Italy is a beautiful country, which I fell in love at the first sight. This time we are going to explore together the north-western part of the country, to the area called Cinque Terre, located on the Ligurian coast. Let us meet four beautiful towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza.
The Cinque Terre area is located on the Ligurian Riviera, in the north-west of Italy. It consists of several small and very charming towns like Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, and Corniglia. All these towns have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which only confirms the uniqueness of the area.
We can find here numerous houses painted in bright colors, which together with the bays, beaches, grottos, cliffs and the blue sea itself creates views that are both insane and perfect for photos. All this at the bottom of hills, surrounded by terraces of olive trees or vines, bathed in greenery. If you plan to go on a trip to Cinque Terre, you will not regret it.
We will probably go into the cities by train from the city of La Spezia (you can read about this below in the section "How to get to Cinque Terre?"), so I will describe them in the order of the train stops.
This is the first stop of the train leading us to the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is a small town, where beautiful colorful houses, more than seven hundred years old, descend on both sides of the rocks straight to the sea. Although it is not a big town, you can find here some interesting places.
In the city, you will find a fortified castle above your heads, which can not be missed (there is an amazing view from there), two small churches and many vineyards where you can taste a local wine. Right next to the water, behind the rocks, we can find a small, rocky beach where we can swim and wash away the traveler's dust.
It is worth to notice that in Riomaggiore we will find the beginning of the famous path called Via dell'Amore, or the path of lovers. It runs through the rocky coast to Manarola. It has been assumed that along the route couples leave padlocks with written confessions of love. Unfortunately, part of the love trail collapsed in 2015 and at the moment (2018) has not been rebuilt yet and it is closed to visitors.
Interesting fact: The city authorities have forbidden residents to mount satellite dishes so that the city will not lose its beauty. Instead, one large, collective antenna has been created that provides a signal to the flats.
Our second point on the Cinque Terre route is the beautiful town of Manarola, probably the most characteristic of all four cities described here. Unfortunately, we did not get here using the path of lovers, but you probably already know that if you have read the part about Riomaggiore. However, from this side, it is possible to go through a short part of Via dell'Amore, so it's worth to do this.
The train station in Manarola is located near the sea, so from our first step around the city, we were smiling widely. To reach the town, go through the tunnel carved into the rock. When we will do that, we will get to the terrace, from which there is a beautiful view of the sea and colorfully painted, several-floor houses, between which we will see the road to the water.
If you want a great panorama of the city of Manarola, you should go to the right to the headland located there. This is the place from where 80% of the city's photos that we can find on the internet are made. And for good reason, because the view is so nice that it's difficult to leave it. However, if we succeed to leave, it is worth wandering through the small church of St. Lawrence up to the area called "Groppo", a group of houses offering local products and wines from the Cinque Terre.
In Manarola, there are no typical hotels, only local houses in the style of Bed & Breakfast. The streets are narrow and the buildings are compact. All tourism is centered around the main road, where you can find souvenir shops or restaurants with local dishes, delicious cheeses, wine, salads, and bruschetta. We will not find a beach here, and we can only get to the water through the rocks.
The third point on the map of our trip around Cinque Terre. Corniglia is the smallest town of all described here, located one hundred meters above sea level, at the very top of the headland. It's not easy to get to the city of Manarola and we have to get through over 380 stairs to reach the center of the town. The views are great on the way, so climbing up is not a problem.
Corniglia itself is quiet and peaceful. The least appreciated by tourists, however, in my opinion, wrongly. Due to its location, it is quite difficult to photograph it and the best view is from the trail. During walks, you can admire the prickly pears growing on the coast and a lot of cats, which are walking around the village unrestrictedly.
Corniglia has no direct access to the sea, but with a little desire, you can reach the beautiful Spiaggione beach. Interesting fact: One of the city's attractions is a hidden nudist beach called Guvano. If we want to get there, we have to look out for an unlit and narrow tunnel.
This is the last stop in our colorful journey through the Cinque Terre, and sadness began to creep into our hearts that this was slowly over. Vernazza is a beautiful, colorful town with a small fishing port, a central square surrounded by restaurants and a stronghold on the rock. At the harbor, you will also find a small beach where we can swim.
Vernazza has retained the port climate most of all Cinque Terre, which is easy to see. The rocks, located near the beach and the port, are perfect for a moment of respite and rest, preferably with a bit of provision or local fruits (I ate here delicious mandarins with red flesh). The city is located on many postcards and is incredibly photogenic, which will surely appeal to many photographers.
Where to swim and how to find a nice beach?
While discussing cities above I tried to describe the options we have there when it comes to swimming and sunbathing. Here, I would like to talk about the town of Monterosso al Mare, which is the westernmost town in the Cinque Terre. Along the whole of Monterosso stretches the only sandy beach in the whole area, so it is the best place for fans of sunbathing.
The vast majority of the beach is paid, and we have access to umbrellas, deckchairs, changing rooms and showers. There is also a small free part, but usually, there are a lot of people there.
How to get to the Cinque Terre?
Few people know that for centuries the Cinque Terre was practically cut off from the world until the 19th century where the construction of a railway line started connecting individual towns. Let's find out, however, how to get to our fairy-tale land.
Unfortunately, I have a bad news for all fans of travel only by car. I will say this clearly - without a train, you will not get around. Due to its location, the Cinque Terre towns are inaccessible by car, as parking spaces here can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
For this reason, I strongly recommend leaving the car in the city of La Spezia on a large parking lot located just next to the railway station and change your transport type to one described below.
The best and practically the only way to comfortably travel between the Cinque Terre towns is by train. To do this, it is best to buy Cinque Terre Train Card, thanks to which we can travel all day every train from La Spezia to Levanto and we can stop in every town between. This card also gives free access to lifts and buses, all pedestrian paths and is also an entrance to the Riomaggiore Memorial Museum and the Sciacchetrà Museum in Manarola. It costs 16 Euro.
Where to stay at night?
In the Cinque Terre area, in all the towns we can find quite a few small hotels, but they are not cheap and we can spend a lot of money on them. We can find a few cheaper places in La Spezia, but if we want to save as much as possible, the alternative is also the campsites in nearby Levanto.
Cinque Terre is an amazingly beautiful place, not only for travelers and photographers but also for wildlife and great landscapes enthusiasts. Each town encountered here impresses with something else, and time seems to flow more slowly here. Colored houses and blue sea will make us relaxed and happy.
If you liked this article, would like to share your opinion or have any questions for me or about Cinque Terre or the Ligurian Coast, you can leave me a comment in the section below.