Cinque Terre and the Gulf of the Poets
The Five Lands of Cinque Terre are only the 5 villages Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, which hide in the Ligurian cliffs and are only visible from the sea as splashes of color. We want to expand the area a little and include the southern Gulf of the Poets, with the cities of La Spezia and Lerici and the Porto Venere World Heritage Site. North of the Cinque Terre are the beautiful towns of Levanto, Camogli, Rapallo, and Portofino, which should be visited as well. These are beautiful holiday resorts worth a trip.
The Ligurian Riviera is one of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in the world. The cliffs expressively rise from the sea with Mediterranean macchia overgrown cliffs. You will be greeted by cheerful pastel-colored houses that have nestled close to the slopes and leave an indelible longing.
5 Terre – Villages of Cinque Terre
The 5 villages from north to south along the coastline of Liguria have a distinct presence. Each of them is worth a visit. The best mode of transportation is by walk or by train. The last thing you want here is a car.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost village of the Cinque Terre. The atmosphere is typical of a coastal town, there is always hustle and bustle on the beach promenade. There are restaurants, bars, and hotels lined up. Ice cream shops and specialty shops invite you to stroll and consume. In the late afternoon, when the shadows are long and most of the daytime tourists are heading back to the train station, the village calms down. And after a few blinks of an eye, the place fills up with long term vacationers and locals looking for a place to take an aperitif.
Vernazza is the face of Cinque Terre. It is the most beautiful village of the Cinque Terre with its peninsula around the romantic harbor basin and the piazza with bars and restaurants.
Corniglia is the central village of the 5 Terre, the Cinque Terre in Liguria. Corniglia sits on a rock and is surrounded by the sea and on three sides by vineyards.
Manarola sits on a rock. It is a fishing village without a beach. Boats have to be pulled up by a cable and lay on the one and only street of the village. This creates a very unique atmosphere and visitors are welcome to immerse.
Colorful houses rise steeply above the picturesque harbor bay of Riomaggiore to which steep stairs lead from the broad main street. Riomaggiore is the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre.
What To Do in Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre National Park
The national park includes from north to south the towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
- Monterosso al Mare is the largest place of the Cinque Terre and the only one with a wide sandy beach.
- Vernazza is the most beautiful place with a small protected port and is widely visible with the defensive tower.
- Corniglia is the middle place and is located on a rocky plateau. It is the only place of the Cinque Terre without a port.
- What makes Manarola so special is its location on the rock to which the fishing boats are pulled up after the catch.
- Riomaggiore in the south is particularly impressive to look at from the sea. The houses built steeply on top of each other are impressive.
In the past, the places were only accessible from the sea or after a long hike.
Today, thanks to the rail connection, you can travel from place to place in a few minutes. The train runs almost exclusively through tunnels. If you like it more romantic, be advised there is the boat connection, where you have a wonderful view of the five colorful villages that nestle on the mountain.
There are also narrow serpentine roads to the places. You should allow a lot of time for this. In high season, it’s hard to find a parking space.
Hiking in Cinque Terre
We have often expired the hiking trails in and around the Cinque Terre and know our way around. Most visitors walk the paths between the villages. You have to pay for the preservation of these hiking trails with the “Cinque Terre Card.” For that, you will be rewarded with spectacular views. The paths were slammed into the steep mountain slopes and are very high maintenance. In heavy rain, there are sometimes landslides, so that even a path is temporarily closed until safety is guaranteed again. However, alternative routes are always offered, which are then a little longer.
You can go back by train or by excursion boat.
Less used are the high paths, such as the long-distance hiking trail between Levanto and Porto Venere, as well as the paths between the churches above the places, called paths of the Madonnas.
Gulf of the Poets
The Gulf of la Spezia is also known as the Gulf of the Poets. It includes the places
- Porto Venere
- La Spezia
- And the island of Palmaria
La Spezia has a beautiful harbor promenade with a park where palm trees, flowering oleanders, and rare ornamental plants grow. Above the pretty old town rises on a small hill the Castello San Giorgio (Castle of St. George), which was built as a defensive castle of the Genovese Maritime Republic.
Porto Venere, the port of Venus. Once the temple of Venus stood at the extreme rock, where the goddess of love rose from the sea foam. Today, the small chapel of San Pietro adorns the top of the rock.
The archipelago of the Palmarian Islands consists of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. Only from the sea is one to discover the caves of the island of Palmaria. The most famous is the Grotta Azzurra, which can be visited by boat.
Porto Venere has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the Cinque Terre National Park and the Palmaria Islands.
Lerici already had strategic importance in ancient times and served as a trading port for Greeks, Etruscans, Phoenicians and the Romans. Tranquille squares with villas and narrow streets between the Borghi invite you to linger.
Riviera of Ponente
The most beautiful places north of the Cinque Terre are
- Sestri Levante
- Santa Margherita Ligure
Sestri Levante is beautifully situated on a peninsula on the Gulf of Tigullio, a holiday resort for well-being with a sandy beach, rustic trattoria, and a pretty old town.
Rapallo was the city of the rich with many Art Nouveau villas of the Belle Epoch. Rapallo became known for the Peace Treaties, “Peace of Rapallo”
From Santa Margherita Ligure comes the best fish. The place has a large marina for the beautiful and rich.
Those who own a house in Portofino belong to the elite of Italy. The largest yachts roam in the small harbor. One arrives in a private plane or helicopter. Apart from that, you can stroll and eat in Portofino at the harbor or hike to the monastery of San Fruttuoso. It’s faster with the regular boat.
Traditionally, Camogli is a fishing village with its differently painted boats and colorful houses on the coastal promenade. Here you will find the best homemade focaccia.
From Camoglie, just north of the Cinque Terre, there is a trail to San Frutuoso. The monastery can only be reached on foot or by boat. The regular tourist boat continues to Portofino then on to Rapallo. In the bay of San Frutuoso, a Jesus sculpture is sunk into the sea. You can snorkel over it or dive with gear into the deep blue and clear water.
The ultimate experience is to arrive by private sailboat and simply swim from the boat to shore. Anchor fee is collected by the harbormaster, who flits in with a small boat. The sea is deep and blue. The short beach is densely occupied in summer. Loungers and parasols are offered and there is a shower in a crevasse. There are two restaurants at the pebble beach. One of them is in the monastery building. In peak season the umbrella guys also provide drinks and snacks from their hut.
Behind the monastery, past the church, a footpath leads steeply up through the forest to a Rifugio (mountain hut) with a simple but delicious lunch menu. Just follow the only path that leads uphill starting from the entrance of the church. From high above the monastery you will be rewarded with sweeping views across the bay. The Refugio will have very refreshing tap water and a small selection of soft drinks, house wine, and beer. You will enjoy the food sitting at benches outside. You can also arrive at the Rifugio on a hike from the road above. It’s very nice, but the climb takes almost an hour.
Quite typical of the Cinque Terre is the viticulture on the narrow terraces. Even among the Romans, the good white wine was a sought-after hand good.
In addition to hearty fish dishes, Ligurian cuisine offers a few very typical dishes that you should definitely try on site. These include the focaccia, which tastes particularly good in Camogli, the green pesto sauce made from basil and farinata, a kind of pancake made from chickpea flour.
The restaurant is particularly recommended for seafood based dishes.
The typical dish is spaghetti vongole. These are small cockles from the bay of Vernazza.
In the bay of la Spezia you can see the farming areas of mussels (cozze). The cozze from the clean sea taste particularly good.
Travel tips for a Cinque Terre Italy Holiday
Cinque Terre Card for the Cinque Terre Trail
The lower path between the five villages of the Cinque Terre is the most famous hiking trail of the area. To access this hiker’s paradise, you need to have the Cinque Terre Card. There are multiple options for the duration, discounts, and variants of this card.
Getting there by car
If you can do without the car, you should avoid getting there in your vehicle. The roads leading to there are narrow and consist only of serpentines. Parking spaces are scarce and expensive. In peak season there is no parking at all and then you are forced to turn around and climb the serpentines up again to some faraway place. The day is ruined then. Even when you arrive on a motorcycle, you won’t find a pitch. Many places are reserved for the residents of the area.
For a day trip, we leave our car in a large parking lot at the train station in Genova or La Spezia. From there we continue very conveniently by ship or train.
Getting there by train
The journey is convenient with regular trains from Milan, Genova, or La Spezia. They are local trains that stop in all interesting places of the Cinque Terre. So the places are practically connected underground. What takes with the car hours goes so in a few minutes. It’s better only with a private yacht.
Getting there and continuing across the sea
From La Spezia, there is a boat connection to Porto Venere and from there on to the 5 places of the Cinque Terre. The ships operate like a regular bus and according to a reliable timetable. In the darkness, there is an end. Then you’re stuck. Even when a storm is picking up, nothing goes anymore.
La Spezia has a cruise terminal. If all visitors flood the small town at once, it can get tight. Especially on the ships to the Cinque Terre and in the small villages you can feel this.
In Rapallo, you can easily rent a boat. At the port, you will also find a parking space for your car. You can also rent the smaller boats with an outboard engine without a driver’s license. These are usually inflatable boats. You can only get bigger boats with a boating license or with staff.
When you book your private trip with us, we take care of all that.
Day trips to the area
On a holiday on the Ligurian coast, you can plan a trip to nearby Tuscany. The first place in Tuscany is Carrara, known for its white marble. The marble quarries can be visited and an impressive picture of the gravity of the work, the dangers, and the enormous interventions in nature.
Don’t miss a taste of the Lardo di Collonata, bacon ripened in marble boxes.
The port city of Genova has brushed itself out with its old port, where you can find numerous attractions. By train, you are in Genova in an hour.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
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