The Beginner’s Guide to Cinque Terre

Ok I need to start off with a little lesson about this destination before I get into the meat of this post. Cinque Terre (meaning five lands) – Pronounced Cheen-kweh tehr-rehI know I know, you’ve been calling it Sinka Terra, but now you know better. Ok, now you’re ready to visit Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre

Where is Cinque Terre?

Located along the Italian Riviera. Cinque Terre is made up of five fishing villages where multi-colored houses are built within the jagged cliff faces. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and has quickly become one of the most bucket-list worthy places in Italy due to its spectacular coastal scenery and picturesque towns. However, it’s kind of confusing. 

When I first started planning my own trip to Cinque Terre, I was completely lost. How do you get there? Where do you stay? Can you drive? Nothing seemed clear enough. In fact, I booked a hotel outside of Cinque Terre, and visited before knowing anything about where I was going. I didn’t understand the destination until after I had visited it myself.

Sam and Alyssa at Cinque Terre
Sam and I at Cinque Terre back in 2015 (look how well rested we are before we had Aria)


This town is relatively small, but has a lot of rustic charm with a few boats in the marina. Many authentic Italian restaurants, and cobbled streets to get lost in.



This is the first of the villages that make up the Five Towns. There is a wonderful photo opportunity at the foot of the valley with a perfect view of the harbor.



Probably the most picturesque of the towns and is famous for a hiking trail called Via Dell’Amore. This is the most walked of the many trails in Cinque Terre because it is relatively easy and very scenic.



 This is the only village that isn’t directly on the coast, it is set amongst the rolling hills, making it slightly harder to reach.


Monterosso al Mare

This is the only village with a proper beach, so it entices many visitors who wish to swim in the gorgeous glistening sea and sunbathe on the sandy beaches. There is more to this town than the beach. It is the the largest of the towns, and the easiest to access by car.

monterosso al mare
Monterosso al Mare

What to Do?

Explore- The main thing to do is explore the towns. One of the best things to do in my opinion, is to get lost in the the charm of the streets. Be sure to find some fresh calamari sold on the streets.

Hike- Hiking is a big part of exploring Cinque Terre. You can hike between all five towns. Although be sure to research this heavily, as some of the trails do get tough. A favorite is the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso during sunrise or Sunset.

hiking cinque terre
Hiking Cinque Terre

Boat- A great way to get around the towns is to take a boat trip between the ports, there are large ferries, or you can rent a private boat, either way, it’s a great way to see the coast from a different perspective.

Watch the sunset- The sunsets here are breathtaking. The sky lights up with pinks, purples, and oranges. Sit by the marina and watch the sun sink into the horizon while enjoying some wine, or a spritz.

What to Eat

Pesto- The hometown of Pesto is Genoa, which neighbors Cinque Terre. Around the Ligurian coast, you will find some of the tastiest pesto, consume as many bowls of pasta with pesto as possible. 

Gelato- Gelateria Vernazza is a delicious and authentic gelato shop with all natural organic ingredients. The best way to tackle the heat is to eat copious amounts of gelato to cool down and stay energized.

Bruschetta- The tomatoes in Italy are unmatched and make the most divine bruschetta. It is a perfect snack between hikes on a hot day.

Fried Calamari- This is a typical street food in the area. You will find no shortage of carts selling cones filled with fried goodies. I recommend the calamari with loads of lemon. It’s some of the freshest calamari I’ve ever had. 

How to Get There

By Train – This is the easiest way to get to Cinque Terre. First, you’ll need to get yourself to the town directly South of Cinque Terre, this town is called “La Spezia”. Check rail times from wherever you are (Florence, Rome, Genova) to La Spezia. Once you are in La Spezia, you take the “Regionale”- the Regional train towards “Sestre Levante” or “Levanto”. This small train will stop at each of the five towns in Cinque Terre, starting with Rio Maggiore.

train in cinque terre
The Train Station at Corniglia

By Air– The nearest airports are Genova and Pisa. From here, you will need to follow the train directions to arrive in Cinque Terre.

By Car– This is not the easiest way to get here. There is daily parking in Riomaggiore and Monterosso, but only if you get there really early. Otherwise, you can park at La Spezia and take the regional train from there to the five towns.

Where to Stay

Hotels- This area is extremely popular and hotels book fast, the most options for hotels directly in the five towns will be in Monterosso, the northernmost town. Look at TripAdvisor to compare prices and reviews and book directly.

Vacation rentals- This is also very popular for families and larger groups, there are Airbnb available in this area, but much like the hotels, the book up fast.

CDV in Cinque Terre

Will CDV ever open up in Cinque Terre? Don’t rule it out! If there is enough interest from you for a CDV Cinque Terre tour, then we will have to start seriously looking at creating one. Much like the Amalfi Coast, it’s a touristy destination, so building a real authentic CDV vacation there will be a challenge. But you know we’re up for it. If you read Michael’s Favorite Tour blog post, then you’d know that we love finding authentic Italy, even in places where it seems dead. 

Leave a comment on this blog post if you are interested in a CDV Cinque Terre location.

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  • We went to Cinque Terra after our wonderful week in Soriano. It was fantastic and I recommend it to anyone who goes to Italy. Would definitely consider another CD Vacation here

  • Yes, a CDV Cinque Terra would be welcomed. We agree with Michael that this is a very touristee, so difficult to create the traditional CDV family feel. Maybe some inland trips to places like the quarry where David’s stone was cut? Good luck and looking forward to any updates.