The Big 5: Cinque Terre
Updated: Aug 24, 2018
Cinque Terre ('five lands') is a string of centuries-old seaside towns on the north-western coast of Italy, made up of five picturesque, colourful fisherman villages. It is the iconic 'Italian postcard' location or in our modern generation 'Instagram heaven'. This was a must see on Dan's Italian bucket list and our next destination on our journey down Italy.
It is easier to get your head around these villages by visually seeing them on a map.
The five towns are made up of Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
(Those are yacht sails not shark fin's...as Bidi first assumed)
Geographically these villages are very isolated, small and condensed. No campsites, no parking areas, and no vehicle access for non residents which means no chance of freedom camping close by. Fortunately thanks to park4night we found the perfect location above Monterosso Al Mare to park up and explore this stunning coast with ease. The campsite was called Parcheggio Camper Il Poggio and at a total cost of 25€ per night included wifi, water, electricity and two complimentary drop off or pick ups to and from the town each day (a life saver) by the lovely couple that manage the site. NOTE : They don't have many parking spots available so best to call up and reserve a spot before arrival.
Another perk of this location is the restaurant Il Ciliegio (with a 4.5 star google rating) located across the road, which provides panoramic sunset views of the coast. The food was great but the service was 'relaxed Italian style', so don't be in a rush to place your order, receive your food or pay your bill.
As we were based at the edge of the five villages naturally we worked our way south popping into each village. All five villages have a train stop and this is by far the easiest way to travel amongst them, with it costing 4€ one way per adult. Cinque Terre is also famous for its coastal walks between each village and we were keen to do this. Unfortunately you can no longer walk the whole path from Monterosso to Riomaggiore as some tracks are under restoration, but two of the four tracks are currently open. You can refer to the map above for the walking paths. The paths between Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza and Corniglia were open. The other two paths were closed but you can reach Manarola and Riomaggiore by train or boat.
We would recommend starting in Monterosso Al Mare and heading south. This first section on route to Vernazza is the toughest climb and best done first thing in the morning. If done in summer we recommend getting both walks done by midday. In true Italian style you will need to pay a fee to walk the trail (€7.50 per adult). This walk isn't for the faint hearted, it's challenging especially in the heat but well worth the views.
1. Monterosso Al Mare
Monterosso is split into two towns and attached via a tunnel through the hill. Monterosso is where the train station is located and the largest beach area of all five villages. Monterosso Al Mare the smaller of the two is jam packed with the best restaurants and has great evening vibes. We would recommend to head there for dinner. It is this smaller beach that we started our hike around the coast on wards to Vernazza.
Coming into Vernazza via the coastal trek will give you a breathtaking bird eye view of the town. Its colourful homes are picturesque and the sheltered port is idyllic for a quick dip. We checked out Castle Doria based on the cliff which cost €1.50 per person but to be honest wasn't worth it, so save your money for gelato instead. After a yummy lunch at Bergus Bar and a swim we carried on our way to Corniglia.
Is the smallest of the villages and really doesn't take too much time to explore through the quaint colourful streets. Here we found a bar Terza Terra that offers drinks right on the cliff... naturally we couldn't resist. After that we didn't make it far down the street until we dived into another cute bar (Pan e Vin) for a snack to wrap up that afternoon. We then took the easy way home and caught the train back.
As we couldn't walk to this village we caught the train to Manarola on our second day. A much speedier route than the previous day's hike. Manarola has an incredibly placed restaurant Nessun Dorma located on the hill looking over the village. Its a must visit! They don't take reservations but have a fast turn around, so you wont be lining up for long. The food is great and they offer different wine and food experiences. While you eat you can watch the brave tourists jump off the rocks into the turquoise waters of the sheltered port.
After this delicious meal we ran down to join them and practice the delicate art of dive bombing between the rocks (see above).
If you search Cinque Terre on Instagram an image of Riomaggiore's colourful port and iconic red building is bound to come up. A beautiful little port town like the other four but probably the least swim friendly. Around the point there is a stone beach with some serious dumping waves and brave souls swimming.
Overall we packed Cinque Terre into a busy two days and two nights before heading inland to Tuscany... a place where the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie.
Bidi & Dan :)