Travelling to Cinque Terre was our first ever trip to the Italian Riviera. My husband Sanka and I were following travel posts about Cinque Terre for some time and the images of colorful and unique landscape and naturally to savor the Ligurian seafood inspired us to visit this amazing destination.
To avoid the tourist masses during Summer we decided to visit Cinque Terre in October. On a Friday afternoon we took the train from Milan Centrale to La Spezia Centrale which took around 4 hours. Due to the limited availability of the hotels and overpriced accommodation in the villages in Cinque Terre we planned to stay overnight in an AirBnB in La Spezia. La Spezia is located at the Gulf of La Spezia and minutes away from train to the nearest village in Cinque Terre. Our accommodation was “Ca der Bastion” located on a small town square, Piazzetta del Bastione, which is only 10 minute walk from the train station.
In the morning we started our trip by having a typical Italian breakfast in an “il Bar” (small cafè) in La Spezia. Our plan for the day was to take the local train “Cinque Terre Express” from La Spezia to Levanto and get off from Monterosso al Mare, the most northern village in Cinque Terre and there onwards visit Cinque Terre in the traditional way – hike south from Monteresso al Mare and visit each of the five villages by foot.
As we walked to the La Spezia railway station we could notice the typical October weather. The summer has already started to fade away and the weather is becoming milder and the sky is getting rather cloudy.
To travel by train to the villages it is required to buy a “Cinque Terre Treno MS Card”. A day pass costs 16€ per adult and the day card is only valid until midnight of the day it was purchased.
Reminder: You need to write your name on the Day Card and validate it before getting into the train.
As it was the end of the Summer season, the railway platform was only occupied by few off season travelers.
The 20 minutes long scenic train ride to the furthest village took us through picturesque landscapes with pastel colored houses perched on the cliffs and vineyards overlooking the turquoise colored Ligurian coastline.
Our first destination for the day was Monterosso al Mare. From the train station we walked towards the beach passing “Fegina“, the new part of the village which is full of life with shops, restaurants and hotels. The morning was bit cloudy with rain clouds and since it was the end of the summer season we found the long pebbled beach occupied only with few tourists strolling along.
Then along the coastline passing the remains of the Medieval fortifications, the “Fieschi Castle” and the “Aurora Tower” we walked towards the old part of the village. As you reach the old part of the village you can still witness the typical medieval streets with colorful houses.
Passing the long beach of the old village we took a cliff side trail paved on an ancient path along the coastline. This is where the world famous cliff-side hiking trail “Sentiero Azzurro” (The Blue Trail) starts. Once we reached the Guard Point of the entrance we were informed that as a result of the heavy rain followed by a landslide the parts of the trail was closed down.
So we walked back to the station and decided to explore the villages by the hop and off train.
Our second stop for the day was Vernazza which is one the most beautiful villages of the five.
From the railway station we strolled through the small alleys passing local restaurants and small shops towards the tiny harbor. While enjoying a “Fritto Misto” (mixed fried – a typical Italian snack of deep fried seafood packed into a paper cone) we reached the village’s main square “Piazza Marconi“. It is directly located in front of the village’s natural tiny port. From this point we had a great view of the tiny harbor with colorful fishing boats and the medieval fortress “Castello Doria“(Castle Doria), considered as the oldest surviving fortification in Cinque Terre and the “Belforte Watchtower” which stands on the cliff edge of the village.
Then we took a narrow stone path (the starting point of the Blue Trail from Vernazza to Corniglia) uphill towards south and walked few minutes along the coastline until we reached a viewpoint where we could get the breathtaking panoramic view of the village down and the coastline. Afterwards we walked back towards the busy alleys and bought a “Foccacia” (originates in the Region of Liguria is simply a flat bread backed with olive oil and salt) from a local bakery and sat on the local Piazza enjoying the view of the turquoise colored sea.
Note: Vernazza can get pretty crowded and chaotic during the midday and will get inconvenient to explore and enjoy the small hamlet.
After having the lunch we took the train towards Corniglia.
The charming tiny village of Corneglia is perched high upon a cliff overlooking the Ligurian Sea which is the smallest and the quietest of the all five. To access the village we climbed up the famous over 350 steps stairway “Scalinata Lardarina“, to the village’s summit. As we took the wide brick stairway which is built to the side of the cliff we made a quite a few stops enjoining the panoramic views of the Mediterranean coastline and the vineyards surrounding the village. Once we reached the summit of village with the colorful storeyed houses we found it less commercialized, less crowded and laid back than the other villages.
We leisurely strolled through the cobblestoned alleys with small souvenir shops, local restaurants and bars and reached the “Piazzetta Largo Taragio“, the historical main square of the village. With small bars and restaurants the Piazetta is a perfect place to rest during the walks.
From the Piazzetta we approached the “St. Mary’s Terrace” where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the blue Ligurian sea from Vernazza to Manarola. It was actually worth the climb, even to enjoy the breathtaking panoramic view of the Ligurian coastline. After witnessing the panoramic views of Corniglia we descended Scalinata Lardarina and took the train to Manarola.
With the picturesque multicolored houses and the tiny sea port facing the Ligurian Sea, I find Manarola as the most charming and the beautiful village in Cinque Terre.
We exited the train station and walked to the main square of the town, “Piazza Papa Innocenzo IV” where the village’s main historic monuments of importance are located. To reach the lower part of the village with the tiny sea port with the boat ramp, we walked through narrow cobblestoned alleys passing the charming small shops and bars.
To capture the perfect picture postcard view of the Manarola we took the small cliff -side trail on the right side of the sea marina. Sanka found us the perfect photo spot where we could witness the beauty of the village with our own eyes. Since it was late afternoon the crowds were already gathering in the surrounding to capture the perfect scenery of the cliff – side village with the tiny sea port below.
So finally it was the time for both of us to sit at the tiny Piazza to savor a locally made Gelato and enjoy the charming view of the blue sea.
Our final stop for the day was Riomaggiore, the most southern village of Cinque Terre. From the train station we walked towards via Colombo, the main street of the village. We strolled uphill along Via Colombo passing archways and steps. Via Colombo is spirited with restaurants, bars and small artisan shops. We walked further uphill to get a better view of the village and small harbor at the foot of the village. Passing the historical center of the upper part of the town we had a glimpse of the Church of San Giovanni Battista.
Our last activity planned for the day was to capture the famous sunset view in Rimaggiore marina. Since it was getting darker we hurried down the main street to reach the Piazza Viagnaioli which leads to the tiny picturesque marina. If you want to find the perfect spot to get the best view you will have to go left of the pier where the boats are docked. From this spot you can get a perfect view of the sea and colorful houses in the background. This is the perfect location to take the perfect Riomaggiore photograph!
Riomaggiore is a perfect spot to savor the local delicacies. We found ideal dinner spot at “Bar Centrale“, a local restaurant which offers a wide range Ligurian seafood cuisine.
I rewarded myself with a piquant Ligurian style Cacciucco with prawns (an Italian fish stew native to Western coastal towns of Tuscany). After a prefect day of Cinque Terre, sipping a local white wine we sat at the wooden verandah, relaxing our tiring feet.
It was a long but a perfect one day in Cinque Terre. After dinner we took the train back to La Spezia.