The Cinque Terre region of Italy is one of the most beautiful spots in the country. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in Italian and is a collection of five small villages nestled into the cliffs on the Ligurian Sea. The villages were founded on agriculture and fishing, but now survive with the help of tourists dollars.
Cinque Terre is an easy day trip from Florence, Pisa or Milan (Pisa is the closest airport), but you should plan at least two days on the shortest trip, and more like 4-5 if you really want to relax. There’s not a whole lot to do in Cinque Terre really, but that is its charm.
Each of the five villages has its own distinct personality. Monterosso is the most resorty of the towns. It is the only one with full-service hotels and a true beach – though it is a rocky one. Just south of the town is Vernazza, another village popular with tourists and known for its picturesque harbor (it also has a very small beach).
High above the sea, Corniglia sits perched on a cliff and is more isolated, with fewer tourists. My favorite town, Manarola, is next. Quiet enough ro relax but still offering several options for lodging and dining, it does not have a beach but has a few coves where swimmers can jump off rocks into the sea. The final town, Riomaggiore, is a short stroll from Manarola.
All five towns are connected by a hiking path, a train, and (with the exception of Corniglia) a ferry service. The hiking trail is one of the town’s main draws. 11 kilometers long and of moderate difficulty, it provides stunning views along the way between the towns. Ambitious (and fit) hikers could make the trek in 5-6 hours, but for a more leisurely walk with ample time to relax in each town it’s best to spread the hike over two days.
Other than hiking, swimming, and gazing out at the beautiful Ligurian Sea, there’s not much to do in the Cinque Terre except wine, dine and relax. The towns still rely on fishing for much of their cuisine, so you’ll find no shortage of delicious fresh fish. Pesto was created here and many dishes feature the sauce. The region also produces an inexpensive white wine that is available at every restaurant. So relax, enjoy, and spend a few days in Cinque Terre living “La Dolce Vita”.