Cinque Terre (meaning five villages in Italian) is a beautiful place which is a culmination of five fishing villages on the Italian Riveria and a UNSECO world heritage site located in Liguria Italy. The five villages comprise of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The vibrant colours, breathtaking views of the costal and mountain trails draw many visitors annually. Locals in Cinque Terre have built terraces, wine yards, orchards and plantations all around the mountainous regions of this landscape. Obviously I learnt about this place via Instagram and without second thoughts made it my top bucket list place in 2018. Planned my travels to Italy during fall and again without thinking twice included this gorgeous place in my itinerary; it was another perfect place for a solo traveler. However, I am sure this place attracts all genres of travel- group travelers or couple travelers and I was told that it is a top place for destination weddings. I was able to accommodate a day trip here and it was fun filled with loads of adventures with scenic landscapes, preserved architecture and insanely delicious Pizza! Based on my experiences I have put down a complete guide to visiting this place and in my opinion this has got to be on every travel enthusiasts list.
Best time to visit Cinque Terre
The best time to visit Cinque Terre is without a doubt the summer months. It is the high season here is July and August and brings many people to this awesome place. If you want to avoid the crowds May and early June are good months with warm temperatures and less people. September is also a good time to visit with the high season coming to an end. If you want to take the risk of October and November which is off season there are chances that you get stuck with rain and you remain indoors all day or you might be able to explore the villages superficially with the suspension of the ferries and hiking paths due to weather conditions. Off seasons brings negligible number of people to this place and streets are quite.
How long should one stay at Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre can be explored in many ways from day trips to overnight stays to hiking across the mountain trails over many days at leisure. If you are really tight on time Cinque Terre can easily be done in a day. Day trips can cost anywhere between 55 Euro to 90 Euro. I Paid around 60 Euro (INR 4800) for my day trip. Why did I opt for a day trip? Reason being the hiking path was closed due to heavy rainfall caused landslides here a few days ago. Hiking was my number one agenda here but I was told that November is not a suitable time to hike here and the best season to enjoy the mountain trail is the summer season. Many tour agents operate from Florence and other major Cities providing day excursions to this lovely place. I had opted for one of the day trips from the hostel I was staying at in Florence and I can only recommend this if it’s your last resort and you are short on time. Tour groups are a fun way of socializing and making friends however I think my day tour could not do justice to the place and I would have liked to spend more time in the various villages, or maybe I can say that Cinque Terre can best be explored in at least 2 – 3 days. Overnight accommodations and budget stays can easily be available. Best places to stay here are Monterosso, Riomaggiore or Manarola. It gives you a better insight into the atmosphere here and gives you time to soak into the culture of Italy and visit each village in depth. If you have more time you can always add Portovenere, Levanto to La Spezia to your itinerary.
Getting to Cinque Terre
La Spezia is the closest city to begin your Cinque Terre travels from. You can take a train from Florence, Rome or Pisa depending where you are based at. Pisa is the closest Airport to La Spezia and a train journey is just 1 and half hours away. During summers you can also take ferries from La Spezia which connects all villages (except Corniglia which doesn’t have a harbour). Neighbouring ports of Portovenere and Levanto also have ferry services to the various villages around the Italian Riveria. The views of these villages from the water are surely worth it. Day tickets if you want to ferry arcoss or take a train across Cinque Terre are available at the office at La Spezia train station. La Spezia is also the place where the hiking trail of the Cinque Terre National Park begins. My tour began with a bus from Florence to Cinque Terre super early in the morning (duration is a little more than 2 hours approximately).
Getting around Cinque Terre
To hike across the coastal path from Monterosso al Mare to Corniglia you need to buy a Cinque Terre card which cost 8 Euro. This can be bought on the path itself. However, if you walk from Corniglia to Riomaggiore there is no need to buy a card. This card includes free toilets and access to Wi-Fi. If you do not want to walk there is also a train version which cost 16 Euro for one day .The easiest and most common way of getting to and around the five villages is by train. Tickets cost around 4 Euro for a single journey in case you do not want to buy the pass and explore each village leisurely. Trains run between 5:30 AM to 11 PM. A print out of the time table is available at the various train stations. During the summer months one can opt for the ferry service and ferry around the five villages for a different experience. Ferry tickets for the day cost 35 Euro and they include unlimited ferry rides.
Things to do in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is home to a number of adrenaline pumping activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, paragliding and the list goes on. Ideally many tourists visit this UNESCO world heritage site to hike along the coastal trails and witness some spectacular views and landscapes of the ocean and the mountains. Hikes begin at La Spezia and finish at Monterosso al Mare. Alternatively you can also take a train from La Spezia to Monterosso and begin your hike there going backwards and finish at Riomaggiore. Unfortunately I could not hike this path as the weather was not favourable but I was told by people who have visited this place before that the hikes are not tough. From Riomaggiore, you can go sailing or swimming or if you’ve begun your hike from La Spezia you will finish at Monterosso and swim at the beach there. Monterosso is the only village in Cinque Terre with a real beach! There are many kayaking trips that can be arranged from Riomaggiore. Apart from physical activities Cinque Terre is home to a few monuments and churches that can be visited. Also you may visit a wine yard for some wine tasting if you wish. Well if you want to push yourself and make that bucket list interesting cliff jumping is a great thing to do at Manarola.
What should you carry?
Nothing much, travelling easy with less baggage is always the best! A good pair of walking shoes is a must as there is a lot of walking around in the many villages. If you are opting for the hike then obviously again a good pair of sports shoes is a must. I would also recommend packing a water bottle as there are many free water taps where you can refill to keep yourself hydrated no matter the season. Swimmers and sun block is a must again if you are keen on taking on the beach after a sweaty day of walking. English is widely spoken across Cinque Terre so you can easily find your way if you get lost. You can also carry your camera to document your experiences with raw nature.