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Cinque Terre, Italy
Fast Facts
Boating & Sailing
Places to Visit
Things to Do
Points of Interest Nearby

Manarola, Cinque Terre


Photo by Nicoletta Marconi

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The Cinque Terre or five lands are exalted by tourists from round the world. For many, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must see on a first, second and third trip to Italy. What's the allure? The five lands - Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore - are perched on a mountainous coast. They're surrounded by steep slopes of terraced vineyards and olive groves. They're set in a stunning natural location. The Cinque Terre, once reachable only by boat or cliff-skirting pathway, boasts crystal clear waters and one of Italy's best known hiking trails. Apart from Monterosso, which has grown in size, hamlets the Cinque Terre remain. And when the day trippers leave, they're deliciously serene. But make no mistake; there are no luxury shops, gourmet restaurants or five star hotels on this stretch of the Ligurian coast. Casual cafes and restaurants serve simple yet delectable local cuisine. Shops sell primarily local foodstuff - olives, wine and cheese. The quick-witted proprietors have turned modest apartments into modern bed and breakfasts complete with private bath, minibar and, in many cases, a spectacular view. Why bring the kids? There is no reason not to!
Getting There
Italy's Cinque Terre are accessible by car, train and boat. The train is by far the most convenient way to reach this mountainous stretch of coast. A boat trip is likely to prove a big hit with children. The nearest airports are located in Genoa and Pisa; the Cinque Terre is roughly 90 minutes from each. Local trains on the Genoa - La Spezia rail line stop in all five villages. Intercity (IC) trains stop in Monterosso al Mare. Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore are reachable by boat from coastal villages in Liguria and beach resorts in Tuscany. The ferry service operates May through September. Of note, routes vary with the day of the week and some routes are operative for a limited period - mid-July to mid-September. Inquire before making plans. Families intent on traveling to the Cinque Terre by car should consider more than miles. The narrow SS 370 has hundreds of hairpin turns. Parking is extremely limited. For Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza, exit the A12 Genoa-Livorno motorway at either Carrodano-Levanto or Brugnato and follow the signs for Monterosso. For Riomaggiore and Manarola, exit the A12 at La Spezia. The drive to Corniglia, the middle village, is never ending from all exits.
Getting Around
Trains, boats and trails - both hiking and biking - make exploring the Cinque Terre both easy and fun. And they are by far the most convenient means to get around. The train is the quickest way to move about but has one drawback, no view. The rail line is nearly all tunnels. Passenger ferries shuttle tourists village to village hourly July through September but don't stop in Corniglia and cruise past Vernazza when the sea is rough. Hiking trails connect all five lands and offer spectacular views. The most popular trail is the coastal pathway or Sentiero Azzurro; roughly 1800 walkers hike some part of the track each day in summer. Mountain biking on the Sentiero Rosso is increasingly popular. Family Travel Tips: Heavy rains can affect the coastal path between Monterosso and Corniglia; check trail conditions at the local tourist office before setting out. A trail fee, currently €5.00 per day for adults and €2.5 per day for children aged 4 -12, is charged to all walkers accessing the Sentiero Azzurro or path N2. All other trails are free of charge. The park service rents mountain bikes. Corniglia is perched high above the sea; 377 steps up from the train station. There is no train service to Portovenere.
When to Travel
Spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) are the best times of year for a Cinque Terre holiday. The weather is generally warm and sunny and the throngs have yet to arrive or long since departed. Summer (June through August) is hot and crowded. Winter (November through February) is cold and rainy.
Health & Safety
Sun safety and heat related illnesses are the main health risks in the Cinque Terre. Improper footwear is the main cause of incidents on area trails. Wear sturdy shoes and hat with a brim. Apply high factor sunscreen to all exposed areas, including nose, ears, and toes, before setting out and repeat applications throughout the day. Carry plenty of water and remind children to sip liquids frequently. Select a trail that is commensurate with the age and ability of the kids. Heading to the beach? Pack water shoes. Most swimming areas are rock beaches.
Things to Keep in Mind
Advance booking is essential from May through September.
Travel Trivia
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