Exploring the Five Villages of Cinque Terre
Updated: Jul 18, 2022
12 Best Things to do in Cinque Terre, Italy
If you’re heading to Italy, make sure you add this charming, vibrant location to your itinerary. Cinque Terre, Italy, is a coastal region made up of five small fishing villages - Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. And it is not a place to be missed. These seaside villages offer beautiful ocean views, remarkable seafood, and friendly citizens.
While these five towns are quite small, they are all worth spending time in and exploring their own bustling streets. Because they are smaller towns, they do get quite busy as many people want to visit and the streets fill up quickly. If you're going on a day trip to Cinque Terre, check out our detailed guide on How to Get to Cinque Terre, Italy!
However, if you stay a night (or two or three), you’ll get to see Cinque Terre at its finest. In the morning, before about 10am, and in the evening, after about 6pm, the streets are quiet, the restaurants are buzzing, the wine is flowing, and the music is playing. Many tourists only visit Cinque Terre for the day, so if you stay in one of the five towns, you’ll experience a different side of this wonderful region of the Italian Coast during the earlier morning and later evening.
Each town of Cinque Terre is unique and special in its own way, meaning you simply have to explore all of them. From the picturesque views of Manarola to the fishing harbor of Vernazza, you won’t want to miss out on any of the five towns of Cinque Terre, Italy.
You can hop on the train and walk through each town all in one day, or take your time, and leisurely enjoy what each one has to offer. Now for the good stuff. Once you’ve booked your trip to Cinque Terre, because you’ll definitely want to, add these activities to your list and enjoy all these five towns have to offer!
What to do in the Cinque Terre Villages
What to do in Manarola
Known for the most picturesque views, sweet dessert wine, and all things pesto, Manarola is the most iconic of the Cinque Terre villages. While you’re exploring Manarola, Italy, make sure you check these off your list!
There are multiple access points to swim in the Ligurian Sea here in Manarola. There is a ladder at one point, and the others are “beach” entrances that slowly get deeper. If you’re wanting to swim, make sure you visit in the summer. The water is very, very cold here, but it’s super refreshing on a hot summer’s day! And remember to pack a towel and sunscreen!
2) Drink Sciacchetra
Manarola is famous for this sweet, dessert wine. Sciacchetra is served in a little glass, and has a pretty strong, but very sweet flavor. We recommend enjoying this Cinque Terre specialty wine with a pastry-like dessert. When we ordered sciacchetra, it came with biscotti, the famous Italian almond biscuits, and we also ordered a lemon shortbread type dessert. The three of these all went very well together, and we highly recommend adding them to your order!
3) Boat Tour
If you want to admire all five towns of Cinque Terre, but don’t have a lot of time, then check out a boat tour. These are also available at the beach access point of Manarola (and in each town); however, they may sell out quickly, so we recommend booking in advance. This is a nice option if you don’t have time to explore all five towns by foot.
What to do in Riomaggiore
When in Riomaggiore, you’ll see many colorful fishing boats lining the coast. You’ll definitely want to try some seafood here; it’s absolutely delicious. And keep an eye out for intricately painted tiles in Riomaggiore. We found that they often lined the walls and buildings and added another layer of beautiful hand crafted art in Cinque Terre.
4) Eat, Eat, Eat
If you’re a seafood lover, you’ll be in heaven in Riomaggiore. This town is known for its numerous, colorful fishing boats floating around the harbor and out to sea. We recommend trying a seafood pasta dish such as squid ink pasta. If you’re not the biggest fan of seafood, you’re still in luck. There is plenty of pesto pasta, pizza, and more to go around.
If you’re outdoorsy and adventurous, you should definitely go for a hike while you’re in Cinque Terre! There was a trail that led from Riomaggiore through Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and ended in Monterosso, but sadly a large portion has been swept away by a landslide. But! There are many other trails worth checking out as Cinque Terre is a national park, and you can still hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola. The views higher up the mountain are definitely worth the hike!
6) Catch a Sunset
If you have the time, make sure you catch a sunset in Riomaggiore. If the skies are clear, sunsets in Cinque Terre are unbeatable. They're so vibrantly red and orange and pink and purple, it almost doesn't seem real. And Riomaggiore is the best of the five towns to catch one! It has the clearest view of the horizon.
What to do in Vernazza
The most colorful of the five towns in our opinion, Vernazza, is home to the only natural harbor in Cinque Terre. You can walk out to the end of the harbor and see all the beauty of Vernazza from afar.
There are little shops in every town of Cinque Terre, but Vernazza has quite a variety. You can shop for sundresses, handmade kitchen ware, wine, and more! There is a lot to see at the stores in Vernazza, but even stopping at a few is fun.
8) Grab a Gelato
You have to get some gelato when you’re walking around the coast of Italy, it’s an unwritten rule. We recommend you grab a gelato here in Vernazza, and walk through the main street until you reach the harbor. You should walk to the end of the harbor and appreciate the town of Vernazza all in one frame. You really can’t go wrong with any flavor of gelato, but some of our favorites here in Vernazza were passion fruit, coconut, and mint chocolate.
What to do in Corniglia
The quietest town of all Cinque Terre, Corniglia, is located further up the mountain rather than right on the coast like the other towns. However, this means beautiful ocean views, less crowded streets, and more lush greenery.
9) Relaxing Meal
This is a great place to grab lunch or dinner if you’re looking to have a quieter meal. Because Corniglia is higher up the mountain, it is overlooked by quite a few tourists. We found it equally as charming as the other four towns though. We loved that the streets weren’t crowded and the whole town gave off a more local feel which is a really nice way to enjoy a meal in Italy. Just a warning, there are a whole lot of stairs up to Corniglia from the train station, which means you'll be extra ready for some pasta when you get to the top.
10) Taste Limoncello
Corniglia, being situated higher up the mountain than its neighbors, is surrounded by farmland and lush greenery. This is the perfect town to grab a glass of limoncello or delicious Italian wine and soak in the views of the countryside right along the coast.
What to do in Monterosso
The largest of all five Cinque Terre Villages, Monterosso is the place to find luxury resort hotels, high end restaurants, and bustling streets. However, you can still enjoy exploring Monterosso without spending a fortune.
11) Lounge at the Beach
Along with having the most hotels and restaurants, Monterosso also has the most beach umbrellas. Pack up your beach bag and head to one of Monterosso’s beaches, swim, sunbathe, and relax under a beach umbrella. There are also quite a few restaurants located right on the beaches here in Monterosso making it very easy to grab lunch and then spend more time on the beach if you please.
12) Old Town & New Town
There are two different parts of Monterosso, Old Town and New Town, and they are just as they sound. Old Town is the original Monterosso where you will find beautiful churches, amazing architecture, and long run family businesses. In New Town, you will find more resort type hotels, newer shops and restaurants, and slightly busier streets because of the resorts here. However, both sides of Monterosso are worth seeing and exploring.
While you’re booking your trip to Italy, we really do hope you add Cinque Terre to your list. It is such a charming location on the Italian coast, with a laid back, more relaxing feel. The views are breathtaking from all five towns of Cinque Terre, the restaurants are all unique, and streets all have their own personalities.
From the delicious wines to the inviting beaches to the unmissable views, Cinque Terre, Italy is not a place to be overlooked. Take the train that goes from Monterosso to Riomaggiore (end to end of Cinque Terre), and explore all five towns, including, Vernazza, Manarola, and Corniglia.
We hope we’ve convinced you to visit Cinque Terre and fall in love with it as well. This charming Italian Coastal region is unlike any other and offers the perfect place to slow down and soak in La Dolce Vita found in no other than Italy.
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Ciao! Buon viaggio!