The Cinque Terre – as its name suggests (in Italian, ‘Five Lands’) – is made up of 5 towns located on the Ligurian Riviera, around 90 km south to Genoa. Its colorful houses have flooded social media with beautiful pictures for years now. Hence it’s popularity!
The five towns are relatively close to each other, which makes it possible to see them all in two or three days. They’re easily accessible by train, boat, or even by foot in some cases. If you’re planning to visit, I’d recommend staying in the nearby town of La Spezia. You’ll also find good connections from Genoa, Pisa or Florence. The latter is further away, so especially if you’re planning to visit the villages on a day-trip, I would advise against booking your accommodation there.
There’s just one thing you should keep in mind – don’t aim to visit all five towns in one day. You’ll be rushing from one place to another and won’t get to enjoy any of them to the full. So if you’re on a tight schedule and need to choose which ones to visit, keep reading to find out what the most beautiful village in the Cinque Terre is, along with a description of each of the towns – ranked from best to worst –, which will hopefully help you decide which to include on your list!
Manarola: What To See
It was hard to pick just one village to be in the number one position. The competition was tight between Riomaggiore and Manarola, but I resolved the latter deserves to be on top of the list.
Manarola’s unrivalled beauty is largely owing to its colorful houses, perched atop a hill. Opposite to them, there’s a viewpoint from where you can take postcard-perfect pictures.
This village doesn’t have a sandy beach, but that shouldn’t prevent you from swimming. You can do so by jumping from the rocks (don’t worry, there’s also a ladder for safer access into the water). Needless to say – sunbathing is also possible! Manarola is the perfect mix between sightseeing and beach time. Can you think of a better way of spending your morning?
Riomaggiore: What To See
Riomaggiore is another favorite of mine. Just like Manarola, this fishing village features a handful of extraordinary houses painted in bright colors. While Manarola’s viewpoint is perched high above the sea, here you’ll get the best views at sea level, standing on the rocks.
Forget about following any maps. Just wander around the streets in the old town at your own pace while taking in the magnificent sights. Some of the main landmarks are the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Castle of Riomaggiore.
And good news: Riomaggiore and Manarola are right next to each other! So if you have no more than one day to visit the Cinque Terre, you can at least be sure that you won’t miss out on its two best villages.
Vernazza: What To See
A breathtaking scenery from any angle. To the right, the harbor dominated by colorful houses. To the left, the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, featuring a unique yellow bell tower.
Unlike Manarola and Riomaggiore, Vernazza’s greatest strength is its sandy beach, located right by the town’s main square and port. But don’t stay just there. Wander around the narrow cobbled streets until you reach a tunnel leading to a pebble beach, which is much more secluded and a bit bigger than the one by the port.
For panoramic views of the town, climb all the way up to Doria Castle or to the path that connects Vernazza and Monterosso, also known as the Blue Path. If you’re up for a little adventure, I strongly recommend you embark on this moderate hike for wonderful views of the coastline from up high.
Monterosso: What To See
Monterosso al Mare is the biggest of the five towns. It also has the largest population and it’s the only one with a ‘proper’ sandy beach. Want to spend the day just swimming and sunbathing? Then, this is the spot! If planning to stay overnight at one of the “cinque terre”, then Monterosso is probably your best bet. It has a wider choice of accommodation and restaurants than the neighboring towns.
Other than chilling at the beach, some of the best things to do in Monterosso are going for a stroll in the old town – a set of narrow streets -, visiting San Giovanni Battista Church or checking out the Aurora Tower.
Corniglia: What To See
To be completely honest, Corniglia is not exactly my cup of tea. Especially when you compare it to its neighbor towns. As a joke, I often say that it’s not ‘five lands’, but ‘four lands’ and Corniglia, which is located right in the middle. But of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So you shouldn’t just take my word for it, and go see it for yourself.
Corniglia is at a higher altitude than the other villages (100 meters above sea level), which means it’s landlocked. This might be one of the reasons why I didn’t find it as charming as the others. In its defense, I must admit that it offers spectacular views of the coastline.
The whole town is quite hilly, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. The main sights here are Piazza Largo Taragio and the Church of San Pietro.
In a nutshell, if you can only visit the Cinque Terre on a day-trip, make sure to not miss out on Manarola and Riomaggiore. If you manage to fit more of these villages into your schedule, but still don’t have time to visit them all, don’t worry about leaving Corniglia out of your itinerary. You won’t be missing much.
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