14 Incredible Things to Do in Cinque Terre And Some Tips For Your Travel

Steve Cummings

Cinque Terre is found on a dramatic coast of the crystalline blue-hued Mediterranean Sea. There is a reason that this stunning conglomerate of five small fishing villages is a must-visit for tourists looking to experience a different Italian holiday. 

It can be a little intimidating at first, though, given that there is so much to see and do in even the smallest of these towns, which is why we have put together this guide to the best things to do in Cinque Terre. Before we get to the list, we will also offer suggestions and tips to make your trip as good as possible.

1. Avoid Going During Peak Season

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Many make the mistake of heading to Cinque Terre during the peak season, deliberately or just because they can't book too far in advance. Don't do it. Plan as far as possible to go sometime in May or even September. This will ensure you can enjoy the best things to see and do in Cinque Terre without it being as crowded as it would be from June to August.

2. Understand the Travel Options Before You Go

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Many assume that, like most of Italy, you can see the best of Cinque Terre's different villages by car. However, there is little parking, and you can only get from one village to another by walking, taking a boat, or taking the train. If you intend to take your car or rent one, make sure you can plan parking in advance.

3. Visit All Five Villages

‎Manarola, Italy
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Given that its name refers to the fact that it is a collection of five connected and colorful villages, one of the best things to do in Cinque Terre for a first visit is to explore all five villages. That means stopping in Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso Al Mare. Even if your time there will have a very tight and strict itinerary, you should plan to visit each of these unique fishing villages.

4. Train Between the Villages

Train in Cinque Terre
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When you only have a short amount of time to spend in Cinque Terre or are interested in one of the unique things to do in Cinque Terre, the train is the perfect mode of transportation. Its route takes you over a track almost perilously located over the beautiful Ligurian Sea and offers some of the most breathtaking views possible. The Cinque Terre Express connects seven cities: Levanto, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and La Spezia.

The great thing is that the journeys between towns are only between 10 and 15 minutes, and numerous trains run every day every 15 to 20 minutes. You can buy specific tickets from any of the train stations above, but a more cost-effective option, especially if you are spending a long time in the area, is the Cinque Terre Treno Card. Remember you will need to get your regular train ticket validated and should also note that it is valid for just 75 minutes and one single route. However, the Cinque Terre Treno Card does not require validation. 

5. Go to One of the Many Beaches

Beach in Riomaggiore
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You may want a more traditional summer vacation atmosphere and wish to visit the beach. Some stunning beaches are among the top things to do in Cinque Terre. In Riomaggiore, you will find a beach made from pebbles -there is no sand! But one of the popular pastimes is jumping into crystal-clear waters from the rocks. 

In Monterosso, a more traditional sandy beach allows you to enjoy water-based activities or chill and soak up the sun's rays. While Manarola does not have a beach, it has a little harbor. Many people love to jump from it into the calm, crisp waters on warmer days. 

6. Watch Spectacular Sunsets

Tybee Island beach sunset

When looking for romantic things to do in Cinque Terre, nothing will bring you closer to your significant other than watching the beautiful sunsets you can only experience in these five pretty little towns. 

While you could watch unobstructed sunsets from hundreds of different spots in any of the cities, one of the best is when you take the path to the iconic Nessun Dorma wine bar in Manarola. Another incredible sunset can be experienced on the trail that takes you to Vernazza from Monterosso. This is especially invigorating as you see all the vibrant colors of the pretty houses while taking in the drama of the sun setting into the horizon behind the sea. 

Finally, if you are in Riomaggiore, the harbor offers excellent spots to experience the sunset, especially with some tasty focaccia and a glass of local red or white wine. 

7. Scale the Stairs Up to Corniglia

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One of the free things to do in Cinque Terre involves taking the stairs up to the top of Corniglia. Known by locals as Lardarina, all 377 steps are made from brick and can be quite tasking for even the fittest tourists. Remember, if you are traveling there during summer, wear a hat to protect you from the sun's heat and have a generous water supply to stop dehydration.

All that hard work will be worth it when you reach the top and enjoy the stunning views. 

8. Get to the Top of Doria Castle's Tower

If you want outdoor things to do in Cinque Terre, head to Doria Castle, an 11th-century structure in Vernazza. This is a pretty hard landmark to miss, found at the village's south side, standing imposingly over the town 60 meters high. There isn't much to the castle to write home about or post a big blog about, but the panoramic views it offers from the top of the tower are excellent.

Be aware that while the admission fee is only 2 Euros (which we love as it is frugal), they do not have the facilities to accept anything but cash, so make sure you have some physical money on you when you arrive. The downside? While its position offers stunning vistas of the sea and rugged coast, you will see little of Vernazza. That is possible, though, if you take the trail that leads you from Vernazza to the neighboring town, Monterosso.

9. Visit a Local Vineyard

When in Italy, you should always drink some local wine. It would be practically rude not to. One of the things to do for couples in Cinque Terre is visit one of the many local vineyards. As you travel around the five villages, you will notice many vineyards dotted with steep hills in the region. The local winemakers are proud of this. Many of the vineyards offer tours that include a tour of the vineyards themselves and then the winery, where you can taste their wine paired with some other delicious local produce. 

The area is particularly famous for Sciacchetra, a sweet passito wine. Make sure you try this fine local offering.

10. Explore the Region Via Boat

We have already noted that getting around each town and between them by car is hard. While the train is a popular option, another exciting thing to do in Cinque Terre is explore the region by boat. You can take one of the many ferries connecting the towns or rent your boat for the day. Just as the view from up high differs from the view from a train, the view of the area from a boat is even more distinct. 

It also means you can take in the delightful Mediterranean sun while gazing in awe at the passing coasts and find little secluded beaches and secret coves you could not reach on foot or any other way. 

11. Enjoy Some Local Food

Caffè Latte
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One of the best things to do in Cinque Terre for foodies is to try local fare. Why not do as the Italians do and start your day with a creamy cappuccino or an energizing caffe with a crispy cornetto?

Cornetto is similar to croissants but crispier due to less butter in the mixture. Focaccia is particularly famous around Cinque Terre. So if you are looking for a suitable lunch or just a snack to tide you over, you should try Focaccia Genovese. If you are in Monterosso, stop at Il Fornaio di Monterosso. This small eatery has many little tables outside where you can enjoy food and watch the sea. 

As pesto originates from this area in northern Italy, you should try dishes like trofie al pesto. To finish a typical day, you might try the fresh catch of the day in a restaurant with a stunning sea view. In Liguria, although they may not be to everyone's taste, anchovies are a staple. 

12. Gelato, Gelato, Gelato

Italian Gelato
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Still on the subject of food, one of the cheap things to do in Cinque Terre at any time of the day, no matter where you are, is to have creamy, delicious gelato. We'd love to know if you can tell us a better way to refresh and chill on a hot summer's day in Italy than eating some sweet and ice-cold gelato. There are many great places to get decent gelato around Cinque Terre. Still, one of the best is Gelateria Vernazza in Vernazza, which serves truly creamy gelato with unique and seasonal flavors using local ingredients. 

On the days when it's really very hot, though, you may want to try something a little different—granita al Limone. This is made from sugar, water, and freshly squeezed local lemon juice. A granita is similar to a sorbet, but waterier. 

13. Take a Hike

nature hike
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One of the most exciting things to do in Cinque Terre, without a shadow of a doubt, is take a hike. If you are worried about it being too complicated, don't be. Most hikes in and around Cinque Terre are generally suitable for anyone. As long as you are reasonably fit and have no severe impairment or ailments, you should be able to handle uneven terrain and stairs. Make sure you dress appropriately and leave the flip-flops and sandals at your accommodation, wearing more comfortable walking shoes. More than 120 km/75 miles of trails lead into these towns' rugged mountains.

Cinque Terre was awarded the accolade of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and it's not hard to see why.

14. Learn to Make Pesto Like Locals

Back to food and one of the region's best-loved creations – pesto. One of the most fun things to do in Cinque Terre is learn how to make traditional pesto. Nessun Dorma is perhaps one of the best places to learn how to make this delicious sauce, and you will be treated to excellent background information and stories about its history from Simone, the host. 

15. Take in the View from Nessun Dorma

Let's stick to Nessun Dorma for the next suggestion. One of the most amazing things to do in Cinque Terre is to enjoy the breathtaking views from Nessun Dorma. It is one of the best places to eat delicious food in Manarola. However, you need to understand that it is not a proper restaurant and is best for an evening aperitif or a spot for lunch. The views are worth whatever you have there.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, many reasons exist to visit this pristine and intriguing part of Italy. Whether that area is your sole destination or if you are taking in the area as part of a more significant Italian holiday, we hope our guide to the best things to do in Cinque Terre helps you have the best vacation possible.

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