Make an early start and beat the day tripper crowds and the hot sun and spend the first part of the day on one of the hiking trails that link the towns and surrounding countryside. You can pick the popular, Blue Trail, which requires an entry fee and a has a few detours due to storm damage. The stretch between Monterosso through Vernazza and up to Corniglia is particularly lovely with plenty of panoramic vistas for budding photographers. One of the best views of Vernazza is on the trail from Monterosso. Even if you don’t do the entire walk (which takes about an hour and a a half), make sure you don’t miss this classic sight. In the hilltop village of Corniglia you can stop for a drink with a view or a gelato. Those looking for a challenge, the path between Manarola and Volastra has approximately 1,200 steps!
After a quick lunch of warm-from-the-oven focaccia or a cone of freshly fried seafood eaten on the pier in Riomaggiore find your skipper and recuperate from your morning trek with a boat tour. You will really get a sense of how improbably vertical the area is and get to see each of the five different towns as you cruise in this Marine Protected Area. Have a sunset swim off the boat or from one of the large rocks near the marina back in town.
Meander through the maze of streets in Manarola or Vernazza before stopping for an aperitvo, with a glass of local white wine before finding a spot for a plate of pasta with pesto sauce or fresh seafood – both specialties of the region. This part of Italy is pretty sleepy, but there is a little bit of late evening activity in Riomaggiore – the largest of the five towns. Try Vertical Bar for excellent cocktails and a young crowd.
Have breakfast like the locals with a morning cappuccino and a slice of olive oil slicked focaccia before you learn little bit of history. You can start with a visit to the striking Santa Margherita d’Antiochia the 14th century church in Vernazza that is built into a rock next to the sea. This town also has a 15th century castle that once defended against invading bands of pirates. In Monterosso climb up the Salita San Cristoforo to the peaceful Cappuchin convent and church of San Francesco. Inside there is a painting of the crucifixion by Dutch artist Van Dyke.
Have a long and lazy lunch at one of the beachside restaurants in Monterosso. La Cantina di Miky serves an anchovy tasting with seven different versions of the region’s most ubiquitous and delicious fish. Monterosso has the only long and sandy stretch of beach in the Cinque Terre so find your spot under a striped umbrella and swim and snooze the afternoon away Mediterranean style. If you would rather learn about the regions wine, book a tour and spend a few hours on the hills above learning about Bosco, Albarola and Vermentino grapes and taste the special and sweet dessert wine, Sciacchetrà.
In Vernazza, walk out on the rocks that jut out from the pier for the perfect Instagram shot of the village. Have a pre-dinner glass of wine at one of the bars on the cobblestoned main street or on the waterfront. Or in Riomaggiore, find a the clifftop terrace over the sea at A Pié de Mà and watch the sun set.