What to see in Italy
Tourist attractions Cinque Terre
The quintessential image of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is among the most sought-after travel destinations in the country. A string of five historic fishing villages in the region of Liguria, a vacation to Cinque Terre is the chance to escape to an area filled with rich natural beauty and awe-inspiring coastal landscapes. Pastel-coloured houses, quaint fishing harbours and wow-factor sea views can be expected if you travel to Cinque Terre.
Beauty like this doesn’t come easy, and it’s true that accessing these tiny villages can be a challenge. Limited roads mean the best way to travel to Cinque Terre is by train from La Spezia. Regional trains make stops at all five of these achingly beautiful villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Alternatively, arriving at Cinque Terre by boat is another, more romantic, option. The wild, yet spectacular coastline, along with all five villages, are encompassed within the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
So, what wonders await those who travel to Cinque Terre? Along with postcard-perfect views, charming architecture and crystal clear waters, this collection of villages is also famed for its excellent food and wine heritage. A number of the villages have their own trademark delicacies, such as the anchovies of Monterosso and the honey gelato of Corniglia. Furthermore, ingenious terraces, built on the sloping hillsides, grow a range of grape varieties used to produce local wines and other drinks, such as grappa.
Of course, staying in Cinque Terre is an authentic escape from the trappings of modern life. Here, you can truly experience the Italian Riviera of yesteryear, with cars banned within the villages and life moving at a slower pace. On the other hand, day trips to Cinque Terre from Genoa, Florence or Pisa are also popular.
Things to see in Cinque Terre
If you are visiting Cinque Terre, the five villages will be your main attraction. Here’s a brief introduction to each village and the unique sights you can explore if you travel to Cinque Terre:
The largest village in Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is also one of the most visited. Its colourful harbour, flanked by well-preserved houses, is an instantly recognisable image of the Italian Riviera. Closest to La Spezia, travel to Riomaggiore is straightforward by train. It’s also the best place to start a hike along the Via dell’ Amore route if you prefer to discover the villages of Cinque Terre on foot. Sights in Riomaggiore include the 14th-century Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Church of San Lorenzo. The village also has a 13th-century castle, perched on a cliff overlooking the sea and a pebbly beach if you fancy cooling off in the crystal clear waters!
With a tiny population of just over 300, Manarola is small yet sweet! Wine-lovers will relish a trip to this Cinque Terre village since Manarola is known for its abundant grapevines and delicious Sciacchetrà sweet wine. Said to be the oldest village of Cinque Terre, the rocky cliffsides and medieval stone architecture make this a strikingly beautiful place to explore. Taking in the sea views is the main attraction here, although Manarola is also home to a historic church, the Chiesa di San Lorenzo, and hosts a charming nativity scene during the Christmas period.
This hilltop village doesn’t have access to the coast like others in the Cinque Terre chain but does lay claim to some of the most spectacular sea views. Dating back to Roman times, the village is surrounded by established vineyards. Corniglia is noted for its atmospheric alleys and cobblestone streets. It’s also the quietest of the Cinque Terre villages, home to a couple of historic churches and a good selection of wine bars, gelato shops and restaurants.
Continuing north towards Genoa, the penultimate village in the Cinque Terre chain is Vernazza with its protected harbour and eye-catchingly beautiful architecture. Perched steeply across the verdant hillsides, Vernazza is lesser-known yet surely one of the quaintest stops on a tour of Cinque Terre. Nestled amongst olive groves, some considered Vernazza one of the best places to stay in Cinque Terre due to its excellent selection of restaurants and variety of accommodation options. Furthermore, it’s also home to a 1,000-year-old hilltop castle and the stunning Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, overlooking the Ligurian Sea.
If you take a vacation to Cinque Terre and want to spend some time at the beach, Monterosso is the perfect place to stay. Home to Cinque Terre’s only substantial stretch of sandy beach, this village is also known for its anchovies and lemon trees. As the largest village, it may not be the most charming, but it is still extremely beautiful, with crystal clear waters and both a medieval old town alongside a modern new town, known as Fegina. In the old town, you’ll find the famous Parrocchia San Giovanni Battista, a black and white Gothic-era church.