The remarkable stretch of land along the Ligurian coast that makes the fabled Cinque Terre – meaning the five lands – is just over six miles long. There is an incredible amount of beauty packed into this compact area. You have olive orchards, lemon groves, vineyards and impossibly clear water dotted with colorful fishing boats. These are what we think are the most beautiful places in the Cinque Terre.
Fegina Beach in Monterosso
Easy to reach, Fegina Beach is just steps form the Monterosso train stop, this is the quintessential Italian beach scene with row upon row of colorful striped beach umbrellas. This beach is also a kind of Cinque Terre unicorn because it is quite long and sandy. Most of the other “beaches” here are small pebbly coves or simply slabs of rock which sit in deep water. There are six private beach clubs and those Instagrammable umbrellas. There is a charming flower lined seafront promenade here with bars, gelato shops and restaurants. Another striking don’t-miss site is the remains of the giant sculpture of Neptune at the far end of the beach.
Lardarina in Corniglia
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 300 feet 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.
Piazza Guglielmo Marconi in Vernazza
This lively piazza is the heart of the village of Vernazzza. Hundreds of years ago they had the only natural harbor in the area. This brought wealth and prestige to Vernazza, which was 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 and the hills above it are the center of Sciacchetrà wine production. There is no beach here, but there are wide flat spots on the rocks that are perfect for sunbathing. This is the best town for the swimmers. Dive off the high boulders into the deep blue sea and take in the view of the colorful houses from the water. It is particularly beautiful in the afternoon.
Castle of Riomaggiore
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 sometimes reared to by locals as Castellazzo of Cerrico, which is 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.