The Cinque Terre (“The Five Lands”) is a rugged 15 square mile portion of coast in the Liguria region of Italy, on the Italian Riviera near La Spezia. The five picturesque villages include: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, five villages, and surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and combine as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Why to go: It’s a “must-see” on the Ligurian coast! Arrive by train or boat and visit on foot. The five villages are connected by ferry and also by a beautiful walking trail known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”) which offers breathtaking cliff-side views of the Mediterranean Sea. You can check out the portion of the hike that goes from Monterosso to Vernazza here.
When to go: Summer is high tourist season, so tends to be very crowded. Off season is more relaxed but many hotels and restaurants are closed from November to April. Best timing is probably May to early June and September.
When NOT to go: You will enjoy this region most if you can avoid visiting during summer (especially July and August) and winter.
Where to go: There are few roads in the Cinque Terre that are accessible by car. If you have to arrive by car, it’s best to park in a nearby town (for example La Spezia) and take a boat or train. The villages are well-connected to major Italian cities by the national train lines through La Spezia.
What to eat and/or drink: In this region, you can’t go wrong with seafood, pesto made from locally grown basil, a local white wine called Sciacchetrà and local lemons (and the resulting Limoncello liquor).
What to see/do: While on your walk through the villages, don’t forget to visit the ancient churches, castles and homes along the way. And remember that this area is a seaside to a protected marine area – so there are lots of coves, etc. to explore!