10 Incredible Things to See and Do in Cinque Terre

| Peter Thomas / Unsplash

The Cinque Terre, five enchanting villages dotted along a stretch of the Italian Riviera in Liguria, have a multitude of activities for the traveller. From a lazy beach day to a rugged mountain hike to a cuisine that emphasizes fresh seafood and the world-famous local basil, there is so much to do in this magical Italian destination. We have made it a little bit easier to plan your trip with these tips on the best things to do and see in the Cinque Terre.

1. Go to Guvano Beach

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While there is plenty of coastline here, the beaches in the Cinque Terre are small, with pebbles and huge rocks instead of sand. They are primarily managed by private beach clubs that rent sun loungers and umbrellas. In the summer, they can get quite crowded so if you are looking to swim in peace, hike to the beach between Vernazza and Corniglia. The descent takes about an hour down a few hundred stairs on an unmarked path. One other important thing to know about Guvano beach is that parts of it are clothing optional.

2. Eat Pansotti and Farinata

Architectural Landmark

While anchovies are the primary dish along this part of the Italian coastline – and you really should give them a try – there are two other tasty dishes that are particular to the Cinque Terre. Pansotti are a type of ravioli stuffed with a mixture of soft cheese and greens, served with a walnut sauce. The most authentic version of this dish calls for a mix of wild greens known as prebuggiun foraged from the rocky slopes above the Mediterranean that can include borage, nettles, wild fennel, dandelion and even wild poppy. The traditional cheese used is called prescinsêua and is kind of like a creamy sharp ricotta. You will also likely find these triangle shaped ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, which is almost as delicious. For a snack look for Farinata, sold at focaccia and pizza stands. It is made from chickpea flour, water and oil and traditionally baked on a special wide flat copper tray called a testo in a wood-burning oven. Farinata is served in triangle-shaped slices and you can have it plain with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper or sometimes with wild herbs or capers and onions baked in.

3. Hike the Path of Love

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I was in Italy with my Girlfriend and got some great Pictures from Cinque Terre.
Elias Kipfer / Unsplash

There are hundreds of miles worth of hiking trails in the Cinque Terre, but if you are short on time or not able to trek on some of the more challenging routes, the La Via Dell’amore (The Path Of Love) is accessible to almost everyone. This paved stone stretch of the very popular #2 Blue Path requires an entry fee and links the towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola.

4. Drink Sciacchetrà

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Look up and you will see that there are a lot of vineyards clinging to the cliffs above the five Cinque Terre villages. One of the most unique wines that is produced here is called Sciacchetrà. It is a sweet dessert wine that tastes best with a wedge of cheese or dessert at the end of your meal. The laborious process of making this sweet nectar starts with handpicking the most perfect and juicy Bosco grapes from the vine and then slowly drying them. The long slow drying part is called passito. Once bottled, the wine is cellared for about two years, resulting in a honey hued amber liquid with notes of fig and apricots.

5. Visit an island

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Palmaria, Italy
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There are three islands, Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, that make up the archipelago across from the town of Portovenere, just beyond the towns of the Cinque Terre. Palmaria is the largest and most developed of the three. On the island of Palmaria, you will find well marked hiking trails, lovely beaches and plenty of bars and restaurants. The views over the Bay of Poets are spectacular. To reach the island, there is a regular ferry service from La Spezia and from Molo Doria in Portovenere, or you can take a private boat for the quick journey across the bay.

6. Fegina Beach in Monterosso

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Sara Canonici / Unsplash

Easy to reach, Fegina Beach is just steps from Monterosso railway station. A quintessential Italian beach scene with row upon row of colourful striped beach umbrellas, this beach is also a kind of Cinque Terre anomaly thanks to its long, sandy structure. Most of the other beaches around here are small pebbly coves or simply slabs of rock sitting beside deep yet azure waters. There are six private beach clubs here along with a charming flower-lined seafront promenade with bars, gelato shops and restaurants. Another striking spot features the remains of a giant sculpture of Neptune at the far end of the beach.

7. Lardarina in Corniglia

Architectural Landmark

The only place where you can see all five of the villages that make up the Cinque Terre is from the village of Corniglia. While the train station is down at sea level, the actual village is more than 91m (300ft) above. You can reach Corniglia by what are known as the Scalinata Lardarina – the Lardarina staircase. There are 382 steps that zig zag up the cliff. When you reach the top, find the Via Fieschi, which will lead you to the panorama terrace and that sweeping view.

8. Piazza Guglielmo Marconi in Vernazza

Architectural Landmark

Vernazza, Italy
Antonio Sessa / Unsplash

This lively piazza is at the heart of the village of Vernazza. Hundreds of years ago this was the only natural harbour in the area, which brought wealth and prestige to Vernazza that translated into a castle with beautiful arcades and decorative archways. The town was devastated by a terrible flood and landslide in 2011, but has been lovingly and painstakingly restored to its glory. The piazza is a gathering place for locals and visitors alike filled with painted fishing boats, houses with laundry lines, Santa Margherita di Antiochia church, the Vernazza harbor and bars and restaurants, where you can sit and take it all in.

9. Manarola Marina

Architectural Landmark

Manarola, Liguria, Italy
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Manarola is the oldest of the Cinque Terre villages, dating back to Roman times. The adjacent hills are the centre of the Sciacchetrà wine production region whilst the wide, flat spots on the rocks are perfect for sunbathing. This is the best town for swimmers, who come to dive off the high boulders into the deep blue sea and take in the views of the colourful houses from the water.

10. Castle of Riomaggiore

Architectural Landmark

Construction on this castle was begun in the 13th century for the lord of Ripalta, Marquis Turcotti, with the final additions completed in the 16th century. It is one of the most historic sights in the Cinque Terre and is sometimes referred to by locals as Castellazzo di Cerrico – the name of the hill where it is located. Climb up the road and head to the lookout between the two defensive towers for a wonderful view over the buildings and houses of Riomaggiore and out towards the sea.

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