Italy is a big, beautiful and diverse country. Situated on the Italian Riviera coastline is Cinque Terre, known for its charming towns and villages that look like from the pages of a fairy tale book. Cinque Terre’s scenery is awe-inspiring that once you set foot in its lands, you will feel you have traveled to a completely different country. Whether this is your first trip to Italy or you’ve been here a few times before, a 3-day adventure to the villages opens up tons of new and interesting things to do. The sequence of activities and attractions below are just a guide and you can definitely change it to suit your interests.
Things to know before traveling to Cinque Terre, Italy:
Language – Italian is the official language of Italy. Most Italian in the city and other main tourists spots, speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking Italian language. Like other countries, speaking at least some Italian phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Etiquette – Most Italians don’t like vulgar and loud people. As a visitor, you are expected to behave politely and dress appropriately. When you enter a shop or restaurant, acknowledge the people by saying “Buon Giorno”. First impressions are important, so conduct yourself properly while being aware of any social hierarchies. Always greet with Signore (for a man) and Signora (for a woman) followed by the family name. If you get into conversation with an Italian, do not go on the subject of mafia as this is considered to be rude.
Currency exchange – Italy uses euros, the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Prior to traveling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs (called bankomat) at all main squares of every town, major airports and train stations. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most shops, restaurants and hotels. If you are going to take taxis, please note that most taxi drivers prefer cash payments as credit card transactions require them to pay a commission to the banks.
Getting around – Although Cinque Terre is a small enough area to explore on foot, there are also plenty of other ways to get around. Taking the trains connecting the five villages is the most popular way to get around the area. Each of the five villages in Cinque Terre has their own small train stations, where you can purchase single journey train tickets. If you see yourself taking the trains often, then you may consider getting a Cinque Terre card (options include 24, 48, or 72 hours) from the train stations. It allows unlimited travel on trains and ATC buses within the villages, provides access to the national park and the Sentiero Azzurro (coastal trail), use of WIFI in the train stations, and provides free guided hiking tours in the villages.
Where to stay – Cinque Terre is awash with various accommodation options with something for every level of comfort and budget. With five villages to choose from, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, the most frequent question from first time travelers is, “What’s the best area to stay in when visiting Cinque Terre?” Without a doubt, the best place to stay in Cinque Terre is the Riomaggiore, which is situated in the middle of everything. It has the most number of restaurants, good train connections and plenty of attractions.
Hotels to consider in Riomaggiore:
Day by day itinerary: Explore the centuries-old seaside villages of Cinque Terre, Italy in 3 Days
On your first day, take in a few of Cinque Terre’s most famous attractions and get an introduction to its rich history. Upon arrival, check into your chosen accommodation. Then, rent a bike and explore the village on your own. Biking is an extremely popular activity among locals and tourists as it has several physical advantages. It is also a great way to see the city without spending too much money on transportation. The High Path no. 1 (Sentiero del Crinale) connects the five villages and is about 27 kilometers long. It is recommended to split up the route as it will take approximately 10 hours to complete.
If you plan to take the train instead, then don’t forget to go to the train station to purchase a Cinque Terre card, which gives you access to the city’s main attractions. Also, getting this card allows entry to all trekking paths. Assuming your chosen accommodation is in Riomaggiore, some of the landmarks you can visit on this day are Borgo Storico di Riomaggiore, Castello di Riomaggiore, Church of San Giovanni Battista and Fossola Beach.
On day 2, enjoy a comfortable journey through one of the most breathtaking sceneriy from Riomaggiore to Corniglia, the center village that sits atop a 100 meter high above sea level. To get there, you have to climb 365 steps, which represent each days of the year. Being the smallest out of the five villages, Corniglia can be explored in just half day. But this does not mean it is not worth staying here, in fact, the village is a favorite of those who want to get away from it all. The village offers a quiet respite away from the crowds of its sister villages. In this village, do not miss to hike the Lardarina (the steps to get to the town proper), visit the Church of St. Peter, enjoy the wonderful views if the sea from the Saint Mary’s Terrace, and marvel at the crystal clear waters from the beaches of Guavo and Spiaggione.
In the afternoon, make your way to Manarola, known as one of the most beautiful villages in the whole Italy and is also known for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine. Because of its close proximity to Riomaggiore, the village is pretty popular among tourists. Some of the attraction you can visit in this village are the Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Bastion Castle, Museo dello Sciacchetrá – Sciacchetrá Museum, and Arbaspaa.
Start your last day in Cinque Terre by going to one of the best morning hot spots in the city serving classic caffe Italiano. Giammi Caffe (Via Colombo 189) serve some of the best coffee and croissants in Riomaggiore. After breakfast, head to the train station and get on the train to Monterosso, the only village in the Cinque Terre with its own large beach off the coast of the Italian Riviera. There is not much to do in this village, but if prefer less stairs, Monterosso will the best place for you. You may also make the village as your starting point to get to Vernazza, the most picturesque of the five towns of Cinque Terre.
While it’s perfectly fine to just sit on a bench and enjoy seeing the pastel coloured castles, houses, shops and restaurants because after all your on vacation, the village offers other activities and attractions. You may visit the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Reggio, Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church and Castello Doria. Check off the next thing on your wanderlust wishlist, which is to see Cinque Terre on the sea from a different point of view. Joining a boat tour is a great opportunity to appreciate the scenic spots of the five villages. Please note, Corniglia does not have a harbor so it cannot be serviced by boats.
The late afternoon can be spent on last-minute shopping and seeing those attractions that you haven’t yet had time for.
Have you been to Cinque Terre or anywhere else in Italy? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: Village of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy (JeniFoto / Shutterstock.com)