A traveller’s guide to the five villages of Italy

There were two Italian regions on our Italian bucket list that we wanted to visit. When my fiancé and I took the next step and got married, we knew that Liguria, Portofino and the five villages of Cinque Terre, and Tuscany would be the perfect final destination for our honeymoon.

Updated January 2024

We carefully planned our one-week trip, aiming to see the most places and create unforgettable memories. After packing quickly but efficiently, we embarked on our journey, spending 3 days in Liguria and 4 days in Tuscany. On the first day, we visited Portofino and made the five villages of Cinque Terre our second destination.

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Where to stay

We chose Sestri Levante as our base in Liguria because it is halfway between Portofino and the Cinque Terre. It is a larger town with a train station, so we could take the train to the Cinque Terre and drive to Santa Margherita. If you are looking for a place to stay in this region, make sure you find the best deals. Hotellook helps you compare hotel prices. The platform offers detailed information on hotels, including ratings, reviews, and amenities, helping you make an informed decision about where to stay.

Following the advice of our hotel owner, we took the train from Sestri Levante to Riomaggiore, which took about 45 minutes. The train journey, although through tunnels, was also enjoyable, but the boat ride between the villages provided a much more impressive and picturesque view. I recommend taking the train and boat when exploring Cinque Terre.

The ferries are running frequently from the ports of Levanto, La Spezia and Portovenere to the villages of the Cinque Terre and stop in Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore and does not stop in Corniglia since this is the only village without water access. For more information, Cinque Terre ferry boat timetable and prices 2023. Cars are not recommended due to restricted areas and limited parking options.

To find and get the best available prices, times, and train/bus tickets for your journey check Trainline. They work with over 210 rail and coach companies to help their customers travel to thousands of destinations across 45 countries. Their aim is to bring together all rail, coach, and other travel services into one simple experience so customers can get the best prices and smart, real-time travel information on the go.

Now explore the five villages of Cinque terre

Riomaggiore

Our journey begins in Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre. The village is divided by the railway line, the two parts are connected by a stairway and an underground crossing. The lower, coastal part is the fishing village, where colorful fishing boats float on the water, local fishermen take their afternoon siesta, vacationers sit on the rocks and enjoy the Mediterranean sun. Also you can admire the sunset from small fish taverns. The village’s rocky beach is also located here.

The upper part is surrounded by an agricultural village and cultivated terraces. Here is the steep main street of the village, Via Colombo, with many steps on both sides. The train station can be reached through a pedestrian tunnel, the walls of which are decorated with beautiful mosaics.

Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore

Manarola

Manarola, often described as the most romantic of the five villages, is famous for its dramatic cliffside views and the Lover’s Walk (Via dell’Amore) that connects it to Riomaggiore. Here, you’ll find excellent opportunities for cliff diving or simply taking in the stunning coastal scenery. As the sun sets, head to Nessun Dorma, a charming bar perched on the rocks, for a glass of wine and unparalleled views.

If you arrive by train, you need to walked through a tunnel to reach the main street. The town’s main square, Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV, offered a cool view of the village and the sea. The bravest swimmers jumped into the sea from the rocks, while others used a ladder for a refreshing dip.

In the past, a small stream flowed here and small bridges connected the two sides. The stream still gurgles in the upper part of the town. When you reach the main road, turn right and walk up to the church square (Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV). From where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Manarola and the sea.

Although the coastal path from Manarola to Corniglia closed at the time, I recommend heading towards Corniglia and Punta Bonfiglio to enjoy the best views of Manarola.

CINQUE TERRE, THE FIVE VILLAGES, Manarola
Manarola
Manarola

Corniglia

Corniglia is Cinque Terre’s hidden gem, perched high on a cliff. Unlike its sister villages, it lacks direct access to the sea, but its charm is undeniable. The absence of crowds allows for a more tranquil experience as you wander through narrow alleyways. Be sure to climb the 365 steps to the belvedere for a breathtaking sunset view.

Corniglia

Vernazza

Vernazza, an important port owned by various families and later belonging to the Republic of Genoa, impressed us with its main street and alleyways running parallel to it. The main beach square, Piazza Marconi, was the vibrant heart of the village, surrounded by colorful houses, restaurants, and bars.

Vernazza
Vernazza
Vernazza

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare, the least exciting of the five villages, felt more like an “average” vacation spot. However, it can be ideal for older visitors or those travelling with children due to its flat terrain and easier access to the train station. The village offers a beautiful long beach with sunbeds and umbrellas, and despite most of the beach being paid, there are free areas available ( in front of the train station, under the statue of the Giant, and at the other end of the beach, towards Vernazza, next to the old town).

Monterosso al Mare

Summary

Cinque Terre is a place where time seems to stand still, where the beauty of the natural landscape harmonizes with the warmth of the people. With its postcard-perfect villages, scenic hikes, delectable cuisine, and welcoming locals, it’s no wonder that the five villages of Cinque Terre is often considered Italy’s hidden gem. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time explorer, this coastal paradise is sure to leave an indelible mark on your heart.

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