Cinque Terre, directly translated as the 5 villages — Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore — is a dreamy seaboard string of villages by the Italian Riviera. It’s a greatly coveted vacation location because it embodies the chill lifestyle. Walk around Cinque Terre and observe the old grandpas sitting in cafes sipping off their espressos and grandmas gardening. Apart from chilling by the beautiful cerulean waters and their beaches, Cinque Terre is also known for their scenic hikes.
An Adventure in Cinque Terre
Getting into Cinque Terre was unexpectedly straightforward. Demi and I flew into Pisa Airport. From Pisa, we took the Pisa Mover Skytrain to Pisa Central, which costs €2.70 for a single trip. From Pisa Central, we purchased a train ticket to one of the 5 lands of Cinque Terre. The train rides in Italy can be a bit pricey — I paid ~€40 for a return train ticket to Cinque Terre.
Demi and I in Cinque Terre
We decided to stay in Levanto, which is just outside Cinque Terre because staying right smack in Cinque Terre can be rather expensive. The Affittacamere Il Borgo is an affordable choice at a prime location! It’s a 2-minute walk to the beach/food area. It’s also a rather chill location. Another affordable alternative is Le Devine. If you want to stay within Cinque Terre at reasonable prices, you can consider Villa Accini at Monterosso, 5 minutes walk from Monterosso train station.
If you decide to stay in Levanto, as I did, I recommend having dinners at Bar Wine Bar Cristal, which is a 2-minute walk from the Affittacamere Il Borgo. They serve authentic Italian food at affordable prices. Be sure to try their Bruschetta!
We tried Italian Bruschetta here, it was SO fresh and delicious.
During your time in the Cinque Terre villages, you have to try the Farinata. Farinata is a pizza-like dish, made from chickpeas, unique to Cinque Terre. You can find this dish virtually everywhere! My tip is to get it to share with a friend because it can be rather jelat after a while.
If you plan to hike/take the train a lot, I suggest getting the Cinque Terre Pass. The all-day unlimited pass gives you access to all trains, buses, and entrance to the hiking trails — all for €16. (Yes, you have to pay to hike!) Do remember to validate your tickets before using them! You can get these passes at the tourist information of train stations. If you intend to hike, I suggest going a bit earlier to check the location because some trails might suddenly be closed due to landslides.
On our first day, Demi and I decided to take a free 2-hour hike from Levanto to Monterosso. This trail was not very well maintained, although the view paid off!
Hiking from Levanto to Monterosso with Demi
Monterosso is a quaint pastel town, with beautiful long beaches. It’s quiet and picturesque, like an Italian town in a 90s indie movie.
As we were a little tight on time, we spent an hour in this town before taking the train to Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore has to be my favourite out of the 5 villages. At Riomaggiore, every turn was a photo spot. You could climb on huge boulders to get close to the crashing waves. It felt magical to be in that moment and hear the waves roar.
You can see waves crashing the coastal area of Riomaggiore
Colourful houses of Riomaggiore by the harbour
Mini harbour at Riomaggiore
Demi and I decided to find a pebble beach, also known as the Spiaggia di Riomaggiore, to soak in the beautiful Cinque Terre weather. It was probably one of the most enchanting beaches I’ve ever been to in my life. The symphony of rocks rubbing against each other sounded almost like thunder: I’ve never heard anything like that before. It was majestic. You just have to BE there, and experience that place for yourself. It helped that the beach was rather empty when I was there.
Pebble Beach at Spiaggia di Riomaggiore
When Demi and I got back to Levanto, we went to the beach and saw one of the most beautiful sunsets we’ve seen in our lives. There were just too many precious moments during the trip!
Unedited sunset at Levanto Beach
The next day, we took the train to Vernazza, another quaint town off a coastal cliff. You can appreciate Vernazza’s beauty from afar during the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia: one of the best Cinque Terre activities. It looks exceptionally charming and tranquil, like the kind of place you would want to retire in.
View of Vernazza when you hike out
During the hike to Corniglia, stop by a bar to take in the mesmerising view.
A bar at halfway point between Vernazza and Corniglia
Corniglia is a small town. It felt different from Cinque Terre towns because you don’t feel like you’re in a coastal area.
Corniglia felt like a simple Italian village
Finally, we took the train to Manarola. Manarola was ravishing, but also the most touristic. It felt like it was straight out of a postcard. We saw some people swimming in the waters in Manarola, so be sure to bring your bikini when you head there. As we didn’t, we spent our time chilling around munching some snacks while enjoying the breeze and soaking in the sights of the Cinque Terre attractions.
Manarola is the most postcard-worthy (but also most touristic) village
People swimming in Manarola
There are so many great Cinque Terre hotels to choose from. Stay at Hotel Palazzo Vannoni if you are visiting Levanto. Only 10 minutes away from the San Giorgio Castle and Levanto Marina, Hotel Palazzo Vannoni is small yet cosy for any kinds of travellers.
Each of the 5 villages had something unique about them, but if you have limited time, you might want to prioritise which village to visit. I definitely recommend both Manarola and Riomaggiore, and they both seem to be the more popular tourist location anyway. However, if you are looking for something less touristy, you might want to check out Vernazza and Corniglia. If you are looking to chill on a sandy beach and enjoy the perfect Italian getaway, Monterosso is the ideal place for you. Of course, I recommend visiting all the 5 villages!