Cinque Terre is made up of five villages along the Ligurian Coast. Each village has its own unique character and things to do. Everyone has their own opinion about which village is best. My personal favorite is Manarola! I decided to stay here as a base for my three days in Cinque Terre. To me it’s the perfect base! It’s romantic, packed with amazing restaurants, has the best wine & pesto and the prettiest views of all the terres. I’ll let you decide for yourself though 🙂
1. RENT A SEASIDE AIRBNB
I decided to use Manarola as my base so I decided to stay at an Airbnb. The apartment I rented has the highest balcony in all of Manarola and it overlooked the whole city. There are plenty of stairs and steep hills to get to this spot but it is totally worth it for that incredible view!
The thing I love most about renting an Airbnb is being able to live like a local. We got to stay in the cutest pink apartment. The owner Davide has lived in Cinque Terre his entire life. He now rents this apartment out through Airbnb. He also has an amazing restaurant Trattoria dal Billy right in town. There is a beautiful kitchen in the apartment and a local market close by as well. I enjoyed visiting the market and buying fresh pasta, prosciutto and cheese to have dinner on our balcony almost every night.
2. HIKING/SOAKING IN THE CLIFFSIDE VIEWS
Cinque Terre is one of the most romantic hiking regions in the world. Walking around it’s trails is one of the best things to do in Cinque Terre. I didn’t know this until I arrived but as of 2018 only 2 of the 4 trails are open due to storm damage. This makes it difficult to get around by foot to all 5 terre so in reality I did a lot less walking than I imagined. The trails here are no joke though! They wind up and down the mountains and along the villages at sea level. You are in for some exercise! Be sure to wear proper footware or you will not be allowed on some of the trails. I was told my shoes did not have enough traction, so I was not allowed on the major hiking trails.
If you didn’t pack your hiking shoes and still want to experience some dramatic seaside views there are still some trails you can walk around. My favorite spots were...Riomaggiore: Had a beautiful trail off to the left when walking to the main square. This area had lots of dramatic cliff side views. Riomaggiore: We also enjoyed hiking around the right side trails as well. Can you spot me in the last photo? 🙂
Manarola: Some of the most beautiful views can be seen from this town
We walked up the steep terraces and soaked up some of the gorgeous seaside views
Monterosso: This village is mostly flat and has a lot of great views on the coast.
3. HOP AROUND BY TRAIN
Although Cinque Terre is most famous for its hiking trails, the simplest and most convenient way to get around is by train. You can get a day pass and use the train an unlimited amount for that day. The villages are within minutes of each other and super convenient to hop around to.
4. BEACHING IN MONTEROSSO
Monterosso is the northernmost village in Cinque Terre. Not only is it the largest of the 5 villages but it’s the only one with resorts and a true beach. The Italian Rivera has the most incredible water. You must spend a day just relaxing on the beach watching the turquoise waves hitting the shore. This area also has a nice seaside walkway where you can enjoy a stroll with several shops, food & views. I also had some of the most delicious Focaccia here.
5. RELAX ON THE ROCKS OF MANAROLA
One of my favorite memories of Manarola was climbing the rocks at the base of the village and just hanging out. Lots of people enjoyed sitting in this area to enjoy their lunch, have a drink or some gelato. It felt so good to soak up the sun and people watch under the magical rainbow village. Since the water is really deep here this area is popular for cliff diving. The water was on the verge of being a little too cold for my taste so I wasn’t brave enough to dive in. I got to put my feet in the water though.
6. NESSUN DORMA PESTO CLASS/LUNCH
Did you know that pesto was created in the Cinque Terre region? Therefore there is pesto on everything! Pizza, pasta and even bruschetta. No matter how you eat it the pesto here it is absolutely delicious!
The pesto making class was one of the highlights of my Cinque Terre trip. The chef/owner of Nessun Dorma is very passionate and makes some of the most magnificent pesto! I loved his stories about how he got the spot to create this incredible restaurant. Let me tell you that making pesto is no easy work! The class lasts 1 1/2 hours. I signed up for the 10:30am class. They provide you with an apron and it is yours to keep! They also give you local white wine and follow it up with a charcuterie board for lunch. I wound up staying for another hour and half after the class was over just soaking up some of the best views in Cinque Terre.
Making Pesto at Nessun Dorma
The restaurant opens for lunch at 12:00pm and there is always a crazy line waiting to get in. When you do the Pesto Experience you are already in the restaurant with first dib seats and an amazing view. This is well worth the cost of 50 euro. I can't say enough good things about this experience!
7. TASTE THE WINE OF CINQUE TERRE
The wine grown in Cinque Terre is unlike any other wine in the world. Its vineyards are located on steep terraces along the cliffs jutting out over the Ligurian coast. It’s difficult to work this rocky terrain, so everything from vineyard maintenance to harvesting is done by hand. The wine in this region tasted unlike any wine I have ever tasted. It was so delicious that I can taste it by writing about it right now. Because these vineyards are located on the seaside there is a slight salty taste to the wine. It was absolutely divine.
White wine of Cinque Terre
Is it even possible to go to Italy and not consume gelato daily? So eating gelato as you walk through the streets of Cinque Terre is essential! My favorite gelato was Bellavista Gelateria in Manarola. Is this not the cutest gelato stand you have ever seen?
9. EAT FOCACCIA
Focaccia bread originated in Liguria which is in the area that Cinque Terre resides. You will find many shops devoted to this delicious fluffy bread, with all different toppings & flavors. It also makes for a great snack on the beach. Not going to lie I even picked up some fresh Focaccia for breakfast 🙂
10. ENJOY AN APEROL SPRITZ & APERTIF
If you only try one new drink while you’re in Italy, let it be an Aperol Spritz. This traditional Italian apertif drink is commonly served with snacks. It combines sweet, bubbling Prosecco with bitter, herbaceous Aperol before topping it off with a splash of soda water and an orange garnish. The result is a refreshing citrus drink that is perfect for a day spent by the sea in Cinque Terre!
11. SUNSET BOAT TOUR
The best views of the cinque terre villages are from the sea. One of the highlights from this trip was a sunset boat tour. I booked with Enjoy Cinque Terre Boat Tours. Here's the link!
Our tour left from Manarola. Our tour guide Daniele was a local himself and knew everything about Cinque Terre. He was so enthusiastic and entertaining & his boat was clean & beautiful. From the second we left the shore we were served unlimited wine and beer and listened to stories about traditions of life here and what it was like growing up in Cinque Terre. Did you ever wonder what’s the reason behind the colorful cliffside houses? It’s so fishermen could easily find their house from the water. They could also look for signals to see who was coming and going from their house while they were gone. As the sun started to set we headed back to Manarola soaking in the sunset from each village. Daniele played the perfect music and even serenaded us at the end. He stopped the boat in front of every village for photos. We saw the most beautiful colors in the sky that night. This was truly an unforgettable experience.
12. ENJOY THE VIEWS FROM RIOMAGGIORE
For the best view of Riomaggiore head towards the sea. Go up the stairs to the left and don’t forget to turn around and soak in the stunning views of the brightly colored houses seemingly stacked on top of each other.
13. RELAX IN VERNAZZA
Possibly my second most favorite village! The harbor is a lovely place to sit and relax. I had a delicious pesto pasta by the water and enjoyed the views of the water, the iconic colorful Italian boats and views of the colorful houses on the waterfront. I could literally people watch here for hours.
14. PASTA TAKEAWAY
I am so glad we decided to stop here. We needed some carbs and energy before our hike around Manarola so we decided to stop at Pasta Takeaway. The pasta was super fresh and the staff was so friendly. I had the gnocci with Walnut Sauce which was divine, and my fiancé had the ravioli. There were seats out front to relax and enjoy a spritz.
15. WATCH THE SUNSET OVER MANAROLA
Watching the sun setting over the ocean is absolutely magical anywhere in the world. In Manarola we sat on our terrace and watched the mesmerizing sunset high up in the terraces while drinking some cocktails.