The Five Towns of Cinque Terre

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Planning for a whirlwind tour of Italy is no easy task. It was especially difficult considering the addition of a third member to our party. Our nephew’s young age and lack of travel experience made it difficult to determine what he would enjoy. Museums? Hiking? Beach bumming? We built the itinerary as best we could, trying to balance our own desires with what we thought he would like.

Cinque Terre didn’t make the first cut. Pete and I had visited once over a decade ago, and in the wide-eyed wonder of our first European tour, I remember declaring that there could not possibly be a more magical place in the world. We took our first steps on windy cobblestone streets, gazed upon the bluest water we’d ever seen, and fell in love with the dramatic towns hugging the rocky cliffs. I believe I even began looking at property listings as soon as we got home.

But this time the coastline of Amalfi beckoned us instead. It had been the romantic end to a frantic trip around the country a few years prior, and we had declared it as the new most-magical-place-in-the-world. The spark faded this time around though as we struggled to find a place for the three of us to stay (our previous problems with finding Italian accommodations were hurting us yet again). We finally conceded, and turned our attention north to the five towns that had won us over a decade prior. We found a great place in nearby La Spezia, and rejoiced in the fresh and salty sea air as soon as we arrived by train.

Our second choice came through nicely.

Visiting Cinque Terre in one day is easy. It’s within reach of so many Italian hotspots, and all five of the towns can be visited in one day via train or (a very long day) on foot. Our plans were thrown off immediately when our chosen hikes between three of the towns were closed due to landslides, so Ave and I instead stuck to the trains and spent more time lounging in each town, browsing souvenir shops and sampling gelato at almost every stop.

We sent Pete up on the harder hikes to get the shots. It’s his job, you know.


Riomaggiore in all its glory
Beautiful Riomaggiore


The picturesque town of Vernazza, Italy
Perhaps the most picturesque town? This is Vernazza.


Hiking to Corniglia
The most difficult one to get to by hiking: Corniglia.


The view of Monterosso
This is the end of the line from La Spezia: Monterosso


Spectacular sunset at Manarola
Most spectacular sunset award goes to: Manarola

Where We Stayed

The view from this place cannot be beat, and we found the prices in La Spezia to be much better than those within the five towns themselves.

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  1. Your photos are stunning. The Cinque Terre are very high up on our list and we hope to visit next year. Good to know about the difficulty to find accommodation. So, we will either book well ahead or check out La Spezia. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  2. The Cinque Terre was first on our list in Italy, it isone of the biggest reason I wanted to go there. We stayed at a great little place on top of the hill in Manarola, visited 4 out of the 5 towns and loved all of them. Thanks for sharing these great pictures.

    1. It’s a pretty special place. Next time I hope to stay in one of the towns so I can capture them at night. Thanks Wanda!

  3. I just cannot get over how this is a real place and I want to cry because I have not been yet. I’m finally going to Italy next year but only spending a week in Rome for my mom’s birthday. I might have to add an extra week to explore the Cinque Terre on my own!

    Happy travels 🙂

    1. Yes, if you can make the time it’s a pretty special place to visit. Rome’s a pretty nice place to spend a birthday, enjoy!

  4. Really it’s hard to go wrong in Italy because the country as a whole is gorgeous!

    When we were there 4 years ago we also stayed in La Spezia, it is a much cheaper way to see Cinque Terre. Plus we were bicycling through Italy, so we didn’t particularly want to bike up and down the steep sections of coast line!

    As usual your pictures are gorgeous! Especially the last one at of Manarola at sunset!

  5. It is hard to say which is more beautiful – Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast would win for me, but only just, as the hike I did there was slightly more spectacular and I practically had the trail to myself while the trail between villages in Cinque Terre is never going to be empty.I would happily go back to either place – two of my favourite parts of Italy 🙂

    1. That’s a tough one. Both are incredibly beautiful, but I think I’d have to side with you on this one and go with Amalfi.

  6. Holy moly your pictures from Cinque Terre are stunning!

    I LOVE LOVE LOVED it when I visited but unfortunately only got to 2 out of the 5 towns (looks like I will need another trip back…)

  7. One of my favorite places in the world! I was able to walk between all 5 towns, and spent several days there exploring villages, enjoying the local flatbreads, and watching sunsets. It was part of a solo trip around Europe several years ago, and I vowed to come back with a friend some day. Gorgeous pics!!

    1. Thanks Lynn. I hope when I return the paths will be open again so I can walk more of the coastline. I think everyone who goes there vows to return 🙂

  8. I worried about it possibly being overrated, but couldn’t have been more wrong. I wish more of the trails had been open when I was there, but other than that, it was two pretty perfect days.

    1. Next time I want to take some of the other trails and definitely explore more. I probably could spend a few weeks in the area.

  9. I loved the Cinque Terre, we stayed for a week in Riomaggiore. I loved: the people, the food, the spectacular walks,the flowers, the wine, the church bells, the ferry trips between each town and take the ferry to Portovenere very nice. Stay in Riomaggiorre, it is the best!

  10. Cinque Terre, though a bit tricky to pronounce, looks so easy on the eyes! 🙂 I am amazed at Italy! It is so charming! Each new Italian destination that I read about intrigues me more and more about this magical country. Thanks for inspiring me!

    1. You’re welcome Renuka 🙂 It seems every place we go to in Italy we find three more that we want to explore. Such is life 😉

  11. I ended up cutting out the Cinque Terre from my own Italy itinerary last year because of landslides and difficulty in finding a place to stay at the last minute. That, and I would have only been able to stay for 2 nights. I decided to cut it, stop stressing, and plan a proper trip another time. These photos definitely make me want to stick to that plan!

    1. I understand the difficulty finding a place to stay last minute. There seem to be limited options and we were booking over a month in advance. Thankfully we found something. Definitely recommend you head that way.

  12. We loved Cinque Terre when we visited 2 years ago and I cannot believe these paths are still closed after so long, they must have been seriously damaged. We did the alternative hikes up in the mountains which were amazing for the breathtaking views but quite steep for someone terrified of heights like myself.

  13. Upon seeing the title and the first picture, I just had to click this link. My family and I were in Cinque Terre in July 2014, it was part of our one month journey in Italy. We dedicated 6 nights there and it really wasn’t enough. My 10 year old still day dreams about her freedom in Monterosso Al Mare (where we stayed). Thank you for taking me back there with your beautiful pictures (I agree – Corniglia was the toughest one to get to – daughter complained).

  14. Went back to Cinque Terre 4 times between 1994 and 2000. Each time it was a bit different from great influx of tourists. Rooms were very easy to find at any of the bars on the streets, totally affordable. I understand it is more difficult now. Vernazza was full of beautiful rooms and I was welcomed warmly. Walked parts of the trail.. Ate in the harbor each night, took the boat to Monterosso, played, swam, loved every moment.

  15. So excited… Currently spending a few days in beautiful Menton..take the train to Portovenere this Sat for 8days exploring, walking, taking boat and little train to Cinque Terre!!!!! Looks very special. Friends visited last May..saw the pics and although been to over 150 countries…I had never heard of the area. Booked up immediately and’s happening in 2 days????

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