12 things you must do when you visit Cinque Terre

Vernazza cinque terre

Cinque Terre is situated in the north of Italy, along the west coast. The national part and UNESCO World Heritage centre is a collection of five small towns built into the mountainous hills. These towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Each of them have their own character and unique things to do. There are so many highlights and “wow” moments that we struggled to put a list together of just a few. We stayed for 4 nights in Cinque Terre (staying in Riomaggiore) and had an amazing time.

The list below were our favourite moments and the things we recommend you must do when in Cinque Terre, Italy. These are in a ‘loose’ order, and don’t represent ‘everything’ you can do in Cinque Terre, however are more a favourite moments and highlights.

Things you MUST do when visiting Cinque Terre

1. See all of the five towns:

Okay, this one is pretty ‘stock standard’. However, as mentioned previously, all of the towns have their own unique ‘personalities’ and highlights. Riomaggiore has the best sunsets, good hikes and food options. Manarola has the best rocks to swim (and jump) off. Corniglia is an effort to get to (situated up on a hill), but is smaller, less busy, and had our favourite hidden beach. Vernazza offers post-card views (they all do, but Vernazza is stunning) and the best entry point for a hike to Monterosso. Monterosso has the best beach and possibly the clearest water.

2. Swim off the rocks at Manarola:

This could easily have been “swim off the rocks at all of the five towns”. The towns of Cinque Terre often have little coves or ‘beaches’ with rocks to sunbake or jump into the water off. We had two of our favourite afternoons relaxing and swimming off the rocks in Manarola. If you’re adventurous, you may look to cliff jump off the rocks at Manarola. Please note: do this at your own risk, and we don’t take any responsibility for injuries incurred.

3. See the Sunset on the rocks at Riomaggiore:

The sunsets we witnessed were incredible, particularly the ones we experienced sitting on the rocks at Riomaggiore. The sun slowly drops below the hills, with a golden glow hitting the sky, clouds, and the town. We love checking out the sunsets in destinations as we travel and this was one of our favourites so far.

4. Hike from Vernazza to Monterosso:

The hikes around Cinque Terre are incredible. We completed a few hikes during our short stay, with the ‘Blue Trail’ hike from Vernazza to Monterosso a particular highlight. Boasting incredible views of Vernazza as you ascend the hills, stunning blue water as you hike along, and wonderful sneak peaks of Monterosso as you descend down into the town. You can hike the Blue Trail from Corniglia to Monterosso, with the parts from Riomaggiore and Manarola closed due to landslides. Whilst these hikes aren’t expert level, the do include a fair amount of incline and decline, so be prepared to work. The hike from Vernazza to Monterosso is around 2-3 hours. Start the hike early to avoid the crowds (and the sun), and wear appropriate shoes (we did see a few people starting the hike in thongs). There’s no bathrooms or water taps so be prepared. And then enjoy the stunning views!

5. Have a seafood cone from Il Pescato Cucinato:

Seafood by the coast in Italy! Sounds great doesn’t it? Grabbing a mixed seafood cone was one of the first things we did when we arrived in Riomaggiore. A recommendation from our accommodation host was Il Pescato, and this definitely delivered. Overall, we found the seafood cones were better during the day for lunch as these places were busier and thus the food was fresher.

6. Buy some pesto and local produce from a deli and enjoy it with a view:

The pesto and local produce from the deli’s was excellent. We had a few meals where we stocked up with pesto, cheese, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, quiches and more. Grab some of your favourite picnic snacks and take the to one of many wonderful view points. We particularly enjoyed the terrace at our accommodation in Riomaggiore, the sunset on the rocks, and the panoramic street in Riomaggiore.

7. Have a Gelato at Alberto in Corniglia:

We are on a mission to taste a multitude of inventive and slightly different gelato flavours during our stay in Italy. The gelateria in Corniglia, Alberto, had a sensational basil and lemon flavour which was one of our favourites so far. While we didn’t sample all of the gelateria’s in Cinque Terre, it is likely many of them will quench your cravings for ice cream.

8. Swim in the crystal clear waters of Monterosso:

The 5th town of Monterosso offers the only ‘true beach’ of the towns. The beach had some of the clearest water we have experienced so far, and the setting of blue water and bright orange umbrellas painted a wonderful aesthetic. The swim in Monterosso was a definite highlight and not something we think you should miss during your visit.

9. Have a wine or cocktail at I Trogi Riomaggiore:

Located at the base of the main street with views of the water, I Trogi is a cute little wine bar that spills onto the street. Grab a wine or cocktail, a little snack, and sit and enjoy the charm of Riomaggiore. Our aperol spritz and people watching during golden hour was a highlight of the trip.

10. Swim at the ‘Hidden Beach’ in Corniglia:

The beach at Corniglia, the 3rd town in Cinque Terre, is ‘hidden’ at the end of the town. If you wander along the alley below the main street, you will be greeted with stunning views of the ocean, and a significant set of stairs. If you have the energy, the hike down this big set of stairs will deliver you a little cove with rocks to sunbake and swim. Due to the effort getting down here and it being slightly ‘off the radar’, this ‘beach’ was less busy. Be prepared for stairs, but we say it’s worth it, and a highlight of our Cinque Terre stay!

11. Explore the towns early (before the tourists arrive):

Okay, you’re likely a tourist yourself. However if you stay in the towns, or are an early riser, you can be granted a few hours of a quiet town. We loved the time before 10am to wander, take photos, and have a morning swim. Around 10am the busses and busy trains will roll through and most of the towns become quite crowded. We travelled during June (slightly before peak), and suspect this would be amplified during peak season.

12. Go to the panoramic street in Riomaggiore:

Running parallel and above the main street of Riomaggiore is the ‘panoramic street’ of Riomaggiore. Take some dinner, or a drink, and head up to check out these views. We grabbed a take-away dinner and enjoyed one of the best views in Cinque Terre during golden hour.

Honourable mentions:

  • Hike to the monastery above Riomaggiore: This hike was shorter than the blue trail hikes, but definitely had more elevation. Starting at the top of the main street of Riomaggiore, you ascend up to a little monestary on the hill. The views along the way, and at the top, are stunning. If you’re a serious hiker, you’ll likely be tempted into continuing the hike another 3-4 hours to Porto Venere (CHECK THIS??). The hike was about 45-60minutes each way and a great morning activity before the heat of the day.
  • Rent a Kayak: Most of the towns will offer kayak rental, offering a seabound method of travelling along the coast. We didn’t manage to fit this in, however it came highly recommended from some friends. The cost is around 20 euro for the first hour and 10 euro per hour after that.
  • Take a ferry between the towns: The ferry offers an alternative route (compared to the trains) between the towns. Boasting wonderful views, these ferries are very busy during the day, and may be a scenic way to travel between towns.

Think we have covered off the highlights and best things to do in Cinque Terre?

Let us know in the comments below your favourite Cinque Terre moments, along with anything you think we missed!


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