Literally translating as the “five lands,” the Cinque Terre comprises five gorgeous little villages clinging to the coast of the Italian Riviera, an easy trip from Florence. A popular thing to do is hike between villages along the clifftops, looking down on the blue, blue sea.
Another way to do it is by boat: a ferry runs between four of the five towns. Or you could catch a train. The one thing you can’t do is drive your car there; these colorful towns and landscape are carefully protected and that’s part of the charm, and a major reason it’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage area.
The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost of the towns and dates from the thirteenth century. It’s known for the wine produced from vineyards that cling to the surrounding cliffs and hills.
Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the villages and has a new and old town, connected by pedestrian tunnel. It has the longest sandy beach of the five towns and is a popular summer resort. Monterosso al Mare even has a few cars!
Vernazza definitely has no cars – they are all confined to the parking area outside of town. It’s retained its spirit as a small fishing community and has a fifteenth century castle to protect it from pirates.
Manarola is the oldest of the towns with its church, San Lorenzo, dating from 1338. Until the days of tourism, Manarola survived on fishing and wine production – life must have been very pleasant indeed.
The odd one out is Corniglia, which is not actually on the coast but high on top of a promontory. It has views of the others: two from each side. It also differs by having road traffic, from the station a bus can take you up the steep hill on a narrow road. Or you can walk the 382 steps if you’re brave.