Things to Do in Cinque Terre
This protected area in the heart of La Spezia was designated Italy’s first national park in 1999. Since then its 4,300 acres, which include the five towns that make up Cinque Terre, have been attracting globetrotters from around the world. A network of scenic hiking trails linking cliff-side villages to one another are among the park’s main attractions, but the protected marine area and quiet fishing communities help to draw some 3.5 million travelers a month to these hills. An impressive array of Mediterranean flowers, trees and plant life dot Cinque Terre trails and visitors are likely to spot a handful of animals unique to the region on a hike through this popular destination.
Travelers wandering Riomaggiore’s main road—known to locals as Via Colombo—will find picturesque views of rolling hillsides and the Ligurian Sea that Cinque Terre is known for. This tiny hamlet has become famous for its Sciacchetra, a signature dessert wine available by the glass in most restaurants and bars, as well as by the bottle in the local Coop shop.It’s true that the laid back vibe and natural beauty of this coastal village attracts plenty of tourists seeking quiet escape, but thrill seeking adventurers will find plenty to keep them occupied, too. One of the most popular activities is cliff diving into the Mediterranean, where crystal clear waters reduce the chance of hitting rocks (or sharks!) on the way down.
The scenic stretch of sandy beach that runs along the Monterosso coast makes this popular Cinque Terre village one of the area’s most-visited summertime destinations. Divided into old and new towns, this pedestrian-friendly, cars-optional spot tends to overflow with tourists once the season heats up. Easy access to crystal clear waters mean it’s the perfect place to cool down.
In addition to relaxing on the quiet shores of Monterosso, travelers can check out historic castle ruins tucked into the idyllic hillside or experience iconic religious frescos in the church of St. John the Baptist. But it’s the vast collection of work from artists like Van Dyck and Luca Cambiasco that make the convent of Monterosso al Mare an essential stop on any visit to this famous village.
Historic vineyards and epic views set the 100-meter-high village of Corniglia apart from other towns in the Cinque Terre. Unlike Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare and Manarola, Corniglia’s borders don’t actually touch the sea. Instead, travelers must climb a steep set of brick stairs, referred to as the Lardarina by locals, to reach the picturesque village. While a small road makes the village accessible via car or local bus, visitors agree climbing the 33-flight Lardarina is an essential Corniglia experience. The town’s famous terrace provides incredible panoramic views, including a single spot where all villages in Cinque Terre can be seen at one time.
Manarola is the second smallest—and also the oldest—of the five towns that make of Cinque Terre. Its name derives from a Latin word meaning large wheel, which pays homage to a giant mill at the center of town.
Travelers to Manarola will find the same rolling hillsides and picturesque hiking trails that Cinque Terre is known for, as well as the Sciacchetra wine the region made famous. What sets this vista apart is the colorful homes tucked into ocean cliffs that bring pops of yellow, blue and red to the landscape, which have inspired artists for decades. Visitors can check out some of the oil paintings and watercolors at the local gallery before heading up the hill for incredible views and a visit to the Church of St. Lorenzo.