Cinque Terre refers to 5 tiny villages on the Liguria Coast, namely, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cinque Terre was our favorite stop on our 2-week Northern Italy trip. These picturesque towns, which date back to at least the 16th Century, have breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea, homes impossibly clinging to cliffs, gorgeous hiking through terraced vineyards, and the best Italian cuisine. We selected Manarola to stay because it is known for being more quiet and also affordable. Without the glitz of Monterosso, Manarola felt more like a "locals" town and much more our style. If you like to hike, the trails between the towns are a "must do," while visiting the Cinque Terre.
Explore the Cinque Terre. If nothing else, be sure to take time to explore each of the 5 villages on foot. Each are unique in their own way. Get lost through the winding streets, enjoy a glass of wine with a view, and consume more pasta and brochette than humanly possible. A local train runs between each of the towns for easy access. Photo right: Manarola, where we stayed.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: There's a running theme here but really, the food and drink was unforgettable. Many restaurants have gorgeous sea-side views and the seafood is ridiculously fresh. Photo left: Caprese. Photo right: Lobster pasta.
Hike the Cinque Terre: At the risk of saying that everything on our list is a "must do," we will say it again here. Between the 5 towns are trails through terraced vineyards, with beautiful views of the Mediterranean. We did the Manarola - Volastra - Corniglia, which is approximately 2 hours. From there, we explored Corniglia before setting out on foot to Vernazza (~ 1.5 hours), where we enjoyed appetizers and a glass of wine as a reward for our efforts. Except for the climb up and out of the towns, the trails are relatively flat and easy.
Day Trip To Santa Margherita & Portofino: Travel by train, roughly 60-90 minutes, to the town of Santa Margherita. Stroll the manicured parks and streets of this fishing village turned resort town, before taking a tram to Portofino, the world-famous upscale centuries-old tourist destination. We bought nothing here except gelato (prices were high), however, there's plenty to see just by strolling these gorgeous, classy towns.
Where We Stayed
Air BnB: Located in Manarola, our AirBnB is situated near the town center and within walking distance of the port, stores, restaurants and grocery store. The apartment is modest (not fancy) but more spacious than expected, clean, and well-acquainted. You truly feel like a local staying in this apartment. The host is especially welcoming and the cost would seem hard to beat, all things being equal. We highly recommend staying here. Photo left: restaurant situated a short walk further up the hill from the apartment. Photo right: From Air BnB listing.
Where We Ate
Trattoria dal Billy: Located at the top of Manarola, near our Air BnB, Trattoria dal Billy serves up simple but amazing Italian classics. The restaurant overlooks the town and the Mediterranean Sea from the top of the village (photo if view above and pasta right).
Nessun Dorma: Located on the cliffside of the water front in Manarola, this dining spot made for a lovely afternoon treat. We enjoyed a glass of Italian wine and some bruschetta while enjoying a perfect view of Manarola.