The remarkable stretch of Ligurian coastline that makes up the fabled Cinque Terre is, perhaps surprisingly, just under 10km (6mi) in length. Yet there is an incredible amount of beauty packed into this compact area; olive orchards, lemon groves, vineyards, impossibly clear water dotted with colourful fishing boats. With this in mind, we take a look at the most beautiful places in the Cinque Terre.
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.
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.
This lively piazza is at the heart of the village of Vernazzza. 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.
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.
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.
Traverse the Cinque Terre on a spectacular guided hike between Monterosso and Manarola on Culture Trip’s 10-day small-group Northern Italy adventure.