Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns

28th Oct 2019

The colorful buildings in Manarola

Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns by Nishanth Naik

Cinque Terre is one of the beautiful destinations in north-western Italy. The name translates to ‘Five Lands’. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso - five small towns along the western coast of Italy connected by scenic trails. Each of these towns has a unique touch to the way they are built, the colors and you can sense the flavor of the town while you are there. This can be a perfect getaway for a relaxed trip or a day trip to explore the towns.

Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns 1/7 by Nishanth Naik
Monterosso al Mare

How to get there?

Italy is very well connected with trains. If you are traveling from Florence or anywhere down south of Italy, you can take a direct train to La Spezia Centrale which is the closest connection to the five towns. If you are traveling from Milan, you can also get direct trains to Monterosso.

Local Stay and Travel

The five towns are connected by local trains that are available every 20 minutes. A single journey cost €4 and unlimited travel with Cinque Terre card would cost you €16. Travel between two towns would take about 4-6 minutes on these trains. Most travelers also decide to trek between a couple of these towns. Hotels and Airbnb are available in all these towns but might be a little expensive. La Spezia has more options and budget-friendly places to stay and is less than 10 minutes away from the Riomaggiore.

Exploring Cinque Terre

La Spezia by itself is a pretty town with a beautiful coastline. We had stayed the previous night in La Spezia, on the evening of Diwali. We were lucky to savor some Biryani at Punjabi Dhaba, an Indian restaurant in the small town of Italy. We started the day at C’est Bon, one of the popular cafes in La Spezia and took a train to Riomaggiore. Most travelers travel up north from Riomaggiore to Monterosso as the later has serene beaches to have a perfect end for the trip with a sunset. The hiking trails between the first three towns in our route was shut when we were there.

Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns 2/7 by Nishanth Naik
Colored buildings from Riomaggiore
Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns 3/7 by Nishanth Naik
Rocky beaches in Riomaggiore

We started exploring Riomaggiore town. It is one of the peaceful towns with colorful houses and rocky beaches. The second town in the route is Manarola. The city has a small boat dock and a very scenic view of colorful buildings built on a rocky hill. The most iconic pictures of Cinque Terre are from this town. Corniglia is the third of five towns. This is situated on a hill and is more in the inland. It is surrounded by vineyards and greenery. We stopped by to try some local cuisine – Focaccia bread with tomato toppings and Pistachio Cannoli – a local sweet with pistachio cream.

Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns 4/7 by Nishanth Naik
Hiking route between Corniglia and Vernazza
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View from the hiking route

We started our trek between Corniglia and Vernazza at around noon. A hiking fee of €7.50 is charged to access the trail if you do not have a Cinque Terre card. The route is very scenic, and you walk through vineyards, olive forests and stone-paved paths. The hike takes about 2 hours to complete. Vernazza, unlike other towns, has an architectural history and is famous for its Tower of the Doria Castle, visible from a distance along hiking paths. Vernazza also has many food places around the port area. We got the famous Fritto Misto – a mixed bag of seafood such as Calamari, Prawns, Cod deep fried packed with fried veggies/ French fries. The taste of the food just got better as we enjoyed it next to the beach. We also tried Gelato from Gelateria Vernazza, yet another reason Italy is known for.

Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns 6/7 by Nishanth Naik
Tower of Doria Castle - Vernazza Town
Photo of Cinque Terre: A Tale of Five Charming Towns 7/7 by Nishanth Naik
Ending the day at Monterosso beach.

The last town in our route was Monterosso. This is the largest of five towns and has many eateries and places to stay. This is the only town with a long sandy beach and gets crowded during the summers. It is a good day to end the hike and exhaustion with a dip in the water. All the towns also have local shops to purchase souvenirs. Cinque Terre is also popular for its wine. One can very well end the day with the glass of wine and local cuisine along the coast to put a great end to the day.

Photo credit - Rudrakar Mondal

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