The coastal section of the Italian Riviera which encompasses the five villages of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore is commonly known as the Cinque Terre (Five Lands). These villages have been vulnerable to pirate’s raids for centuries, but as soon as the menace expired they began to grow. You can visit these villages by boat or by foot, in fact there are fourteen paths that go from town to town. The view is breathtaking with its characteristic vineyards covering up the mountains that end up right in the sea. The Cinque Terre is been declared World heritage and is a National Park and a Protected Marine Area.
The town of Monterosso is the biggest and has the only one of them with a proper beach. Nearby Fegina’s beach you can see the Statue of the Giant, a sculpture which dates back to 1910, represents Neptune it’s been damaged by WWII bombing and by strong sea in 1966.
You can visit the Church of St. John the Baptist , Romanesque black and white church which dates from 1307.
Taking the Switchback of the Friars you are going to reach a convent church and a cemetery within a ruined castle. Inside the 18th century Church of the Capuchin Friars is located a great painting of the Crucifixion which is attributed to the Flemish painter Antony van Dyck. The Ruined Castle with the Cemetery are the oldest parts of the town, from up there you can also enjoy of a stunning view from the top.
The town of Vernazza is the only one with a natural harbor, the little square in front of it is a popular place for socializing and hanging out. The Castle used for pirate sighting as a way to protect the town from raids. Corniglia is the only one which is not on the seaside but it’s well-known for its wine. In the village centre you can go to the Belvedere Santa Maria for a panoramic view.
One of the best experiences in Manarola is the Vineyard Walk, enjoy the smell, the view and discovery the neighborhood. The highlight is surely the well-known Lover’s Lane (Via dell’Amore) which links together Manarola and Riomaggiore: it’s a lovely flat path 1 km long which is flat and suited for everybody. The Lovers’ Line is part of the Blue trail (Sentiero azzurro) that goes from Monterosso to Riomaggiore, but if you want to take the whole path you are going to need proper hiking equipment.
Riomaggiore is called like (Major River) because once the biggest river of this region used to pass from here. In town you’ll see colorful murals picturing the construction of the dry stone walls which characterize the vineyards and the countryside all around the Cinque Terre.
What/where to eat
Between one village and another, you must take advantage to taste the dishes of local cuisine that draw on the Ligurian tradition, with many specialties based on pesto and fresh fish, among which the Monterosso anchovies, but also mussels and gianchetti are famous. Among the products appreciated for a quick and delicious meal there are also the Genoese focaccia and farinata, which together with the fried takeaway fish, represent the most popular specialties to eat while walking through the villages. In each of the five locations you will find traditional and modern trattorias, but in particular in Vernazza we recommend:
Belforte. Located in a wonderful panoramic position overlooking the sea, it offers a cuisine based mainly on fish and seafood.
Lunch Box. A central bar perfect for an aperitif or snack based on salads, Ligurian focaccia, savory pies, sandwiches and desserts.
Vineria Santa Marta. Excellent wine shop overlooking the main street of Vernazza, with a vast assortment of local wines and craft beers, to be accompanied with typical dishes and snacks from the area such as bruschetta and other traditional dishes.
Instead here some addresses in Monterosso:
Gastronomia San Martino. In the historic center of Monterosso, a small restaurant offering typical seafood dishes from the area, such as trofie al pesto, octopus salad, etc.
Da Eraldo. Always in the center, a traditional trattoria that brings to the table the best Ligurian dishes, with dishes mainly based on fish but also cutting boards and tastings of land and sea.
Il Bocconcino. An excellent takeaway fried fish, ideal for eating while taking a walk on the sea at sunset
What/where to buy
A trip to the Cinque Terre is an excellent opportunity to shop and buy souvenirs and local products, in particular gastronomic delights such as pesto, Monterosso salted anchovies, fresh pasta including trofie, extra virgin olive oil and local honey. For wine and spirits lovers there is the limoncello produced with Monterosso lemons, the D.O.C. of the Cinque Terre and the sweet wine Sciacchetrà, an excellent pairing for desserts and cheeses. Speaking of desserts, there is no shortage of traditional sweets in the Cinque Terre, such as the Genoese Pandolce, a sort of panettone, and the Rice Cake. The Cinque Terre are also renowned for their artisan traditions, in particular linked to the production of jewelery and ceramics sold in the shops of the various locations.
In the five villages you will have no difficulty finding souvenir shops, food and craft shops and in each location you will find something different. Vernazza has some shops specializing in unique souvenirs and gifts, mostly handmade, while Riomaggiore is perfect for buying fresh and locally grown agri-food products. Monterosso is full of wine bars and food shops where you can buy wines, olives products based, pesto, etc.
Cantina du Sciacchetra is one of the best known shops in Monterosso to buy local products such as wine, pesto and other specialties.
Fabbrica d’Arte. In Monterosso, a small shop-gallery where you can buy beautiful ceramics and hand-painted terracotta items.
Art’in Banchi is a Riomaggiore shop that promotes local craftsmanship: you will find ceramic objects, jewelry and much more.
Enoteca Internazionale. In Monterosso, it is one of the oldest wine bars in Italy, ideal for buying wines or tasting.
Cantina Cinque Terre / Società Agricola Cooperativa. In Riomaggiore, a recommended place to buy wines, olive oil and other gastronomic delights.
ShopInn Brugnato Cinqueterre. Recently inaugurated, it is the first large outlet village in Liguria, with over 100 clothing, sports and cosmetics shops, alongside craft activities, local and organic products, restaurants and cafes.