Wondering, where to spend some warm days in Europe during the winter months? Let me give you a hint. On the West coast of Italy, there is an extravagant area of charming little villages surrounded by the turquoise sea and the majestic mountains - such an amazing vacation spot! But hey, it is not only great for coach-potatoes, it is also suitable for hikers! Here is a quick guide how to hike the Cinque Terre and where to go on a daytrip.
Cinque Terre presents 5 villages which go by the names: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. These cliff-side villages, located along the Ligurian sea in Italy, are famous for their delicious food, great wine, dramatic coast, mountainous scenery, luxuriant vegetation and beautiful sunsets.
When to Go to Cinque Terre
To avoid all the busy crowds in Cinque Terre, please choose any other period than summer! My friend and I visited Cinque Terre in November which turned out to be a wise decision! Although there were still some tourists around, it was far away from calling it mass tourism. I can only imagine what it would look like in July or August! :) Apart from that point, it was warm (approx. 18 degrees C) and sunny to partly sunny during the day. However, there are two things to be aware of: It gets dark pretty soon (at around 5:30 pm) and a lot of restaurants are closed. If this fact doesn't disturb you, November makes it a great month to visit Cinque Terre.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
To get to Cinque Terre is quite easy. From Milan, Genoa, Florence or Bologna, take the train to La Spezia. If you're staying at Monterosso or Vernazza, you will have to get off the train before La Spazia. However, everyone with a base in Manarola, will have to drive to La Spezia first and change the train there to Manarola (direction Sestri Levante) because the train from Milan doesn't stop at all Cinque Terre stations. Check out the train timetable or book your ticket in advance. If you're arriving by plane, the closest airports are Pisa, Florence and Genoa. What is more, I wouldn't recommend hiring a car unless you don't get stressed out by narrow roads and crazy drivers ;)
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
Our base was in Manarola which is a small village between Corniglia and Riomaggiore. The village is cute but in our opinion, it is more suitable for couples who starve to have a calm and romantic stay. If I had to choose again, I would go for Vernazza. It might be a bit more lively with more restaurants and cafes. A good tip from one of my dear readers was that it is worth to stay in Levanto, a village north of Monterosso. Maybe you want to do that too. Herewith, I want to remember to book your stay at Agoda, as the prices on the page were lower than on Booking.com or even Airbnb. If you find a nice place on Airbnb, make sure to take advantage of my 20 CHF credit.
How Long to Stay in Cinque Terre
The good news is that you can visit all the Cinque Terre villages in only 2 days, even if you do the hike between these 5 villages. Our itinerary was as follows: We arrived on Saturday
afternoon, had dinner and a glass of wine in Manarola. On Sunday, we started our hike between 10 and 11 am in Monterosso and managed to walk all the way to Corniglia - we arrived at about 5
pm. For your information, we also took off some time in Monterosso, Vernazza and Corniglia to relax. It's not that we were in a hurry or so. On Monday, we hiked from Manarola to Riomaggiore
(yes, we skipped the hike from Corneglia to Manarola because we wanted to see Portovenere too) and took the train from there to La Spezia. By bus, we arrived to Portovenere. At the
evening, we were back in Manarola. On the next day, we started our trip towards home. So, actually we spent 4 days for our trip - 2 days for travelling to and from
there and 2 days for staying there.
Hike the Cinque Terre
Aside of eating ice-cream, gnocchi, ravioli, drinking wine, soaking up sunsets and listening to street music, hiking from one village to another is a great way to spend your days at Cinque Terre! The best way to start the Cinque Terre hike is to take the train to Monterosso (if not already based there) and then to hike from there in the direction of Vernazza and Corniglia. The whole hike from Monterosso to Riomaggiore, without any breaks, lasts for about 5 hours. In my opinion, it is better to do the hike in 2 days in order to have the time to explore the little villages too.
Monterosso is one of the five villages of Cinque Terre and comes first when travelling from Genoa. By its tunnel, it is divided into the old and the new town. In comparison to other Cinque Terre villages, it has one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches. From Monterosso to Vernazza there is a hiking trail, which takes you about 2 hours. It is not the easiest walk out there, since there are 600 steep stairs to conquer. But in my opinion, it is feasible and a MUST-SEE, as it is one of the most beautiful hiking paths along the Ligurian coast. The views are stunning!
Our favourite Cinque Terre village along the Ligurian sea was Vernazza. This small colourful village has lots of cafes and restaurants. Its city center is very lively, occupied with street musicians and cute shops. There is a beautiful tower from which you can have a lovely view over the sea and the village. The highlight of this village is definitely its cafe, located on one of the surrounding hills. With its red tablecloths, it cannot be overlooked if wandering down the Vernazza streets. Have a rest there, take some coffee and orange juice, as the views are incredible!! From Vernazza to Corniglia, there is a 1,5 hour scenic walk. The hiking trail is easier than the one from Monterosso to Vernazza albeit it has still some tough parts.
This cute little village is situated in the center of all the 5 Cinque Terre villages. It has a great vibe and is well recommendable if you're interested in booking your stay here. If you choose to do the same hiking route on a November day, you will enjoy some romantic sunset moments over the village and the sea right after your hike from Vernazza. It is a nice place to have your dinner too.
Manarola is a cute village between Corniglia and Riomaggiore. This village was home to our hotel Da Baranin which we found very pleasant. The breakfast was great, the rooms were clean and the location was fine although it was a 10-minute walk from the center. The only thing we were missing was a view of the sea ;) From Manarola, there is a hiking trail along the coast to Riomaggiore - but it is closed now due to rock falling. Therefore, take the 1 hour hike up the hill which is very steep at the beginning but very easy at the end.
Riomaggiore is the first village when travelling North from La Spezia. This Cinque Terre village is famous for its colourful houses with slate-roofs and its Guardiola tower. It has also a small beautiful beach to enjoy. My second favourite village on this trip! :)
Daytrip from Cinque Terre
To access this medieval village, you have to take the train to La Spezia and hop on the bus, leaving from the Mercato Nord bus station (just a 10-minute walk from the train station). The tickets can be purchased at any newstands or post office. The colourful village has a lovely main street, a picturesque coast and a fascinating St. Peter church. Definitely a village worth a daytrip.
Check out a short video about our hike in Cinque Terre, Italy:
Cinque Terre was a great winter escape to a part of Italy, I haven't visited before. Aside of Rom, Bolzano and Sicily, I can put it on the list of my favourite places in Italy! The only
thing, I had to get used to while waiting for my meal or coffee in one of the cafes or restaurants, was the slowness of people in Cinque Terre... That was beyond funny ;)
Have you been to Cinque Terre? What did you do and what was your favourite village? Let us know in the comments!