The Cinque Terre – “The Five Lands” comprises five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These centuries-old seaside villages are strung along a 10-mile stretch of rugged coastline. Cinque Terre offers some of the best coastline hiking in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and cars have very limited access, so use local trains and ferries to go from town to town or take a hike on one of the spectacular trails.
TIP: choose La Spezia as your point of departure to Cinque Terre. You can purchase a train and hiking pass there as well.
The easiest, fastest and cheapest way to travel between the villages of Cinque Terre is by train. The line connecting the 5 villages is part of the main Italian railway line between Rome and Genova so there is at least one train going in both directions every hour. Most trains stop in Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Levanto and La Spezia but only regional trains stop in Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza. You can get a free printed timetable at the railway station in every village.
TIP: always make sure your train will stop in the village where you are heading. Many of the trains do not stop in each village.
To fully appreciate beauty of this rugged coastline and see Cinque Terre villages from completely different prospective take a ferry. Views are stunning and trip memorable. Boats run between Monterosso and Portovenere (also La Spezia) both directions and stop in every village except Corniglia.
One of the best ways of getting to know and appreciate Cinque Terre is to explore its hiking trails. Paths are well-marked and reasonably easy. This hiking map of Cinque Terre comes handy when planning and provides details like duration and level of difficulty. Due to storm that flooded this part of Italian Riviera in 2011 some paths are still under construction and might not be open so look for alternate routes.
If your time here is limited take advantage of all options like we did. Experiencing Cinque Terre by train, ferry and on foot gave us different prospective and allowed us to fully enjoy this remarkable part of Liguria. We found Vernazza to be the most charming, simply breathtaking (although packed with tourists). The least attractive of the towns was Monterosso with its large hotels that didn’t quite fit in with the scenery, but with large beach and many lovely beachfront restaurants.
Cinque Terre makes a perfect side trip especially if you are visiting Rome, Milan or Florence. It is easily accessible by train and definitely worth the visit.