For a holiday in one of the prettiest places on Earth, you know we can’t look past the Cinque Terre in Italy. The five charming villages are situated amongst dramatic coastal scenery with vineyards stretching across the hilltops above them, complete with colourful homes that make the area world-famous. It can be hard to know where to start when you visit, but at least you can have this list of 12 must-dos to add to your bucket list when in Cinque Terre.
1. Try the local seafood
Given its proximity to the sea, you must try the local seafood in Cinque Terre. Whether it is a mussel pasta or fritto miso (a mix of fried seafood), or whether you’re in a restaurant or grabbing street food on the go, you can guarantee it will be fresh and delicious.
2. Have a beach day at Monterosso al Mare
Most of the Cinque Terre beaches are of the pebbly variety so Monterosso al Mare is a gem with its sandy shores. Plan ahead to get a prime position – you can rent a spot with a quintessential colourful beach umbrella, or simply set up on your own.
3. Find the best sunset spot
If we’re honest, there isn’t a bad spot to be found to watch the sunset in all of Cinque Terre. All we ask is that you take some snacks, settle in and watch the colours change on another glorious day.
4. Learn how to make pesto
Add this rainy day activity to your bucket list, pronto! Pesto originated in Liguria which is the region that the Cinque Terre is in. The best part? Getting to enjoy this saucy delight with fresh pasta at the end of the class.
5. Head to the hills for epic views
The Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero (Sanctuary of our Lady of Montenero) is an ancient Catholic church and monastery found high in the hills above Riomaggiore. It’s a popular hike (albeit a tough one in the heat of summer!) and the grounds and views are phenomenal. The return hike is equally as beautiful with the sea and Riomaggiore below you.
6. Sample the local tipples
Even though the Cinque Terre may be small, it still holds its own and produces some incredible wines. The surrounding hills are covered in vines so we would recommend booking in a vineyard tour so you can sample the local wines. The area typically produces a dry, yet aromatic, white wine, and is also well-known for a dessert wine called Sciacchetrà.
7. Walk between the villages
The National Park status of the Cinque Terre means there are many well-developed walking tracks – well over 120 kilometres to be precise! One of the most popular activities is to walk between the five villages, with the Blue Trail hike being one to add to your bucket list. Depending on how much time you have, this 11-kilometre hike can be split into four sections taking you between each village.
8. …or take the train
If you prefer to take it easy, you can opt to take the train between the villages. We would recommend buying a Cinque Terre Treno card which allows you unlimited train travel between La Spezia and Levanto, and all Cinque Terre villages.
9. …or travel by boat!
There is also a Cinque Terre Express ferry service which means you can admire Cinque Terre from the water.
10. Indulge in a long lunch
With such a picturesque coastal location and colourful homes everywhere, you will be spoilt for choice for a restaurant with a view for an idyllic long lunch. Start off with some anchovies, locally sourced and cured or fried; try polpo con patate (an octopus and potato salad); and move onto a seafood pasta, all enjoyed with a few glasses of the local wines. Buon appetito!
11. Visit the Portovenere area
Often overlooked next to the popularity of Cinque Terre, Portovenere is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with three of its own villages – Fezzano, Le Grazie and Porto Venere. Located south of Cinque Terre, this bucket list city has a truly medieval vibe and is best visited by boat.
12. Eat your way through focaccia heaven
Another Ligurian icon, focaccia was born in nearby Genoa so you know the quality is top notch when in Cinque Terre. This fluffy, yet crunchy, bread ranges from simple toppings (a sprinkle of good quality salt and olive oil) to more elaborate versions (with olives, tomatoes or other vegetables) – you’ve got to try them all!