What to do & see in the Cinque Terre

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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.
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16 Responses to “What to Do and See in the Cinque Terre?”

  • A boat trip to Porto Venere and a day in Porto Venere are also options.

  • Cecelia Obolensky says:

    We will be going to Italy for the last two weeks of December. Given the weather and timing, I think that Cinqe Terre might be better than the Amalfi Coast. Are you inclined to agree?

  • Molly:

    Hi! Thank you for this wonderful site! This month, I will be traveling to Italy for a wedding in Cassino. Then, I have seven days to travel. I had in mind 3 nights in Florence, 3 in Cinque Terre, and then a flight to Rome at 1:30pm. Is this a feasible trip? Should I plan to spend a night in Rome? We are grateful for any advice!

    • Jess has the following:

      Personaly, I wouldn’t attempt to travel from Cinque Terre in the time it takes to catch a 1:30pm flight to Rome. To get to the airport, I would stay in Rome the last night.

  • Karrie says:

    This is great information. We plan to travel between Florence and Venice, with Rome as our final destination at the beginning August. In the interests of time, it seems sensible to drive from Venice towards the Cinque Terra and then drop the car off in Florence. However, I’ve read that cars are not allowed in villages. Is it more practical to take the train all through our two weeks in Italy than using the car? Is there a better place to stay the night than the train? According to what I’ve read, Monterroso is the town with the most resorts. But are there other nice towns like Vernazza? It is very concerning to me what we would do if we drove from Venice with a car.

    • Jess has the following:

      My short answer is yes, the train is the best option given your list of places to visit. You can find out more about why this is true in my article finding out if the train in Italy is the best option. Here’s a profile I wrote about Cinque Terre’s five Cinque Terre villages so that you can choose which one is best.

      • Karrie says:

        Your prompt response was appreciated. Your point about what do you have more of, $$ or time, is very interesting to me. I think the biggest problem with taking the train is the time. We’re going to be visiting Florence as well. Which route is more sensible? To travel from Venice to Vernazza through Florence, then on to Rome via the Cinque Terra. Or Venice to Florence to Vernazza, and then on to Rome. Are you allowed to wander off the train tracks?

        • Jess has the following:

          Each station is only accessible for a few minutes on a train that runs through. You won’t have enough time to explore if you take a later train. Florence also has a luggage storage facility. Although I don’t have your entire itinerary, I recommend that you spend more time in Florence than the time between two trains in one morning. For reference, the E at Cinque Terre’s end is an E, not an A.

          • Karrie says:

            We are very grateful for your correction. Because my husband discovered it and was inspired, we are actually following your “Perfect Two Weeks” itinerary. Our family has been to Vernazza many years ago. They loved it so we’ll definitely be there. We will fly to Venice and spend 2 nights there, two nights in Cinque Terre, four in Florence, and five nights in Rome. You have been so open to answering my questions. Could you please explain why Florence was chosen as third? It was possible that we are going backwards by doing this. The route I found for trains between Venice, Vernazza and Florence was when I searched. If we wish, we could choose to travel through Milan. Sorry for all the questions. It was a meaningful trip, and I want to make the most of it.

          • Jess has the following:

            That’s my idea for the itinerary. I love it! It is not backtracking because so many trips from Venice pass through Milan to reach the Cinque Terre. Open-jaw tickets are a great way to eliminate backtracking, and I encourage them. As you have seen, there are many ways to get from Venice and Cinque Terre. You can futz with the order if you find it more logical.

          • Karrie says:

            Jessica, I’ve spent the last hour browsing your website. It is amazing! Your site is a great resource for planning our trip. I will be using it a lot between now and the actual trip. We are grateful for your time and effort to make this site useful so others can benefit from your experience.

          • Jess has the following:

            I can’t tell you how happy these comments make me.

  • Stefanie says:

    Amazing site Jessica! Your site is amazing Jessica! I am grateful for all the time you put into this site. It is not forgotten or overlooked! Mille grazie, Stefanie