The world-famous Cinque Terre is the best-known section of the Italian Riviera. It is known for its picturesque landscapes, colourful houses and terraced vineyards. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. Its name means "five lands" in Italian, referring to the five coastal villages that comprise the area: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Each village has its unique character and charm, and visitors can enjoy local specialities such as seafood, pesto and wine. The countryside is a protected area of the Cinque Terre National Park. It was created around the settlements, an area of approximately 4,300 hectares, including the five towns and the surrounding hillsides, forests and coast.
Map - Where is Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre is located in Italy, 90 km south of Genova. The region is located in the Liguria region of northwestern Italy. It is part of the Italian Riviera. You are on the Mediterranean coast between Genoa and La Spezia. The city of Levanto marks its eastern border, while the town of Portovenere characterises its western boundary. The region borders the Ligurian Sea to the west and the Apennines to the east. The Apennine Mountains form a natural barrier between it and the rest of Italy and are characterized by steep slopes, deep valleys and rugged terrain.
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- Distance from Genova: 90 km / 1.5 hours
- Distance to Rome: 450 km / 5 hours
- Distance to Venice: 400 km / 4.5 hours
- Distance to Firenze (Florence): 200 km / 2.5 hours
The Italian Riviera is a 350 km long scenic coastal region stretching along the country's northwest coast, from the French border to Toscana (in English: Tuscany). Picturesque fishing villages, colourful houses and vineyards hide among its characteristic rocks. The area is divided into two main parts:
- The Riviera di Levante ('Coast of the Rising Sun') includes the famous Cinque Terre.
- The Riviera di Ponente ('coast of the setting sun') includes popular seaside towns such as Sanremo, Alassio and Portofino.
What makes it unique?
The region is famous for its stunning natural beauty, picturesque villages and unique culture. The rugged coastline is one of the main attractions dotted with famous beaches. In its colourful villages, you can discover brightly coloured houses, narrow alleys and cosy squares (piazzas).
Significant winemaking has been taking place in the countryside for centuries. Its terraced vineyards make it unique in Europe. The local wine, Sciacchetrà, is a sweet dessert produced using traditional methods.
The five cities of Cinque Terre
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the largest and most developed of the five villages, with a long sandy beach. Street cafes, cafes and shops await visitors. Narrow alleys weave through the beautiful historic centre. It is known for its Gothic-style church, the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista. The better-known local white wine Cinque Terre DOC is made here.
One of the most picturesque villages of Cinque Terre, with a small harbour, a colourful beach promenade and a castle on the hilltop. One of the village's attractions is the 14th-century church, Chiesa di Santa Margherita di Antiochia. This is a popular hiking spot; many trails lead into the surrounding hills.
The smallest and quietest of the five villages, on a rocky promontory 100 meters above sea level. It is known for its charming historic centre, narrow alleys, and colourful houses. The local red wine called Sciachetrà is famous. Compared to other towns, the atmosphere here is calmer.
Manarola is a fishing village with a small port, colourful houses and a rocky beach. The Chiesa di San Lorenzo village church was built in the 14th century. It is also famous for its traditional fishing boats known as gozzi.
It is the southernmost village famous for fishing, so local boats and ships also appear here. Its tiny beach and a few restaurants and shops await visitors.
In addition to taking lovely walks, eating delicious food, and participating in enjoyable cruises, you can even splash around in the Mediterranean Sea. Better and better beaches await you, one in each city. The water temperature is usually quite warm from June to September, although it can be a bit cooler early and late in the season.
The beaches are mostly pebbly or rocky, so it's worth wearing flip-flops. It is also essential to know that not every beach has a shower, sink or toilet. It is worth bringing your towel, parasol, food and drink.
- Monterosso al Mare Beach is the largest and most famous beach, with fine golden sand and clear blue water.
- Fegina: The long sandy beach is located in the newer part of Monterosso al Mare. It's also an excellent choice for families.
- Vernazza Beach: Located in the picturesque village of Vernazza, it is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Corniglia Beach: Small, pebbly beach in the village of Corniglia. Great place for swimming and sunbathing. It is less crowded than other beaches in the area.
- Manarola Beach: Small and rocky beach in the village of Manarola. A popular spot for snorkelling.
Things to see
Don't expect world-famous attractions in Cinque Terre, as the countryside and small villages are considered secluded. Don't expect world-famous sights. The most famous attraction is the previously mentioned Blue Trail.
- Vernazza Castle: The medieval fortress is located next to the coast. It was built in the 15th century to protect the village from pirate attacks.
- Santa Margherita di Antiochia: The beautiful 14th-century church is also in Vernazza. It has a Gothic-style facade and a bell tower, from which it is worth looking at the countryside.
- Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero: The 15th-century Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montenero is 340 meters above sea level, so that we will have a fantastic countryside view. On the altar hangs the holy image of the Assumption of the Virgin, which the residents of Riomaggiore have handed down from generation to generation - at least according to legend. The idea was brought with them by Greek refugees at the beginning of the Middle Ages.
- Statua del Gigante: "Il Gigante" or "The Giant" is a huge Neptune statue on Monterosso al Mare's beach. The statue is made of reinforced concrete and is about 14 meters tall. It was created in 1910 by the Italian sculptor Arrigo Minerbi as a tribute to the Italian writer and poet Dante Alighieri. The statue was initially intended to be erected in Genova, but in the end, it was brought here to the coast.
A local cruise is an unmissable program for any itinerary. The boats mostly take you along the coast, from where you will have a great view of the coast and the sea. Most boat tours depart from the port of one of the five villages, usually Riomaggiore or Monterosso al Mare. No islands are next to Cinque Terre, so boats only take you along the coastline.
Some tours also depart from nearby towns such as La Spezia or Portovenere. Boat tours usually last 1 to 3 hours. Most boat tours have comfortable seating, shade and on-board restrooms. Some cruises include snacks, drinks and guided commentary.
Several islands nearby offer beautiful scenery, rich history and the opportunity to explore another side of the region. Isola di Palmaria is located in the Gulf of La Spezia — a haven for nature lovers, hikers, and those seeking peace. Also, here we find the Isola del Tino, on which there is also an ancient abbey.
Geography and formation
- Rugged beaches, cliffs and terraced hillsides characterize the rocky coast. It is part of the Cinque Terre National Park, created in 1999 to protect its unique landscape and biodiversity. The park covers approximately 4,300 hectares.
- Its coastline is dotted with small coves, inlets and beaches, many of which can only be reached on foot or by boat. The sea is known for its crystal clear water and abundant marine life, making it a popular destination for swimming, snorkelling and diving.
- The uneven topography of Cinque Terre was formed over millions of years by tectonic processes. The sea gradually eroded the soft sandstone and limestone cliffs, creating a series of coves. The terraced hillsides were created by ancient farmers who built hundreds of terraces on the steep slopes.
- The area is in an active tectonic place, where the African plate slowly collides with the Eurasian plate, causing earthquakes and other geological events.
- The region's history dates back to ancient times when the Ligurian people, skilled sailors and farmers inhabited the area. The name "Cinque Terre" was first used in the 15th century for the five villages that make up the region.
- Over the centuries, its villages have developed a unique culture and way of life, necessitated by their isolated location and rugged terrain. The villages were largely self-sufficient; their economy was built around fishing, farming and winemaking. The steep terraced hillsides were dotted with vineyards and olive groves, for the cultivation of which a unique irrigation system was developed.
- Pirates and other invaders often attacked the area in the Middle Ages, so a system of watchtowers and fortifications was developed. The towers were connected by footpaths and mule paths, which later formed the basis of the Sentiero Azzurro hiking trail that runs along the coast today.
- In the 19th century, with the construction of the railway line and the expansion of the port of La Spezia, it became a substantial commercial and transport point. However, the villages only became tourist destinations in the 20th century.
The 12 km long Sentiero Azzurro, or the Blue hiking trail, runs along the region's coastline, connecting the five settlements. It offers stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the rocky coast. The hiking trail is marked with blue and white signs. The multi-stage route is of varying difficulty. Here are the five stages from west to east:
- Riomaggiore - Manarola: The most accessible section of the trail, which takes about 20 minutes to walk.
- Manarola - Corniglia: This is more challenging, with steep ascents and descents. It will take approx. Let's count 1.5 hours.
- Corniglia - Vernazza: The most extended section, already a bit technical with steep climbs and rocky terrain. We can walk around in about 2.5 hours at a moderate pace.
- Vernazza - Monterosso al Mare: Moderately tricky, uphill and downhill section. You get the most beautiful view of the sea and the coast from here. It takes about 1-2 hours to complete.
- Monterosso al Mare - Levanto: An optional section extending beyond the Cinque Terre area. The road to the nearby town of Levanto is relatively easy and mostly flat.
The climate is generally mild and Mediterranean, with hot summers and mild winters.
- Summer (June-August): Summer is the busiest and most popular time. The thermometer's mercury can jump up to 30-35 degrees. This is the driest season, with very little rainfall.
- Autumn (September-November): The weather is still warm and sunny in autumn, but the crowds are smaller. The temperature is typically around 25 degrees. There may also be rain in some places.
- Winter (December-February): Winter is the coldest and wettest season. The temperature is around 10 degrees. There may be sunny days, but it is characterized by cloudy and rainy weather.
- Spring (March-May): Spring is beautiful as the hillsides are covered in wildflowers, and the weather is mild and pleasant. The temperature is typically around 20 degrees. There may also be rain in some places. The sea is not yet warm at this time, so those who want to go to the beach should go in summer or autumn.
Thanks to the region's location, the flavours are dominated by seafood paired with pasta dishes. The area is also known for its pesto, made using locally grown basil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese.
You can get by with public transport in the area; you don't have to use a car.
- Trains: The railway along the coast connects the five villages and other towns. Trains are frequent and reliable and travel between villages quickly and easily. Tickets can be purchased at the station or online. A one-way train ticket between any Cinque Terre village costs around €5. Daily and multi-day passes are also available. These allow unlimited train travel in the surrounding areas as well.
- Buses: There are local bus services that connect other nearby towns. The local ATC transportation company operates these buses, and tickets can be purchased on board or at the ATC offices. The bus ticket price depends on the distance travelled, but a one-way ticket between the villages costs approx. 3 euros. Daily and multi-day passes are also available.
- Boats: During summer, boats also run between the villages and the coastal towns. Boat tickets can be purchased at the ports or online. The price of a boat ticket varies depending on the route and the season, but a one-way ticket between small towns and nearby settlements or islands costs about 20 euros. We can also buy a five-day pass here.
We wish you a good trip and a good rest! Trekhunt team ❤️