One of the Top Vacation Spots on the Romantic Italian Riviera
Fun Vacation Ideas in Cinque Terre
There are many fun vacation ideas to explore in Cinque Terre (literal translation is “the Five Lands”), a unique and charming region in the province of Liguria and a part of the Italian Riviera.
The rugged coastline of Cinque Terre and picturesque hillsides make this an ideal setting for top vacation spots.
Escape back in time to a fantasy land with spectacular views from paths winding along the coastline of the Adriatic Sea or hiking trails in the mountains. Stop in the 5 villages to rest and relax, shop in the boutiques, or to enjoy superb local cuisine and wines.
Gorgeous Manarola is one of the Five Towns of Cinque Terre Italy
There is a broad range of activities to do from a relaxing beach holiday to exciting nature walks and hiking for visitors of all ages.
The most popular destinations stretch between Sestri Di Levanto, Levanto, La Spezia and Lerici.
Also on the Italian Riviera is Portofino, with beautiful landscape and historic sites which makes it another highlight of the region.
Hiking is One of the Fun Vacation Ideas in Cinque Terre
The five villages that form Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. La Spezia is to the east of “The Five Lands” and Levanto is west.
The five villages, including the coastline and surrounding hillsides are a part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Travel Friends of Mine in One of the Cinque Terre Cliff Side Tunnels
Fun Vacation Ideas – Getting to Cinque Terre
The villages are connected by paths, trains and boats and cannot be reached by car, except in some cases there are parking lots outside of town.
Among the fun vacation ideas is taking the local train from La Spezia to Genoa, which connects the Cinque Terre.
Most of the train ride is in a tunnel but occasionally the train emerges from the tunnel and there are quick glimpses of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Outside View of a Cinque Terre Cliff Side Tunnel
In addition to the train service, public transportation is provided by a fast boat which runs between the five villages, except Corniglia. This reasonably priced passenger ferry enters Cinque Terre from Genoa’s Old Harbour and La Spezia, Lerici or Portovenere.
Noted for its beauty, the locals have carefully built terraces on these rugged, steep hills right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea.
Part of the charm is that the villages appear to be frozen in time with the lack of visible modern development.
Vernazza – Have Fun Shopping in Cinque Terre Italy
It is so much fun to explore the winding cobblestone streets and pathways and find unique places to dine and shop.
If hiking is one of your fun vacation ideas, there is a fantastic walking trail which connects the five villages, and the portion of the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Road of Love”).
The difficulty of the trail varies from an easy stroll to a rough and physically challenging hike. The walk from Manarola to Corniglia is the easiest but the trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 stairs.
Stone Walls and Tunnels Line the Cliffs in Cinque Terre
The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza can be steep at certain places.
Be prepared for the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso, which is by far the steepest but it winds through stunning olive orchards and vineyards.
Although it is rough in places, it offers the best view of the bay and the spectacular panorama to both Monterosso and Vernazza.
Cliff Side Walking Path Between Manarola and Riomaggiore
Because Cinque Terre is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and having become a famous destination for tourists and requiring regular maintenance, there are fees to use the more popular walking trails.
The trails are relatively narrow and usually crowded in high tourist season.
All the villages have small hotels, inns, many bed and breakfasts and youth hostels throughout the area, many with beautiful views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding hills.
Fun Vacation Ideas in Cinque Terre Savour the Food and Wine
Located on the Mediterranean, the seafood is plentiful and fresh in the local cuisine.
I had the best calamari here in Vernazza, soft and tender, not chewy at all. And the setting was romantic and exquisite in a restaurant on top of the rocks with the waves splashing while enjoying a candlelight dinner.
Anchovies are a specialty of Monterosso. The terraced mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are used to cultivate grapes and olives.
The entire region of Liguria is known for pesto — a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese and Focaccia is a particularly common locally baked bread.
The Terraced Vineyards of Cinque Terre
The two local Cinque Terre wines, Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà, are produced from the Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes.
For wine connoisseurs, the wines are produced by the Cooperative Agricoltura di Cinque Terre (“Cinque Terre Agricultural Cooperative”), located between Manarola and Volastra. Other DOC producers are Arrigoni, Buranco, Forlini-Capellini and Walter de Batté.
The Climate of Cinque Terre Italy for Your Fun Vacation Ideas
Cinque Terre is protected against the cold north winds by the Apennines and the Ligurian Sea ensures mild winters. The climate of the Italian Riviera is usually pleasant and mild, but the summer months are the most favourable for beach holidays.
Walking tours and visits to Cinque Terre are recommended in the springtime and autumn to avoid the tourists. Rainfalls are regular during all seasons, but do not last very long.
Summer temperatures are very high reaching around 30C in July and August. It is almost impossible to get accommodation during the peak seasons and making reservations far in advance is recommended.
Since the winter season is quite mild, a visit to the region can be enjoyed even during this time of the year.
Fun Vacation Ideas with Overview of the Cinque Terre Villages
Monterosso al Mare
Most of the visitors of Cinque Terre choose Monterosso al Mare for accommodations but this town is has the most tourists of the five villages. Monterosso al Mare is the first village at the north end of the “five lands”.
This fishing village is the largest village and has a number of small hotels, cafes and restaurants and shops.
Spend a Day at the Monterosso Beach in Cinque Terre
As part of my fun vacation ideas, I enjoy sitting at a charming restaurant and outdoor cafe overlooking the sea and the beach with a glass of local wine and appetizers of young olives, pickled zucchini blossoms and peanuts.
I bought a piece of artwork here from a local artist and hopped on the ferry to get back to my apartment in Vernazza, dropped off the painting, and went out again for some more adventures.
The Gothic church of St. John the Baptist is the oldest church of the region dating back to the 13th century and is worth visiting.
Frequently called the most charming of the five villages, Vernazza provides the most popular photos.
A Stunning View of Vernazza from a Hiking Trail in Cinque Terre
Cars are forbidden here and the pastel coloured houses and winding narrow lanes make it an explorer’s dream.
Vernazza like the other villages has so many winding stairs and alleyways to explore.
Vernazza Harbour in Cinque Terre
It also has great restaurants, a cyber cafe, a bank, holiday rental apartments, bed and breakfast accommodations, and lovely boutiques and a great wine shop.
The Romantic Seaside Restaurant in Vernazza – Belforte Ristorante and Bar
Be sure to including dining down by the sea in your fun vacation ideas.
There is a wonderful romantic restaurant down by the sea.
Belforte Ristorante and Bar – “Restaurant on the Rocks”
You have to climb up the stone steps to the restaurant high “on the rocks” and have a meal while listening to the waves crashing on the shore of the harbour.
Gothic Church in Vernazza Cinque Terre
Vernazza also has a Gothic church dating back to the 14th century with a medieval round tower being one of the historic sights of the village.
Unlike the other villages, Corniglia is situated on the ridge of a rocky promontory a hundred metres above the sea.
That is why the ferry does not stop here but you can reach it by train or the walking path. It is the smallest of the five villages and is surrounded by large vineyards, steep and a winding brick staircase.
Virtually embraced by the hill on one side and the sea on the other, it is one of the oldest of the five villages.
Manarola on a Stormy Day in Cinque Terre
The houses are painted in various colours and are built side by side between the narrow intertwined lanes.
Surrounded by vineyards, the Gothic church Chiesa San Loren dates back to the 14th century. Most of the regional wine is grown on the slopes around Manarola.
This is the second largest of the five Cinque Terre villages and the southern end of the “five lands”.
The Tunnel to the Bar of Love in Cinque Terre Italy
Make sure to walk the path between Manarola and Riomaggiore and stop for a break at the Via Dell’Amore (“Road of Love”) restaurant perched on the cliff.
The Cliff Side and Outdoor Bar of Love in Cinque Terre
For me this was truly breathtaking and romantic, and definitely one of the most fun vacation ideas on my to-do list.
Taking a Break from my Hike on the Patio of the Bar of Love in Cinque Terre
In Riomaggiore, the steep and narrow steps descend to the tiny harbour.
But also on the steep main roadway is a wonderful grocery store and deli where I like to purchase a chunk of Pecorino cheese and fresh figs to snack on while touring the village.
A View of the Bar of Love in Cinque Terre and the Mediterranean Sea
This village too has a Gothic church, Chiesa San Giovanni Battista, dating back to the 14th century, and being the newest church Cinque Terre, it is worth a visit.
Also note that Riomaggiore is the headquarters of the Cinque Terre national park.
Fun Vacation Ideas and Tips for Getting Around Cinque Terre
When I stay in Cinque Terre, I buy a day pass for the ferry to travel between the villages. The day pass is very reasonable and worth purchasing because it provides you with the freedom of getting around the villages throughout the day.
You can buy the ferry day passes at the customer ticket office of the village train station or at a booth down by the seaside in some of the villages. Ask the friendly locals and they will gladly help you.
Sailing on One of the Cinque Terre Ferries Between Towns
I also buy a train pass at the La Spezia train station in case the waters of the Mediterranean are rough and the ferries are not running.
On a recent trip to Cinque Terre, I was passing by the region with a group of friends. We did not have time to stay overnight so we planned a day trip.
We had a lot of luggage in our vehicles which we did not want to leave behind in case our vehicles got stolen.
Train Tracks Along the Mediterranean Coast of Cinque Terre
We dropped our luggage off at the La Spezia train station baggage storage depot for a small cost. As there is limited parking at the train station, we parked our rental cars on a side street.
It had been a rainy day and the sea along the Cinque Terre coastline was rough and the ferries were not running. We bought a day pass for the train and had a great day and accomplished many of our fun vacation ideas without worrying about our luggage.
Check the Cinque Terre link below for information on the ferry service:
Other charming towns to visit near the Cinque Terre:
- La Spezia
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