Coastal hikes and fondant pasta: the 4-day Cinque Terre weekend

On my first visit to Cinque Terre in Italy, I had one of those improvised surreal experiences. I was young, I traveled with other students, I walked along the coastal park. Around lunchtime, we ventured into the middle of its five towns, Corniglia, where a resident poked her head through a window and called. She invited us to her home and made some plates for lunch. She then served us white wine (bottomless) and the most melt-in-your-mouth pesto lasagna. I still dream about this meal today and have tried to imitate the recipe dozens of times. She was so warm to us, a bunch of ignorant young foreigners. We paid for her, of course, but it was a godsend given the magic that surrounded the moment and her generous hospitality.

On top of all that, we were at Cinque Terre – what the screensavers and ambitious posters are made of! You know the scene: Colorful houses seemingly stacked on top of each other as they climb up the cliff face, overlooking the Ligurian coast. You can imagine the seafood, wine, and pesto – ooooh, pesto – as well as the recreational component to gain all the carbs and calories.

A visit to the Cinque Terre is in itself one of those surreal experiences, although it is best scripted to a certain extent. (Get a good hotel, eat in the right places, pack your SPF, and bring your best hiking boots.) Having this setting will also ensure that the best unscripted moments happen.

Here are our top tips on the Cinque Terre, as well as some necessary information about the area.

Corniglia Alla Sera

Regional Agency In Liguria

What you need to know about the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre itself is a park on the coast of Liguria (think of Genoa, Sanremo, Portofino…). It includes five “hamlets”, small towns that dot the coastal cliffs, which become landmarks for a hike through the man-made park. (Cinque Terre Park is also called “Parco dell’Uomo” or “Man’s Park”). These five hamlets are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (down the coast, in that order). Historically, their inhabitants were fishermen and farmers, and the isolated region was largely self-sufficient.

One of the most distinct characteristics of these “five lands” (the “Cinque Terre”) is the way they are built almost vertically into the cliff. It is the result of centuries of hard work by the locals and farmers of the neighborhood, who cut up the land using dry stone walls in order to build their homes and cultivate it – as well as to keep it from growing. fly away with the tides. You will still see active green spaces when you visit (they look a lot like the rice fields in Southeast Asia). This land is where they grow grapes, olives, vegetables, etc., in an environment that was not originally suitable for crops. Again, this is where the awesome man-made element shines through.

How to get to the Cinque Terre

Unless you’ve rented a car, the train is your easiest bet. It is easy to take a flight to Genoa or Pisa, then get on the train along the coast towards each end of the park. The local train also runs through all five cities, so you’ll be connected regardless of where you lay your head each night. It’s also easy to add a three or four day visit to the area before or after a stop in Milan or Florence, both a few hours away by train.

If you are coming from the south, via Florence / Pisa / La Spezia, you will first arrive in Riomaggiore. If you are coming from the north, via Genoa / Portofino / Milan, you will first arrive in Monterosso al Mare.

Corniglia Raccolta Uva

Corniglia Raccolta Uva

Regional Agency In Liguria

When to visit the Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre are open all year round, 365 days a year. However, the timing of your visit will largely determine the experience you have, even if everything is good. (The location, food, and hospitality are second to none.)

It rains the most between October and February, which means that a handful of overland hiking trails are closed. (These more vulnerable trails will also be closed on rainy days throughout the year.) This does not limit the hike in light rain, but rather limits some of the options. For heavier rains (in which local authorities color-code with orange or red warnings), they can stop selling tourist cards, close trails, and wait for things to dry up.

Summer will be the busiest and hottest season, especially August. In normal years, the cities are even too touristy, which puts a strain on the inhabitants.

So with all of that in mind, choose a shoulder season if you want the best chance of finding quieter trails, less traveled towns, better places for dinner, and less chance of rain. April and May are optimal, as well as September to early October, with September and May being warm enough for a dip in the sea.



Regional Agency In Liguria

How to be a respectful tourist in the Cinque Terre

Due to the overcrowding of the Cinque Terre, it is obviously important to be a respectful and responsible tourist.

Cleverly, the region issued a Cinque Terre Card since 2001, which helps fund the utilities that keep the park open. It allows visitors to access parks and trains between each city. A version of the card also includes train access from Levanto (just north of the Cinque Terre) and La Spezia (just south).

Here are some tips for being a respectful tourist in the Cinque Terre:

  1. Stay on designated hiking trails and keep the trails clean.
  2. Travel in small groups.
  3. Obey all weather warnings; avoid hiking the trails when they are potentially muddy.
  4. Stay in one of the “Environmental Quality Label»Hotels (since they adhere to regional standards that respect the environment and heritage).
  5. Book with certified tourism companies, who are also aware of local efforts to preserve culture and the environment.


Regional Agency In Liguria

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

Monterosso al Mare is the main destination town, as it has the largest stretch of beaches. However, the train runs between the five cities, making it easier to stay in one of them. You can even stay in Corniglia and walk easily in either direction, on two different days. Riomaggiore, Manarola and Vernazza are, in my opinion, the most “quintessential” when it comes to how you envision a charming Italian coastal getaway.

As for the best hotels, it’s not Portofino. You will not find high-end luxury here, which preserves the charm and attractiveness of the place. What you will find is family hospitality. Use the region’s “Quality Label” guide to find the best properties in each city, and those that meet the ecological and sustainable standards set by the region and that help preserve the locals’ way of life. Three to be refined are Locanda il Maestrale (Monterosso al Mare), Scorci di Mare (Riomaggiore) and 5 Terre Pelagos (Manarola).

What to do in Cinque Terre

Here are ten things to do during your visit.

  1. Visit the five hamlets, ideally on a hike!
  2. Reach the 5 shrines which overlook each hamlet, using marked hiking trails.
  3. Visit the Convento Frati Cappuccini in Monterosso al Mare.
  4. Rent an electric bike to Levanto and cycle south through the Cinque Terre.
  5. Wine tastings and tours with A Campu magpie Where Buranço. You can also visit Cantina Cinque Terre winery in Groppo in Manarola.
  6. A private Cinque Terre boat trip.
  7. Coastal cruise in a ferry.
  8. Or in kayak.
  9. Visit la Spezia, the seaside port town in the south, and venture out Portovenere and its islands (like Cinque Terre, they are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
  10. Be sumptuous for a night on the Italian Riviera (we think Portofino Where Santa Margherita)
Monterosso al Mare: La Cantina di Miky

La Cantina di Miky in Monterosso al Mare

Courtesy Image

Where to eat in Cinque Terre

Here is the best location in each of the five hamlets.

Monterosso al Mare: Miky’s Cantina

Vernazza: Gianni Franzi

Corniglia: Osteria a Cantina de Mananan

Manarola: Nessun Dorma wine bar

Riomaggiore: Rio Bistro

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews and more, subscribe on YouTube!

About Juana Jackson

Check Also

Things to do in Rome in 2022: restaurants, attractions and more

With masking and vaccination requirements largely dropped in Italy and summer approaching, crowds of travelers …