Cinque Terre Town Descriptions and Things To Do
The five fishing villages of Cinque Terre have been noted to be like jewels set into the Italian Riviera, perched between the Mediterranean and steep coastal hills. They are truly a wonder to be seen. Wondering what the difference is between them? What makes them unique from one another?
Riomaggiore was the first town I had encountered and it was pretty grand. Riomaggiore is the most eastern and the nearest village to La Spezia (the train station you’ll probably end up at to get to Cinque Terre) and is named after the stream crossing it. Get yourself a fried calamari / seafood mix in a cone with a simple drizzling of fresh squeezed lemon! Enjoy your stroll up into the town square and check out other restaurants and shops.
If you’re staying here or have the energy in you, take a quick hike up to the Sanctuary of Montenero for aerial views of the Riomaggiore. When I did this hike, I was extremely unprepared. Though the distance was advertised as being short—45 minutes one way, it was actually pretty uphill and on rocky terrain… I was wearing jeans and Birkenstocks, whoops. In either case, it was an extremely beautiful hike up along the vineyards, which you won’t get to experience on The Blue Path. If you have extra time, I’d say tackle the challenge and do it!
I think this might have been the prettiest town, other than Vernazza. The village of Manarola is surrounded by grapevines that produce the famous Cinque Terre wine, Sciacchetrà. The Via dell’Amore, an easy paved 2km path from Riomaggiore, leads here. The bustling main street and waterfront promenade are still lined with fishing boats.
Check out Nessun Dorma, a restaurant/bar overlooking Manarola, providing you with an amazing view of the town. Maybe even catch a sunset here. To get the ‘iconic’ Cinque Terre shot – head to Punta Bonfiglio, an area that has a bar and a playground. In the upper side of the village, you can visit the church of San Lorenzo (1338).
Next stop was Corniglia. I hopped back on the train from Manarola and got off 3 minutes later. Wow, what a walk it was from the train station to the town center. Corniglia lacks direct access to the sea, so expect to do some intense uphill climbing to get to the village. It was actually a great workout (good for offsetting all the pasta, pesto and bread you’ll be consuming here). This town was different in that there were no sea views, which made it quite refreshing and unique.
As you make your climb up to the center, you’ll likely pass by the Church of San Pietro. Check it out, it’s a great place to take a break and catch your breath! During my stroll throughout town, I noticed that the lemon souvenirs were a tad cheaper than at the rest of the villages, probably because Corniglia sees the least visitors? That’s my best guess based on the hilliness. If you’re buying souvenirs, get them here for slightly cheaper.
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Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful! The village itself and the hike to the village were both simply amazing. Vernazza is a fortified town, likely used as a port for defense against invading pirates. Vernazza has a natural pier with an amphitheater shape, making it the most picturesque and charming village of the Cinque Terre. The pastel pinks, yellows, and oranges of the houses against the blue waters was so dreamy…
But beware, this is quite a bustling village. So many tourists, restaurants, focaccierias, and gelaterias! Since the Ligurian region is known for their focaccia, I recommend getting your focaccia fix in at some point. I know, there are tons of food options in Vernazza. You can also grab something to go, head to Piazza Marconi, grab a seat at the edge of the beach pier area, and enjoy the lapping waters and the sun shining on your face. It’s such a great way to spend an afternoon.
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
I’d say this is the most touristy of the five villages, as it the most wine shops, artisan shops, restaurants, and actual hotels. Looking for some beach time? Monterosso is the only village that has a proper strip of beach, which fills up with foreign and Italian sun bathers alike in the summer time. There are fried seafood stands, bars selling alcoholic slushy drinks, and gelaterias within arm’s reach from the beach. Oh yeah, and keep an eye out for the remains of a giant statue of Neptune.
You can visit the church of Capuchin Father and get a wonderful panorama of the village. They also offer boat trips from Monterosso, so you can see all the towns by water. The village is divided into two parts, protected by a rock spur, so its setup is much different from the other four villages. May I suggest checking out some of the churches here, hitting the beach, grabbing gelato, then dinner? And maybe another gelato after dinner?
I hope these notes about Cinque Terre have helped you differentiate between the five villages and have given you some guidance with your trip planning!
Looking for more information on how to hike the Cinque Terre? See my Cinque Terre hiking guide here.