The five fishing villages of the Cinque Terre are the jewels of the crown of the Italian Riviera. For any person who has a knack for hiking at iconic locations that offer an amalgam of views, visiting these jewels is a must. They still exhibit their unique and isolated authenticity just the way they did decades ago when these villages sheltered the Italian peasants and the fishermen.
It is this uniqueness, the unimaginable beauty along with a preserved historic vibe that brought me to these villages. But more than anything the breathtaking coastal or mountain trails had been calling out my name from the very moment I saw their pictures.
By the looks of these villages, one might think that they are essentially identical. However, it is only when you visit them that you get to know that each village has its own charm that would sweep you off your feet.
Starting from the easternmost village and ending in the westernmost, let me share how I found the places and which one owned my heart completely.
The Five Villages of Cinque Terre – Which One is the Best to Visit?
This one is the largest and the most scenic of all the villages. Its scenery begins to dance in full grandeur when the sun starts saying goodbye. The buildings are peculiar, that’s what I liked, and they descend down to the harbor almost as if they’d dive right into the water one by one. While this really gave me a completely new experience, what refreshed my weary nerves were the botanical garden and the bird sanctuary located atop the hill.
Manarola is known as the producer of the Sciacchetra – the famous Cinque Terre wine that is served with cheese and desserts. It has a godly sweet taste and I was particularly lucky to taste it and now, I can brag about tasting one of the most delicious traditional wines in the world. I found Manarola as the best village to bask at sunset. The golden rays of the setting sun and the colourful houses – when merged – look like a perfect match made by nature.
This village is a little different from the rest because it lacks proper access to the sea. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot peak at the sea from the town. And it’s also a long climb via a series of concrete steps to reach the village itself from the train station. I was told that on a clear day, you can glimpse parts of the five villages from here.
If there’s a place anywhere in the 5 villages of Cinque Terre that offers little resistance to your rendezvous with the water, it is the harbor of Vernazza. It is one of the icons of the village and I could see why. However, what truly made me sigh were the facades of the houses lined in harmony with their faces to the sea. Their pastels glowed miraculously in the gleaming sunlight. It is from here that you can find your way up to the top through the signature caruggi or the narrow alleys.
I was yearning for a proper beach in Cinque Terre and Monterosso is the place that offered it to me. Lined with lemon trees and anchovies of plum, the village showed that it served the westernmost part of the Cinque Terre just the way it deserved to be served.
To sum up, here’s my take:
Riomaggiore is for dramatic cliff landscape and ultimate camwhoring (aka selfie).
Manarola is for sunset with a glass of wine from the bar overlooking the painted houses on the craggy cliff.
Corniglia is for its narrow streets and quietness.
Vernazza is for your ultimate hike around the village.
Monterosso is for the beach.
Every village welcomed me with different vibes and I have peculiar memories of each of them, but the one that truly took my breath away and where I left my heart was Manarola.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
It is expensive to stay in any of the five villages mentioned above. And there are also very few choices. It’s even hard to find affordable accommodation within your backpacking budget. So, I decided to stay at La Spezia, the nearest town where the five villages are under its care. Also, La Spezia’s Train Station is well-connected to many parts of Italy. I stayed at Grand Hostel Manin which I booked via Booking.com. You can also find other accommodations from HostelWorld.