Set amongst dramatic coastal scenery, is the district of Cinque Terre in the Italian Riviera, home to five of the most picturesque villages found in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. The villages are no longer isolated fishing communities and are becoming a popular tourist destination in recent years. And for anyone who visits or stays at our luxury villas in Italy, it is easy to see why people are falling in love with this place.
Residents of Cinque Terre and the five villages of Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza and Riomaggiore, benefit from the beautiful nature surrounding them, pristine waters, vineyards, olive groves and citrus orchards. This secluded spot of nature is a place which should be on the top of any adventurous holidaymaker looking to combine luxury with an experience to never forget.
To get to these remote towns you have to take a train or car, but it will require an experienced driver at the wheel to navigate the twisting roads cut into the cliff edge. The easier way is train, and a line connects all five towns directly with Genoa, Pisa or Rome, ideal for those flying into Italy. By sea is another option, as from April to September, ferries run from Portofino, Porto Venere and Genoa.
Length of holiday
The Cinque Terre has a timeless appeal to it, and it is impossible to make it just a day trip. We recommend taking your time, visiting all the villages, going on day hikes and immersing yourself in the beautiful and quintessential Italian culture.
Staying in Cinque
We have several luxury villas in Italy in this region, in the perfect location for visiting the Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean and easy access to the stunning local countryside. Many of the villas have pools, are family friendly and can sleep between 6 and 11 people.
Cinque Terre’s five villages all date back to the early medieval period. Monterosso is the oldest, founded in 643 AD when hill dwellers moved to the coast to escape invading barbarians. Riomaggiore came next, established in the 8th century by Greek settlers looking to flee persecution in Byzantium. Much of what remains in the villages dates from the Middle Ages, including churches and castles. But one of the most historical features are the steeply terraced cliffs, which have been shaped over thousands of years by the residents of the five villages.
The only village which does not have direct access to the sea, Corniglia sits atop a high and rocky hill, surrounded by vineyards. It’s tranquil and tangled streets lead to a breezy terrace which faces the sea, and it is at this vantage point where you can see all five villages at once. On a trip to Corniglia, be sure to bring a camera to capture this breath-taking view.
The vineyards which surround Manarola are those which produce the wine of Cinque Terre, Sciacchetrá. The main street and promenade right on the waterfront are lined with fishing boats and other reminders of the everyday life that happen in the village. Take a short, uphill hike to Punta Bonfiglio for some fabulous views of the village and sea below, and it also has a bar and playground – a great destination for adults and children alike.
This is the only village of the five which has a strip of a proper sandy beach and is the most easily accessible by car. It is well known for its lemon trees and plump anchovies you can get directly from the boat. Its main attractions are the Old Castle and Church of Saint John the Baptist. The modern side of the town is at the foot of Fenigia Hill and boasts beautiful beaches and access to natural gardens. Look up to see the Statue of Neptune, also called the Giant, guarding the coastline from the cliff top.
Vernazza’s small harbour is the only secure landing place in Cinque Terre and has also become its vibrant centre. But it is actually the villages Piazza Marconi and the sea-facing amphitheatre that creates shock and awe in visitors. The villages trademark narrow streets ‘cauggi’ in Italian, rise vertically from the piazza, leading to a maze of stairs and terraced houses, and you can spy the beautiful blue sea from between the houses.
The most eastern and famous, Riomaggiore is also the largest of all five and acts as the capital of Cinque Terre. Peeling painted buildings line up and down a steep ravine to the town’s harbour. Their rainbow of pastel colours is a beautiful sight in the glowing sunset and is best appreciated from the sea. A botanical garden and bird watching centre are a short walk up the hill from the pebbled beach. Riomaggiore is also the starting point of the area’s famous hiking routes, which are the best way to see the region.
For many years, walking was the only way to travel between the five villages and to the outside world. Walking routes take you in the constant company of the sea, but also provide views to farms and forests inland. Many of the routes are in a delicate state following floods in 2011 and are prone to periodic closure, so check with the National Park office before heading out. Between May and September, you can also book a guided walk.
The Blue Trail, follows a 12km mule path, and includes a few narrow paths, but offers stunning coastal views. All of the accessible parts are of moderate difficulty but stamina and strength are required. Divide the route up to make it easier: the Monterosso to Vernazza is 3km and from Vernazza to Corniglia it is 4km.
The Red Trail is fantastic for experienced walkers, and it is hard to resist walking this legendary trail. The whole route is 35km in length, and you can easily enjoy a whole day along the path which forms an arc high above the Cinque Terre villages. Mainly flat and taking you through wooded areas, there are plenty of bars and restaurants to stop off along the way, between Porto Venere and Levanto.
Book one of our luxury villages in Liguria now to fully experience the beauty and wonder that Cinque Terre provides its visitors, and make it a holiday to cherish.