Adoration 4 Adventure’s local guide for visitors to Cinque Terre, Italy by A4A guest writer, Cinzia Ferri.
Local guide posts provide recommendations for destinations from locals who are currently living or have lived in that particular place. Including information on the top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around with an emphasis on saving money.
Overview of Cinque Terre
Well, let’s just say that Cinque Terre (literally Five Lands) is not a city but five. Or better, they are five small villages which together are not even the size of a small town. Perched on the hills above the sea, they are one of the most enchanting places in the world. Located in the north of Italy, in a region called Liguria, just one hour away from Genoa and less than three hours from Florence, they are five little gems in the midst of amazing nature: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
Top 5 places to visit
Located up on a hill, far from the sea and the train station, Corniglia is the lesser known and least visited village of Cinque Terre. Busy with visiting Cinque Terre in a day trip, many tourists skip this location, making it the most untouched and real of the five villages.
Monterosso is the largest village in the Cinque Terre. Unlike the others, it has quite a big sandy beach, tourist facilities and is divided into an old and a new village.
The most important sites to visit are:
- Torre Aurora, built on a promontory to defend the village from the barbarians
- The Statue of Neptune called the Giant, which overlooks the coastline
- The caruggi (narrow alleys typical of all Ligurian towns) of the historical center.
Manarola is one of the two ends of the famous Via dell’Amore (way of love), a picturesque path with a breathtaking scenery which connects the village to Riomaggiore. It is perched on a little cliff which seems to tumble-down into the sea, with the houses all close together, taking advantage of the little or no space available. The not-to-be-missed places are Punta Bonfiglio and the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Salute and their amazing views.
In December, a lovely presepe (nativity scene) is set on the hill around Manarola.
Being the first village you encounter if you come from La Spezia and the starting point of the renowned Via dell’Amore, Riomaggiore is probably the most famous – and most visited – village in the Cinque Terre. Exactly like Manarola, Riomaggiore is a group of tall houses built altogether on a tiny stretch of land, with just one main road and a tiny harbour.
All five villages are nice, but Vernazza is by far the most beautiful and elegant looking. It has a small bay lined by colourful houses, an harbour with old boats and some restaurants along the square which overlooks the sea.
The main sights to visit are:
- The picturesque church of Santa Maria d’Antiochia, which is built by the sea (you can hear the sound of waves when you are inside)
- The Castle of the Doria with its cylinder tower
- The Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio, which you can reach with a nice scenic walk from the village.
Eating and drinking
Food in Cinque Terre is great, I couldn’t describe it in any other way. The cuisine is mainly based on fish, with some vegetarian dishes as well. You can find many restaurants in each village of Cinque Terre, all of them equally good. If you decide to have lunch or dinner in a restaurant, do not miss pasta with pesto, which is typical of this area: Liguria is the just best place where you can try it. However, the star of the Ligurian cuisine is a very simple – and cheap – food: focaccia. A thin salty bread with salt and olive oil, it is sold almost everywhere in bakeries and grocery stores. It is so filling that one big slice of focaccia will see you through the day, with just a few euros. If you want to feel like a local, try it at breakfast dunking it into your cappuccino.
Cinque Terre is little villages perched on a tiny stretch of land, which means that visiting with a car is highly difficult. There are just a few parking spots where you can leave your car and then move around with either the train or the boat. Trains run back and forth the villages all day round, they can be crowded but are the easiest and cheapest way of moving from one village to the other.
Taking the ferry is another great – and very scenic – option of moving around. In both cases, you can buy a ticket and then hop on and off at every location. Another great option of visiting Cinque Terre is on foot, as all villages are connected by scenic paths. Unfortunately, though, bad weather has caused some major landslides in the past and now some paths are closed (one of them is Via dell’Amore).
Since villages are so small, the biggest accommodation problem in Cinque Terre is the scarcity of rooms available. Finding a room in a hotel during the summer can be very difficult – and expensive. You can have better luck with private rooms or apartments rented by locals, but the best option is still to find either a hotel or an apartment in a nearby town, like Levanto, Portovenere – amazingly beautiful as well – or even La Spezia, where you have plenty of accommodation choices.
Hi, Cinzia here! I live in Italy, I adore travelling and I am my own boss at Instantly Italy, where I help people enjoy Italy at its best. I teach Italian and create custom travel guides for independent travelers who want to see Italy with the help of a local.
All photos in this article are the property of A4A guest writer, Cinzia Ferri.
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