A guide to Cinque Terre, Italy

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 07.12.2023

Tucked along the craggy coastline of Liguria, a small region in northwestern Italy, the Cinque Terre comprises five impossibly romantic hillside villages. Laced together by coastal hiking paths overlooking the shimmering Ligurian Sea, it’s a ravishing region that leaves you longing to linger much longer than intended. This guide to Cinque Terre, Italy, shares insights into each of the five towns — Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore — and how to hike between them. In addition, we share tips on everything from regional food to the best way to stay connected online when exploring those awe-inspiring trails.

Cinque Terre overview

The astonishing landscape of the Cinque Terre remained relatively isolated until the 1960s.

It’s also a national park, a protected marine area, and a UNESCO Site of Outstanding Universal Value — how’s that for a catalogue of commendations?

Each of the five towns has a distinctive character. Together they’re a captivating collective of candy-hued, clifftop beauties concealing mazes of medieval alleys (carruggi) and piazzas. Perfecto!

Colorful square with restaurant tables in the Cinque Terre village of Monterosso, Italy © Shutterstock

Colorful square in Monterosso, Italy © Shutterstock


Located in a bay on the east of the Punta Mesco headland, Monterosso is the largest and most developed of the Cinque Terre.

Divided in two by the Torre Aurora — now home to one of the most scenically-sited lounge bars you’ll ever visit —  the hills surrounding Monterosso are rich with vineyards, olive trees and lemon groves. Foodies might want to visit in May for the Monterosso Lemon Festival.

If you’ve come to hike, the scenic trail from Monterosso to Vernazza begins at the end of the promenade. 

Editor’s tip: as it’s pretty important to keep track of the weather when you head off on a hike, don’t leave getting online to chance.

Monterosso lemon, Cinque Terre © Shutterstock

Monterosso lemon, Cinque Terre © Shutterstock

We recommend downloading the Global YO app. Through this you can get yourself an eSIM and join a mobile network — no physical SIM card required.

In the app, you can buy high-speed data covering 100+ countries, including Italy. It comes with no long-term commitment, at a price that’s 15-20% cheaper than the rest of the market.

If that wasn’t enough, Global YO’s money-saving YOYO$ loyalty scheme offers up to 50% discount from the first activation. To accrue YOYO$ loyalty points, simply enjoy content through the app in your post-hike downtime.

  • One minute of streaming or playing = 1 YOYO$
  • 100 minutes/100 YOYO$ = $1 USD

The more you use the app to stream shows, watch movies, and play games, the more YOYO$ you’ll earn. Given that these can be used to buy data, the more you play, the less you’ll pay.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock


From its natural harbour and small sandy beach, to its slender tower houses, Vernazza offers an intoxicating blend of laid back charm and sophistication. As a result, it’s often hailed as the loveliest Cinque Terre.

Picture yourself ambling labyrinths of peaceful alleys — cars are banned here. Or how about visiting Castello Doria for breath-taking views over town, the sea, and neighbouring Monterosso and Corniglia?

Starting point for hikes along the Cinque Terre’s Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail) to Monterosso and Corniglia, Vernazza is also close to some of the area’s best snorkelling spots.

Editor’s tip: Vernazza is the perfect place to savour local seafood specialties, like anchovies steeped in lemon juice. Also, don’t pass up the chance to try pansotti — “potbellied” ravioli stuffed with ricotta and greens.

Then there’s Liguria’s famous pesto sauce. Once you’ve tried the local take on lasagne (it’s made with pesto), you won’t want to go back to the standard tomato sauce variety.

Vernazza, Italy © Shutterstock

Vernazza, Italy © Shutterstock


The smallest and most remote Cinque Terre village, Corniglia lies in the middle of the chain. Sitting pretty at 100m above the sea, access to the water and train station comes courtesy of the 382-step Lardarina staircase.

Due to its bijou size and relative inaccessibility, Corniglia draws fewer tourists, with a quieter vibe that’s well-suited to romantics.

Corniglia is also the starting point for a couple of unforgettable hikes. First up, an awe-inspiring — yet pretty easy — path runs from Corniglia to Vernazza. 

Then there’s the sublime, steep, forested route from Corniglia to Manarola. This is arguably the most magnificent trail of the Cinque Terre National Park.

Editor’s tip: while many wines of the Cinque Terre have world-celebrated status, local Vernaccia di Corniglia comes with considerable history. Wine vessels found in Pompeii were engraved with “vinum Corneliae”, and Boccaccio refers to Ligurian Vernaccia in The Decameron. Saluti!

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock


Constructed on a jagged rock 70 metres above the sea, Manarola oozes charm from its handsome little harbour, to the pastel-coloured buildings cleft into its cliffs.

While there’s no beach here, Manarola is a marvellous place to swim, with crystal-clear natural pools speckling the coastline.

An active fishing village, Manarola’s amiable liveliness is mainly centred on the harbour. Here you can enjoy long lunches while watching courageous folk leap from the cliffs to the sea. 

While dining, don’t miss trying Sciacchetra wine. Manarola even has a small museum dedicated to this rare regional variety.

As for hiking, here you can get to grips with the no-pass-required route that runs from Manarola to Corniglia via Volastra. If you don’t fancy tackling 1200 steps at the start, take a bus to Volastra and pick up the trail from there.

Editor’s tip: Manarola is a great place to take ferries to the other villages, and keep an eye out for dolphins. Alternatively, book a boat excursion that stops off at grottos and snorkelling spots, or a sunset cruise.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock


Thanks to its relatively straightforward road link, Riomaggiore draws the Cinque Terre’s biggest crowds, yet remains ravishingly romantic. 

The southernmost town of the five (for context, though, it’s just a two-minute train ride from Manarola), Riomaggiore is crammed between two hills, and steeped in atmosphere.

The town was founded in the 8th century. Narrow walkways, archways and the beautiful Botanical Gardens Torre Guardiola are clustered beneath the grand gaze of its 13th-century castle. 

When you want to take to the water, a pebble beach sits close to the dock. Here you can book boat trips, and rent kayaks and snorkelling gear.

Editor’s tip: a fresh hiking challenge awaits in Riomaggiore. Namely, a 13km trail to Portovenere. Beginning with a long ascent (or take the bus up to Telegrafo), this leads through peaceful pine forests to the 15th-century Sanctuary of Montenero.

Then comes drama — a winding cliff-side path that emerges at the Gulf of La Spezia before descending to Portovenere.


Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Tips for hiking the Cinque Terre


  • The most popular hiking route of the Cinque Terre is the coastal Blue Route from Riomaggiore to Monterosso (Sentiero Azzurro). To walk it, you need a Cinque Terre Card
  • All other marked trails — including the inland Red Routes (Sentieri Rossi) — are free. 
  • As most of the paths are rocky and uneven, proper walking shoes are advisable.
  • Consider visiting outside the peak summer season (August), when the area attracts huge numbers of visitors. 
  • Set on visiting in summer? Bring water, and wear sunscreen and a hat. Most paths are unshaded. 
  • Check weather forecasts, especially in spring and autumn. Rainstorms can come from nowhere and render the paths precariously slippery. Don’t get caught out — get online with an eSIM from the cash-saving, content-rich Global YO app.


This article was brought to you in sponsorship with Global Yo.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy © Shutterstock

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 07.12.2023

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

Planning your own trip? Prepare for your trip

Use Rough Guides' trusted partners for great rates

Ready to travel and discover

Get support from our local experts for
stress-free planning & worry-free travels

Plan my trip ⤍