Italy

The 5 Villages of Cinque Terre

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 their 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 5 Cinque Terre villages. Let’s get to know each of the five towns 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. Or, you could walk village to village, but of course you need to allow for extra time. Now, let’s take a tour of each of the five villages. 

MONTEROSSO

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

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN MONTEROSSO

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

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

VERNAZZA

Vernazza is the closest of the five villages to remain a ‘true’ fisherman’s village with its natural harbor and abundance of colourful boats. It is 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 houses have sea-facing views. 

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN VERNAZZA

Vernazza is home to Castle Doria, 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 harbor. 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 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

CORNIGLIA

Corniglia is the smallest of all the villages and the most unique. It is sits atop of a rock formation about 100 meters high off the sea. 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. 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.

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

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. 

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

MANAROLA

Manarola is the oldest, busiest and probably the most instragrammable 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, then you can head to the sea.

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

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. Sitting on the piazza is also Chiesa di San Lorenzo a church dating back to 1338. 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.

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

RIOMAGGIORE

Riomaggiore, the most eastern village, 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. Riomaggiore is a rather large village, and also serves as the HQ for the national park office. 

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

TOP THINGS TO DO IN RIOMAGGIORE

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

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

How long should I spend here?

If you are tight on time, you could see all five villages in one day, but that makes for a very early start to a very long day. We stayed 2 nights, which allows for a good 1.5 days of touring. It seemed to be the right amount of time, but still at a fast pace. Depending on when you go, we visited in the shoulder season, we still found it full of tourists. Between 10am and 4pm 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. 

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

As a holidaymaker…

Don’t let this popular tourist destination deter you from visiting the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. There is good reason why so many people visit here. Add this picturesque place to your travel bucket list as it’s unbelievably beautiful. 

If you are planning a trip to Italy for the first time, check out my featured article:

The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.
The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore are situated along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

58 Comments

  • 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.

    • The Holidaymaker

      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.

    • The Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Carmen Edelson

    I am so in love with the Cinque Terre! I’ve been a few times but would like to spend at least two weeks there next time. Corniglia is on my list, still never been!

    • The Holidaymaker

      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.

      • Brooklyn

        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!

  • 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!

    • The Holidaymaker

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

    • Umiko

      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.

      • The.Holidaymaker

        Yes, the instagrammable place is Manarola! The beaches were not too crowded when we visited in April. But they are small in size, and that might be why they seem to always be busy.

  • 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.

    • The Holidaymaker

      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!

    • The Holidaymaker

      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!

    • The Holidaymaker

      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?

    • The Holidaymaker

      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!

    • The Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Nina

    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.

  • Sue

    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.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Jay Artale

    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.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Riana Ang-Canning

    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.

  • Gus Feliciano

    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!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Emma

    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!

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Sherianne

    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.

  • Saurabh

    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.

  • Agnes

    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!

  • Angela

    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?

  • Trisha Velarmino

    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.

  • Clarice

    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.

    • The.Holidaymaker

      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.

  • Ami Bhat

    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.

  • Pamela Mukherjee

    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.

  • Subhashish Roy

    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.

  • Laura

    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

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