If you want to make your friends jealous, you’ve got to plan a visit to Cinque Terre. This string of seaside villages on the Italian coastline is an Instagrammer’s dream. Made up of five unique villages, you can choose your own adventure. Take the train, hike from village to village, or do both.
Cinque Terre Travel Guide Quick Links
The high season in Italy peaks in June and July because the water is just right for a dip and the sun is shining for hikers looking for a stunning seaside trek. Fortunately, the beauty of Cinque Terre can be enjoyed from May through September, while the rain and cold are at bay.
The climate in Cinque Terre is relatively mild all-year-round, with average temperatures of 86°F (30°C) in the summer and 54°F (12°C) in the winter.
While temperature is high on the list when it comes to deciding when the best time to visit is, make sure to consider the crowds. If you’re the kind of person who likes to hike in peace and take in the sound of waves crashing on the shore, aim to visit Cinque Terre in April, May or September. It’s a bit cooler during these months, but make for perfect spring or fall hiking away from the crowds.
We’d argue that going in the middle of summer is a hiker’s worst nightmare as the sun is strong and you’ll be sharing the trail with thousands of tourists. The other downfall of going in June, July and August is that during high season, everything is more expensive.
Get the Cinque Terre Card. The best thing about Cinque Terre is that the five seaside villages are only a few minutes away from each other by train, or as little as an hour from each other by foot. There are two types of Cinque Terre Cards. One is a trekking only card, which gives you access to the more popular hiking routes, or the trekking and train card, which includes trail access and unlimited travel by regional trains. Score! These cards also come with a free WiFi access code. Pick a card up at any of the regional train stations.
Bring Your Walking Shoes. Going to Cinque Terre without walking at least one of the trails would be like going to the beach but not getting in the water. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it would be a real shame if you didn’t jump in. We’re not talking Machu Picchu here. Bring a pair of tennis shoes and you’re set.
Take in the Culture. What they say is true, Cinque Terre is full of tourists. Your best bet for a local experience is to stay in Corniglia, located on a clifftop in the middle of the five towns. The streets are full of people exclaiming ciao! at each other as they pass through. Corniglia is the least visited village, likely because it is the most difficult to access. As attractive as a 365 stair climb sounds, not everyone is a big fan. For those who want to spare their calves, there’s a bus that runs regularly from the train station to the city center.
Pack Smart. Pack light so that you can move with ease between the towns. We wouldn’t recommend anything larger than a carry-on suitcase or a backpack. It gets hot in the summer months, so bring clothing that can be washed and dried quickly. The heat will have you sweating through your wardrobe, especially if you opt to explore any of the trails.
Eat Like You Mean It. Take advantage of the proximity to the Italian Riviera and drool over the daily catch, cool down with flavorful gelato, and stuff your face with fresh pasta. All the fresh pasta. Some must-try local specialities of Cinque Terre are:
Focaccia: Bread lovers rejoice! The world recognizes the area between Cinque Terre and Genoa as the best spot for focaccia. The crispy-on-the-outside and soft-on-the-inside flatbread is oven-baked with fragrant herbs like rosemary. Enjoy it as a snack, on the side of your meal, or as pizza dough. At just 1€ a loaf, it’s also a tight budget's best friend.
Cinque Terre Wine: If you take any of the trails, you’ll walk beside at least one small vineyard situated on the slopes on the coastline. Order by the carafe (a full, half, or quarter portion) at any village restaurant and be delighted by wine bought directly from the local winemaker. Pro tip: look for the word “coste” in a DOC wine. This means you’ll get a quality-controlled, origin certified wine from the coastal area. Saluti!
Trofie al Pesto: You haven’t tasted pesto until you’ve had it in Cinque Terre. Made with just pine nuts, basil, garlic, pecorino, parmesan, and olive oil, they know how to keep it classic. Pesto in this region is typically served with trofie, a type of hand-rolled twisted corkscrew-shaped pasta.
- Farinata: An Italian chickpea pancake made from olive oil, chickpea flour, water, and salt. Eat it as-is, fresh from the hot pan.
Some of these spots are so hidden, we couldn’t even find photos online. In fact, this first beach was such a surprise find that we didn’t even snap a photo ourselves.
HIdden Nudist Beach in Corniglia. The village is small and so are the streets, so it’s easy to overlook the tiny sign for Guvano Beach just across from a small cafe Bar, Pan e Vin is the small Lardarina staircase that seems to lead nowhere. Go down the stairs and follow the path to the left, where you’ll walk along a residential area. Eventually, you’ll see a set of steep metal stairs that lead down to the secluded rocky beach. Warning! Go at your own risk, as the path to get to this beach is a bit dangerous.
Cliff Jumping in Manarola. Not for the faint of heart, this cliff jumping spot is a local favorite. Right at the marina, you’ll get a thrill and an audience. Access the cliff by walking the pathway that faces this big rock, descend the ladder stairs into the water and swim toward the left-side of the rock, where a small pool of water can suck you in, so be careful. Climb the rock from the back and choose from a few jumping points. Pro tip: make sure the water is deep enough from your jumping place and don’t jump off areas that you haven’t seen others jump off first. This isn’t a verified spot, so jumpers go at their own risk.
DIY Epic Sunset Views. Most travelers who visit Riomaggiore will spend an entire day there without experiencing the view from the other side. That’s because to get there, you’ve got to be a risk taker. The epic feature photo of this post was taken from the rock barrier opposite the village. Walk down the stairs toward the marina and take a sharp u-turn to the left, where you’ll have to balance on huge rocks to make your way to the other side. When you’ve found a good spot to balance, take a seat and wait for sunset. It’s definitely worth the trouble getting there.
Whether you’re heading to CInque Terre on your honeymoon, with friends, or for a solo trip, there’s something there for everyone. A popular spot for European tourists, make sure to book your visit before the rest of North America hears about this magical coastal region.