Italian Language Blog

A trip to Le Cinque Terre Posted by on Oct 11, 2008 in Uncategorized

Last summer I had the fortune to stay for a few days in Vernazza, one of the five small former fishing villages that form Le Cinque Terre (lit.: The Five Lands) in the Ligurian Riviera di Levante. We stayed in a small apartment on the first floor of an old building located in the harbor piazza just a few steps away from the clear blue sea. Yes, I’m spoiled! My uncle’s family is originally from the village and he still owns the family apartment. It was great to sit on the minuscule balcony in the evening watching the passeggio going on below, or seeing the sun lighting up the colorful buildings early in the morning.

Towering buildings and narrow alleyways (carrugi) scrambling up the steep escarpment are characteristic features of Vernazza. The four other villages that together with Vernazza make up the Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia and Monterosso. These, together with an extensive area of sea have now been designated as a National Park and UNESCO world heritage site (see:

The best way to get to the Cinque Terre is by battello (the passengers’ ferry) from the main town of La Spezia set in the Golfo dei Poeti (the Poets’ Gulf), so named because of the many famous literary figures it attracted in the 18th century, in particular the British poets Byron and Shelley.

The battello leaves from La Spezia harbor (an important naval base) and calls first at Portovenere (lit.: Venus Port!), a small picturesque village unique in Liguria in that its line of colorful case a torre (tower-like houses) hems the quay, turning the village into a fortified medieval citadel. Just off the coast are the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, full of caves and grottoes. This area is very popular with tourists and VIPs, so look out for posh yachts: we saw the fashion designer Cavalli’s private yacht, which changes color depending on the angle you view it from, wow!.

Continuing to the West you come into the Territorio di Tramonti (lit.: territory between the mountains), where the five hamlets of the Cinque Terre are set amongst vineyards and cliffs. During the boat trip you’ll see some isolated houses built near the sea on the cliff faces. They were (and sometime still are) used during the vendemmia (the grape harvest) by the villagers who own the land. These steep cultivated terraces can only be reached by boat and the grapes too are taken away by boat. This area produces one the rarest Italian DOC wines, sciachetrà, which is made from the local sundried grapes.

The battello stops at all the villages except Corniglia which is perched inaccessibly up on the cliffs and therefore lacks a harbor. The other four villages have no proper dock, only a small gangway joins the boat to the landing place, therefore when the sea is rough the boat can’t land. In fact, before the railway line was built, these villages were completely cut off for days during bad weather. The only alternative was a narrow footpath that climbs up through the cliffs amongst vineyards, orchards and the luxuriant macchia mediterranea, the typical Mediterranean vegetation.

Riomaggiore and Manarola are linked by a beautiful path cut out of the sheer rock and romantically called Via dell’Amore. Between agaves, cactuses and pine trees you catch glimpses of the emerald green sea below you.

Buon viaggio!

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  1. Arch:

    My family have just spent 3 wonderful days in Vernazza and LOVED it!!!!!!!! My wife fell in love with this beautiful area and of all the places we visited in Italy on our three week trip, this is the one she wants to visit again and so do I.

    Where do you start? Well the view that you can see above is how it really is. Not touched up. No Photoshop. This is a postcard. The beautiful water. The boats. The people. No I think we found the perfect retirement home.

  2. Frank McGowan:

    Vernazza is the only one of the five my wife and didn’t stop at on our visit. Next time for sure (and there will be a next time). If you decide to walk from Manarola to Corniglia, be prepared for a pretty strenuous hike, especially if you miss the shuttle bus from the train station to the upper town! It’s worth all the effort. Simply beautiful.

  3. ivana:

    hy, my name is ivana and i am planing a trip to cingue terre. can you tell me something about it? like, prices. i would like to stay in some apartment, but i`m not sure are they expensive (i`ve been looking some on the internet and they seems very nice). also, i want to know is it expensive to eat there, in some restaurants and simmilar places… i would be very greatfull if you could answer me. thanks, have a nice day 🙂

  4. Liz:

    Hi just wondering if you know anything about the impruneta area near Firenze and of the ristorante pizzeria i falciani? I recently went to Italy was in this area and absolutly loved it and would like to know more about the area and the restaurant.

    Thank you very much

  5. Serena:

    Arch said: “Well the view that you can see above is how it really is. Not touched up. No Photoshop. This is a postcard.”

    Yes I can assure you that the photos have not been retouched, in fact they were taken by my husband during our last visit to Vernazza.

  6. Serena:

    Salve Ivana, I’m afraid I can’t really help you with prices and so on because as I said in my post my uncle has an appartment there so we don’t have to pay. All I can tell you is that Vernazza is full of tourists and like everywhere else that attracts lots of tourists prices are high. If you find the prices too high you could consider finding somewhere less touristy that is connected to the Cinque Terre by train. Here in Italy the trains are very economical and Vernazza has a regular service. Buona fortuna.

  7. Serena:

    Ciao Liz, Sorry but I don’t know the Impruneta area and I’ve never heard of the ristorante pizzeria i falciani, Firenze is a big place! I did however work at the Museo Archeologico di Firenze for a couple of years, and I intend to write some blogs about some of my favourite places in Firenze in the near future.

  8. Arch:

    Accommodation it Italy can vary. My wife did extensive research, from reading lots of blogs on this site, Trip Advisor and other sites to find out about costs. (NOTE when you read other people’s opinions, don’t rely on just one. More the better)

    Its amazing how many people want to share their holiday photos with others. Someone had uploaded photos of the view from their room and after seeing how wonderful it was we chose our room that way. Cost was a factor too but the view that won us over in the end.

    You must remember you get what you pay for. A very good friend stayed in Vernazza only 4 weeks before us and her family hated it. The thing was that she did NO research and it turned out that her room did not have a view and was not close to the piazza. In hindsight she would do things differently next time even if it was going to cost a little more.

    We stayed in one of Franca Marias Rooms. What we noticed was that a number of people owned rooms and rented them out. The thing to remember is that the rooms are not situated next to each other but scattered throughout the town. Research where they are before you book.

  9. Annette Renee White:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences! I just booked my flight to Florence and am planning my trip to Tuscany & Cinque Terre. I can’t wait! Here’s what my itinerary looks like so far:

  10. Serena:

    Salve Annette, It looks like you are going to have a really busy and culturally packed dieci giorni!
    Re. Day 7: Cinque Terre/Pisa/Siena, just to warn you that from an aesthetic point of view, apart from the Campo dei Miracoli Pisa has relatively little to offer. Lucca, just a few kilometers down the road, on the other hand, is quite exceptional, and well worth a visit. However, if your itinerary is fixed, let me know because I studied at Pisa University and therefore I know the town well. If you want I could tell you about a few interesting things to see there.

    A presto, Serena

  11. janelle:

    Woohoo! I am so excited to visit CT!!! My sons and I just finished a 6 day Tuscan road trip that included Elba, Saturnia, Sorano and piles of hot springs… we are HOOKED on Italy! I have an uncanny feeling that CT will be an all-time fave. I heard you need tickets even for the footpath? Can you just buy them onsite?

    • serena:

      @janelle Salve Janelle, when we stay in my uncles apartment in Vernazza we sometimes do a bit of ‘La Via dell’Amore’, which is the footpath that runs along the coast. There is a ticket booth at the beginning of the trail but they don’t get up very early, so if you go for an early morning stroll, let’s say around eight o’clock, you probably won’t have to pay! In the summer it’s better to go out early anyway because it gets pretty hot and the path is quite steep in places.

      A presto, serena

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