The first time I laid eyes on Italy’s beautiful Cinque Terre, I began giggling like a maniac.
It’s just that beautiful.
I’ve been there twice now, and I still get weirdly territorial over it. And nothing is worse when someone tells me it can be done as a day trip from Milan… When this is said, I legitimately start twitching.
Listen: There is so much to do in Cinque Terre – more than just snapping the perfect Instagram photo or stopping by for a few hours. Nope. This is a dream destination well worthy of at least 4 days of your time… as I’ve done twice now. Having experienced the destination as both a relaxing girls’ getaway and a romantic hiking weekend, I feel like I’ve gotten a good feel for what this epic region has to offer… and I am so excited to share the list with you!
If you’re wondering what to do in Cinque Terre, this bucket list is for you.
The Best Things to do in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is composed of five dazzling villages perched along the Ligurian Coast. Each one has its own unique character and set of things to do. Here they are in order, assuming you’re coming in from La Spezia 😉
Things to do in Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is a small fisherman’s town with a pretty little harbour rocking some of the best postcard views on Earth. Here are some glorious things to do in Riomaggiore!
Go for a swim and enjoy the village’s iconic views
Unless you’ve been living under an Instagram-proof rock, odds are, you’ve seen the classic postcard snap of Riomaggiore. Because the village is so compact, this viewpoint is super simple to find. Just follow the signs towards the marina (or trail behind the mob of folks who are keen to see the same view). Don’t forget your swimsuit though – the swimming here is really nice when the water’s not too choppy, plus it’s a great place to laze about, people watch and enjoy the view.
Extra tip: You don’t need to rent a boat to get a classic view of Riomaggiore from the water – there’s actually a rocky bit that you can walk up to that juts out. Shhh, don’t worry though – your secret is safe with me.
Grab some fried seafood in a cone
You’ll see everyone strutting around with these. Follow your nose & your tastebuds will thank you. There are a lot of options around town but Il Pescato Cucinato and Tutti Fritti are popular favourites.
Go cliff jumping with the locals
Of course do this at your own risk!! Right by the harbour, during peak season, you’ll likely see a lot of young locals going for a swim (I swear they had their own private rock there) and many of them climbing up a nearby cliff and jumping into the water. As the blogging community’s token wuss, I didn’t dare attempt this, but my boyfriend did and it was one of the highlights of his trip.
Watch sunset at the harbour
Bonus points if you snag yourself a a pizza and sweet bottle of vino. There’s something inexplicably magical about watching the village light up in golden hour colours, plus all the daytrippers will be gone by then as well, which cranks up the romance to “Notebook” level swoon.
Hiking to Manarola? Don’t go without asking the Tourist Information Center
A lot of outdated articles will tell you to hike the Via dell’Amore. Sadly I must tell you that this world famous hike has been closed for years due to a rockslide in 2012. While it was still possible during my last visit (July 2016) to hike to Manarola through the stunning 531 trail, various traveller reports say that as of Summer 2017, this trail is now closed for safety reasons. I’m not sure when it will open back up again, but if you can find a way to hike to Manarola, do it – it’s so worth it. Although, you should be sure to visit the Tourist Information Center to get the latest info on whether this is actually possible.
Things to do in Manarola
Manarola is hands down my favourite village and the one I know best. I stayed here both times I visited Cinque Terre, and even wrote a comprehensive post about where to eat! The whole town is steeped in this romantic ambiance you can’t shake, and the food, views and swimming are glorious. Here are some amazing things do in Manarola!
Go for a swim
If you follow the main road in Cinque Terre towards the sea, look down and you’ll see a natural swimming pool of sorts where people are sunbathing on big rocks and splashing around like the happiest effing people on Earth.
… join them.
Since there are no real beaches in Manarola, here is where you would go for a swim/tanning session. Swimming here (at the base of town) is SO nice in the summer and I couldn’t recommend it more! Note: there’s ladders to help you get in and out, but be careful: the rocks are really slippery. I once accidentally cut myself on a rock as well, so bring water shoes if you want to be careful.
Enjoy a drink at Nessun Dorma, Manarola
This restaurant is legendary, and probably THE most iconic view you can get in Manarola, alongside delicious wine, bruschetta and all sorts of droolworthy platters. And in spite of its prime real estate, the menu here is surprisingly affordable too. You can’t miss this experience when you’re in Cinque Terre. Prepare to stay as long as you can (without getting dragged off by security).
Take a pesto making class at Nessun Dorma, Manarola
Pesto is a regional specialty and yes, Nessun Dorma (the dreamy restaurant mentioned above) actually offers pesto making classes now. The reviews on TripAdvisor are phenomenal, so definitely check this out if you’re looking for a more hands on experience. Sign me up for next time, Nessun Dorma 😉
Watch the sunset from the rocks
At the base of town, you’ll find a natural swimming pool (as previously mentioned) and besides being a perfect swim spot, it’s also a wonderful place to watch the sun dip down behind the mountains. Honestly, you might cry a little.
… but I’ll let this photo speak for itself:
Soak in the views, grappa and limoncello at Trattoria dal Billy
Of all the things to do in Cinque Terre, eating is no doubt at the top of the list. One of my favourite restaurants in Manarola in Trattoria dal Billy. For the optimal experience, call ahead to reserve a table that gets you a sunset view. This trattoria sits high above town so the views are unreal, plus the food is delicious and they provide you with giant bottles of limoncello and grappa at the end to sample. PS: This stuff is strong, so don’t get carried away (like a certain blogger did…)
Explore the vineyards above town
If you’re up for a mini-hike, escape the crowds in the town center below and climb up to Manarola’s vineyards. It’s a doable uphill walk along a narrow path, but the views are more than worth it. Imagine lush, terraced vineyards set against the glittering cobalt sea (and a chance to see how some locals make a living). Check out this detailed post on how to do this walk!
PS: If you get a chance, stop by the village cemetery as well. It’s beautiful.
Things to do in Corniglia
Corniglia is Cinque Terre’s middle child, literally. Located 100m above the sea, getting to the town center requires either climbing up 350+ steps or taking an unreliable shuttle bus. Once you’re up though, you’re rewarded with beautiful views and a magical tangle of narrow streets that give this village a timeless feel. Here are some things to do in Corniglia!
Climb the stairway (from hell) up to town
As previously mentioned, to get up to the town center from the train station, you can either walk or take (rather inconsistent) shuttle bus. The walk up is 350+ steps along a series of staircases, so it will literally take your breath away. No, it’s not fun, but you are, of course, rewarded with great views! This is a quintessential Cinque Terre experience, despite being mildly painful 😉
Enjoy the water
One of the most famous beaches in Corniglia is known as Guvano Beach, famed for being a haven of nudists 😉 While this beach is still the stuff of legend, many reports say that it’s no longer accessible by foot. You can still walk down to the marina to enjoy the water from there though. Do note that reports on beaches in Cinque Terre are SUPER scattered and all-over-the-place, mainly due to outdated information, so your best bet is to ask the Tourist Information Center or even try your luck with a local… there are supposedly some beaches they like to keep secret 😉
Scope out some churches
There aren’t a lot of “sights” and attractions in Corniglia, but there are a handful of pretty churches to look at it. Click here to read more about them.
I especially loved the little square that housed the Oratory of the Disciplinati of Saint Catherine. There are a lot of restaurants/bars clustered in this spot too so it’s a great place to catch your breath, numb your weak legs with a drink, and people watch:
Treat yourself to a gelato at Alberto Gelateria
*drools excessively* You can’t miss this place. It’s just off of the main square and there will be a massive queue of people waiting, but trust me – it’s worth it. This gelateria whips up amazing flavours made from local ingredients like lemon, honey and even basil (sounds weird but go for it!) After climbing all those steps, you deserve it.
Hike to Vernazza
As the middle village, you’ll likely find yourself in Corniglia at some point if you’re hiking. I know that doing all the hikes might be unrealistic, so if you need to prioritize, I’ll say this: the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza was one of my favourites in terms of views. Both of these towns look ahhh-mazing from above, plus there’s an awesome little cafe bar halfway along the hike where you can grab a lemon slushie (or something harder if you prefer). To date, it is still the best lemon slushie I’ve ever had.
Things to do in Vernazza
Vernazza is a picture-perfect paradise town with pastel streets to roam through, a pretty harbour to relax at and of course, around it are some of the best hiking views along the Cinque Terre trail. Here are a few things to do in Vernazza!
Hike up to a stunning view
Some people consider Vernazza to be the beauty queen of the five villages. I’m still partial to Manarola, but there’s no denying that this town has some truly spectacular views. Hiking about 20 minutes (just follow the signs for Monterosso al Mare) will get you to the classic postcard shot (pictured below on the right) but note that you do need a Cinque Terre card for that as it’ll be part of the paid trail already. If you have extra time, hike to Corniglia. The views are just as spectacular!
Sunbathe or go for a dip
Unlike most of the other villages, Vernazza actually has a sandy beach that’s not impossible to get to! Yay! It’s tiny and likely be very crowded, but if you’re tired of laying on rocks and are just wanting a bit of sun, this is a great place to relax for a bit. Pssst, there are even opportunities to go cliff jumping if you dare. Just follow the sound of screaming youths and I’m sure you’ll find it 😉
Soak in all the good vibe vibes at Piazza Marconi
Located right by the harbour, Piazza Marconi is Vernazza’s main square and offers a little hub of restaurants, and of course, quick access to the beach/swimming area. Don’t miss the Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, whose bell tower is undoubtedly one of the most distinctive sights of the Vernazza “skyline” (if you can call it that).
Indulge in a spectacular meal with a view
If you’re feeling particularly fancy, I’ve heard amazing things about Ristorante Belforte, which can be found near Doria Castle and offers some seriously ridiculous mealtime views. Not a bad place to treat. yo. self.
Climb the tower at Doria Castle
Climbing the steep spiral stairway up to the top at Doria Castle earns you a stunning view of both the city, sea and vineyards. Plus, it only costs 1.50 euros!
Things to do in Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare has a very resort-y vibe. If you’re after a classic beach holiday with like long lines of umbrellas on beaches, then you’ll like it here. It also offers great shopping and a lot of restaurants to choose from. While it has (in my opinion) the most touristy vibe, it’s still a beautiful town with tons to do. Here are some things to do in Monterosso al Mare.
Go shopping and stock up on local products
Monterosso by far has the most options for shopping among the five villages of the Cinque Terre, so go here to stock up on any souvenirs or goodies for home. Pesto, olive oil, and wine are always a good idea 😉 I loaded up on goods from Cantina du Sciacchetra, and had some fun browsing through different art shops as well. Don’t miss some of the smaller side streets – you never know when you’ll find an adorable little boutique or shop.
Taste some wine at Enoteca Internazionale
This is the oldest wine shop in town, so be sure to stop by for a little taste (and to fill your suitcases with sweet, sweet wine). I adore the crisp white wines from Cinque Terre – they go so perfectly with seafood it’s ridiculous. Be sure to try some in a restaurant, or sample your heart out at an enoteca. A well known specialty the delicious (and expensive) dessert Sciacchetrà wine, but check out this post for a more thorough explanation of Cinque Terre wines (way better than I could ever do).
Laze like a walrus on the beach
As the ‘beachiest” town among the five, it’s no surprise that one of the best things to do in Monterosso al Mare is to simply enjoy the sun. Access to the beach itself is free but you need to pay to rent sun chairs, umbrellas, etc. Worth every penny though, I assure you.
Explore different churches
There are several beautiful (but small) churches to be found in Monterosso al Mare, including the Church of Saint John the Baptist and the nearby Oratory of the Confraternita dei Bianchi. Click here for a more detailed list of churches in Monterosso and their descriptions.
Adrenaline junkies will be happy to hear that there are opportunities to paraglide here. Can you imagine the views?! Just um, don’t drop your camera.
Paragliding Over the Cinque Terre – $166.50Soar above the Cinque Terre landscape with this tandem paragliding flight from Monterosso with a professional flight instructor.Â Start on a hill above the town, fly for 15-20 minutes, and then land on the beach of Monterosso. In the summer period the act
Other Things to do in and Around Cinque Terre
Take a home cooking class in La Spezia
La Spezia might as well be Cinque Terre’s honourary 6th member. It’s located just a few minutes by train from the others and offers a bunch of unique activities for you to try, including a traditional cooking class! Click here to browse prices and availability.
Traditional Home Cooking Experience at the Cinque Terre – $78.49Enter a beautiful location at the Cinque Terre and experience an authentic hands on cooking class with a passionate local chef. Enjoy the dinner with a fine selection of wine on the panoramic terrace.
Learn how to make pesto in Levanto
Levanto is also closely linked to Cinque Terre’s villages by train. One of the awesome activities you can try here is a pesto making class, learning to make some Genoese pesto from scratch. AKA the subtle art of making all your friends jealous. Click here to check prices and availability.
If you want to get out on the water, I have spotted plenty of kayak rentals in Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore. Those feeling especially adventurous can even book a 5 hour kayaking tour from Monterosso!
Rent a boat
Boats boats boats. If you’re feeling extra splurgey, why not enjoy a boat tour and appreciate the villages from the water? There are a lot of different options, from sunset cruises to even boat + cooking lesson combos.
A more budget friendly alternative would be to take the ferry from town to town. Click here for more info.
I hope you enjoyed that post on things to do in Cinque Terre! Have you ever been? Or is it still one for the bucket list? Let me know in the comments 🙂
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