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The Cinque Terre in Italy – All you need to know

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In the heart of the Italian Riviera, southeast of Genoa, lies an unparalleled natural and cultural wonder: the Cinque Terre National Park, which, with its 3,868 hectares, is among Italy’s smallest national parks yet also the most densely populated, with about 4,000 inhabitants.

Within its bounds, there are the 5 villages of the Cinque Terre, alongside a breathtaking diversity of landscapes. Here, nature expresses itself with scenes ranging from imposing cliffs to picturesque bays, bathed by waters of a transparent blue, to agricultural terraces of vineyards and olive groves, all interconnected by an intricate system of paths.

The ease of access to this exceptionally beautiful heritage is guaranteed by its strategic location, close to major airports such as Genoa, Pisa, and Florence, and by the railway network that connects La Spezia to Levanto, stopping at the picturesque villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These jewels, collectively known as the Cinque Terre, are nestled in a landscape where the hand of man has adapted and shaped the rocky and steep terrain, creating a unique harmony between nature and architecture.

The activities practiced by humans for centuries, especially viticulture, have contributed to creating a unique landscape in the world, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, where the development of the typical and characteristic dry stone walls is collectively comparable to that of the famous Great Wall of China.

Read the history of the Cinque Terre.

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Spiaggia Monterosso Cinque Terre

The Villages of the Cinque Terre

Here are the villages of the Cinque Terre arriving from the city of La Spezia:

Riomaggiore

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Riomaggiore, the gateway to the Cinque Terre from La Spezia, is characterized by its narrow alleys, colorful tower houses, and the very picturesque small marina. It is the most populous village and the most lively in terms of nightlife.

The Church of San Giovanni Battista stands out among the architectural wonders of Riomaggiore; built in 1340 with its naves supported by pillars of different styles and adorned with Gothic doors, the 16th-century Oratory of Santa Maria Assunta, which houses medieval and Renaissance works of art, and the Castle that overlooks the ancient core of the village.

Riomaggiore is also the starting point of the famous Blue Trail that connects all the villages of the Cinque Terre, offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Particularly well-known is the initial stretch that starts from the station towards Manarola, called Via dell’Amore, famous for its romantic views.
The Via has been closed for 10 years, and its reopening is expected this Summer.

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Manarola

The village that hosts the largest nativity scene in Europe every year and is one of the most photographed villages of the Cinque Terre, due to the colorful houses positioned on cliffs overlooking the sea.The Church of San Lorenzo it’s worth visiting, a Ligurian Gothic-style church dating back to 1338 and housing a Carrara marble rose window from the same period.
Interesting walks to visit the village include the “Manarolino”, an easy path that from the Church of San Lorenzo will take you, through the vineyards, to the high part of the sea where the cemetery is located. Or the Via Belvedere, ending at the Eugenio Montale square, with breathtaking views of the sea and Riomaggiore.

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Corniglia

Corniglia is the only one that does not face directly onto the sea but is located on a promontory about 100 meters high, made of vineyards and terraces that surround the village, making it even more suggestive if observed from the external road. To reach it, one must climb the Lardarina staircase (33 flights with 382 steps, not steep), or take the Park bus, which from the station will take you to the village in a few minutes. If you have the Cinque Terre card, the bus transport is included in the price.

Worthy of visit are the Church of San Pietro in Ligurian Gothic style dating back to the 14th century and the Oratory of the Disciplinanti di Santa Caterina, built in the 18th century.

Apart from this, we recommend getting lost in the alleys of Corniglia and walking it from top to bottom (especially at sunset) because it is full of absolutely photogenic panoramic points.

 

Vernazza

Vernazza is considered one of the most beautiful villages. Thanks to its small marina, the church overlooking the sea, and the colorful houses all around, it resembles a beautiful bonbonnière. Like the other villages, it has a main street and a maze of alleys where it is pleasant to get lost to observe architectural elements of value such as loggias, arcades, and portals.

The main monuments of interest are certainly the parish church Santa Margherita d’Antiochia overlooking the marina, in Romanesque style and built already between the years 1000 and 1100, and the Doria castle, a symbol of the economic importance of the village had in ancient times. From the Doria Tower, you can admire a beautiful panorama of all Vernazza.

With a trek of about 2 Km on a paved road, you can reach the Sanctuary of Reggio.

 

Monterosso

It is the largest village of the Cinque Terre and the only one that has a sandy beach with a seafront promenade. The village is divided into two: the part closest to the station is the newer part of the village, with hotels, beach, and various bars and restaurants. Past the tunnel that divides the village, we find the historic part of Monterosso, with the typical Ligurian colored houses, narrow streets, and souvenirs shops.

We recommend visiting the Church of San Giovanni Battista in the historic center dating back to the late 1200s, the convent complex of the Capuchins and church of San Francesco located above the Cappuccini hill that divides the village.
The view of the statue of San Francesco dominating the sea is worth the climb.

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How to Get There and How to Move Around the Cinque Terre

By train, car, or boat? Or on foot? There are several ways to arrive and explore the Cinque Terre, discover them by reading this article. Find out all about train routes and the Cinque Terre card.

 

When to Go and How Many Days to Stay

The generally mild climate makes the Cinque Terre a pleasant place to visit all year round. However, the best period remains the months between April and October from a meteorological point of view and in terms of the amount of services available (more train connections, boats, and commercial activities open), but many are also reconsidering winter for the lesser tourist crowding; indeed, during this time of the year, it is really possible to enjoy the territory calmly and without any disturbances.

Depending on the season, different types of activities can be considered here in the Cinque Terre. Trekking is the preferred activity during spring or autumn and on sunny winter days, while swimming and boat tours are definitely are preferred in summer.
We always recommend staying at least two nights to take the necessary time to visit the villages with calm and also to take advantage of some wine-related or territory-related experience, to appreciate and get to know it better.

 

What to Do in the Cinque Terre

Boat tours, trekking, wine tours and tastings, pesto and Ligurian cuisine courses. And then still outdoor activities like kayaking, e-biking, paragliding, horseback riding.
Here is the link to all the daily tours, or you can go directly to the category you prefer: food & wine, outdoor, or sea, to select the experience most suited to you.
Are you interested in a Wine tasting in the Cinque Terre? Here is the blog page dedicated to it.

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trekking in cinque terre self guided

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

Hiking in the Cinque Terre means a lot of ups and downs, do not expect a flat walk. It is necessary to be well equipped with closed trekking shoes, a sufficient supply of water, hat, and sunscreen. The trail network is well structured and maintained, we always recommend checking the Park’s website to see if the trails are open before embarking on a journey. Here is the link to visit the Cinque Terre on foot in 2 days!

The Via dei Santuari is another “themed” trek retracing the true history of the Cinque Terre, which were originally located in the upper part of the mountains in order to escape pirate attacks.

 

Eating in the Cinque Terre

What are the typical specialties found here?

Monterosso anchovies and “gianchetti” omelette, stuffed mussels, octopus, and other fish specialties such as the very special dish from Manarola “Cappun Magru.” Then focaccia, fresh pasta, and the indispensable pesto made with the mortar.
Last but not least, the wine, Cinque Terre DOC, and Sciacchetrà.
Discover the best restaurants in the Cinque Terre with sea views.

 

Sleeping in the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre have very few hotels that concentrate almost exclusively in the village of Monterosso.
The entire offer is made up mainly of apartments and rooms for rent.
Arbaspàa has been managing tourist use apartments for over 20 years and today counts over 40, all located in the centers of Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, and La Spezia. There are cheaper apartments and others at the Luxury level, but both options can offer a lovely sea view. You can find all the apartments at this link and book directly or write to us for more information.

There are also campsites and hostels for those who love to be in nature and want to spend a little less. The campsites, however, are all located outside the Cinque Terre, starting from Levanto and going towards Genoa (many are located in Deiva Marina), all easily accessible by train.
Hostels with private rooms or dormitories are instead located in Corniglia (right in the heart of the Cinque Terre), some in La Spezia, and one in the Biassa area (area between La Spezia and the Cinque Terre that we recommend exploring, more easily accessible by car).

 

Map of the Cinque Terre

Where are the Cinque Terre? Here is a map of the villages with symbols of activities that can be done.

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Arbaspàa has been a tour operator in the Cinque Terre for over 20 years.

It manages more than 40 apartments and organizes cultural, hiking and food&wine excursions, boat trips and exclusive experiences in the Cinque Terre and Italy.
Please write us for any needs.
📧 info@arbaspaa.com

Published :
April 10, 2024

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