Color Architecture & Rocky Landscapes
Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in English and is composed by five crazily constructed small fishing villages located on rocks along the cliff in a spectacular landscape. In 1997, the National Park of Cinque Terre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and even out of season it can be packed with other visitors.
As the villages are really close to one another you may visit all of them in just one day (read more details about what to see and do in each little town). However, I recommend staying at least one or two nights in one of the villages as it gives you the opportunity to explore all five towns at a more relaxed pace, especially during mornings and evenings when day tourists are gone. The silence that descends when the streets empty and the even lights start to flicker on, will give you another perspective of this enchanting land.
Arriving by Car
No doubt, Cinque Terre is best reached by train. But for those who want to arrive via car, you'll also find a few helpful suggestions and things to know below.
The easiest village to reach by car is actually Monterosso, which also has the cheapest parking. Manarola and Riomaggiore do have parking lots above their towns, but you will need to walk from there to the center. Corniglia and Vernazza are more difficult to reach by car, due to narrow roads and limited parking space. You can also drive to La Spezia or Levanto and then proceed by train. Portovenere has the legendary Pathway no. 1, the original trail to Cinque Terre and many towns also offer ferry service like Lerici. Read this article for some alternatives stops with a car.
Getting around: by foot, train or boat
There are basically three ways to move from one village to another; you either walk, take the train or the boat. The walking trail is 12 kilometers and runs along the coast through all five villages from Riomaggiore in the south to Monterosso in the north.
Check the status
Remember that trail availability can change overnight due to weather conditions, and since 2012 some of the trails are closed due to a landslide. Check before going on the official Parco 5 Terre website
Sandy beaches are few and far between, except in Monterosso, and the trails will climb and descend through the landscape, giving you fantastic scenic views of the villages as you leave one behind and approach the next one. You will need to buy the Cinque Terre Pass for hiking the trail. You can get it from the train stations, at tourist information offices or at every start of a trail at each village.
The price varies depending on the number of open paths, but expect EUR 5-8 a day, and for an extra EUR 5 you get limited use of the trains as well.
Alternatives to Hiking the Trails
If the trails along the coast are closed, you can either go for the longer and more demanding trails running further up in the landscape or catch the train or boat, which takes you from one village to another in a few minutes. The train is a very easy and convenient way to get from village to village. It runs approximately two times an hour and cuts through coastal tunnels, so don’t expect to see much.
The boat runs less frequently, but I highly recommend taking it at least once as the view of the villages from the sea gives you the possibility to really appreciate the colorful buildings against the backdrop of the hills.
If you travel with children in a stroller, it is not possible to walk the trails between the villages as there are too many stairs and stones. The only part that is doable with a stroller is the Via dell'Amore, or the Way of Love, the stretch of the trail that goes from Riomaggiore to Manarola as it is flat BUT it is closed! For all others, catch the train or the boat. If you like hiking, I recommend a trip from Corniglia to San Bernadino on top of the hill or from Manarola to Riomaggiore.