The Cinque Terre (five towns: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) is a string of five fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera (region Liguria) which until recently were linked only by mule tracks and accessible only by rail or water. Normally in the off season (winter), most of the hotels and restaurants will close. Hence, you have to check in advance.
Visiting this place is one of my best travel decisions. I traveled there in the winter in late November. However, I was really lucky to get sunny weather for my entire trip and less people than in the summer. You can go to Cinque Terre from other big cities in Italy by train. I moved from Milan, the train took three hours but with nearly 2 hours delay on the way, my journey became 5 hours. You have to be highly tolerant with train system in Italy :)))))))
From the big cities like Milan or Florence, you catch the train to Levanto station, and you change to the local train to move around the five village. To best visit Cinque Terre, I suggest you stay at least one day and one night. I chose to stay in Ostello hostel in Corniglia because it is cheaper than the other village. I reached there at night to rest. Then I had the whole next day to explore the area.
There is local train to connect the 5, however, in the winter, it runs every one hour. Therefore, you have to be careful so that you won’t miss any later trains. A single trip cost 1,9 euros and takes 5 minutes. For those who only have a day like me, I think train is the best option. If you have more time and love trekking, you can follow the ancient footpaths to go from village to village. Or you can also go half of the trails to see the breathtaking views, then going back. And I do agree that hiking can help you to enjoy the beauty of Cinque Terre at fullest.
The 5 villages are same in term of the house design and food, but each place has different landscape and perfect for IG photos. Among the 5, I like Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore most. To be honest, not many things to see in Corniglia so I did not spend much time there. I loved being on the rock in Manarola to hear the music of the waves. Another peculiarity of Manarola is a pyramid in white cement whose peak can be seen rising between the taller houses and is used as a navigational reference point for all those at sea
There is also a special lemon and ginger ice cream. It is so good, you have to try it 🙂
A quick guide to hike among the 5
The first thing to understand is that you can walk between all five towns within a single day. There is no need to hike with your bag and stay for a night somewhere along the way. I’ve seen a few people doing that and I think it’s completely unnecessary (although possible if you really want to).
There are well-marked trails between each of the towns. You’ll notice that the two trails between Monterosso – Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia are along the coast (the most beautiful ones) and the other two between Corniglia – Manarola and Manarola – Riomaggiore go inland. So you can choose to go the whole way or parts of it based on your time and interest.
You can see more pictures about my trip on my facebook here