The Best Things to Do and See in Cinque Terre

Isola del Tino is a distinct feature of the Cinque Terre coastline
Isola del Tino is a distinct feature of the Cinque Terre coastline | © INTERFOTO / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Gillian McGuire
3 September 2021

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.

Make the most of your time exploring the Cinque Terre by joining Culture Trip’s specially curated 10-day Northern Italy trip, led by our local insider.

Go to Guvano Beach

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.

The Cinque Terre is Unesco-protected territory | © Vittore Buzzi / Alamy Stock Photo

Eat Pansotti and Farinata

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.

Pansotti is a typical dish of Liguria, with a nut sauce that’s a perfect match | © RealyEasyStar/ Fiorenzo Rosa / Alamy Stock Photo

Hike The Path of Love

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.

La via Dell’amore panoramic path that connects the Cinque Terre’s towns | © Massimo Parisi / Alamy Stock Photo

Drink Sciacchetrà

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.

The aging of the grapes for the production of the renowned Sciacchetra of the Cinque Terre | © Gabriele Bignoli / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit an Island

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.

Palmaria is home to the most widescale development of any island in the area | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

Epic Trips are deeply immersive 8 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and enough down time to really relax and soak it all in. Our Mini Trips are small and mighty - they squeeze all the excitement and authenticity of our longer Epic Trips into a manageable 3-5 day window. Our Sailing Trips invite you to spend a week experiencing the best of the sea and land in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm – and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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