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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.