Yesterday I posted Part 1 of my backpacking guide to Cinque Terre and covered your budget accommodation options in this beautiful part of Italy. Today let’s have a gander at what you can actually do when you get there!
Cinque Terre is a pretty gorgeous cluster of five colourful towns by the sea, that you’ve most likely pinned on Pinterest. Bloody stunning. It’s also a great location for hiking and nature-lovers with walking routes between each of the towns.
So let’s get down to it, here’s the five locations from north to south.
The northern most town in Cinque Terre is the only one to have a tourist beach. And that is its main attraction as you exit the train station. A really lovely view.
Then as you go through a tunnel you reach the older part of town with it’s many shops and restaurants. And check out the stripey church! Bang on trend if you ask me.
It feels like one of the most commercial of the five towns as it was quite busy with daytrippers when I went, and there seems to be more souvenir shops. But it is still rather lovely.
I had lunch at a seafront restaurant called ‘Il Casello 1868’ overlooking the beautiful view of the sea. This is a great lunch spot albeit a little more expensive than others in the area. I had the Trofie Al Pesto which was lush, but the boyf had the seafood ravioli and raved about it.
For budget lunch options, you won’t have a hard time as there are plenty of affordable restaurants. Just head into the old town rather than staying at the seafront.
Montorosso is a beautiful place overall and great for people watching as it gets such a constant flow of tourists.
Vernazza feels quite claustrophobic when you first get off the train as there is just one main road to the marina. So it gets rammed with a train full of people on it. But once you get past that and head down to the sea, it’s a lovely little town.
A lot smaller than Montorosso but still very charming with its quaint church overlooking the marina.
It’s also a good place for lunch with several al fresco restaurants spilling out onto the main square. You even get musicians playing outside so it’s a great atmosphere.
When I visited Vernazza I grabbed a beer (or ‘birra’) from a nearby pizzeria and sat outside on the marina watching the little wooden boats come and go. So nice.
Corniglia was my least favourite of the Cinque Terre towns. This town is the only one of the five to not have a seafront and tourists get a little bit of a shock when they get off the train and see the 273 steps zigzagging up a cliff – the only way to get to Corniglia. It is exhausting to walk up there but it’s doable. But I did need a little sit down and a glass of water at the top I must admit!
It’s another lovely town but I felt like this one didn’t really have a defining feature like Montorosso’s beach or Vernazza’s marina.
Still worth looking if you’re visiting the area, but Corniglia is likely to account for the least amount of time you spend in one of the towns.
Manarola is really gorge. Pretty colourful houses on a cliff that ends in a quaint marina – it’s what Cinque Terre is all about.
The best part of Manarola is that you can walk up one of the cliffs for awesome views of the town itself. There’s even pretty gardens up there on Via dei Bambini so is worth the walk.
There’s also some lovely shops and restaurants here. Although the town is smaller than somewhere like Montorosso or Riomaggiore so you’re limited on options.
A great town overall with stunning views. Definitely fit this one in if you can.
Riomaggiore is the largest of the five Cinque Terre towns, and my personal favourite. It’s like all the best parts of the other towns combined into one – stunning houses, a lovely marina, nice restaurants.
It also has quite a lot of murals and street art which is a nice touch.
You can walk up to a castle at the top of a cliff for really amazing views of the town. And the walk itself is amazing, going up several steep staircases, around winding alleys and backstreets, and past hidden houses. It’s just cool to explore this area.
There’s even a rocky beach you can walk round to. It’s really quiet with very few people there, and the sound of the waves pulling the rocks back into the sea is hypnotising. A lovely little cove.
And dinner at Grottino Trattoria was the most amazing ravioli experience I’ve ever had. I can’t recommend this place enough. Everything was delicious (and cheap!) and the wine was amazing.
You even have the Via Dell’amore which is the blue walking route to Manarola but has lots of padlocks of couples that have visited. Cute!
It’s also really pretty at night with a beautiful sunset. Instagram will love you.
Now you know where you’re going and what you’re doing, here’s my top tips for visiting the area.
- To save time, travel by train between the towns. It’s quick and cheap with the Cinque Terre card costing €10 for the day. See my post of ‘How To Travel Italy By Train‘ for more info.
- Get a train timetable so you know when they’ll arrive, as sometimes they are once an hour.
- Arrive early at the train station at least 5-10 minutes before the train as the platforms get completely rammed.
- Wear comfortable shoes, everything involves a lot of walking in Cinque Terre.
- Visit the busier towns like Monotorosso or Vernazza at the start of the day or the end of the day. This means you’ll avoid the majority of the daytrippers!
- If you want to walk between the towns, make sure you check the walking routes are open before you go. When I went, the blue routes between Riomaggiore & Manarola and Manarola & Corniglia were closed due to erosion.
- Take as many photos as I did! This place is an absolute dream and you’re going to want to remember it.
Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your fave place? Leave a comment below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!