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The 5 Towns of the Cinque Terre

The 5 Towns of the Cinque Terre

The 5 towns that make up Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Each has its own unique character and beauty. They are all connected by short train journies. A ferry boat service serves Monterosso, Vernazza and Riomaggiore, as well as Levanto, Portovenere and La Spezia. There are also beautiful hikes between the villages – see my post on hiking the Cinque Terre trails.

Towns of the Cinque Terre – Monterosso

villages of the Cinque Terre - crystal clear waters of Monterosso

monterosso beach

monterosso harbour and old town

beaches of monterosso

This is where I made my base as it’s covered by all train and boat services, has beautiful beaches and is the start for hiking trails in both directions.

It is the largest of the villages and is split into 2 sections. One side has lovely beaches and the only sand beach in Cinque Terre as well as the railway station, whilst the other side contains the harbour and the old town as well as the church.

view of monterosso beaches

monterosso harbour

monterosso church

monterosso church inside

monterosso old town

view of monterosso from above

steps of the old town

footpath above the village

The Statue of Benedetto d’Assisi

Both sides can be viewed from a panoramic spot watched over by a statue of Benedetto d’Assisi. Most of the beaches are private and charge a fee but there are also a couple of free beaches. The water is so clear and snorkeling can be done from the shore. Even without a mask you will see the shoals of small fish you are swimming with as well as the rocks and sea bed.

statue of bendetto d'assisi

statue of bendetto d'assisi with the sea in the background

crystal clear waters at cinque terre

Il Timone Bed & Breakfast

I stayed at a local bed and breakfast called Il Timone, a small place with 3 guest rooms. It was in a perfect spot in the old town affording great views and peace and quiet.

The roof top terrace was the perfect breakfast spot. The breakfast was fantastic with cereal, fresh fruit, fresh pastries, bread, jams and eggs or omlettes filled with cheese and ham. Accompanied by fruit choose and cappuccino.

bed and breakfast il tomone

glass of wine on the rooftop terrace

the breakfast view

my bedroom at il timone

The old town is full of restaurants and shops.

One of the advantages of staying with a local is that they can recommend the best places to eat:

For pizza try Ristorante Pizzeria da Ely.

pizza at ristorante ely

For fresh fish and seafood it has to be Ristorante Belvedere on the seafront. where I had the most beautiful sea bass.

seabass at ristorante belvedere

view from ristorante belvedere

For fresh pasta the recommendation is Trattatoria da Oscar.

spaghetti al vongole - trattoria da oscar

There is also a lovely little bar Enoteca da Eliseo with a fabulous selection of wines, cocktails, beers and aperitifs. Some of the wine is made by the owner’s family and is delicious.

view from enoteca da eliseo

an aperol spritz at enoteca da eliseo

info@iltimonedimonterosso.it

sun shimmering on the sea

looking out to sea

Book a stay in Monterosso.

Towns of the Cinque Terre – Vernazza

view of vernazza

This is a very picturesque village, often given the title of one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The colours are so vibrant, like an artist’s palette. The pastel coloured houses surrounded by the vivid greens of forests and olive groves with splashes of colour from the many flowers. The olive groves above produce one of the best olive oils in Italy.

view of the bay at vernazza

coming into vernazza

view from the monterosso trail

coming in to vernazza - close up

There are beautiful views from above on the trails leading to Monterosso one way and Corniglia the other. Even if you don’t want to hike the whole trail it may be worth climbing up the many steps to see the spectacular views. Each of the trails takes around one and a half hours and is a few minutes return by train or boat. See my post on Hiking the Cinque Terre for more information.

vernazza backdrop

beautiful view

view of the village from the old watchtower

pastel houses

lynn near Vernazza

The town is also dominated by the Santi Margherita Church with it’s magnificent bell tower and the Doria Castle, built to defend the area from pirates.

santi margherita church

view of the bay at vernazza

There are 2 small beaches, one accessed through a small cave. There are also lovely views when arriving by boat. The local ferry stops at Vernazza and a train service connects it to all the other villages as well as Levanto and La Spezia.

Book a stay in Vernazza.

Towns of the Cinque Terre – Corniglia

coming into corniglia

narrow colourful streets

This is the quieter, middle village. It is the smallest of the 5 villages and the only one not located on the sea. It is perched on top of a cliff and 377 stairs bring you down to the train station and a few more down to the sea. If the journey back up from the railway is too much, a shuttle bus will take you to the main square.

corniglia perched on the cliff

the railway line running under the village

beautiful streets

corniglia seen from the vernazza trail

surrounded by greenary and vineyards

It is a lovely, charming little village with narrow streets full of shops, bars and restaurants. It also has a local specialty that must be sampled. Homemade basil ice-cream made with basil from the owner’s garden. It is delicious! The coastal trail to Vernazza is a beautiful walk and takes around one a half hours. The ferry service does not serve Corniglia but it’s only a few minutes by train to the other villages.

a view out to sea from corniglia

a view back to corniglia from the high trail

steps on the high trail from corniglia

view - corniglia

Book a stay in Corniglia.

Towns of the Cinque Terre – Manarola

view into manarola

main street of manarola

Manarola surrounded by vineyards

Manarola is a charming village with a very pictureque main street. It is split into 2 by steps on either side of a ramp. This is lined by a wonderful display of black and white photos from past times in Manarola and Cinque Terre.

old photo of manarola

manarola in past times

Down towards the harbour is a little place that makes the most amazing pesto focaccia, it was wonderful, especially with a cold beer beer – I was drooling.

fabulous homemade focaccia pizzeria

homemade focaccia and a beer

There is no beach but still a lovely swimming and sunbathing spot. The coastal path to Corniglia is closed but it is still possible to take the high road through vineyards and forest. It takes about two and a half hours. It is even possible to stop for a glass of wine in the middle of the vineyard. See the hiking the Cinque Terre post for more information.

on the rocks

the vineyards above manarola

manarola through a wine glass

Lynn drinking wine near Manarola

looking across at manarola

Book a stay in Manarola.

Towns of the Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore

boats at Rio Maggiore

This is the largest village with a beautiful vista best viewed from the rocks at the bottom of the harbour or from the sea. The backdrop is very dramatic and this is probably the most photographed of the villages.

manarola Riomaggiore

beautiful backdrop for a pic

Climbing the steps in the castle brings you out onto a large battlement with views in all directions. Also worth a visit is the Gothic Church of San Giovanni Battista.

church of san giovanni batista

view down

At present the Via dell’Amore or way of love, the shortest trail of Cinque Terre is closed due to a landslide until April 2022. There is a circular walk through beautiful forest and vineyards up to Telgrafo. Very peaceful, lots of wild flowers and butterflies. It takes 2 hours to reach Telegrafo and an hour to come down. It is also possible to hike just part of the way to the Santuario della Madonna di Montenero.

lovely path on the telegrafo hike

view from the trail

santuario della madonna di montenero

trail view

Access to the village from the train station is through a tunnel. The main street is full of shops bars and restaurants and the harbour is a lovely place for a cold beer, especially after a long walk. There is a small beach reached by a narrow path by the side of the marina.

tunnel from the railway station

main street

slopes, steps and trees on main street

a well-deserved beer

a rock on the sea

harbour view

view from boat

Book a stay in Riomaggiore.

Other Places to Visit

Portovenere

the church of portovenere
I would definitely recommend a day trip to Portovenere. It is often called the 6th Cinque Terre Town. There is no train station but the ferry does stop there and there is also a bus service from La Spezia.
the church on the cliff
The first glimpse is very dramatic with the gray castle and church seeming to rise out of the cliff. Then you round the bluff to row of colourful houses and a lovely little harbour of this old fishing village.
first glimpse of portovenere
view from portovenere from the sea
beautiful backdrop
The harbour front is lined with bars and restaurants. Behind this is via Capellini, the main shopping street. It is entered via the old city gate and is full of shops, restaurants, ice-cream and street food. Street food Portovenere style is calamari and chips and is very tasty.
via capellini
street food portovenere style
homemade ice cream
Away from the main street the crowds disappear, staircases lead to narrow streets waiting to be explored. At the end of each street is something new to be explored, churches, a castle, a grotto, all with spectacular views.
exploring the alleyways
there's a surprise at end of every street
First was Chieso Di San Pietro, the church on the cliff with fabulous views from every nook and cranny and sunlight streaming through the windows.
the church at portovenere
view from portovenere church
the castle at portovenere
view from church door
light streaming through church window
Next was Lord Byron’s grotto. Lord Byron often swam here and would swim over to one of the neighbouring islands to visit Percy Shelley. Now once a year boats are banned from the channel and strong swimmers can swim over to the islands. Locals cone here to swim and sunbathe and there are more views to the castle on the rocks.
byron's grotto
the castle on the cliff
The views from Doria castle are fabulous in every direction and the Chieso Di San Lorenzo looks out over the bay. Even the cemetery has a spectacular view.
doria castle
chieso di san lorenzo
a cemetary with a view in portovenere
It is possible to hike from Riomaggiore to Portovenere but it takes 6 hours. It is supposed to be a spectacularly beautiful walk. I caught the first ferry here and the last one back.
my new friend
chieso di san lorenzo
statue of a lady admiring the view

La Spezia

view of la spezia from the waterfront

This is a larger port town. It is a interesting mix of old and new, with historic sights and designer shops. The best viewpoint is gained by walking over the Ponte Thaon bridge to the marina and waterfront.

view from the marina

On the hill sits St. George’s Cathedral which houses an archaeological museum. Across the road from the bridge are the public gardens, with a statue of Garibaldi.

statue of garibaldi

In the marina was a cruise ship. Many of the crew have been stuck on board for months, not allowed to leave the ship. They belong to nationalities that Italy won’t admit due to sanctions in place due the Covid-19 outbreak, sailings are stopped and their governments won’t repatriate them.

cruise ship

I was shown around by a friendly local. One of the local specialities are dough balls around when you wrap parma ham and Salami. I was taken to a viewpoint on tip of the hill for a panoramic view of the city.

local delicacies

viewpoint over the town with Alessandra

Some people make La Spezia their base for a visit to Cinque Terre. Here accommodation and food costs are much cheaper. It is connected to all the villages by a short train journey and to Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso, Portovenere and Levanto by ferry. For me there was too much traffic.

viewpoint over town

Levanto

beach - levanto

Levanto is a few minutes by train or boat from Monterosso. It has a good sandy beach and is surrounded by a forest of olive and pine trees. There are many restaurants and there is a small market twice a week.

levanto main street

small market in levanto

looking down on Levanto

It is a cheaper, quieter option to use as a base to explore the Cinque Terre villages. There is also a beautiful hike from here to Monterosso, through the forest and by the coast with many wild flowers, accompanied by a cacophony of cicadas. It takes about two and a half hours or you could have a shorter hike in the forest.

view from trail

in the forest

wild flowers

Final Thoughts on Visiting the Towns of the Cinque Terre

This is truly one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Every village has its own unique charm and character. The views are breathtaking, images that I will never forget. It is a delight for all the senses and a photographer’s dream. The hiking is magical with hikes for all levels with coastal views, beautiful forests and pastel coloured villages. Cinque Terre should be on everyone’s wish list.

Book your stay in the Cinque Terre.

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