Things to do in Cinque Terre: a UNESCO World Heritage site

Cinque Terre, translating to “Five Lands” in English, is a spectacular example of the beauty of the Italian coastline. Widely regarded as a smaller and slightly less expensive version of the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre still receives its fair share of tourism from Italy and the rest of the world. 

As the name suggests, there are 5 towns that make up this spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site. The five villages, in order, are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. A trip to Cinque Terre is perfect for travelers who love beaches, hiking, Italian food and gorgeous ocean views. 

Things to Do In Cinque Terre
Just look at the coastline! Photo credit: Pixabay

Although Cinque Terre is a must-see in Northern Italy, visiting these hilltop towns can be a bit of a challenge. Train travel is currently the only way to pass between the 5 Cinque Terre towns and trains only run until a certain time each day. Poorly planned trips to this region often leave travelers stranded overnight and oftentimes lead to an expensive and unforeseen Airbnb rental. To learn how to visit without a hitch, keep reading for what to do and how to get to Cinque Terre.

How to Get to Cinque Terre

No matter where in the world you’re visiting from, you will eventually need to get to the La Spezia Centrale train station. This is the only train station where you can board the train (the Cinque Terre Express) that takes you between the 5 Cinque Terre villages. It is easy to make this region a part of your Italy itinerary.

If you’ll be flying into Italy to visit Cinque Terre, the closest airport is Pisa (PSA), a mere 60 km away. From Pisa, you can easily board a train to La Spezia Centrale. To book trains within Italy, check fares on either Trenitalia or Italo

The Cinque Terre Card can be purchased at the train stations or at the trailheads for any of the hikes in the region. The card costs €7.50 and covers the cost of hiking and taking the trains between the villages. If you purchase the card at the trailhead, keep in mind they only accept cash. 

Things to do in Cinque Terre

When visiting Cinque Terre, you must make sure to visit all 5 towns! Below, I’ve listed all the Cinque Terre towns in order. You can easily take a day trip to Cinque Terre, but you might miss some of the best sights. I recommend staying in one of the 5 towns or in the neighbouring town of Porto Venere, which tends to be less expensive and less crowded during the on-season. Keep reading for the best things to do in Cinque Terre. 

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the first town in Cinque Terre. It’s full of fried seafood cones, colorful houses and amazing ocean views. Although I didn’t spend much time in Riomaggiore myself, it’s known as one of the best places to watch the sunset in Cinque Terre. 

cinque-terre-riomaggiore
The colourful houses are a delight! Photo credit: Pixabay

Grab a pizza or a seafood cone and savour it on the rocks while watching a spectacular sunset over the Italian coast. 

Manarola

When most people think of Cinque Terre, Manarola is usually the picturesque hilltop town that comes to mind first.

view from nessun dorma in manarola
This view of Manarola is iconic!

Having aperitivo at Nessun Dorma with a view of Manarola and the Gulf of Genoa is one of the very best things to do in Cinque Terre. 

Nessun Dorma also offers a pesto-making class for amateur chefs! The class is held from 10:30-12PM before the restaurant opens and, after you’re done making delicious pesto, you’ll enjoy a tasty charcuterie board with Italian wine. 

Corniglia

As the only town in Cinque Terre not directly on the water, Corniglia often gets passed by for its ocean-adjacent counterparts. However, the views in Corniglia are NOT to be missed. If you plan on booking accommodation directly inside one of the 5 towns, Corniglia might be your best option to avoid the insane summer crowds. 

Corniglia is the perfect stop for a delicious Italian aperitivo overlooking the Gulf of Genoa and the rest of the Cinque Terre towns. 

Vernazza 

Vernazza is my personal favorite town in Cinque Terre for snacking on tasty Italian food. Sampling homemade pesto focaccia and fried seafood (in a cone) at Bati Bati is one of the best things to do in Cinque Terre by a landslide. 

pesto focaccia from bati bati
Pesto foccacia…yum.
seafood cone in vernazza
Fried seafood in a cone.

When it comes to hiking Cinque Terre, the Azure Trail from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare is a great place to start.

The trail takes about an hour and a half and can be quite strenuous at times. Make sure to pack enough water and comfortable hiking shoes. Once you arrive in Monterosso al Mare, you can reward yourself with a margarita bucket and a chilly dip in the ocean. 

Monterosso al Mare

As the name suggests, Monterosso al Mare is the best town in Cinque Terre for a relaxing beach day and some fun in the sun. I would recommend bringing your own beach towel since it can be kind of expensive to rent chairs and umbrellas in such a touristy location. 

view of Monterosso from the azure trail
The Azure Trail that ends at Monterosso al Mare.

When relaxing on the beach in Monterosso, don’t miss out on a delicious and alcohol-filled marg bucket from Bar Colpi di Timone! There’s nothing that makes a beach more enjoyable than a bucket-sized alcoholic drink. 

No matter your interests, there are plenty of things to do in Cinque Terre. During your visit, make sure to soak up all the beautiful views and local Italian food you can. There’s a reason why tourists from all over the world flock to Cinque Terre – it’s truly awe inspiring. 

Planning a trip to Italy? Here are some more guides to help you plan your trip –

La Dolce Vita: The classic two-week Italy Itinerary

One day in Florence: A feast for the eyes

Day trip from Florence soaking the beautiful Tuscan landscape

4 days in Rome: Journey into the vivid cultural past

Amalfi coast itinerary for 4 days: How to experience ‘La Dolce Far Niente’

21 of the Best Local & Traditional Italian Food you must try

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This is a guest post by Madison Krigbaum. 

Madison is a solo travel blogger and social media micro-influencer based in Roatán, Honduras. She fell in love with solo travel during her 2017 semester abroad in Rome, Italy. After graduation in 2018, she moved to Florence to pursue her love of travel even further. After the pandemic, she packed her bags and moved to the Caribbean where she’ll be living the island life until moving to Bali, Indonesia in 2022. Her favorite things include rooftop bars, handwritten menus and both starting and ending the day with a strong, Italian espresso. To view more of Madison’s travel guides, follow this link. Do follow her on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps

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