You have probably heard of Cinque Terre as it has gotten a lot of attention over the last few years – and for good reason. It is a bucket list destination if you ask me!! The Cinque Terre is five fishing villages in the northern part of the Italian Riviera. More specifically the region Liguria. Each of the villages offers unique and breathtaking views of harbors, the Mediterranean Sea, cliff sides and vibrant colored house facades. This is my guide for visiting the cute coastal area – including the best photo spots of course as Cinque Terre is a photographer's paradise no doubt.
First some good-to-know before you go
How much time do you need?
You can see the most important stops on a day but I recommend at least 2 days to have some time in each city. Most of the cities also have a beach or two that are worth visiting.
How do you get there?
The best way to visit Cinque Terre is without a doubt by train! Having La Spezia, the adjacent city, as your base is pretty smart, as you can get to all the cities easily by taking the train towards Levanto. Even if you're coming to Cinque Terre by car, it is much easier to go by train as the roads are a nightmare for a non-local and there’s little to no parking in the cities anyways. We found a parking spot in La Spezia near the station and bought ourselves a day ticket for 16€ so we could take as many stops as we wanted.
What does it cost?
The cities are free to visit, so it is only the train ticket you have to worry about. You can purchase a day ticket to all the cities for 16€ if you’re visiting multiple cities in a day (not worth the money if you’re just going to one city and back to La Spezia). To cut down on costs, definitely consider staying in La Spezia instead of one of the Cinque Terre villages.
A different way of enjoying the scenic coastline is by hiking it. You either start in Riomaggiore or Monterosso and begin the journey that will take approx. 6 hours – without the breaks along the way. A few of the stretches between the cities costs € to hike, but has some of the best views as well. You can read more about the hikes here: https://www.walksofitaly.com/blog/things-to-do/hiking-trails
📍Riomaggiore – The first town to be famous and also the first stop from La Spezia
📍Manarola – The perfect sunset location!
📍Corniglia – Standing high on a cliff above the sea
📍Vernazza – The most magical view if you don’t mind a short hike
📍Monterosso al Mare – The beach town of Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore is the first village you meet from La Spezia and also the first to become famous. If you've seen the Disney movie Luca, the fishing town will look very familiar as it it inspired by the pretty coastline. If you feel like taking a dip in the ocean, there's a cute little oasis east of the village. When you reach the harbor, you can take the stairs up to the left and just continue around the corner and down the stairs again to a nice stony beach.
The best view point
For the best view point, go to the harbor and go up the stairs to the left. From up here the view is splendid, but if you go down again to the little rocky area just in front of the harbor, the view is even more splendid! We took it a step further and climbed all the way out to the rocks furthest away to really take in the whole view at once, but you can see some people taking photos on the rocks in the background on the photo below. That's the spot.
The village is also one of my favorite places to watch the sunset as you have the most amazing view from the view point mentioned above. From here you can sit comfortably and watch the changing colors on the building facades and the sun setting in the Mediterranean Sea – even on a pretty crowded September night, we managed to secure a perfect spot by the water.
Of all the villages, the view at Manarola is my absolute favorite! There's not much city to explore, but the harbor view from the adjacent hill is unbeatable! I could look at it for hours. I didn't find a beach at Manarola but it seemed popular to cliff jump on the rocks in the harbor. We spent a lot of our time, while waiting for the sunset, watching (and rating) the dives.
The best view point
The hill to the right of the village is where you enjoy the views – especially suitable for sunset. You just follow the hill up and find a good spot for the best views of the sun setting over the water and the changing colors on the building facades.
Another good place to watch the sunset is at the famous restaurant Nessun Dorma, which is located right on the hill with the famous view. It’s the perfect location and very popular! There was a multiple hours long line when we visited, so you should definitely get in line at least an hour before you wanna be there… Luckily they have opted for a new way of queueing: Either go to their website to download the Nessun Dorma App and get an online ticket or go to the location and scan the QR-codes on the nearby signs. Then you can follow your place in the line on your phone so you don’t have to wait around.
The least famous city of Cinque Terre and the first one people skip when they are short on time. Corniglia is different from the rest. It is the only town in Cinque Terre where you have to climb up instead of descending into the village from the train station, which is one of the reasons I guess people skip it. The train station lies below the village so to get to the city, you’ll have to ascend the many stairs first. The town doesn't have a harbor or beach like the rest of the villages as it is located on top of a cliff. The city is pretty cute and if you have time, I wouldn’t miss it! We wandered around the narrow streets, and found the cutest magnets here and had a delicious ice cream.
The best view point
The photo below is from the main street which I think is probably the most picturesque with all the cute signs and small balconies. We found the cute magnets in the store to the right!
The BEST thing to do in Vernazza is without a doubt going up the hill to the view point of Vernazza. It’s part of the hike from Monteresso, but it’s very close to Vernazza so it’s fairly easy to find without doing the whole hike – except there’s no signs so here’s my guide on how to find the right place. I hope this can help you as I got a little lost on my search for it haha.
The best view point
Head to the sea/marina and turn around so you look at the village. With the sea behind you and the village in front of you, you’ll see the way you came from to the right and the way to the viewpoint to your left. Follow the stairs up the hill. There’s a checkpoint where you have to pay 7,5€ as it is part of the hiking trail which costs money to hike. However, we discovered that the checkpoint was empty at around 5pm so around that time or after you might be lucky to go completely free of charge. It’s only a few minutes up hill and you’ll clearly know when you are there! The views cannot be missed!
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Monterosso doesn’t have a lot of city to explore, instead there’s two beaches to choose from. Both beaches are buzzing with people and are such a vibe with their big beach umbrellas and vibrant promenade. Monterosso is definitely the place for a beach day. You’ll find free outdoor showers at both beaches to wash off the salt and sand before taking the train back which is really nice – especially if you are heading for Manarola or Riomaggiore for sunset. There's also payed showers and changing rooms so you can change out of your bathing suit.
Monterosso has a long sandy beach situated in the new part of the village, right where you get off the train. This is the most famous beach because of the rock formations in the water. Here you can pay for an umbrella or a chair (you can't enter here w/o paying) OR you can go all the way to the right (when you get to the beach from the station) and enter the FREE beach! This is where you can lay on your own towel instead of the sun loungers – and you can still go to the payed beach for photos.
The best view of the beach is on your way towards Old Town Beach. The view is divine from here!
Old Town beach
The other beach is in Old Town, located to the left of the new beach. This beach is less crowded as it is a bit more rocky and it’s a 5-10 minute walk from the train. You have to turn left from the station and walk past the new beach. When you pass the tunnel, you’ll see the beach on your right side. The beach is divided into private and public areas so make sure to find a public area.