Cinque Terre Destination Guide
Cinque Terre Holidays
Located on the Italian Riviera in the Ligurian region, the Cinque Terre are literally the “Five Lands” or villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The five villages, the coastline and the surrounding countryside are UNESCO World Heritage-listed. These historical, stunning and colourful villages form a pristine landscape that cannot be missed.
Cinque Terre’s villages originate from medieval times and several castles, churches and artefacts still remain. The best way to explore the history and beauty of Cinque Terre is via a walk along the coastal trail, going from village to village. When you’ve had enough of hiking the magnificent cliffs and exploring the delightful towns, take a dip in the crystal clear ocean for a break.
While Cinque Terre is known more for its vibrant cliff-faced villages than its sandy beaches (or lack of), the natural wilderness of the small bays are ideal for those who love exploring rock pools and sea life. Though the pebbles and rocks that cover the coastline aren’t the most comfortable to lay out and bake on, you can hire sun beds at some beaches, including Monterosso.
Cinque Terre is unscathed by the fast-food industry so you won’t find McDonald’s or KFC here. What you will find is Italian cuisine at its finest. Traditionally, fish was the Cinque Terre’s main food source and it is still plentiful in the region today. Monterosso’s anchovies are a local delicacy and have been recognised by the European Union. Stuffed squid, pasta with shellfish, and fish simply fried, baked and grilled are popular dishes in the region.
There are restaurants serving steaks and ragus but these are for tourists. The locals suggest simple, rustic seafood and pasta dishes to get the most from local produce. Focaccia and pesto are also considered Ligurian staples.
Corniglia is famed for its ice-cream made with local honey, while grapes and olives are cultivated from Cinque Terre’s mountainous countryside. The grapes are also used to make the local dry white wine, and other popular drinks in the area include grappa (a type of brandy) and limoncello (a sweet lemon liqueur).
Where to Stay
When visiting the Cinque Terre you need to decide which of the five villages you want to stay in. All are nearby and have walking trails as well as railways linking them.
Though Cinque Terre is isolated as it is (hardly any cars are able to access the region), it is still an extremely popular tourist destination so if you’re after something quieter consider staying in Corniglia. It is built on a high cliff top and visitors need to walk 365 steps to reach the town’s centre, so if this is your pick don’t carry a lot of luggage.
Vernazza is considered the most picturesque of the villages while Monterosso and Riomaggiore are the larger and most popular areas to stay. You can book hotels here that have a resort feel to them.
Monterosso al Mare is the most popular city for shopping, but not for luxury clothing and designer goods. Here you will find souvenirs, arts and crafts as well as wines and food preserves like pesto, olive oil and marmalade. The Cantina du Sciacchetra is one of the most popular stores in the village to find these traditional products.
Cinque Terre Like a Local
For those who dislike tan lines, there is a nudist beach popular among the locals called Guvano Beach, located between the villages of Corniglia and Vernazza. The secluded location of this beach means it can only be accessed via a tunnel but you’ll know when you’ve found the right place, as above the entrance of the tunnel there is a painting of a naked figure.