Cinque Terre without a guide: how to get there and what to see on your own
Cinque Terre: self-guided tour

Cinque Terre without a guide: how to get there and what to see on your own

On the Ligurian coast between Genoa and Pisa is a national park of such beauty that it is difficult to describe and must be seen — Cinque Terre (Parco nazionale delle Cinque Terre), which means «Five Lands» in Italian.

As part of the park, there are five small, quaint villages dotted along the rocky coastline:

  • Monterosso (Monterosso-al-Mare)
  • Vernazza.
  • Corniglia.
  • Manarola
  • Riomaggiore (Riomaggiore)

Each is beautiful and picturesque in its own way. And the protected area in which they are located is unique for its location and medieval buildings. The secluded beaches, snow-white terraces and ancient religious buildings lure tourists here every year.

How to get to Cinque Terre

The most convenient way to get to Pentland is by train. From Genoa the travel time is about two hours. From La Spezia it is much faster, as the distance between the cities is only 5 kilometers. Trains run quite often, the price and schedule can be found on the official website of the Italian railroads Trenitalia.

The railroad bridge in Riomaggiore
The railroad bridge in Riomaggiore

It is also possible to get to Cinque Terre by car, but parking is available only in Riomaggiore, so if you do not plan to go back and forth, it is more convenient to leave your car in La Spezia. In all the villages of the Five Earths, except Monterosso, it is forbidden to drive.

There are also boats from La Spezia to Cinque Terre. In high season, this mode of transportation is the most popular among tourists, although it takes longer than the train.

How to travel between the towns of Cinque Terre

There are two ways to travel between the villages of the Five Lands: by boat or by hiking trails.

The settlements of the Cinque Terre Park are former fishing villages, so they all have access to the sea, except Corniglia. It is located high up in the mountains and to reach it you have to walk a bit. Boat schedules are available on the official website of the Five Lands.

There are more than a hundred hiking trails between the towns, so it is impossible to get lost. Due to annual landslides and waterlogging, the trails are destroyed and closed for repairs, so it is worth checking the information on the official website or check with the tourist offices before visiting.

Tourist Information Centers in Cinque Terre

Monterosso al Mare

The town is considered to be the largest settlement in Cinque Terre, with the large sandy beach of Fegina. It is the northernmost station of the Five Earths, the first station on the direction from Genoa. It has only about 1500 inhabitants. There are many tourists at any time of the year, even Italians like to come here for the weekend.

Fejina beach in Monterosso
Fejina beach in Monterosso
Monterosso station
Monterosso station

Monterosso is divided into two parts: the old town and the new town. There are many interesting sights in both. The symbol of the town is the Aurora Torre, a part of the ruined fortress, which was built by the Genoese in the 16th century. Now only the tower remains of the fortress.

The Capuchin Monastery and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi are located a little higher up on St. Christopher’s Hill. If you are not too lazy to climb up here, you will discover the incredible beauty of the bay, for which millions of tourists come here every year.

Monument to St. Francis of Assisi
Monument to St. Francis of Assisi

Another interesting sculpture that attracts the attention of tourists in Monterosso is a giant statue of the sea god Neptune. Its height is just under 15 meters, and its weight is almost one and a half tons. Neptune sits on a rock and holds a shell on his shoulders — it used to be a dance floor, and the statue itself was a decoration of the villa of the Pastin family. During World War II, part of the sculpture and the villa were damaged during bombing raids.

Statue of Neptune
Statue of Neptune

From Monterosso starts the famous Azure Trail, which connects all the villages of the Five Earths Park. It is the shortest pedestrian path in Cinque Terre, divided into 4 parts. It runs right in the cliffs above the sea. Its level of walkability is easy. From Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza is a walk of about 2 hours. To walk along the Azure Trail, you have to pay 7.5 € per person.

In addition to this trail, there are other free trails in Cinque Terre. There are about 100 different paths and routes in the park, and hiking enthusiasts come here especially for the trails. You should always check the information on the park’s website before heading out on a trail: many of the trails are closed for reconstruction after winter due to rockslides and flooding.

Sea view from the Azure Path
Sea view from the Azure Path
Cinque Terre Hiking Trail
Cinque Terre Hiking Trail

Monterosso has a lot of nice hotels and cafes, some great sandy beaches. Near the station they sell the most delicious ice cream. If staying for a few days in Cinque Terre, this is the most suitable place to stay.


The most beautiful village of the Cinque Terre National Park. Its bay is easily recognizable from postcards or magnets of the Five Lands. The colorful houses and fishing boats give Vernazza its special flavor.


The highlight of the town is its religious monuments. In the heart of Vernazza, the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch stands on a rock. It is notable for the fact that its interior is completely carved out of stone.

Vernazza is also famous for its pasticceria, a bakery called Il Pirata. The Sicilian owners offer excellent desserts, perhaps the best on the Gulf of Liguria.

Church of St. Margaret of Antioch
Church of St. Margaret of Antioch


This is the highest village of Cinque Terre. No boats come here, and from the train station you still have to climb the long stairs up to the top. It even has its own name: Lardarina.

View from Lardarin
View from Lardarin’s staircase

To get to Corniglia, you have to climb 377 steps. The town is very small, there is not much to do and the only attraction is the magnificent view of the sea. In the distance on a cliff you can see the houses of the neighboring town of Manarola.

From Corniglia you can see the houses of Manarola very well
From Corniglia you can see the houses of Manarola very well


The best time to visit Manarola is at Christmas. It is home to the world’s largest nativity scene. This eco-masterpiece was created by a local pensioner from 15,000 light bulbs. In summer, it is almost invisible among the vineyards.

White wine lovers may also enjoy Manarola. As in the entire Cinque Terre Park, grapes are grown here, from which sciacchetra is made into a liqueur wine. There is a museum in Manarola where you can buy a bottle as a souvenir.



A very beautiful and picturesque village of the park. The southernmost of the five towns of the Five Lands. Riomaggiore and Manarola are connected by the famous Path of Love, with which there is a beautiful legend about two lovers. They lived in villages that were feuding with each other. In secret from everyone, a young man and a young woman met exactly in the middle of their villages in the rocks, until one day during a storm they plunged into the sea and died.

After that, the people of Manarola and Riomaggiore reconciled and erected a monument to the lovers at the site of their secret meetings. The road that became fatal for the young couple was named the Path of Love.

Riomaggiore Bay
Riomaggiore Bay

Now this place is very much appreciated by couples in love, and for ordinary tourists it is a beautiful vantage point with a wonderful view of the sea. The length of the trail is only a couple of kilometers. This part of the Azure Path is the most popular among tourists and the only one with elevators for people with disabilities. Part of the Love Road is closed to the public until 2021 for reconstruction.

A path in the rocks along the sea
A path in the rocks along the sea

At least a couple of days should be set aside to visit the Cinque Terre Park: leisurely explore all the villages, hike along the rocky path along the sea, meet the locals and leave with a huge suitcase of unforgettable impressions. And a bottle of shaketra.