You’ve seen the pictures right? Pretty pastel coloured houses perched high on the rugged cliffs with the sparkling sea below. The beautiful Cinque Terre, or five lands, is the stretch of the Italian Riviera coastline that is made up of five towns each with its own distinct character. It’s a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing millions of visitors every year. Tourists can hike, boat or train their way through the five Cinque Terre towns. Let’s get to know each of the five villages of Cinque Terre. 

The 5 Villages of Cinque Terre

Starting from north to south, the villages are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. By train, it takes about five minutes to travel from one village to the next. Or there is a ferry service, which connects all the villages but one, Corniglia. Of course, you could walk from village to village, but for that, you’ll need to allow extra time. Hiking Cinque Terre is one of the biggest draws to this area. The best option for exploring Cinque Terre freely is to purchase the Cinque Terre Card. This will give you unlimited train travel on the La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto railway line and access to the two chargeable Cinque Terre trail paths from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia. There is no entrance fee to the Cinque Terre National Park.

Now let’s take a tour of each of the Cinque Terre villages. 

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso is the biggest and busiest of all the villages. With a resort-like feel, Monterosso has noticeably more restaurants, shops, and places to stay. It’s the only flat village and offers two beautiful beaches – a sandy beach and a pebble beach. The town is split into two distinct neighbourhoods, the Fegina (beach area or new town) and the Vecchio (historic centre or old town) 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.

pink building with green shutters in Cinque Terre

Top Things to do in Monterosso

The most popular attraction in Monterosso is the beach! Monterosso’s beaches run along most of the coastline and are full of tourists sunbathing under the green and orange striped umbrellas. Another must-visit site is the Church of San Giovanni Battista. It’s considered one of the oldest churches in Cinque Terre. 

beach in Cinque Terre Italy

Vernazza

Vernazza is the closest of the five to remain one of the best fishing villages with its natural harbour and abundance of colourful boats. It’s often referred to as the quaintest and steepest village. Uniquely, it only has one street – straight from the train station down to the sea with narrow laneways, called caruggi, and a maze of stairs. This means almost all of the colorful houses have sea-facing views. 

cliff with houses in Cinque Terre

Top Things to Do in Vernazza

Vernazza is home to Doria Castle, the oldest surviving fortified castle. What remains mostly today of this 11th-century ruin is a circular tower. To get there, head up the steep narrow staircase by the harbour. On the opposite side of the harbour visit a small Ligurian-Gothic church. The sea views through the narrow arched windows from inside this 12th-century church are incredible. The boat tours are popular in Vernazza as a good starting or ending point. 

boats in habour in Cinque Terre italy

Corniglia

Corniglia is the smallest of all the villages and the most unique. It sits atop a rock formation about 100 metres high off the sea. When you reach it, by train or hiking only, you’ll have to climb 382 stairs to reach the village centre. It’s quaint and quiet. The best part of all is it leads you to a large sea-facing terrace where you can view all five villages at one time.

cliff with houses on sea in Cinque Terre

Top Things to Do in Corniglia

There are two incredible lookout points in Corniglia. The first is Belvedere di Santa Maria with its 180-degree sea views. To find it, follow Via Fieschi through the village until you eventually reach the clifftop balcony. The second is La Torre. This viewpoint overlooks the coastline to the next village over which is Manarola. To find it, look for a staircase that leads you to Piazza Taragio. 

cliff over sea in Cinque Terre

Manarola

Manarola is the oldest, busiest, and probably the most instagrammable village of the five. If you arrive by train, go through a short tunnel and then you can do one of two things. Go left towards the sea, which is what most people go first, or turn right and take the steep hill where you will be amongst the hillside grapevines with a scenic view over to the village. That’s my recommendation, take the walking trail to the right first and then head to the sea.

night view of houses on cliff in Cinque Terre

Top Things to Do in Manarola

Visit Piazzale Papa Innocenzo, a small piazza with a bell tower that was once used as a defensive lookout. One of my favourite memories is hearing the bell chimes ring while sitting in the busy square eating ice cream. Sitting on the piazza is Chiesa di San Lorenzo, a church dating back to 1338. Why not enjoy a wine-tasting tour to sample the local wine? Lastly, the best viewpoint in Manarola is Punta Bonfiglio. Take the walking path by the sea where you can look back at this picturesque village.

houses on side of mountain in Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, the most eastern village, is incredibly photogenic with its steep colourful tower houses that frame its tiny harbour. 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. Riomaggiore is a rather large village, and also serves as the HQ for the national park office. 

colourful houses in mountain in Cinque Terre

Top Things to Do in Riomaggiore

Head to the small secluded beach in Riomaggiore. The short trail to the pebbly Fossola Beach. The shoreline is rugged and photogenic with the waters framed by steep hillsides. Visit Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, a church dating back to 1340. Take a wine-tasting tour set in a scenic vineyard.

tall colourful houses in Cinque Terre Italy

How many days to spend in Cinque Terre

Many will ask… can you do Cinque Terre in a day? And, if you are tight on time, you could see all five villages in one day. But, it does make for a very early start to a very long day. Ideally, you will want to stay at least 2 nights, which allows for a good 1.5 days of touring. That is the right amount of time, but still at a fast pace. 

colourful buildings in Cinque Terre italy

Depending on when you go, we visited in the shoulder season, there will still be a lot of tourists. Between 10 am and 4 pm, the villages are jampacked with people, but in the evening, it was calm, quiet, and much more relaxing. So I definitely recommend spending at least one night. 

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

The only downside to visiting Cinque Terre is the accommodations. You will not find a single 5-star property in any of the 5 villages, and 4 stars are still a little underwhelming. This curated list is the best accommodations I could find in Cinque Terre.

  • Marymar Monterosso al Mare. Bedroom with inner courtyard view mere steps to Monterosso Old Town beach
  • Mada Charm ApartmentsVernazza. Few steps from Vernazza Beach, a charming studio apartment with a sea view
  • La Ripa Camere VernazzaVernazza. Sea-facing rooms with a 2-minute walk to the beach
  • La Terraza Sul Blu Corniglia. 1-bedroom apartment with sea-facing room and large stone terrace
  • L’Emporio RoomsManarola. Comfortable rooms with kitchenette and city view. Short walk to the beach
  • Affittacamere Le GiareRiomaggiore. Located in Cinque Terre National Park, and is a short walk to the Riomaggiore Train Station with lovely terrace views of the town and sea

Tip | If you want to do your own accommodation search, click here.

Unmissable Experiences

Is it worth visiting Cinque Terre? Yes! This is one of those destinations that you need to add to your bucket list. Here are my highlights of what to do in Cinque Terre Italy.

  • One of the most romantic things to do in Cinque Terre is to take a sunset boat tour to see the village lights twinkle at night 
  • A must-do in Cinque Terre is to admire the view, and my favourite can be seen from the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint
  • One of the best places to visit in Cinque Terre is Portovenere. Take a day trip to this UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Be sure to visit Vernazza as it is a must-see in Cinque Terre – why? Many consider it the prettiest village in Cinque Terre 
  • Do at least one of the many hiking trails for the most scenic views of the coastline. A couple of popular walking trails are the Vernazza Corniglia trail and the Corniglia Manarola trail
  • Take part in a wine-tasting tour, either in Riomaggiore or Manarola

As a holidaymaker…

Don’t let this popular tourist destination deter you from visiting Cinque Terre Italy.  There is a good reason why so many people visit here. Add this picturesque place to your travel bucket list as it’s unbelievably beautiful. 

For a complete guide to help plan your trip to Italy check out things you need to know before you go!

Ciao! 

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73 Comments

  1. We loved our visit to Cinque Terre. But we made a bad choice for accommodations and got stuck out of town with no transportation. We were glad we saw a little of these charming colourful towns. But we definitely need to return for a longer visit. I agree you should plan more than a day and wander the towns at a slower pace. And do the hike between them.

  2. This is such a big bucket list place for me to check off and reading this post makes me even more eager to visit! Italy is beautiful as is, I’ve been there before. But just the beauty of the coastline, these little villages, and the views they have are on a whole other level.

  3. I’d be interested in hiking the area and definitely plan a day or two longer. The many tourists would put me off so this would be on my list for a quieter time, maybe in October when it’s still warm in Italy. Thanks for providing a quick and bite-sized overview of all the villages and what you can do there. As individual villages they wouldn’t engage me that much but maybe splitting day 1 and managing 2-3 villages and do the final two on another day could work.

  4. Gosh I would love to go to Cinque Terre someday. That part of Italy, it just seems so scenic and peaceful compared to Amalfi Coast (although I really want to go there too). The buildings look so charming.

    1. Although both areas look similar, they are quite different from each other. Cinque Terre is a bit more laid back and rustic compared to the posh Amalfi Coast. But both are beautiful.

  5. Cinque Terre have been on my list for so long. Italy is my “guilty pleasure country” but I’ve always postponed this part prioritizing others. Shame on me, I know. Reading your post teased me to visit it as soon as possible. Thank you for the tips. I’m going to save it for my next trip to Italy

  6. I have heard so much about Cinque Terra but never really delved into it much. I assumed it was a province and was surprised from reading your post that it is actually a small area of 5 villages. It looks eminently explorable over a few days, which I would love to do. Those colourful houses are just so Italian and the unkept but pretty nature of the buildings just so picturesque.. I also didn’t realise that it is by the sea, for some reason I thought it was inland. Just shows how much taking the time read up on them here has opened my eyes to something incredible. Pisa airport looks like the nearest to it, which is good for flights from the UK for me for the future.

  7. I only got to visit Manarola for a short time – but it was beautiful! I’d love to visit the other towns of Cinque Terre as they all seem to have different personalities and things to see! I wish I had time to hike to all five – that’d be a cool experience.

  8. Cinque Terre has been on my bucket list for a while after I’ve seen the beautiful photos but due to Covid I’ve not yet done proper research. Didn’t know the villages were so close, I thought I’d need to be there for ages but now I know it could be a long weekend trip for me (from the UK) I can try to get there soon

  9. Italy is definitely one of my favorite countries but I realize how little has been explored by me. An insight into the five villages of Cinque Terre draws me towards them. Absolutely fabulous. Would love to head there sometime and spend at least three days and explore at slow pace.

  10. I must say this is a great guide to explore Cinque Terre and nearby places. These villages looked like dream places to encounter and experience in depth. Would love to visit someday for sure.

  11. What a lovely set of villages. So colorful and so much to do. And each one of them has a lovely coastline. My favorite is Vernazza – it looks a little less crowded and very inviting.

  12. Wow! Corniglia is beautiful. Love the colorful houses while still keeping the lush green terrain. It looks like taken straight from a postcard. Would love to visit.

    1. It really is a unbelievable place to visit. So undeniably pretty with its colourful houses perched on a rock with the sea below. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to visit one day.

  13. The appeal of these 5 villages is picture postcard-worthy! I love how each can be clearly distinguished by their colors. Judging from these 5 villages alone, Italy is truly a majestic country.

  14. Being half Italian I really should have visited more of Italy than I have but the Cinque Terre has always been on my list of places in Italy to visit. I love the look of Vernazza, very magical. Where did you base yourself to explore the five villages?

  15. I love the villages of Cinque Terre. It’s one of the most charming places in Italy, very photogenic with the perfect atmosphere. My favorite is Vernazza with Castle Doria, the oldest surviving fortified castle. I also love Manarola and the smallest one – Corniglia. It’s a very detailed and inspirational article with tips on what to do in each town!

      1. I would love them all, but Corniglia would be cool being able to view all 5 villages. It’s great that they’re all close together to hike. One more hike to add to my list

  16. These are some really gorgeous places without a doubt. Even though I had bad experiences in Western Europe last time. Maybe I will give it one more chance. Would like to visit Italy and Switzerland.

  17. I only had time for a day trip to Cinque Terre and it was not enough time. I was able to walk the streets a little bit, take photos and have lunch but that was really all. We also stopped in Portofino and spent the night in Santa Margarita. I love this area! I would return without a second thought.

  18. This really is a part of the world I want to check out. I think I’d plan to visit the villages over more than a day. One day seems like it wouldn’t be enough to really appreciate them. The colors of these buildings are fantastic and I love the striped church. Very cool!

    1. Yes, definitely more than one day! We had two nights, which was more than enough time to see each village. Just not a lot of time to do any hiking.

  19. I think we have all seen the photos but love the guide! I dont think I ever knew where this was actually at but always looked so amazing for a Italy get away. I think I would need more than just two days though, get me a few drinks and a patio and I am set!

    1. Well, there are lots of places for you to relax there, and you would love the hiking. To hike from village to village, that requires some time.

  20. Ah this time last year we were just leaving Cinque Terre and heading back to our home in Prague. We had so much fun there and your photos are making me want to go back! We skipped Corniglia as we were short on time but I’d love to visit again in the off season and spend more time exploring each village properly.

  21. What a fabulous image. I’d love to find a little spot by the water and get my water colours or sketch pencils out and try and capture the quirkiness of this coastline. It’s visually stunning from afar, but it sounds like it’s beautiful on the inside too! I still haven’t been to Italy, and I know there are some fabulous cities to visit .. but if I ever make it to Italy, this is where I need to head first.

    1. Thank you Jay for your comment. If you are an artist, then I couldn’t think of a better spot to capture these postcard perfect views.

  22. I’ve never visited Cinque Terre but it is on my list & this is a great guide. I love the idea of walking between them all & taking my time. Wondering how challenging this would be? Also although there is a lack of accommodation as you say, an overnight stay sounds like a great way to see a different aspect f the villages without the onslaught of tourists. Looking forward to it… when I finally make it there.

    1. If you choose to walk between them, you will need days to spend in the area. Some are close proximity – where you can walk within an hour, but others require longer. We stayed 2 nights, and didn’t feel like it was enough time. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

  23. Really nice one! This is one of the best areas of Italy. Even though it gets packed during the day, it is amazing at night when the day trippers leave. To really enjoy any of these town is to stay in one of them for at least one night and explore them then.

  24. 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!

    1. 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.

  25. 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?

    1. 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.

  26. 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!

    1. 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.

  27. 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!

    1. 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.

  28. 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.

    1. 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.

  29. 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!

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

    2. So, that famous picture is Manarola Village of Cinque Terre. Not Cinque Terre like I’ve always thought. It surely is beautiful, as well as the other four. Although I found the beaches were too crowded every time I saw pictures from there.

    1. 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.

      1. Your photos are so gorgeous, I would travel here just based on those!
        I didn’t realize that Cinque Terre was made up of 5 different villages, that’s so cool!

  30. 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.

    1. 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.

  31. “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.

    1. 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.

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