Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore

Cinque Terre - Vernazza - Photo © Kah Kit Yoong
Cinque Terre – Vernazza – Photo © Kah Kit Yoong

The five villages in the Cinque Terre – Monterosso al Mare

In medieval times, the name “terra” (land) meant village. From this origin comes the name Cinque Terre (five villages). Having rounded Punta Mesco, coming from Genoa, the first village is Monterosso al Mare, the only one with a large beach and promenade connecting its historical center to the new Fegina quarter.

The town of Monterosso is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new town. The two areas are connected by a single tunnel that caters to pedestrians and the very few cars in the town.

Monterosso is a small town that in the summer months is overrun by tourists. The area is famous for it’s many lemon trees that can be seen throughout Monterosso. It is also renowned for it’s white wines, grapes, and olives.

Where to stay in Monterosso al Mare

Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and B&Bs in Monterosso: search and make a reservation here.

Vernazza - Photo © Enrico Pocopagni
Vernazza – Photo © Enrico Pocopagni

Vernazza

Vernazza, located at the mouth of a river, is naturally protected from the threat of the sea by a rocky promontory and it has always been the only safe landing point in the Cinque Terre.

Vernazza has no car traffic and remains one of the truest “fishing villages” on the Italian Riviera.

Historically, many of the villages on the Mediterranean were walled to protect against attacks from the sea. This area of the coast was often attacked by Muslim pirates and Vikings. Viking influence can still be seen in the occasional fair-skinned, red-headed children of the native villagers in the region.

Vernazza has the only proper harbor in the Cinque Terre. It was founded about 1000 A.D. and was ruled by the Republic of Genoa starting in 1276. Vernazza’s medieval castle, Belforte, was built in the mid-1500’s, primarily to protect the village from the Pirates.

Vernazza’s historic wealth is evidenced by the elegant style of its houses and streets, which are decorated with tower forms, open galleries, refined arcades and elaborate doorways. The Village is surrounded by very steeply-terraced Olive groves which are said to produce among the finest Olive oil in Italy.

The cobble stone main street from the station to the Harbor is classically beautiful, lined with colorful buildings that house small shops, cafes, and residences.

The town itself is very small and only accessible on foot.

Not to be missed is the first part of the hike southeast from Vernazza to Corniglia. This hike literally offers postcard views (like the photo above) of the town, the castle, and more. The trail starts just above the train station (it is well marked). The most amazing views are within the first 10 minutes of walking from the station as the trail wraps around the watchtower of Veranzza’s castle. You will definitely want your camera.

Recommended  restaurants (we visited them…):
Ristorante Hotel Gianni Franzi Piazza Marconi 1 0187-821-003 Vernazza

Where to stay in Vernazza

Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and villas in Vernazza: search and make a reservation here.

Corniglia
Corniglia – Photo © travelpeter

Corniglia

Corniglia – Photo © James Charley

Corniglia is a frazione (fraction) of the commune of Vernazza . Differently from the other localities of the Cinque Terre, Corniglia does not directly look upon the sea but raises on the top of a promontory about 100 meters high, surrounded on three sides by vineyards and terraces and the fourth side descends steeply on the sea.

To reach Corniglia, it is necessary to climb the Lardarina, a long brick flight of steps composed of 33 flights with 377 steps or, otherwise follow a vehicular road that, from the train station, leads to the village.

The village of Corniglia stretches along the main road, Fieschi Road, and the houses have one side facing this road and the other facing the sea. Corniglia is characterized by narrow roads and a terrace obtained in the rock from which all other four Cinque Terre’s villages, two on one side and two on the other, can be seen. The town planning structure presents also original characteristics compared to those of the other villages: the houses are set lower, and only more recently higher, similar to those of the villages of the hinterland.

Corniglia is mentioned in a famous novella of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Where to stay in Corniglia

Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and B&Bs in Corniglia: search and make a reservation here.

Manarola and Riomaggiore, clinging to the rock face, with their houses piled up in a multi-colored mosaic overlooking the sea, are the most typical and unspoiled villages of the five.

Manarola
Manarola – Photo © fisfra

Manarola

Manarola may be the oldest of the cities in the Cinque Terre, with the cornerstone of the church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1160. The local dialect is Manarolese, which is marginally different from the dialects in the nearby area.

Manarola’s primary industries have traditionally been fishing and wine-making. The local wine, called Sciacchetra’, is especially renowned; references from Roman writings mention the high quality of the wine produced in the region. Tourist attractions in the region include the famous walking trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore (called Via dell’Amore, “Love’s Trail”) and hiking trails in the hills and vineyards above the town.

Where to stay in Manarola

Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and condo hotels in Manarola: search and make a reservation here.

Riomaggiore Photo © Mike Yudaken
Riomaggiore – Photo © Mike Yudaken

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, dating from the early 13th century, is known for its historic character and its wine, produced by the town’s vineyards. Riomaggiore has a small beach and a wharf framed by tower houses, and one or two roads where people go and hang out, but most of the life at night can be found at the Bar Centrale.

Riomaggiore is the most southern village of the five Cinque Terre,

Where to stay in Riomaggiore

Hotels, guesthouses, apartments and villas in Riomaggiore: search and make a reservation here.

ALONG THE PATHS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN BUSH

Without doubt, the best way to discover, to try and understand and enjoy the Cinque Terre is to visit it on foot. Along the paths and the centuries old flights of steps, which up to a short while ago were the only communication routes between the five villages, you come under the magic of this landscape and its panoramas suspended between sky and sea.

The terraced vineyards alternate with strips of olive trees and where man has abandoned the soil, the Mediterranean bush has taken over again, with round euphorbia bushes, broom, white and pink cystus and the agaves that dot the landscape and heady, spicy perfume of the eternal flower.

The most famous path of the Cinque Terre is the “Via dell’Amore”, connecting Manarola to Riomaggiore and partially cut out of the steep cliffs overlooking the sea.

ACCOMMODATIONS
Do not expect to find fancy resorts in the Cinque Terre, but a few small hotels, and many rooms for rent will put you more in touch with the villages themselves, and with their residents.

Recommended  restaurants (we visited them…):
Ristorante Hotel Gianni Franzi Piazza Marconi 1 0187-821-003 Vernazza