Cinque Terre National Park is Italy’s oldest as well as smallest national park. It boasts some of the world’s most spectacular coastlines, featuring dramatic coastal cliffs, terraced vineyards and five incredibly picturesque fishing villages. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Beauty of Cinque Terre National Park
Although it is by no means the quiet and undiscovered place that it once was, Cinque Terre is as beautiful as ever. Now, throngs of tourists fight for the best spot to snap a picture of the stunning coastal villages, each perched on a steep hillside and home to the most colourful of houses.
However, the fact that hordes of tourists head to Cinque Terre doesn’t diminish the mesmerizing beauty of the area. The park is crisscrossed by hiking trails and bisected by a historic 19th-century railway—a railway that is of great value, now more than ever. The railroad easily connects all five villages and the towns that flank the national park, keeping cars and tourist buses out. It is a ridiculously convenient way to get around, but it is good to be prepared for extremely packed trains. As mentioned before, it’s a much-visited destination.
Exploring Cinque Terre National Park is best done by combining hiking and taking use of the trains. The coastal hiking trail that connects all five villages is definitely the best one, but, unfortunately, two of the trail’s four sections have been closed off after floods washed away parts of it. The two remaining sections connect Monterosso and Vernazza, and Vernazza and Corniglia. They respectively take about 1.5 hours and 1 hour to complete. Hiking boots are recommended; water and sunscreen are necessities in summer.
All railroad stations have a Cinque Terre visitor center, useful information centers where you can get maps, buy a Cinque Terre Card and stock up on souvenirs.
One last tip: while Cinque Terre can be visited in just one day, which is what we did, don’t make our mistake and dedicated at least two full days to visiting the area. It deserves it!