Where is it?
Cinque Terre is in Liguria the west coast of Italy, 450 km from Rome and 230 from Milano. It is called Cinque Terre because of the first 5 villages UNESCO enlisted in its heritage, later adding another two: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Portovenere and Tramonti di Campiglia.
- it’s a National Park
- it’s UNESCO Heritage
- it’s both land and sea
- because of the scenic beauty of the Ligurian sea
- because of the climate
- because of the history
Where to stay and means of transport
I have stayed in La Spezia, because I wanted to be close to the park. From the La Spezia train station, you can reach any of the five lands in a matter of minutes. You buy a 12 euro card per day, and have free access to transportation and the hiking trails between the villages. If you do not buy the card you will pay a fee to access the hiking trails, and the card will be definitely worth its price. Here is a link about the card and one to the train schedule.
You cannot buy the card in advance but you will find it in any railway stations -, tourist information centers, bus drivers of the Cinque Terre’s villages.
Access by car in the Cinque Terre villages is not recommended because of the little number of parking places and also because it is restricted in most areas of the villages itself. So, forget the car. Let it rest. You deserve it.
Look for accommodation close to the park, one suggestion is La Spezia in the south or Levanto in the north, because both are close to the sea and to Cinque Terre.
The Hiking Trails
High heels are not recommended – says a funny sign you will often see on the trails and that is a suggestion to be taken into consideration.
The hiking trails are no easy path, but it is worth every step. Get ready for narrow, crowded hiking trails, especially if you choose to visit the site in high season (June-August). Take your boots or trekking sandals, water and some chocolate. You will thank me later.
I recommend you see the villages only by walking on its hiking trails that connects all the first five: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. For Portovenere and Tramonti you need the bus.
Hiking trails length between the villages:
Monterosso – Vernazza – 3 km, difficulty moderate
Vernazza-Corniglia – 4 km, difficulty moderate
Corniglia – Manarola – 1,5 km, difficulty easy
Manarola – Riomaggiore – closed in 2016 – 1,5 km, difficulty easy
Golden pieces of advice from Stefano my friend from La Spezia:
Start the Cinque Terre tour from Monterosso to Vernazza, not from RioMaggiore. Why? Most of the travel guides start their tours from Riomaggiore, so the hiking trail is crowded there. Why not be smart?
Start any hiking route as early in the morning as possible, to avoid the crowds. The trains start as early as 5.21 am, so it’s up to you. I personally saw articles in the local newspapers talking about the overcrowded trains in high season (June – August) and people not being able to get on the trains, including locals who are going to work.
If you can, visit the villages between March-May, September-November. There are less crowds and the sea is warm enough to bathe in October.
What to expect when walking the hiking trails:
a Walt Disney like set with green vineyards, cloudless skies, turquoise sea plus yellow from the lemon trees and red from the beautiful sea-coast flowers that bloom everywhere.
In the train station, they announce trough the speakers that thieves are present on the platforms and in the trains, and I find that as a golden reminder for tourists who daydream after seeing the beauty of these places. So thank you Trenitalia!
My favorite villages:
Vernazza, Manarola, Tramonti di Campiglia