This bucket list destination was on our list for a while now. Soon enough we realised that 2020 is the best time to visit very popular destinations if you want to avoid crowds (which we personally hate so much). As Cinque Terre is one of the most touristy places in Italy, we knew that if we want to experience it without tourists, it’s now or never.
We decided to go on a road trip around Italy and spend 3 full days in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. As we were coming by car, the most convenient option for us was to stay in La Spezia, which is a bigger town just a few minutes train ride from Cinque Terre. There is no problem with the parking like in Cinque Terre so we didn’t have to worry about our car.
Note: If you are coming by plane, the closest airports are Genova and Pisa.
We took an accommodation close to the train station as we needed to use the train to go around every day. “The Cinque Terre Train Card” is the best option if you want to visit all 5 villages and maybe go also to some view points or trekking paths. With this card you have unlimited train travel on the line between La Spezia – Sestri Levante, unlimited bus travel in the area and access to all trekking paths for 16 eur/day. You can also visit Cinque Terre by boat. It is much more expensive however the views you gonna see from a boat you aren’t gonna see on the train so it really depends on you and your budget.
Note: Boat price – 27 euros/day Cinque Terre unlimited pass or 35 euros/day Cinque Terre + Portovenere + La Spezia unlimited pass).
Now Let’s have a look on all 5 villages.
The first village if you are coming from La Spezia is Riomaggiore (only 8 min train ride away). The view from the little harbour is really beautiful. Probably the most famous and obviously the most romantic thing to do here is to have a walk through Via dell’Amore – The Way of Love which leads to Manarola. It is also the shortest hiking trail you can do in Cinque Terre which takes only around 30 min however it’s closed until April 2021 due to restoration.
Manarola was one of our favourite. It also seemed the most “fun” one for us. We really enjoyed our time on the “beach” here which was full of rocks where you could jump off. Watching kids competing who is gonna jump from a higher rock was really fun. We really loved it. There is also a very nice viewpoint of Manarola with very easy path leading to it, so you don’t have to worry about trekking.
Corniglia is the smallest village out of these 5. Some say it’s also the least interesting one and some say it’s the most authentic one. You can make your own opinion when you visit. After the train ride to Corniglia there is a bus going to the “centre” (included in the train card price) or if you want to skip the bus, you can walk there too but keep in mind it is 370 steps uphill. Probably the most beautiful thing to see there is Saint Mary’s terrace where you get a beautiful panoramic view over the sea and vineyards.
The most beautiful viewpoint of the town is definitely in Vernazza (Manarola being the second). To get to this viewpoint you have to enter the trekking path (direction Monterosso al Mare) which normally costs 7,50 euros but if you have the unlimited train card it is included in the price. Other option is to go there either very early in the morning or very late evening as the checkpoint is closed at those times. It is not far from the “centre” so you don’t have to hike much (around 15 min).
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
This is the last and also the largest village of Cinque Terre. In Monterosso you won’t find the perfect view of the village but you sure find an amazing beach! Monterosso is the only one of the 5 that offers you a quite long sandy beach with the beautiful crystal clear turquoise water. You can choose between a private beach where you have to rent your private umbrella with sun beds (2 sun beds + umbrella cost around 20-30 euros depending on the month) or a free beach. However in 2020 during the pandemic you had to book your free spot on the free/public beach online in advance. At the end of the beach there is also a parking (2,5 eur/hour or 25 eur/day).
HIKING THE ENTIRE CINQUE TERRE TRAIL?
You have more trails to choose from. Some are more difficult than the others. The most popular one is called “The Blue Trail” and it’s 11km long. We wouldn’t recommend to do it during hot summer days for obvious reasons so the best time is probably between April-May or October-November.
Note: CHECK IF THE TRAIL IS OPEN BEFORE YOU GO! They are always redoing some parts of the trails so it is closed for the duration of restoration. When we visited, the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso was closed due to recent rock summit slide.
DON’T SKIP PORTOVENERE
Only 35 min car ride from La Spezia and you arrive to this beautiful medieval little town that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was a perfect start of our Cinque Terre trip. It is also calmer and less crowded than Cinque Terre. Views from San’t Pietro’s church and Doria’s castle are insanely beautiful. Especially for the sunset. Don’t miss out also the Lord Byron’s Grotto which was named after the famous English poet who spent a lot of time here during the 19th. century and where he took a lot of inspiration for his romantic poems.
The region is very famous for its fresh pesto. In every corner you can find locals selling small jars of pesto or traditional dishes containing it. Try Focaccia (kind of pizza bread) with pesto or with stracchino (kind of cream cheese). Farinata is very similar to Focaccia but it’s made of chickpeas flour. As the entire region is full of small fishing villages, you will always have a great selection of fresh fish and seafood.
If you have some extra time, visit Portofino which is about 1h30min from La Spezia. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for that but we are definitely going back as we heard so many good things about it. So maybe next year (spoil alert 🙂 )
Check the cost of our Cinque Terre trip: http://borntotraveldiaries.com/italy-road-trip-cost-breakdown/
We hope this blog post was helpful to you and you are gonna have a lovely time when visiting Cinque Terre. For more pictures and videos check our story highlight (5 Terre). If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to comment bellow or contact us via email or even better via Instagram @borntotraveldiaries Thank you for your time and stay tuned for our next diary page 🙂 .