My Italian Fivesome: Cinque Terre

I have a soft spot for seaside villages and rivieras.

One of my favorite Italian destinations is the enchanting Cinque Terre. Literally means “Five Lands”, Cinque Terre is composed of five small coastal towns situated on a cliff in the Italian Rivieria: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. It is also a UNESCO Word Heritage Site since 1997.

Cinque Terre

I wish I can say if you want to relax and enjoy the beach, Cinque Terre is the place to be. No, it is a big tourist destination and you have to be prepared for the large crowds and stressful train rides. But let’s face it, it’s Italy, one of the most visited countries in the world. It ranked fifth in the World Tourism rankings in 2014 with 48.6 million tourists, and I was part of that number.

Even so, I think Cinque Terre was worth the visit.  I must say I’m not the biggest fan of Italian trains, but I still recommend taking it to Cinque Terre. La Spieza is the main train station and you can buy your passes to Cinque Terre in the tourism office there. All the towns are connected by rails and each one has a train station. You can also walk the scenic trails between villages, but I was lazy and frankly, I didn’t want to be all sweaty and irritated by the time I get to the next village. Besides, some of the trails were still closed for restoration due to the devastating flood of 2011.

My Cinque Terre Top Five: 

1.The Italian Riviera

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Monterroso al Mare

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This was the number one reason why I wanted to visit Cinque Terre! The Italian Riviera has always been in my bucket list and it did not disappoint. I think you can still relax and enjoy the beach here in Monterosso, the beach was actually not as crowded as the restaurants and train stations, but be prepared to splurge those Euros.

2. The Villages

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Each village is noteworthy and has its own personality. My favorite part is exploring the inner alleys and tiny staircases of hidden passages. Some towns are also bigger than the others, and some feels smaller. Monterroso is the biggest and busiest town among the five. It is built to accommodate large numbers of tourists and has that modern feel to it. There are restaurants and bars everywhere, as well as big hotels and shopping areas. Vernazza’s charm gives both the quaint and the modern-day vibe. Corniglia is probably the smallest town and may feel more tranquil.

3. The Views

I am a sucker for 360 degree views.  Cinque Terre is a breath of Italian fresh air with amazing water views. From the riviera, to vineyards, to mountains and ancient towers, Cinque Terre has them all.

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4. The Food

I can’t talk about Italy without mentioning FOOD. The one regret during this visit was that my friends and I did not take the time to sit, relax and eat. We were too focused on running around from one place to another, catching the train, and making sure we get to as many places as possible. I know, what an atrocity!

Monterosso, Italy

Monterosso, Italy

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Monterosso Al Mare, Italy

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4. The History

Cinque Terre is rich in history. Dating as far back to the 11th Century, it has survived pirate attacks, military supremacy, and terrible storms. It has also played an important role in the Roman Empire. I read that the houses have different colors because back in the day, the fisherman who were working offshore wanted to see their house easily…and to make sure they can also see their wives at home. I’m not sure if this is romantic or stalkerish or even true for that matter. But whatever the reason was, it definitely paid off!

I recommend reading the history of Cinque Terre and its villages. Each historical town has a story and as you walk along its quiet backstreets, you can almost feel the village’s old soul.

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5. The Cliffs

The cliffs deserve their own spot. If not for them, Cinque Terre would not stand out. Literally!

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Unfortunately, my adventure was only for a day. My next visit would be longer and I would definitely stay in Cinque Terre. I was told it is a totally different vista at night with all the illuminating lights and the night scene! But for now, Grazie, Italia!

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Read about my food frustration in Cinque Terre’s  Behind the Post story: The Siesta That Starved Me.

Jen is a Chicago-based traveler and a full-time Director of Development for an arts & culture organization. Originally from Connecticut, she created Angel of Wanderlust as a place to share her travel stories and photos with friends and family. Now, it is a place for adventurers, explorers and dreamers. Its purpose is to inspire and encourage people to see the world and achieve a better work-life balance.