Manarola in Cinque Terre, Italy

Village of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, Italy. (ThinkStock)

What to do in Cinque Terre

About 50 miles east of Genoa on the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is one of the most celebrated and dramatically stunning parts of Italy. Five ancient villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) are linked by the walking paths of the Via dell'Amore, and the towns dangle off rocky cliffs plunging into a turquoise ocean. The jagged coastline harbors secluded coves and beaches, while terraces of olive groves and vineyards cling to the hillsides above. Although a longtime tourist favorite and filled to the brim in the summer, Cinque Terre is amazingly low-scale and cozy. There are no large hotels or resorts and no cars allowed in any of the towns, making for a serene holiday.

Cinque Terre is a protected marine area and a national park, as well as being declared a World Heritage of Humanity Site by UNESCO in 1997. These statuses have helped keep the area pristine. Beaches are clean but pebbly. Fossola Beach is a great place to watch birds and explore nature, while secluded and scenic Guvano Beach is the main nudist hangout.

Monterosso is Cinque Terre's largest and busiest village and it contains the main sandy beach in the area. Vernazza has a natural harbor where you can swim among the fishing boats, as well as a castle towering high atop a rocky promontory that juts into the sea. Corniglia is the quietest of the five villages and is more isolated in its hilltop location (meaning a lot of stairs to climb but gorgeous views as a reward). Manarola is a near-vertical cluster of tall houses that rise up the hills on either side of its harbor. And lively Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, has tower-like houses nestled into a deep valley along the sea.

Foodies will adore the region's exquisite cuisine. There's an abundance of wine, fish, citrus, and produce in the area, and excellent local specialties include pesto, sardines, focaccia, and grappa. Don't miss a meal at the famous family-run Gambero Rosso restaurant on Vernazza's harborside square-eating doesn't get any better than this.

Compare Rates to Cinque Terre