Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is like a dream come true! It’s one of the most picturesque places in the world and has always been at the top of my list as somewhere I wanted to visit. With every village on the rugged Cinque Terre coast, it’s sometimes hard to believe that the view you are seeing is real life and actually in existence in front of your eyes. It’s completely surreal over here and everything is ten times more better when you can spin around in a circle and take in a 360 degree view of all that is around you.
As you might already know, there are five main villages on the Cinque Terre coast. Together, they make up the Cinque Terre National Park which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As there is so much choice, one of the most challenging questions to solve prior to travelling here is which town to stay in! So I thought I’d put together a little visual introduction to the five towns of Cinque Terre (starting from the south and working our way up north), in case you too are undecided in planning your trip to Cinque Terre.
This is Riomaggiore, the southern most town on the coast and the one that is closest to La Spezia (the main city where you will likely change trains to arrive in the area). It’s the town we chose to stay in and also one of our favourites along the cost. Riomaggiore has only one main street (which you can see in the images) but it sufficiently has all you need – a bank, takeaway, restaurants, cafes, groceries, pharmacy and more. It’s accessible by ferry and train and is also close to Portovenere – should you wish to consider a day trip there. The trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is called The Lover’s Lane which is a popular stroll and one of the easiest. However, when we were there (September 2015) it was closed for construction due to the unfortunate landslides that occurred a few years earlier.
About a five minute train ride up is the next town, Manarola. I find Manarola pretty romantic – the view here is stunning and I would happily deem this the most beautiful town of them all. There’s a little swimming cove here and tourists love to sunbathe by the water. Compared to the other towns, Manarola is pretty small but that small town feel is something that I just love. I think I’d stay here next! The hiking path between Manarola and Corniglia was also closed when we went in September 2015 (just so you know!) however you can still walk the start of the path so you can get a good view of Manarola from afar (just like in the pictures above).
Corniglia is the town in the middle. Unlike all the other towns which sit by the water, Corniglia is built on a cliff and is the only town that is accessible by train only. However, if you want to walk to the shore, I heard it’s something like 350 steps down. It’s the only town we didn’t have time to visit but I’ve heard great things about it being a hidden treasure. The hiking path between Corniglia and Vernazza is open!
Travel north from Corniglia and you will reach Vernazza. This one’s pretty big compared to the rest (though when we say big, we’re still just talking about a few main streets as all the villages here are extremely small). The view of the village from afar is spectacular and there are a heap of good restaurants there. It’s extremely popular and was pretty crowded, but would definitely be an amazing place to base yourself. Around the other side of town, there’s a little beach too. The hiking route between Vernazza and Monterosso is open and is one of the most popular hiking routes here.
The last village (the northern most one) is Monterosso. It’s the only one that actually has a proper beach and is renowned for it’s colourful umbrellas lining the coast. It’s also quite unlike the other towns as it is built on more flat land and is more spread out with a more modern, resort like feel. The first photo of Monterosso above is actually only one side of the town, if you keep walking across the hill on the left side of the photo, you will reach the other side of Monterosso (the old town side), where you will find another beach which is even bigger with the orange and green umbrellas. There are a lot more train connections in Monterosso as aside from the local train that runs through the five towns, a lot of the regional trains also make a stop at Monterosso. Of course, the ferry stops here too.
WHICH TOWN TO STAY IN?
Personally, I would say it doesn’t really matter which town you stay in as they’re all just 5-10 minutes apart by train (none of these villages are accessible by car, by the way). However, if you are looking for somewhere with a ferry connection, then skip Corniglia and try the others. If you want that postcard pretty view, then Manarola, Riomaggiore and Vernazza is likely where you’ll like most. If you want somewhere with a beach, the Monterosso will be the best one for you.
Next up, we’ll be exploring the beautiful Riomaggiore, the town we based ourselves in during our time at the Cinque Terre. Speak soon :-)
Which town have you stayed in or which town would you love to stay in? Do share below!
Photography: Thomas Debono & I