If you’re looking to visit Cinque Terre, you’ll find no shortage of blogs telling you “it’s a Pinterest travel board come to life!” and “#InstaGoals.” Many of the posts I read while researching were solely directions of where to get the best selfie or what background to use for your pic of your Aperol Spritz. Whereas it is true—Cinque Terre is beautiful—we’ll admit that it is not as visually vibrant as the overly-saturated photos you’ll see online. But there are other reasons to visit outside of the rainbow views:
Cinque Terre (meaning “Five Earths”) is a set of secluded fishing villages in northwest Italy. The five towns—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—offer a look at a traditional corner of Italian culture. Complete with pastel-toned buildings, windy streets, and turquoise marinas, these villages are built into the cliff-sides and free of commercial chain stores and restaurants.
Our favorite thing to do in Cinque Terre was hike. All the towns are connected by hiking trails with various difficulty levels. We highly recommend the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare. It uses the Blue Trail (covered by the Cinque Terre card) and offers stunning views of the towns and the glittering Ligurian Sea. We wrote all about the logistics about the hike and the Cinque Terre card here!
If you’re not feeling as ambitiously athletic (you’re on vacation after all!), catch some vitamin D at one of the pebble beaches in Monterosso al Mare. We found Monterosso to most resemble a classic beach town with plenty of restaurants, gelaterias, shops, and places to sit. The water is quite cold, but lovely to wade into on a hot day. Like most European beaches, we recommend you bring water shoes so you can easily walk upon the pebble beaches.
The food, like everywhere in Italy, is delicious. Since the villages are nestled along the Ligurian Sea, it is highly recommended to try the anchovies and mussels from the area! If seafood isn’t your thing, try other regional favorites, such as a fresh pesto dish or focaccia.
For yummy budget eating, we recommend Pastakeaway in Manarola, or hitting up a grocery store for focaccia, olives, cheese, and salami.
For the picnic of your dreams, grab your pasta-to-go and head up the stairs next to Pastatakeaway towards Trail 6p for a view of the Manarola marina and the neighboring towns.
There are also plenty of historical and cultural landmarks to see throughout the towns. Climb the windy main roads in Manarola and Corniglia to see Gothic churches, whereas Riomaggiore and Vernazza have medieval castles. These layers of history are part of what makes Cinque Terre a protected, UNESCO Heritage site.
One last great thing to do in Cinque Terre is absolutely nothing. The locals have the saying dolce far niente which translates to “the art of doing nothing.” In an area crawling with tourists and cameras, it can be easy to get lost in the go-go-go attitude as you hop between villages and hunt for the postcard-perfect views. Instead, Cinque Terre challenges you to grab a gelato or a lemonade from the local market, find a seat overlooking the sea, and relax. Take the time to really enjoy your time there, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Have you been? Any additional tips or questions? Let us know below!