Cinque Terre; most overlooked in Liguria
Cinque Terre (five towns), recognized in 1997 by the Unesco Mankind's World Heritage, is nestled into curves and crevices along a rocky 6 mile stretch of breathtaking ocean coastline of Liguria - Italian Riviera.
You may want to pick one town as your home base and then make day trips to see the others. For centuries the only way you could get between the Cinque Terre villages was on foot. Today, the Cinque Terre train line connects the 5 towns together. You can connect to the other train lines either in La Spezia or Levanto. Tickets can be prebooked on Rail Europe. Remember, all day train pass grants access to all the walking trails in Cinque Terre as well.
If you’re really tight on time you could ‘do’ the Cinque Terre in one day. You can just take the train (takes only five minutes to travel from one village to the next) or boat from one village to the next with an hour in each and then pick one town to explore and have lunch in and another for the sunset. If you can, a couple of days would also do good especially in summer when you can enjoy the sun & sea or for hiking around. May/early June and September are best options to visit, with warm days and less people. Also look out for some of the annual festivals, like Saints’ Days, Easter processions, the lemon festival in May and anchovy festival in June, the grape harvest festival and Monterosso’s cuckold festival in November.
There are a few churches and monuments you can visit around the Cinque Terre but it’s mainly about outdoor activities. Why not enjoy a slow paced vacation to appreciate plenty of scenic views, sunbathe on the beach, wine & dine (check out my culinary recommendations in the photos)? You can add excitement to it by a hike or two (the most popular is ‘Blue Trail’ composed of 4 individuals paths that follow the coast) and by watersport activities like sailing, swimming, kayaking, diving and snorkeling.
Monterosso is the largest and the oldest village in the Cinque Terre. It is also home to the largest beach in the region. Made up of an Old Town, New Town, Monterosso offers the most accommodation and has a resort vibe, so most visitors to Cinque Terre tend to stay here. Swim in the ocean, sun tan on the beach.
Church of San Giovanni Battista is a 14th-century church featuring a Gothic facade with white & black marble stripes & a rose window.
Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri (Black Men), back in 17th century, belonged to a brotherhood, who dressed in black, and provided assistance for widows &orphans and offered help to castaways.
Torre Aurora, a 16th-century tower that once was part of the fortifications that protected the village from the attacks of Saracen pirates.
Vernazza, as considered by most of the tourists, is the prettiest village in the region. Unfortunately, after the disastrous 2011 floods this town suffered the most; but it has been rebuilt since then. The picturesque town has a large, wide harbor where the boats dock and a small beach where you can jump in. Take a walk at the nice waterfront walkway and walk up to the top of Vernazza’s castle for a beautiful view of the town.
Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia rose on a pre-existing XI century building in 1318. The tradition was that the church was built because a wooden box with the bones of Saint Margaret was found on the beach.
Doria Castle (the further one by the sea) and Belforte Tower are what remain of fortifications built in the XI century by Obertenghi family. Dominating the village in the southern part, the castle offers beautiful panoramas. You can enjoy traditional Ligurian recipes in 45 year old Belforte Restaurant where you'd feel as if you’re in a cave.
Church Of San Francesco is situated on top of a hill that is lead up by quite a number of stairs but I'm told is completely compensated by the incredible views.
Corniglia, located in the very centre of the region (though 365 steep steps from the train station but hopefully has a bus every 10 minutes after arrival of the train) is the smallest and the highest of the five Cinque Terre villages with no access to sea. Standing here gives you a bird’s eye view over the entire National Park Riviera. Why don't you reward yourself with a basil-flavored ice cream?
My personal favorite, Manarola is a romantic, colorful town with a small harbor popular for swims and a large rock for daredevils to jump off of. Have a fresh seafood meal here or do a tasting of the famous white wine Sciachetrà (sweet and liqueur wine) at some of the wineries as it is surrounded by vineyards.
Church of San Lorenzo, is an expression of the gothic and baroque styles and dates back to 1338. The squared bell tower used to be an ancient defensive building. Don't you think they have nothing to do with each other 🙂 ?
Can you even identify the bastion of the ancient Castle of Manarola? Part of the ruins are so dominated by houses looking directly at the sea, it's hard to tell. It is believed to be dating back to the second part of the XIII century.
Riomaggiore has one main street, a harbor, and a distinctive rocky beach. It’s the southernmost village and closest to the main city of La Spezia. Enjoy the magnificent sunset here.
According to an ancient legend, Riomaggiore was founded in the 8th century by some Greek refugees fleeing persecution in Byzantium.
The cute town is where Macchiaiolo painter Telemaco Signorini fell in love with and created some of his most famous and beautiful paintings between the lush vineyards and the sea.
I haven't had the time to but you try to look for the semi-destroyed walls of Castle of Riomaggiore or the Church of San Giovanni Battista.
With pastel buildings and sparkling sea view, the flavour of these five beautiful, vividly coloured villages will linger for quite some time 😉
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