Read anything about Italian travel, and you’ll see one destination come up again and again: Cinque Terre. It tops many a list of the most beautiful, the most charming, and the most romantic places in the world. Everyone has gone mad for Cinque Terre, and it’s for good reason. It really is as engaging and delightful as you would hope.
If you dream of heading to Cinque Terre, here are seven fascinating facts that will help you see things in a whole new way, and facilitate your Cinque Terre trip planning.
1. Cinque Terre Is A Collection Of Villages
Cinque Terre is often mentioned like it’s just one spot, but it’s actually a collection of five villages.
The village of Vernazza has dramatic views, a lively waterfront, and even a castle at the top of the hill.
Monterosso al Mare is beloved for being the only one of the five villages with a generous beach suitable for swimming and sunning. It’s also the best spot of the five for nightlife and modern hotels.
Manarola is a pretty mix of vineyards, shops, and houses that hug the side of the cliff.
Riomaggiore is the most “everyday” of the villages. Here, tourists can visit churches and vineyards and get a good sense of regular life in a small Italian village.
Corniglia is the only village of the five that doesn’t sit on the water. The weather is a touch cooler here thanks to its elevated position on the top of the cliff, and the area is well known for its wine.
2. It’s A Protected Place
Cinque Terre isn’t just a collection of villages. It’s designated as a National Park, which helps preserve and protect the area. As such, an inexpensive day pass is needed to hike between the communities. This part of the Italian Riviera is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Speaking of hiking between communities, casual travelers should note that flip flops are forbidden on the path. The rule’s designed to limit the possibility of sprained ankles and thus costly helicopter evacuations.
3. Cars Aren’t Welcome Here, And That’s Awesome!
Forget driving into any of the Cinque Terre villages. They’re peaceful and car-free! In lieu of the pricey parking just outside the villages, opt for the free park-and-ride nearby at La Spezia’s Piazza d'Armi, and take the train into Cinque Terre.
4. Trains, On The Other Hand, Are Your Best Friend
If hiking isn’t for you, it only takes a few short minutes to travel between the villages of Cinque Terre via train. You can catch a regional train easily from major destinations like Milan for easy connections. Alternatively, when the weather is fine, a ferry ride is a picturesque way to get around.
5. It Isn’t Quiet, But You Can Make Quiet Time
On a quiet evening, on a side street in your favorite village, it can feel like there’s no one else in Cinque Terre but you. That’s part of what makes it so beguiling. You feel like it’s your dream world, and yours alone. Alas, Cinque Terre one very “discovered” place. This is a tourism hotspot, so much so that its sustainability is threatened.
The community is implementing measures to manage the high number of visitors, but there is still a way to come in peak season and enjoy a quiet visit: Stay for a few nights. Day trippers make up a huge part of Cinque Terre’s visitors, which means locals and longer-term guests can claim the early mornings and evenings for themselves.
6. There’s Something Special In The Water
No, I’m not just talking about magic or romance -- though there’s plenty of that, to be sure! No, there actually is something in the water in Cinque Terre. There’s a unique biome in the villages’ protected inlets that is beneficial for marine life. As such, the area boasts great fishing and seafood, and anchovies are a particularly common menu item.
7. In Cinque Terre, Pesto Is Best-o
Next to fish, few flavors are so beloved in Cinque Terre as basil and pesto. Focaccia with basil, pasta laden with fresh homemade pesto, and even silky-sweet basil gelato are all popular culinary options. (Seriously, give basil gelato a try! It’s especially good with a scoop of raspberry or strawberry gelato on top). The pesto sold in Cinque Terre’s public markets and grocery stores is about half the cost of what’s sold in the souvenir and artisan food shops, and it’s just as good.
Want to visit a village that’s a little less discovered than the five that comprise Cinque Terre? Explore these seven beautiful off-the-beaten-path towns in Italy. You won’t be disappointed!