Despite being a 4 hour train trip from Rome, Cinque Terre (or the Five Lands) is a place that every traveler should visit when in Italy. From the amazingly colorful houses, the wondrous streets, and the beautiful hikes, I left Cinque Terre wanting to come back… or wanting to live there!
Let’s start by saying that the way to go is to stay in Levanto, a nearby village 5 minutes from the last of the five villages on the train route, so you don’t have to deal with the crazy amounts of tourists staying in the Cinque Terre. Specifically, we stayed at Park Hotel Argento, which turned out to be the one all the way up a big hill. We had quite a time lugging all of our suitcases up the side of it and then realized there was a free shuttle to and from the train station! But we had a great stay and they have the most amazing shower system that we got to use in the spa, which was a nice treat after our trekking.
On our big hiking day, we took the ferry from the dock in Levanto down to Riomaggiore and worked our way back.
This guide will inform you on how to explore Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza. We did not see Monterosso partly because of time, but mostly because we heard it is almost exactly like Levanto. It will also give you the name of the lunch place we ate at in Manarola. Enjoy!
Riomaggiore to Manarola
When it comes to which town is prettier, I seriously can’t decide. Riomaggiore or Manarola. I think I’ll just stick to saying they’re both amazing, which is what most lucky travelers say when they visit Cinque Terre. When we got off the boat, I think I might have been caught in a flat out gaze. All I wanted to do was explore. So, of course, we jumped right into the colorful jungle of buildings and wandered wherever our feet took us. We walked down by the azure water, up by the lush hills, but mainly through the narrow and windy streets, to really get a feel for what Cinque Terre is all about.
From that point on, hiking to Manarola was definitely our best bet to get the most adventurous experience. Finding the right path was a little complicated, but after we asked a local for directions, it was pretty straight forward. The hike itself was mainly uphill and tiring, but the views of the ocean and the bragging rights you get when you’re finished make it so worth it!
Manarola to Corniglia
Exploring Manarola for at least an hour is mandatory. Whether you are strolling through the pink narrow streets or jumping off the cliff, don’t be surprised if its your favorite place in the whole world. Because it’s definitely mine!
By the time we did make it to Manarola, hunger hit us hard so we were in need of some good lunch. After checking out all sorts of little shops, we came across La Cambusa, a focaccia store right on the main street. We all tried different flavors and we were all happy!
At that point, we pretty much kicked back down by the water and enjoyed the view of a rainbow on a cliff for a while.
For the trip from Manarola to Corniglia, we decided to skip the hour and a half walk and took the 5 minute train ride instead. It is a very easy ride, but keep in mind that there is a 10 minute walk from the station to the actual town!
Corniglia to Vernazza
Because of the time, we only lightly explored the quiet little town of Corniglia, but I’m sure we could’ve spent more time in it. Instead, we went straight away to Vernazza… on foot! The hike is about one hour and it requires a special National Park pass, which you can buy at the start of the trail.
The hike itself turned out to be incredible, though a little bit more difficult than we expected. To our excitement, about halfway through, we found a local juice place called Bar Il Gabbiano that served the most delicious fresh orange juice. We sat and stared at the shimmering Ligurian Sea and the great view of Corniglia from far away. It was a perfect way to refuel to make it to the next amazing town, Vernazza!
Vernazza to Levanto
As we got closer and closer to Vernazza, we had one thing on our mind: a break! It turned out to be perfect because we got to sit down and relax by the water with our gelato and watch all the local kids splash around… man I wish I was one them!
And just like that, after taking a few pictures of the town, we were off to Levanto after an all around magical day. We took the quick train back and headed straight for the cold and refreshing water of Levanto!
After a great day of constant exploring, there was really nothing better than just sitting down on the warm sand and enjoying the sunset. Unfortunately, dinner in Levanto wasn’t as good as the rest of the places we visited in Italy. Maybe that is because my sister and I aren’t big seafood eaters. Over the course of our two nights, we ate at Osteria Tumelin and Trattoria Cavour, but we didn’t really love either one. But we really loved Levanto and the Cinque Terre!