We were temporarily allowed to leave our region to travel to another region with the same color status as us – so we took the opportunity to spend a quick weekend in Cinque Terre and here is how it went:
We drove to Cinque Terre right after Presley got out of school on a Friday afternoon & headed straight to our Airbnb in Monterosso. (All about our AirBnb + parking at the end of this post). There was really no reason why we chose Monterosso as our home base for the weekend – any of the towns would have been fine. I just wanted to make sure our AirBnb had an A/C as a lot in Italy don’t!! I’ve made the mistake a few times of not adding that on my filter options and have regretted not having an A/C especially during summer months!
From North to South the towns are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglio, Manrola & Riomaggiore
The most northern of the five cities and the largest. Monterosso is part old town and part new town and entire part gorgeous. A tunnel connects you between the two and you can move between the old and new town of Monterosso in about 20 minutes. The biggest beach of the 5 towns is the big draw of Monterosso & rightly so. It’s gorgeous with bright blue water, small waves & plenty of space. Reserve a chair in advance and it’s yours for the day!
Things to do:
- Get some sun on the picturesque Spiagga di Fegina – book a chair here in advance.
- Hike the footpath between Monterosso & Vernazza
- Eat at Torre Aurora – 16th century lookout
- Visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista with it’s striped marble exterior
- Listen to the bells from the 13th century tower
- See if you can spot the Giant Neptune at the far end of Fegina beach
- See the Statue of San Benedetto d’ Assisi
Take a peek at the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza: I recommend starting in Monterosso and hiking towards Vernazza – this gives you the best vantage point in walking direction so you don’t hike with the views behind you. It is approximately 2 miles: closed shoes and a ticket are required (get your ticket beforehand at any train station stop). This stretch of the Cinque Terre hiking trails is the most popular and you’ll see why! I’ll warn you, the hike is sort of like a triangle top, a steep incline & then a decline – I promise it is worth it!
If you hiked to Vernazza like we did – YOU MADE IT! Way to go! Time to grab an Aperol Spritz and wander – you’ve probably earned some gelato if you sweat like I do.
Things to do:
- If you couldn’t get a beach chair in Monterosso there is a small pebble beach area free to the public here. Just bring a thick towel and good water shoes.
- Climb the 11th century Dorian Castle for 1,50€ pp for great panaromic views
- Visit the Church of Santa Margherita d’ Antiochia
- View the Sanctuary of the Lady of Regio
*Tip – If you don’t have time or the desire to hike you can get a great view by hiking from Vernazza towards Monterosso. Get a great photo stop before you get to the ticket booth and then head back down!
I don’t think you can come to Cinque Terre and skip one of the 5 towns – but if you absolutely had to skip one, it would be Corniglia. To reach the quietest- and oldest -(roman age) town you can either 1) take 370 switchback stairs “Lardarina” to get into town, or 2)wait in a ridiculously long line for a tiny city shuttle to bring people back and forth. We waited for about 45 minutes but it was totally worth waiting. The stairs looked terrible!
Things to do:
- After you get off the bus, wander over to take a picture of all the stairs you got to skip, it makes for an amazing photo!
- Peek inside the 14 century Church of St. Peter
- To get an amazing peninsula view visit Saint Mary’s Terrace
- Feeling brave (or single)? Between Vernazza & Corniglia is “Guvano Beach” a nudist beach
- Corniglia isn’t right on the water, so it’s way of life was farming. Try the local “white wine of Vernaccia di Corniglia” which dates back to the 1300s
Things to do:
- Visit Nessun Dorma for a Spritz or their famous Pesto Experience. The views alone make it entirely worth the increase in price – just make a reservation a few days in advance. Without a reservation you’ll wait a few hours to get a drink during peak season. Can’t snag a spot? You can still get a decent picture from close by of Manarola
- Cliff dive if you’ve brought your swimsuit or just watch the people crazy enough to do it. This is a great place to swim in clean, clear water with lots of little fishies. There isn’t a beach, but the concrete dock/rock area is a first come first serve area.
- Hike Via dell’Amore or “Lovers Lane” the path between Manarola & Riomaggiore
- Visit the Chiesa di San Lorenzo and take in the Vineyards in the background
Last, but definitely not least. In my opinion, if you could only visit 1 town – this would be it. To sit on these rocks at sunset while eating a pizza and seafood in a cone was just magical.
Things to do:
- Seafood in a cone, extra points if you sit on the rocks and watch the sunset
- Grab gelato at the famous Old School Gelato shop
- Visit the 1200’s Castle “Il Castello”
- Visit The Church of San Giovanni Battista
Other Details & Info:
-The Drive takes 3 hours and 45 minutes from Vicenza
-Costs are 30 Euro in Tolls each way
-Reserve a spot at Monterosso beach in advance if you want a beach day
-You cannot drive in the towns of Cinque Terre – so plan to ride the public train & purchase a train pass based on how much exploring you will be doing.
Our AirBNB recommendation: The Airbnb we found was perfect for us & could have fit a few more people if needed. It was located right in old town Monterosso. It was a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom with a small kitchen, satellite tv, big balcony, freezing air conditioning in the rooms & all the amenities you could need. Our host Enzo spoke perfect English and his family has lived in Montorosso for generations. He owns his own his own shop while also knowing all the restaurant owners in the area and provides discounts for his favorites. He is available by Whatsapp day or night and was amazing.
Parking: Cinque Terre isn’t a car friendly city and the parking is usually outside of town. Our AirBnb host gave us all the info on parking and our options – because Montorosso is a pedestrian only town, we opted to find free parking (overnight parking was 25euro per night) up the hill. Chad dropped us off at the bottom & then drove up to find a spot. Our car was fine the entire weekend and we saved a bit of money doing it that way. There is a taxi that takes people from the free spots down to town for around 10 euro with your bags. Otherwise you can park in Levanto or La Spezia (on either end of the 5 cities) and then train into your Airbnb.
Cinque Terre Trekking Card gives you access to the footpaths only, while the Cinque Terre Train Card gives you access to the hiking trails and unlimited use of the train between towns. Tickets can be purchased for 1, 2, or 3 days and are only valid until midnight & not a full 24 hours from purchase date. This can be purchased at any info spot at the train station.
There were so many amazing boat/sunset tour options that I really wanted to do to be able to see the towns from the water – unfortunately they were not operated because of Covid at the time. I would factor this into your time/spending if you can!
If you just want to come and snap some Instagram photos, a full day would be sufficient with a 1 day train pass.
I recommend 2-3 days, split up the 5 cities & allow for some beach time while also planning to get lost on little side streets.