Becoming even more popular than ever due to the power of social media, this area of rugged Ligurian coast in Italy needs to be seen to be believed. The Cinque Terre area is made famous by the pastel coloured houses perched high up on the Italian Rivera.
Having been made a UNESCO world heritage site since the mid 90's, and with five towns to explore it was about time that I dedicated a blog post all about it.
This post will act as an information guide to the region, how to get around the area, what to see and of course - how to travel here on a budget.
The region is made up of five unique towns - Cinque Terre = "Five lands" which are
*From north to south
Monterosso al Mare
The town is divided into two sections, the old and new town which are separated via a pedestrian tunnel pass. The old town hosts Monterosso castle and the concrete statue of Neptune God of the Sea. This town has the largest stretch of sand beach with many sun loungers available in peak season.
This town has one major street lined with cobbles and little cafes that runs from the train station to the harbour. The Piazza Marconi faces out towards the coast and showcases the only natural port on the Cinque Terre. Vernazza is probably the steepest town of them all.
Surrounded by terraced olive groves, you can't get more Mediterranean if you tried...
Corniglia is situated atop a high rocky outcrop and is the only town which does not have access from the sea. From the train station you will go down a set of 300 steep steps.
If you want to check off an unusual bucket list item, then there is the pebble Guvano nudist beach. (Of course clothing is optional) and what happens in Italy, stays in Italy right...
Or, if you want something more conservative, check out the Gothic Ligurian church of Saint Peters situated in the Corniglia's main square.
Manarola is probably the most iconic of the five towns. The rocky marina with a backdrop of brightly coloured houses huddled together is a sight to see. Not far from the marina, there is a path way that hugs the rock and leads to a small peninsula. This is where you will have the best view of the town. Inside of the town there is tourist shops and seafood restaurants, however in my opinion just take a few moments to soak up the waterfront. You'll come across fishing boats, swimmers and brave souls jumping into the sea!
The most southerly town is Riomaggiore which is closer to the city of Pisa than Genoa.
Without a doubt, Riomaggiore is my favourite of them all. Despite it being the largest of the five towns, it feels like you are walking inside of a postcard. The houses are brightly painted, most with window shutters and azure blue waters swaying below them. Further inland the town has a more agricultural feel, and there are many paths up into the hills which provide a great look at the landscape and terraces below. There are many shops selling lemon infused gifts, pottery, paintings and of course places to find Italian gelato. If you have the time, there there is the opportunity for boat excursions around the area which runs from March to November.
If you are arriving here by train the centre of the town is only a five minute walk through a pedestrian tunnel.
If you want to hike the trail, Riomaggiore and Manarola are only ten minutes away from each other following the trail along the coast.
How to get there:
If you are flying from the U.K, then bare in mind that Ryanair have direct flights to Genoa for under £60.
The easiest way to get from Genoa to the Cinque Terre is to take a south bound train to the town of Levanto (The train will be bound toward La Spezia) where you change to a more regional train that makes it's first stop at Monterosso. You can walk this region if you like, however if you are coming on a day trip then you might want to save some time by getting the train between towns.
The journey time from Genoa is around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Leaving Pisa Centrale station to Monterosso, you will make one transfer at La Spezia to the more regional train line. Trains from Pisa leave frequently, with about 20 trains leaving per day.
Train ticket prices are about 11 -17 Euros, with journey times of just under 2 hours.
*Important note* Please validate your train ticket prior to boarding the train, the train conductors are pretty strict about this and from my own experience I nearly got handed a hefty fine for not doing so. (This applies to any train in Italy. )
Look out for the yellow ticket boxes found at the stations. If in doubt, watch this short video below.
How to save money
If you are planning on visiting the Cinque Terre for one to two days, I would recommend getting the Cinque Terre Card.
The card includes use of the ecological park bues, access to all of the trekking paths, free entry to the museums and WiFi connection along the trail.
The card also allows for unlimited use of the trains along the route from Levanto to La Spezia.
You can purchase the card at any of the railway stations along the Cinque Terre, or from bus drivers along the route. If you want to pre purchase the card it can be bought online here
Costs for one day with the use of the train is 16 Euros.
Two days with train is 29 Euros.
Hike only pass for one day is 7.50 Euros.
If you don't have an exact plan of what and when you want to see the towns, then purchasing the is card is a good idea.
I hope you've gained an insight into what the Cinque Terre is all about, I visited in the late spring of 2017 and really enjoyed my time here. I just wish I could have allowed for an overnight stay here as apparently the towns are amazing all lit up. I would suggest wearing comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved.
Ciao for now!
Italian trains: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
Cinque Terre card: http://www.cinqueterre.com/en/the-cinque-terre-card/
Cinque Terre boat trips: https://www.enjoycinqueterre.com/