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The five villages
Cinque Terre is located in the north-west of Liguria in Italy.
Several villages are on the side of cliffs and communicate with each other only by trails or train.
Cinque Terre National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and is made up of 5 villages that are in the order from South to North:
- the beautiful Basilica of San Giovanni Battista
- Church of Santa Maria Assunta
- Riomaggiore Castle
You can go to the Path of Love or Via dell’amore (currently closed till May 2023), which allows walking access to the village of Manarola.
It would be the oldest and also the 2nd smallest village.
A pretty church is always there, and sea access will allow you to jump from the top of the rocks or relax on it.
A small port of call is also present. We boarded from here on the private boat of Dario, which owns the company Rayo Verde Tour that I highly recommend. I’ll tell you more about it below!
The smallest village and the most perched, you will not be able to access the sea of it, but the view is splendid. The village is more agricultural.
The bravest will climb the nearly 400 steps to reach the top. You can see its Genoese tower or the Church of St. Peter.
One of our favorites. I suggest you get lost; we appreciate the galleries, the narrow alleys, the shops or Italian specialties.
We start to enjoy the moment, to relax on the dock of the small port. Some will try a swim in the small creek.
A fortified village, it is one of the largest villages, separated by a rock bar that comes ashore in the sea. You will find the most beautiful beach of all the villages, very large. As a result, it is very busy.
Beautiful views at every corner of the village, friendly shops, laurel alleys, I suggest the glacier “Slurp!” which offers delicious artisan ice cream.
History of the 5 villages
Apart from the fact that every village has its characteristics, each has a church usually connected to a convent.
The houses are colourful tower houses, typical of the Genoa region, accessible by narrow streets and stairs. And the vine is cultivated in terraces, maintained by dry stone walls.
These lands, initially inhabited by peasants, were far from everything. It was necessary to carve, model the steps and access to its villages by sea or land. I let you imagine the work done by these inhabitants, who started from nothing and whose houses were passed down from father to son.
These villages were only connected by rail in 1870. Since then the region has continued to attract tourists and has become so popular that a sustainable development plan has had to be put in place to minimize the human impact on the park’s biodiversity.
In 1960, there were up to 8,000 inhabitants over the five villages. With the tourists’ arrival, the work of the vine has been abandoned in part for the transformation of their habitat into guesthouses or installation of shops and restaurants on the ground floor.
House prices have risen however there are reasonable prices for local specialties or shops. I suggest you try the focaccia de la Cambusa (Manarola) and its desserts (cantuccini offered with pistachio or lemon, fried cones (Il Pescato Cucinato de Riomaggiore).
Access to the site
Cinque Terre is easily accessible by France.
From Nice, the distance is about 3:30 hours by road with tolls of 33 euros or 5:30 by train from 33 to 51 euros.
Many flights nearby are also available. As we landed in Nice a few days before, we decided to rent a car and stop at La Spezia, ideal location to start the tours.
Other nearby towns include Portofino to the north, Pisa and Florence to the South East.
As said before, to visit, we use the local Italian train that connects each village and google map was a precious help for us, no need to look at the paper schedules since the application told us what time and which train to take.
Once at the station, all you have to do is look for the tracking number and go to the corresponding platform.
Correctly double-check the train that arrives or the platform, for having made this mistake myself. Several trains run on the track, sometimes it can be express. Don’t rush and always confirm the destination with a local person next to you, so you don’t have any nasty surprises!
There is an unlimited pass for the day, the Cinque Terre Card Train, which costs 16 euros per adult (10 euros for a child 4 to 12 years old) and allows you to travel on the network of the National Park to Levanto in 2nd class more easily.
You can buy it at the station counter. I did not seen it on the automatic terminals.
If you choose to buy only a round-trip ticket, don’t forget to compost it before boarding. Trains run until about midnight.
From the sea, you can appreciate these surprising landscapes, sculptured by nature and man. From there we can perceive the contrast of the terraces of vines and the rock in strata. magnificent!
We chose the private boat option with my three friends. We had little time on site and wanted to enjoy the most beautiful view of the sea. Our Airbnb host had left us a reference, that of Dario, Rayo Verde Tour company and we were not disappointed!
Dario is a local who lives in one of the villages. He picked us up at the small port of Manarola. For two hours, we had the opportunity to enjoy the most beautiful views and the historical points on Cinque Terre.
Cherry on the cake, all with a glass of Prosecco in hand! We were able to go about 3 different coves to bathe all this for 60 euros each.
It was a perfect time spent with my friends we do not regret having offered ourselves, especially when we saw the full tourist boats.
I do not recommend tour boats (Consorzio Marrittimo 5 Terre Golfo des Poeti”): they are not reputed to be on time.
Many tourists are waiting for them in full sun (35 euros a day). They are full and do not stop for views, just there to make taxi boat.
Few explanations and do not always make all stops depending on the weather.
There are many choices!
For my part, I preferred to book this apartment Airbnb, which had the advantage of offering a parking space and stunning views of the main square of La Spezia.
A superb host, an apartment in a beautiful Italian building. Great value for money. I highly recommend it.
The ideal is to find accommodation at La Spezia. You can quickly get to La Spezia Central Station from here.
Airbnb rentals are affordable if you book in advance.
Another solution. Find accommodation in Levanto which is to the north.
You should know that you can not drive to Cinque Terre, it is best to park and leave it during the few days of your stay, hence the interest to travel by train also to Cinque Terre!
Redeem points on Airbnb
We have a strategy that explains in detail how to save on your apartment rentals on Airbnb through points.
For this trip, I used ma card Cobaltᵐᶜ American Express to pay for the entire Airbnb reservation.
So this allows me to use the membership rewards to the account: 10,000 points = $100.
Trekking - Pass
For hiking lovers, there is the Cinque Terre Card Trekking. It provides access to eco-friendly minibuses, hiking trails and Internet Wi-Fi.
It costs 7.50 euros per day for an adult. The price is lower for a child from 4 to 12 years old and a family package is available.
The Azur Trail is the path that connects the five villages between them.
This trail is divided into 4 sections. Check if the road is open, landslides may occur with rains causing some parts to close.
Hikes can vary from about 20 minutes to several hours. Hiking shoes are essential, as you can be denied access if you don’t have one!
Invitation to get lost!
You have to get lost in this maze of alleys to appreciate the architecture, the ochre, pink or yellow colours of these houses, to observe the horizon of the heights of these steep stairs sometimes.
We discover beautiful mailboxes, gardens created on the vertical, plays of lights.
The villages are full of life, invaded by tourists and we get caught:
- to shop for local produce,
- to look for memories for our returns,
- to taste the Italian wonders of ice cream, pasta, frying cone, etc.
In order to properly enjoy your stay, I suggest 2-3 days, more if you plan to go hiking. It is also nice to walk around the city of Spezia, to feel the atmosphere there.
I recommend you sit on the beautiful terrace of the Come Te restaurant. Everything is homemade, a delight and what about desserts!
Here are 3 excellent credit cards that will allow you to apply your points on any travel purchase:
- Flight tickets
- Hotel nights
- Airbnb rentals
- Train tickets