Cinque Terre is a stunning coastal region in Italy, known for its colourful seaside villages, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque landscapes. The name “Cinque Terre” translates to “Five Lands,” and it refers to the five charming villages that dot the rugged coastline. These villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. It is hands down one of the most beautiful and charming places that I’ve ever travelled to. I visited for three days as part of a larger Italy trip and it was absolutely a highlight of the trip, and I cannot recommend it enough. Here’s a guide to each of the villages to help you make the most of your visit to Cinque Terre!

The Towns:

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso is the largest and the northernmost village of the Cinque Terre. It is known for its beautiful beaches, including both sandy and pebble beaches. The village is home to historical sites such as the Church of San Giovanni Battista and it offers a mix of traditional Ligurian cuisine and modern amenities. It’s certainly the liveliest of the five towns and it’s long stretch of beach is a great place for swimming and snorkeling as the water is calm and clear.

Montorroso itself is split into two parts. The ‘old’ Montorosso and the ‘new’ Montorosso. The ‘Old’ village, a captivating realm dominated by the ancient fortress walls of the Aurora Tower and the Fieschi Castle. Here you can stroll through narrow winding streets adorned with brightly coloured houses and ascend the traditional steep stone staircases. The silhouette of the Church of St John the Baptist and Capuchin Monastery paint a picturesque scene visible from both the old and new quarters.

In the old Montorosso you will also find, Spiaggia Tragagia, a small pebble beach nestled within the harbor, that offers a lido and a free beach area that is a bit more relaxed than the beach in the new village.

The ‘New’ Monterosso, also known as Fegina stretches along the coastline from the San Cristoforo promontory to Punta Mesco. Here you can find, the largest and only sandy beach in Cinque Terre.

The journey between the old and new is a mere 15-minute stroll, seamlessly connected by a tunnel, so you can easily get the best of both worlds!

Manerola

Manarola is famous for its colourful houses cascading down the cliffs towards the sea. The village is known for its excellent hiking trails, including the popular Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane) that connects Manarola to Riomaggiore (be aware that this is sometimes closed due to rockfall). Traditionally a fishing village, Manarola has retained its quaint and authentic atmosphere. Fishing boats are still part of the landscape and you can find seafood restaurants serving fresh catches.

The heart of Manarola is its colourful village center, characterized by narrow streets, pastel-coloured buildings and charming shops and restaurants.

The small harbor is a picturesque spot where fishing boats are moored. It’s a great place to relax and take in the views or swim in the crystal clear water. We hired paddleboards here which was an amazing experience!

A prominent landmark of Manarola is the Church of San Lorenzo, dating back to the 14th century, this church is located on the main square and features typical Ligurian Gothic architecture. But that main draw of this village is the stunning coastal views. There are several vantage points around the village. The viewpoints provide breathtaking panoramas of the colourful houses perched on the cliffs and the Ligurian Sea. Manarola is particularly beautiful at sunset. Find a spot along the cliffs or by the harbor to witness the sun setting over the Mediterranean. Be warned, it does get busy around sunset as everyone wants to find a great spot to watch the sun go down.

Vernannza

Vernazza is certainly one of the most enchanting towns of Cinque Terre. Steeped in history and surrounded by dramatic cliffs, Vernazza captivates visitors with its unique blend of charm, vibrancy and coastal beauty.

The village is distinguished by its pastel-coloured houses that cling to the cliffs, creating a vibrant and visually stunning scene. The small harbor is the focal point of Vernazza, where colourful fishing boats bob on the azure waters and visitors can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the waterfront promenade. The piazza is adorned with quaint cafes and restaurant which are both lively but also have a relaxed atmosphere. This was definitely one of my favourite places to relax with a glass of wine!

Vernazza boasts a medieval tower, Belforte, that stands proudly overlooking the village and the Ligurian Sea. Climbing to the top of this historic structure offers visitors panoramic views that stretch across the coastline, offering a breathtaking vantage point to witness the timeless beauty of the Cinque Terre.

The village also features a charming church, Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, dating back to the 14th century. Vernazza also has natural harbor, making it a great spot for swimming and enjoying the Mediterranean sun. Exploring the streets of Vernazza unveils a network of narrow alleyways and stone-paved streets that wind through the village, filled with hidden gems like artisan shops, boutiques and gelaterias!

Corniglia

View of Vernazza Cliffside Houses at Sunset

Corniglia is where I stayed during my time in Cinque Terre. I definitely think I made the right choice because the village was effortlessly charming and peaceful, but the railway line offered easy access to the other more lively towns.

Unlike the other Cinque Terre villages, Corniglia is not directly on the waterfront, but instead sits high above the sea, providing visitors with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. To reach the village, you need to climb the “Lardarina,” a long brick staircase consisting of 382 steps. However, the effort is rewarded with sweeping vistas of the azure waters and the lush greenery of the terraced hillsides.

Corniglia is renowned for its agricultural prowess, particularly its vineyards that produce the famous Cinque Terre wine (which I certainly sampled!). The terraced slopes are meticulously cultivated, creating a patchwork of vineyard landscapes.

The village itself is a peaceful haven, characterized by it’s narrow cobblestone streets, colourful houses and a central square that serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike. I spent each morning having coffee and pastries in the square and I can tell you, you cannot find a more peaceful breakfast spot!

Corniglia’s intimate and tranquil ambiance makes it an ideal destination for those seeking a quieter experience within the vibrant Cinque Terre. While it may lack the bustling harbor of some neighboring villages, Corniglia compensates with its serene beauty and a genuine sense of authenticity.

Whilst there isn’t direct sea access, the closest beach to Corniglia is Guvano Beach, which is located between Corniglia and Vernazza. Guvano Beach is known for its unique and somewhat secluded atmosphere. Keep in mind that reaching Guvano Beach involves a hike and and the path may not always be well-maintained, there were some issues with access due to rockfall whilst I was there! Additionally, be prepared for nudity as the beach has a clothing-optional tradition!

Riomaggiore

View of Riomaggiore Harbour

Riomaggiore much like the other villages, captivates with a maze of narrow alleys adorned with houses painted in a kaleidoscope of colours. The village center is a vibrant tapestry of local life, with bustling shops, quaint cafes and friendly locals creating an atmosphere that feels both lively and laid-back.

Make your way to the heart of the village, where Riomaggiore’s small harbor unfolds before your eyes. Fishing boats gently sway in the crystal-clear waters and waterfront cafes beckon you to savor local delicacies while soaking in the maritime charm. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely afternoon, appreciating the simplicity of coastal life.

A noteable lankmark is the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a historic gem dating back to the 14th century. The Genoese Gothic architecture and religious artifacts inside offer a fascinating glimpse into Riomaggiore’s rich cultural heritage.

For panoramic views that will leave you breathless, ascend to Riomaggiore Castle. While the castle itself may not always be accessible, the path leading up to it offers a spectacular vantage point. Marvel at the terraced hillsides, the village below, and the endless expanse of the Ligurian Sea.

So there you have all of the five villages of Cinque Terre. This is one place that I cannot recommend enough. If you get the opportunity to visit, I’m certain you’ll be blown away by it’s beauty and charm!

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