Cinque Terre Travel Guide

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Cinque Terre Overview

Cinque Terre – which translates loosely to ‘five towns’ – is North West Italy’s most prominent tourist attraction, a beautiful stretch of seemingly tumbling houses that sit between towering cliffs and collapse onto gentle, sunny beaches. You can walk comfortably between all five, one of the most popular hiking trails in all Italy, taking in the green peaks and troughs and exploring the vineyards along the way.

Cinque Terra Marine Reserve is arguably the most impressive beach in all of Italy, perfect for a dip, but most come to experience the coastal nature and the small town (if openly tourist-touting) Italy. The pace of life is slow, with places like Manarola scattered with rusting boats that probably haven’t seen the sea in a generation or two, but exuding an attractive, rustic charm. Many of the houses look like they’re about to slip down the cliff sides, and are painted in bright blocks of color that make for a photographers haven.

Of the other towns, the southernmost – Riomaggiore – is the place to go to see a seriously old-world protective fortress and listen to the bells ring through the heart of the day and snack at the seemingly endless stream of ice cream parlours. Corniglia is one of the more comfortable spots to access the water, with a communal olive press in the central square and an extremely quiet feel to the passing days.

Vernazza is a little more rundown, but the best place to go if you enjoy some lively nightlife, as well as being home to some exceptional views across the Cinque Terre hiking routes in both directions, while Monterosso is the most tourist-focused, and perhaps least interesting of the five towns.

The best way to see the Cinque Terre is to walk lazily from one end to the other, exploring all the hidden corners, making the most of the laid-back, authentic shopping experiences and ogling the stunning coastlines. Sporadic dips in the sea, evenings slurping the local wine and chats with the friendly natives don’t go amiss, too. For all its tourist hype, this is a great ‘real Italy’ experience.

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Mainly distinguished by being the first Cinque Terre village you encounter, Riomaggiore does not offer as many delights as its sisters. This isn't a detraction, because the village is stil…
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