spend a whole week here and still want to stay longer to see more. They sure look beautiful, thank you for sharing!

    • admin

      You are right Kevin, the more time you can spend in this area, the more time you can explore it to its fullest! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on the post.

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