If you are looking for a quiet respite to take a breather, Cinque Terre might just be your best answer. Perched on the cliffs along the Ligurian coast, these 5 remote villages are Italian Riviera’s best-kept secret. With its striking pastel-colored houses, turquoise beaches and challenging hiking trails, the Cinque Terre National Park is revered for its scenic beauty and cultural value. Little wonder that Cinque Terre is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Village 1: Monterosso
The largest town in Cinque Terre, Monterosso has the best beach for chilling and swimming. During summer time, Monterosso can get incredibly crowded. All the colourful beach chairs will be fully occupied within the first few hours of the day. So do arrive early if you wish to unwind comfortably in Monterosso’s sun, sand and sea!
Village 2: Vernazza
Vernazza is the most picturesque village in Cinque Terre – and probably one of the most charming villages in Italy. The views along the hiking trail between Vernazza and Monterosso are especially gorgeous. Vernazza is certainly the place where you can experience Italian Riviera’s unique bliss of life.
Village 3: Corniglia
Perched on top of a promontory about 100 metres above sea, Corniglia is the highest of all villages in Cinque Terre. You will need to ascend hundreds of steps from the train station just to reach the village. But do not worry because your effort will definitely pay off. The bird’s eye view of the surrounding vineyards and terraces is simply magnificent!
Village 4: Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is the nearest of the 5 villages to the main city of La Spezia. The street of Colombo is a must-go for travellers looking to experience a vibrant nightlife. In fact, it is my personal favorite!
Village 5: Manarola
For travellers looking to reminisce the past, Manarola offers a charming vintage atmosphere that is hard to resist. Despite being the smallest village in Cinque Terre, Manarola is home to endless photographic opportunities. From its beautiful multicoloured houses to the famous pedestrian street Via dell’Amore (also known as The Way of Love), Manarola is definitely a visual treat for shutterbugs and visitors alike.
For most parts of Cinque Terre, feel free to roam around and explore on foot. Do note that some of the hiking trails will be closed during certain seasons. As of end September 2014, the hiking path between Vernazza and Monterosso is the only one open to public. For a less rigorous adventure, you can either take the passenger ferry that runs through four of the villages (excluding Corniglia), or take the train that travels through all five.
I recommend to spend at least 2 days in Cinque Terre to fully appreciate its exquisite beauty. You may opt for a day trip (either from Pisa or Milan) but in my opinion, a day of sightseeing does little justice to Cinque Terre and its picturesque villages. The villages alone are worth multiple visits, especially during the right seasons. Just remember to book your accommodation way in advance to avoid any disappointment during the peak season!