Cinque Terre National Park in the Ligurian Riviera in northwestern Italy boasts one of southern Europe’s most jaw-dropping coastlines. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this national park gets its name from the five villages (or literally cinque terre in Italian) that dot the coast. Those 5 Cinque Terre villages are the star attractions of the park, each of them set picturesquely on or in between sheer coastal cliffs and backed by typical terraced vineyards.
All 5 Cinque Terre villages are connected by a scenic coastal hiking trail, known as the Blue Trail, and a railroad—the 5 Cinque Terre villages are so close to each other that a train ride doesn’t take longer than five minutes.
The five villages of Cinque Terre National Park, all of which should be visited during a visit, are the following, from south to north.
5 Cinque Terre Villages
The southernmost of the 5 Cinque Terre villages, Riomaggiore is home to a Castle that dates from the mid-13th century. This is a superbly photogenic village. It is renowned for its wines and its historic charm—terraced vineyards that are so typical of Cinque Terre National Park climb the hills and cliffs behind the village and are one of the reasons the park was declared UNESCO World Heritage.
Manarola is famous for its local wine, Sciacchetra, which was mentioned in Roman documents as a particularly fine wine. It still is. This is arguably the most gorgeous of all the 5 Cinque Terre villages, consisting of beautiful pastel-colored building on a coastal hill and a little harbor filled with small (fishing) boats. Head out on one of the surrounding hiking trails for absolutely spectacular views down on the village and the Mediterranean coastline beyond.
Because of its location on top of a 100-meter-high cliff Corniglia is the only village in the national park that can’t be reached directly from the sea. Commanding spectacular views of the coast and the Mediterranean Sea, Corniglia is surrounded on three sides by beautiful terraced vineyards. Visitors are encouraged to visit the Church of San Pietro, which was constructed in 1334 and is considered to be one of the most important Gothic-Ligurian-style buildings in the area.
Sheltered between steep coastal cliffs lies Vernazza. This is regarded as being one of northwestern Italy’s last real fishing villages. Vernazza has a natural harbor and pier, making it an ideal place for boating. Although the village doesn’t feature a large sand beach, it does have a few other attractions—mainly the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, the Doria Castle with the prominent watchtower, and the lively nightlife.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare features the best beach in Cinque Terre, a long umbrella-dotted stretch of sand, backed by a promenade and many hotels and restaurants. This is definitely the most developed and tourist-focused of the 5 Cinque Terre villages, home to many shops and cafés as well. Additionally, the Castle and the San Francesco Church and Abbey are major highlights, too.