A Day in Cinque Terre (Manarola, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare & Porto Venere)
My Journey in Northern Italy
Cinque Terre was one of my favorite places from my trip in Northern Italy. Between the colorful houses snuggled on the cliffs, the gorgeous terrain and beautiful blue water, there is so much to love about this area.
In Spring 2018, my family and I traveled to Switzerland and Northern Italy through SitInMySeats Travel. During our trip, we visited the Italian Riviera, which holds the colorful villages of Cinque Terre. In addition to the other beautiful places we visited in Italy, Cinque Terre amazed me!
Located in Cinque Terre are the iconic five fishing villages consisting of preserved architecture and rugged coastline. The names of these towns are Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore and Monterosso al Mare. During our time in Cinque Terre, we visited Manarola, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and the town of Porto Venere! They were all beautiful and unique in their own way. This week, I am so excited to talk about my experiences in each of these four villages.
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How to Get to Cinque Terre:
The five villages of Cinque Terre are tucked into mountains on the coast of the Italian region of Liguria and are shaped by their profound isolation. Because of that, getting to these villages present a few challenges. Here are some ways to get to Cinque Terre:
Train: Even though it was a little annoying to grab a train to get to Cinque Terre because of how crowded they were, it is probably the best way to get there if you don’t want to hike. We picked up the train in the town of La Spezia and took it to Manarola from there. One great thing to know is that there is a train line that connects all five Cinque Terre villages directly to the cities of Genoa, Pisa and Rome. You could find great rail tickets in advance through GoEuro.
Car: If you are looking to drive to the villages of Cinque Terre, you will be facing narrow and twisting cliff-edge roads and expensive parking fees. Although it isn’t recommended to drive into Cinque Terre, you do have the freedom to go about your means without worrying about a train or boat schedule. (Click here to discover the best car rentals.)
Boat: Another great way to get to the fisherman villages of Cinque Terre is by traveling there via sea. From the Easter holiday through September, there are ferries that run from Genoa, Portofino and Porto Venere. You could also take a private boat or yacht to the villages as well.
Hike: For many centuries, Cinque Terre has offered trails that were the only link from the villages to the outside world. Most of the hiking trails now consist of breathtaking views of the sea, mountains as well as beautiful farms, vineyards and coastal forests. What is great to know is that park guides will host daily-guided walks from May through September. Click here to learn more about Cinque Terre’s hiking trails and park services. One thing to consider is that if you want to avoid the summer heat, it is best to hike Cinque Terre’s trails in either May or September.
Our first village stop in Cinque Terre was Manarola. Known as the second smallest village in Cinque Terre, Manarola has more grapevines than anywhere else on the coastline. You can see them from several areas in the village. A popular wine that is produced in Manarola is the tasty Sciacchetrà wine. Unfortunately, because we got to Manarola in the morning, we were not in the mood for wine yet. Instead, we grabbed some pastries at a local café on the street and started our scenic stroll around the gorgeous waterfront promenade.
Since we did a private tour, we only had limited time in each village. I am going to be honest that even though it was awesome to be able to do a day trip to Cinque Terre, I would have liked to spend a few days there since it is so beautiful and each town has something amazing to offer. I saw a lot, but didn’t experience as much as I had wanted to in Cinque Terre. We still made the best of it anyway and tried to squeeze in as much as we could.
During our time in Cinque Terre, we strolled through the promenade and admired the gorgeous views of the colorful houses. We made our way up to the famous Punta Bonfiglio – a bar with a playground and fabulous views!
Before we left to go to our next village, we also went down by the waterfront area and viewed all the gorgeous fishing boats. It was serene!
The second village we visited in Cinque Terre was Vernazza, a small harbor with the only secure landing place on the Ligurian Coast. Located in Vernazza is a gorgeous marina with a small beach. During the time I was in Vernazza, it unfortunately started to rain so I couldn’t tell if the beach offered a swimming area, but it still seemed like a nice place to relax and enjoy the views.
Just like in Manarola, Vernazza offers cliffs of colorful houses as well as a plethora of cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. Since we had the same amount of time to explore that we did in Manarola, we were only able to stroll around the marina, view the beautiful Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church and listen to the bell tower and also see the Doria Castle with its cylindrical tower.
In addition, my family and I enjoyed wandering through the caruggi (narrow lanes) as well as climbing the maze of stairs. The views were obviously incredible!
Monterosso al Mare:
Known as the village that is easily accessible by car (because it is closest to the town of La Spezia, where we first got the train), Monterosso al Mare is the only village in Cinque Terre with a beach that is perfect for both relaxing and swimming.
Luckily, by the time we got to Monterosso, the sun had come out and it ended up being a pristine day to be by the beach! Since it was lunchtime at that point in our tour, we were ready to get a delicious pesto dish from a waterfront restaurant. In case you didn’t know, the Liguria region (where Cinque Terre is situated in) is known for the famous pesto sauce that consists of fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. Thankfully, my friend Ian recommended yet another amazing restaurant for us to eat at called Ristorante il Gabbiano. I savored the most amazing gnocchi dish with fresh pesto. It was to die for! To top it off, I also enjoyed a delicious rosé with it.
After our amazing lunch, we headed over to the beach area to relax. Thankfully, our tour guide gave us a few hours to spend in Monterosso, so we were able to enjoy some time near the sea. The only thing I regret not bringing was a bathing suit to go swimming. I did put my feet in the water though, which was very refreshing!
Even though Monterosso doesn’t offer the colorful houses along the cliffs like it did in Manarola and Vernazza, the views of the mountains, crystal blue sea and random rock formations in the water were incredible! I also loved all of the pretty flowers located throughout the village.
When our time was up in Monterosso, we hopped on a ferry that took us over to the town of Porto Venere. During this relaxing ride on the Mediterranean, we got the most beautiful views of each village on the Ligurian Coast. The captain of the boat was also playing the best Italian music to go along with the ambiance. It was seriously amazing! We got a view of some sea caves, gorgeous mountain formations and elegant yachts.
Located northwest of Cinque Terre is Porto Venere Regional Natural Park. This lovely area is a historic fishing port with colorful harbor houses.
When we first sailed up to Porto Venere, I fell in love with these adorable and thinly stacked houses as well as the gorgeous Gothic-style Church of St. Peter that sits on top of a beautiful rocky headline. I also admired the nearby centuries-old Castello Doria, a clifftop fortress with amazing views.
Since it was a little later in the day, my family and I decided to relax along the water and enjoy a nice aperitivo (similar to a happy hour drink). Since we were in the Cinque Terre area, I got a refreshing limoncino, a regional staple. Now, don’t get a limoncino confused with a limoncello. The differences between the two are the ingredients and where they originated. Limoncino is popular in Northern Italy (specifically in Cinque Terre) and a limoncello is more common in Southern Italy (near the Amalfi Coast). The recipe for limoncino consists of untreated lemons, vodka, water and sugar. It is tasty, but could also be a little strong when you first sip it. Overall, I love lemons so it was the perfect drink to end the day in Cinque Terre.
After spending a little over an hour in Porto Venere, we hopped back on the ferry that took us back to La Spezia. Before the day ended, we got to enjoy a pre-sunset on the water prior to heading back to Florence. It was beautiful!
Click here to discover more to see and do in Cinque Terre.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time in Cinque Terre and Porto Venere. It was such a well needed, relaxing day on the coast! If you have any questions regarding my trip to Italy, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, contact me via social media or leave a comment below.
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