Sunset over colourful Italian Village Manarola

15 incredible things to do in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is famous for its colourful houses, steep cliffs, pesto-smothered focaccia, romantic restaurants and epic views that look far across the Mediterranean sea. If you’re looking for a holiday destination that has sand, sea, delicious Italian food and just the right amount of activities, then consider bumping Cinque Terre to the top of your bucket list.

POST NAVIGATION

Cinque Terre is a coastal area in Liguria, Italy, consisting of 5 small villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso – each one more beautiful than the last. You’ve no doubt seen Cinque Terre all over Instagram and TikTok or perhaps in Disney Pixar’s movie, Luca, where the fictional town of Portorosso looks almost identical to Cinque Terre’s Vernazza. Arriving in Cinque Terre really does feel like you’re stepping onto a set of a movie, it’s just as magical in real life as it looks on screen.

I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking however keep reading for my recommendations on the best things to do in Cinque Terre as well as information on where to stay and how to get around this picturesque coastline.

private sunset boat cruise of cinque terre

15 Things To Do in Cinque Terre

1. Sunset Boat Cruise

You’ll experience lots of amazing viewpoints of Cinque Terre via one of the many hiking trails that connect the coastal villages however unquestionable one of the best views you’ll get is out at sea, looking back at the colourful towns. Treat your babe to a romantic private boat cruise at sunset, where you can enjoy a 2-hour cruise with local wine and food. We booked ours via Viator.com where there are also group tours available at a more affordable price.

Justin laying on boat with the colourful village of Riomaggiore behind

2. Sunbathe at Monterosso’s famous beach

The most iconic beach in Cinque Terre with its orange & green parasols and protruding black rocks on the shoreline. Monterosso al Mare has the biggest beach out of all 5 villages and is the only one with actual sand. You can reserve 2 sunbeds & an umbrella for €25-30 for a full day and you can come and go as you please. There are toilets & showers located on the beach along with a restaurant so you don’t have to venture far for a seaside cocktail.

monterosso al mare beach clear blue water with green & orange parasols line the shore

3. Eat fried seafood in a cone

For a quick, affordable meal in Cinque Terre, you can’t go past a generous serving of fresh fried seafood served in a cone convenient & tasty! Choose from a mix of battered shrimp, anchovies, calamari and octopus or a classic fish & chips combo for €8 per cone which is VERY filling. You’ll find this Italian “fast food” at either Tutti Fritti or Il Pescato Cucinato in Riomaggiore.

hand holding a cone of fried seafood from restaurant Tutti Fritti

4. Drink the local wine

The steep slopes surrounding the 5 villages are dotted with vineyards, where locals produce two wines (without machinery) that are unique to this region – a Cinque Terre DOC (a dry white) and Sciacchetrà (a sweet dessert wine). You can buy these wines in many of the shops throughout Cinque Terre or order a glass at any restaurant. For a fully immersive experience, book a vineyard tour or a tasting session at a historic wine cellar in Manarola.

5. Enjoy an apertivo at Nessun Dorma

It’s the most popular restaurant in Cinque Terre, with long queues and that iconic Instagrammable view… but is Nessun Dorma overrated? Absolutely not! The hype is indeed real. The food is delicious, the cocktails strong and the view is well worth the wait. In fact, you won’t even have to wait for that long because you’re reading my blog and I’ve got the tea for you.

Skip the queues and download the Nessun Dorma app. Each day at around 11.30 am they open a virtual queue on the app, you simply need to fresh the queue at around 11.29 am and you’ll get a spot in line. We did this and got number 5. Then the restaurant opens at 12 pm and you can walk to the front of the queue and get the best tables. Most people queuing in person don’t even realise the app exists, unlike you and me ;).

two glasses of Aperol spritz and charcuterie board with a view of Manarola

6. Hike the scenic trails of Cinque Terre

While the quickest mode of transport between each village is via train, Cinque Terre is popular for its scenic paths that connect all 5 villages, covering 120km across 48 different hiking trails. Entrance to most of the trails is free except for the blue trails from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia which cost €7.50 for a day pass. Alternatively, entry is included when you purchase a Cinque Terre train pass. One of the most famous trails – Lovers’ Lane (from Manarola to Riomaggiore) is currently closed due to a previous landslide, however is set to reopen in July 2024.

orange sunset over the the Mediterranean sea

7. Learn how to make pesto

Pesto was first invented in the Liguria region and you won’t find better-tasting pesto elsewhere in the world. I swear it’s laced with something because it’s highly addictive. Ligurians love basil so much that you’ll even find pesto ice cream in some of the gelaterias. Learn how to make pesto the traditional way at a pesto-making class at Nessun Dorma in Manarola or for a more intimate experience you can learn how to create this famous green sauce at a local’s home.

pizza and pasta with view of pastel coloured houses

8. Dinner at La Regina di Manarola

Tucked away in the hills of Manarola is the newly opened restaurant, La Regina, a multi-level terraced restaurant with views of the iconic pastel-coloured homes leading out to the sea. If you can’t be bothered to queue for Nessun Dorma, head here instead as you can easily make a booking online in advance. Order the Tagliolini (dressed with red prawn tartare, prawns bisque and pistachio granola) along with the That’s Amore pizza. Make sure to leave room for dessert: Grandma Rosetta’s homemade Tiramisu.

Tagliolini pasta dish and pizza with ham and cheese
beautiful terrace with flowers and vine trailing from ceiling

9. Climb Belforte Tower at Doria Castle

Not that I’m maliciously trying to add to your step count during your trip to Cinque Terre, however it’s worth climbing the Belforte Tower within the ruins of the 13th-century Doria Castle. From this medieval tower, you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view of Vernazza and its colourful harbour. The entrance fee is €1.50. 

10. Try the local pasta dishes

Pansotti is Liguria’s version to ravioli. Before leaving Cinque Terre you have to try this local dish at least once. ‘Pansotti’ meaning ‘pot bellied’ in Italian, is a triangular-shaped pasta stuffed with a mixture of cheese and wild greens from the Ligurian countryside, drenched in a walnut sauce. Prepare yourself for a carb overload when visiting Cinque Terre, because you also need to try another one of their local pasta dishes – Trofie al pesto – a Ligurian hand-rolled pasta served with a healthy dollop of green pesto.

bowl of pasta with green pesto sauce

11. Go nude at Guvano Beach

If you’re daring enough to bare your buttocks, there is actually a hidden nudist beach located in Cinque Terre. It’s quite difficult to access this small slice of naturist paradise, you’ll have to take a potentially dangerous hike from the trail between Corniglia and Vernazza. If you’re keen to check out Guvano Beach, I would only recommend going with a local guide or reaching the beach via kayak.

12. Drink sundowners at Vernazza’s main square

My favourite way to spend an evening in Cinque Terre is to head to Vernazza’s main square, Piazza Guglielmo Marconi. Find a seat at one of the outdoor bars, order a Hugo Spritz and watch the sunset over the harbour. There’s nothing I love more than an authentic al fresco aperitivo moment. Stay for dinner and dine at Ristorante Belforte or grab a takeaway pizza to eat on the beach.

two hugo spritz cocktails with view of Vernazza beach

13. Visit the Convento Frati Cappuccini

Another incredible viewpoint in Cinque Terre, and well worth the 10-minute climb from the train station, is located in Monterosso. This 400-year-old convent, Convento Frati Cappuccini and its capuchin-style church towers over San Cristoforo Hill and is the perfect spot to escape from all the crowds of tourists and enjoy panoramic coastal views.

14. Go kayaking along the Liguria coastline

If you get bored of sunbathing, put your muscles to work and go kayaking along the coastline of Cinque Terre. You can hire a kayak for around €20/hour and choose your own route. Or book a guided tour with a local who will take you to hidden caves, waterfalls and secret beaches which are only accessible directly from the sea.

 

beautiful terraced restaurant with view of Mediterranean sea

15. Lunch at Torre Aurora

Overlooking the beaches of Monterosso you’ll find Torre Aurora – an upscale restaurant located within one of Monterosso’s historic medieval monuments, a 13th-century tower with jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean sea. Come for the views but stay for the deliciously eclectic menu and banging cocktails served well into the evening (closing at midnight in the summer).

pasta dish with view of beautiful terraced restaurant with view of Mediterranean sea

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre consists of 5 small villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso. You’ll want to visit all 5 on your trip but you only need to stay in one of them as your home base since they are closely connected by train (5-minute journeys in between each village). My favourite village to stay in is Vernazza (the least amount of steps from the train station and it’s STUNNING) or Manarola (the prettiest village and where the best restaurants are) or Monterosso Al Mare (the best beaches). Avoid staying in Corniglia as there are nearly 400 steps from the train station.

As each village is tiny there’s not a lot of options when it comes to accommodation. Hotels tend to get booked up quickly however you can also stay in nearby larger towns Levanto or La Spezia for more affordable accommodation and a lot more options. Both are also easily connected by trains with less than a 10-minute journey to Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre does not have a lot of aesthetic/trendy boutique hotels so I recommend finding an affordable no-frills apartment on booking.com that looks clean and has air conditioning. Trust me, you’re not going to spend much time in your hotel. If you’ve got money to spend there are hotels with pools and apartments with great views though honestly, you’re much better off saving your money to spend on experiences & food.

How long to stay in Cinque Terre

You’ll want at least 3 full days in Cinque Terre. If you’re short on time you could absolutely visit all 5 villages in one day, sure you’ll be knackered but it’s doable. For a relaxing, slow-paced holiday I recommend 5-7 days with enough time for a few cheeky lie-ins + you can also fit in a day trip to nearby Portofino which is only 1.5 hours away via public transport.

Getting to & around Cinque Terre

If you’re travelling from outside of Italy, you’ll want to fly to either Genoa or Pisa airport. From Genoa Airport, catch a train from Genova Brignole station and get the Cinque Terre Express train directly to any village in Cinque Terre. From Pisa Airport, catch the 7-minute airport shuttle to Pisa Centrale and from there catch the 1 hour Torino Porta Nuova train to La Spezia Centrale. From La Spezia, you can catch the Cinque Terre Express to whichever village you’re staying in. Click here for my recommendations on which of the 5 villages you should stay in.

If you’re travelling from elsewhere in Italy, Cinque Terre is easily reached by train. I recommend using trainline.com or Google Maps for planning your journey. If you’re travelling elsewhere by car, please note that driving in Cinque Terre is not recommended due to lack of parking. 

Getting around Cinque Terre is piss easy with the Cinque Terre Express. The train that runs between La Spezia Centrale, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso and Levanto. Each journey is usually no more than 10 minutes between each village, with trains running every 15 minutes.

A one-way train ticket between two Cinque Terre villages costs €5 however if you plan on visiting multiple villages in one day then you can purchase a Cinque Terre Train Card for €18.20 for unlimited travel during a 24-hour period. This card also gives you free access to the hiking trails throughout Cinque Terre. You’ll save money purchasing a 3-day pass for €47. No need to book your tickets in advance either as the prices don’t fluctuate and they are cheaper in winter. 

FLIGHTS TO Genoa Airport

FLIGHTS TO Pisa Airport

TRAINS TO Cinque Terre

What to Pack

Map of Cinque Terre

Here’s my map of Cinque Terre with all the recommendations mentioned in this post (with a few extras added!). 

xx Kelsey

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