italy | cinque terre

even if you consider yourselves ‘travelers’ instead of ‘tourists’, your vacation plans sometimes include some tourist activities.

during our recent holiday to the italian riviera, my husband, bob, and i planned a day trip to the cinque terre (five lands).  the five scenic seaside villages of monterosso al mare, vernazza, corniglia, manarola, and riomaggiore are unesco world heritage sites, and part of the parco nazionale della cinque terre (five lands national park).

map | cinque terre | liguria, italy

the cinque terre is located on the italian riviera, in la spezia province, in the liguria region of italy, about 130 km (80 mi) south of genoa

photo credit

the national park is renowned for the 120 kilometer (75 mile) long path network between the five villages.  so, you could spend several days hiking between towns.

the villages are zonas traffico limitato (ztl’s) (restricted traffic zones), so, you are not able to drive into town unless you are a resident.  we parked our rental car in the car park at la spezia centrale train station and took the train, instead.  the car park is small.  however, you can book a parking space in advance if your car has italian license plates.  one of the national park’s welcome centers is conveniently located in the train station, where we purchased treno ms cards, which entitle you to park entrance, unlimited regional train travel between la spezia and levanto, and complimentary use of the toilets (which the attendants kept immaculately clean).  even though trenitalia doesn’t always run on schedule, the trains run frequently.  the train ride from la spezia to monterosso al mare is about 25 minutes.  and, the train ride between villages is about five minutes each.

the five villages are also accessible by boat.

the only sandy beach is located in monterosso al mare, which is the largest village.

monterosso al mare, italy

many consider vernazza, which has a natural pier, the most picturesque village.

vernazza, italy

the smallest village, corniglia, which is surrounded by terraces and vineyards on three sides, is the only cliff top town.

the town center is accessible from either the scalinata lardarina, a brick staircase with 33 flights of stairs and 382 steps, or from a vehicular road.

corniglia, italy

the panoramic view of the other villages from the terrace behind l’oratorio dei disciplinati di santa caterina (oratory of the disciples of saint catherine) in corniglia and punta bonfiglio (bonfire point) in manarola is magnificent.

view of manarola from the terrace behind l’oratorio dei disciplinati di santa caterina in corniglia

view of corniglia and monterosso al mare from punta bonfiglio in manarola

did you know that pesto sauce originated in genoa, which is the capital of liguria?  nessun dorma, a restaurant on punta bonfiglio in manarola, offers a pesto making course.  their menu also features bruschetta made from fresh, local ingredients.  highly recommended for lunch!  along with a glass of cinqueterre bianco (white) wine, which is usually made from a blend of bosco, albarola, and vermentino grapes.

nessun dorma | punta bonfiglio | manarola, italy

we thought that manarola, which has a natural harbor, was the most picturesque village.

manarola, italy

riomaggiore also has a small natural harbor, located in a zebra rock valley at the mouth of a mountain stream.

riomaggiore, italy

photo credits lisa walsh | innerspace

and, like the other villages, riomaggiore has a steady stream of tourists…

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