The Cinque Terre consists of five beautiful hillside towns (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso) on the west coast of Italy. They are famous for being historic and, well, beautiful. Not just “This place is beautiful” beautiful but more like “I died and gone to heaven and never want to leave” beautiful. I visited here on my first tour through Europe and was only supposed to spend three days. I spent a week. If it wasn’t for the money (The Cinque Terre is as expensive as it is beautiful), I would have stayed longer. When I went back, I got a chance to hike some of the harder trails I missed the first time.
The Cinque Terre has amazing walking trails that give you a chance to fully explore the towns, olive groves, vineyards, and surrounding area. There are quite a few trails around, the easiest of which is the coastal path. You can start the walk in either Riomaggiore or Monterosso.
From Riomaggiore, you walk to Manarola along the section called “Lover’s Lane”. This is the easiest part of the walk, with the path paved and flat and giving you great views of the ocean. It will take you right into Manarola.
From Manarola you can follow the coastal trail to Corniglia or follow the harder trails up and through the vineyards and olive groves. I took the harder trails. These trails provide better views and scenery and have fewer tourists getting in your way.
You come upon Corniglia, which I thought was the prettiest of the towns. It was small, beautiful, relaxed, and the narrow streets were fun to get lost in. The color of the buildings jumped out at you and the large town square had amazing eateries.
The path from Corniglia to Vernazza is one of the hardest parts. The coastal path can be steep at times and get quite crowded. However, you’ll get great views of the towns behind you and the terraced vineyards. More importantly though, walking down into Vernazza gives you the best photos of the town.
Vernazza was my favorite spot. While Corniglia was the most beautiful and peaceful, Vernazza was the liveliest. It’s the only town with a real night life, I liked the beach, and its castle like tower is pretty cool. Of the five towns, I thought it had the best energy.
Leaving Vernazza for the final stop of Monterosso is the most challenging. The trail gets very steep at points and it’s a lot of up and down walking. However, you are rewarded with beautiful vineyards, olive groves, ancient stone houses, and crumbling walls. It’s the hardest but the prettiest part of the trail. If you’re lucky, you might even find someone selling Limoncello along the way.
The trail and the day ends in Monterosso, the biggest of the towns. You’ll find a lot of accommodation here and, while it’s not the most appealing town, the beach here is bigger and there are more tourist services around the city. It’s the most convenient out of all the five.
During the summer, all the towns are packed and the prices skyrocket. I found the best time to visit is the end of September or early October when the crowds are fewer but the weather is still warm and the water still nice to swim in. A trip to Italy just isn’t complete without a trip to the Cinque Terre. It lives up to all the hype and is one of my favorite places in the country.