The five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso are car free. There are very little parkings in the area and it is expensive. If you travel by car, the best is to leave it in La Spezia and take the train. It is encouraged to limit the pressure on the road.
Try to avoid the usual one day "Disneyland" journey. The Cinque Terre are worth several days of visit. But book ahead as accommodation is scarce.
The villages are not there for tourists. People have been living there for centuries. Remember that you are a guest. Good behaviour and respect are essential to preserve this beautiful place.
There have been talks about making visitors pay to visit the Cinque Terre. It is not the case (yet). But my advice would be to go in October (if you want to take the ferry ride along the coast) or off season.
Having trouble walking? This place might not be for you. There are a lot of stairs and it is not welchair-friendly. The easiest village to visit is Monterosso.
There are passes but check first if it worth buying or not according to your visits.
Plenty of information is available on internet but always check the latest news in the information centres in the villages.
All the photos have been taken at the end of October. As you can see, it was still beautiful and not too crowdy, except for the last ferry rides.
Beautiful and colourful village with a funny pyramid in white cement used as a navigational reference point for all those at sea.
The boats in the streets definitly add to its charm.
The Church of San Lorenzo in Gothic Ligurian style and the defence tower are not to be missed.
Manarola is well known for hosting the biggest lighted nativity in the world from December 8th till the end of January. The hills are illuminated with more than 200 figures and 12.000 lamps.
Dating at least from the 8th Century, Riomaggiore is the most southern village of the Cinque Terre. It has colourful houses, grapevines and olive-trees.
There are several buildings to visit: the gothic Church of San Giovanni Battista; the Church of San Lorenzo with beautiful rose window; a castle with amazing views; and up the hill, the Sanctuary of Madonna di Montenero from where you will have a panoramic view of the whole coastal line.
The largest of the five coastal villages, Monterosso is located on hills cultivated with vines and olives. It also has a beautiful sandy beach, the longuest in the Cinque Terre.
The medieval tower of Aurora divides the village in two parts, Fegina, the new town, and the old town of Monterosso.
Whilst Fegina is dominated by the famous concrete statue of the Giant, Monterosso is dominated by the ruins of the castle and has typical narrow medieval streets.
There are several festivals, going from food to religious processions.
Do not miss the two churches, San Giovanni Battista and San Francesco, the statue of San Benedetto d'Assisi, and the Soviore Sanctuary.
The most famous monument is the concrete statue of the Giant, Il Gigante in Fegina. Representing Neptune, it is now the symbol of Monterosso.
This said, if I had to skip one village, it would be this one because it has lost in authenticity.
Located in the middle of the Cinque Terre, Corniglia is the only town without access from the sea.
Beware that the village is connected to its train station by a footpath that has 377 stairs.
An ancient Roman village with a long and rich agricultural tradition, surrounded by vineyards and terraces, Corniglia looks more like a rural inland village than a coastal one.
There are a few monuments to see, including a church and an oratory.
Vernazza is the most characteristic village of the Cinque Terre. It has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Founded aroud 1000 A.D., it was ruled by the Republic of Genoa starting in 1276. There was a medieval castle that was built in the mid-1500's, primarily to protect the village from pirates. Only its tower is still existing. You can visit it but the access is really steep.
The Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia is a beautiful one.
The steeply-terraced olive groves surrounding Vernazza are said to produce some of the finest olive oil in the country.
The Hotel Gianni Franzi has a superb location. Many stairs though to access it.
Below is the view from my hotel room. I had a shared bathroom but the balcony was worth it.
There are many trails between the villages but check beforehand to see if they are open. Some have been close for years due to heavy rains. Also willl have to pay a small fee to take them.
The easiest walk is the so-called love trail, Via dell'Amore, between Manarola and Riomaggiore. Unfortunately it is close for maintenance after land slides. There is an alternative trail now but it is not as good.
There are trails going up the hill to villages above. There are also a few shuttles going up there.
Trails do get busy.
Wherever you are, please do not leave "love locks" behind you!!!
The ferry ride is really nice but do not expect to be able to visit the 5 villages in one day with this mean of transportation. Keep in mind that the last ferries of the day will be crowded. Going from village to village by train and to Portovenere by ferry is a good option. The ferry stops working early November to start again in spring.
Beware that is does not stop in Corniglia!