The Cinque Terre five towns have been on the tourist trail for a long time, despite being called “little fishing villages.” However, tourism is the main source of income.
The famous hike between Cinque Terre’s five towns is without a doubt the main draw. It’s a must-do on any Cinque Terre itinerary. I have included it on my list below. But it’s not all you can do in Cinque Terre. While most attractions are outdoors-based, there are also a few things you can do that are not.
While I have my own preferences about how I would spend a few days in Cinque Terre, you may not share them. You may have different priorities. Below is a list of Cinque Terre activities and attractions. It can be used as a starting point for figuring out what to do at the Cinque Terre villages or the National Park surrounding them.
Although this is not a complete list, it can help you get started on your travel plans. Make sure to visit the local tourist information office when you arrive to find out if any special events are taking place.
Cinque Terre’s Top Attractions
- Hiking The Blue Trail– This trail connects the Cinque Terre towns and is known as the Blue Trail or “Sentiero Azzurro”. It can get very crowded in high season. You will need a hiking permit to access it. You can find out more information about the various hiking opportunities in the area by reading my article on hiking the Cinque Terre.
- The Sanctuary Trail is a series of trails that connect each Cinque Terre village with a sanctuary, a small church or shrine high up in the hills. Although it isn’t as popular as the Blue Trail and has a slightly more difficult trail, each one offers a goal (the sanctuary). It’s a good idea to have a guide for these hikes.
- Hiking High Trail This trail is higher up than the Blue Trail and more difficult. You should hire a guide or get a map for this trail.
- Main Beach, Monterosso The Cinque Terre doesn’t really have many great beaches. However, the largest and most beautiful is in Monterosso al Mare. The beach in Vernazza has a mixture of private and public. Check out my article about the different types of beaches in Italy.
- Swimming– Many locals enjoy swimming and cavorting on the beaches of the Cinque Terre. Even in towns without beaches (Riomaggiore, Manarola) where concrete “piers”, or big rocks are all that stand between you and the ocean, people love to jump off rocks into the water. Get ready to join the fun.
- Fishing and Sailing Trip Most people choose to hike between the five towns or take the slow train. But, you can also travel by boat from one town to the next. You can go on a fishing trip, learn to sail, or simply relax and enjoy the Cinque Terre from another angle. These are some boat tours that you can take in and around Cinque Terre.
- Wine– Even though the Cinque Terre hills are vertical, the vineyards still cover them. Take a tour or eat with the local wines. The best local wines tend to be white and not red. These wine tours are available in the Cinque Terre.
- Anchovies — Anchovies are a main catch off the Cinque Terre Coast. These tiny fish can be found on many local menus. They taste nothing like the canned, oily, salty fish you are used to. They are often served fresh in the Cinque Terre. They are delicious.
- Doria Tower in Vernazza The tower that overlooks Vernazza can be seen in many photos, but it is rarely visited by more people than it is photographed. It dates back to the 11th century, and was once part of a castle that was meant to protect the town from pirates.
- Convent of the Capuchins at Monterosso The Church of San Francesco (and the Convent of the Capuchins) can be seen from Monterosso’s hilltop. The church can be visited, and you will enjoy the stunning views from the top.
- Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, Vernazza – The church is located unassumingly on one side of Vernazza’s main square. It has a well-photographed bell-tower.
Guided Tours of the Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre’s Most Strange Attractions
- Neptune Statue at Monterosso– A 46-foot tall statue of Neptune is found at one end of Monterosso’s main beach. It juts out of the rock. Concrete was used to build it. It was originally constructed in the 20th century to support a huge shell, which was used by villa residents as a dancefloor. Despite the fact that Neptune and some of his shell were destroyed by Allied bombs during WWII it is still very noticeable.
- Guvano beach – Beaches don’t have to be unusual attractions. This is the only Italian beach that requires no clothing. If this sounds appealing, you can then head to the very private Guvano Beach, located between Vernazza and Corniglia. You will find signs pointing you to the “Spiaggia libera” (public beach), which is a fairly long trail that leads down to the beach. To reach the beach you will need to go through a tunnel that is on private property. You can ring the buzzer to unlock the gate and pay a fee.
- Harvesting Methods– While hiking the Cinque Terre Blue Trail, you will walk alongside and through some of the olive groves and vineyards that line the hillsides. Keep an eye out for the small machines used by locals to harvest grapes or olives on this steep slope. These are tiny railroad tracks and cars that climb up and descend the terraced hillsides that are laden with fruit. It is quite impressive to see the dedication that farmers have to farming.