The Charm of Cinque Terre
  • Karen Buffier

The Charm of Cinque Terre

There are some places in the World that just continually entice you back, and the gorgeous Cinque Terre region in Italy is one of these places for us. Visiting the Cinque Terre with kids is also an experience not to miss. The allure of Cinque Terre is that each time you go you can find a new favourite place, more wonderful restaurants and views to absolutely die for and whether you visit as a couple or later on when you have kids this place is truly amazing. Visiting the Cinque Terre with kids is a great option with family friendly accommodation and activities.

You would have to have been living under a rock to not have seen photos of the Cinque Terre splashed across websites or newspapers, and in real life the five colourful villages are supremely postcard perfect by anyone’s expectations. The bright colours of century old buildings hug precariously to the rugged cliff edges and spill downwards to meet the ocean. Throw in authentic eateries, the coolest cliff edge bars and some of the most memorable hikes means this place is growing in popularity at a staggering rate.

Selfishly, I would love to keep this place a secret, but the word is already out and there will be nothing to keep the tourists away. You can find out all the important info about getting your National Park passes and which trails are open etc on the National Park website.

To really give justice to the area I highly recommend spending at last 4-5 days and you absolutely should rent out a local pensione or guest room in one of the five villages so that you can enjoy the villages at their most sublime times – early in the morning and late in the afternoon and evening when many of the day trippers are well on their way back to the larger towns!

There are loads of things to do in the Cinque Terre and you could easily spend a week or more here. We love the walks between each of the villages, from the cruisy romantic stroll between Riomaggiore and Manarola to the impressive panoramic view as you climb down into Vernazza harbour. There are endless hours of walks in the region giving some of the most spectacular views in all of Italy and there are constant improvements and new trails being opened each season so there is always more to be discovered.

During the peak summer period, you can do some village hopping via the ferry shuttle or hire a sea kayak to skim the shoreline, taking in the splendour of the villages from the water. When the weather is hot you can also cool off and enjoy swimming on the beaches of Riomaggiore or Monterosso.

Sunset is a truly spectacular experience in the Cinque Terre and you will want to find a perfect nook to take it in. Pie’ de Na is a sentimental favourite spot for a drink and is perched over the waters’ edge of Riomaggiore. Also, in Riomaggiore a great evening stroll is to head to the walkway at the top of town which curls around to a small lookout which you will often share at this time of night only with the local townsfolk.

Of course, the restaurants in Cinque Terre are all fabulous but I do recommend taking the time to find the smaller family run eateries to really enjoy some flavoursome food. Being fishing villages the seafood dishes are very popular.

While we talk food, we have always found the focaccia in this region to be particularly yummy. The focaccias with simple herbed flavours and good quality olive oils are super easy and tasty snacks for on the go. There are loads of great local supermarkets and bakeries to pack yourself some super picnics to enjoy in some beautiful locations along the walking trails.

If you enjoy a smidge of shopping in your holiday then there are also some appealing jewellery shops and boutiques with unique products to browse in each of the villages.

If you love great food, beautiful old villages, beaches and hiking then the Cinque Terre is a perfect destination for you to add to your travel bucket list.

How to get to Cinque Terre

Whilst you can technically get to the villages via road, by far the easiest transport option is to take the train (treni italia). With a station at every village you can hop on and off in the heart and enjoy a hassle-free visit. La Spezia is the gateway and train travel is easy from all directions in Italy. For getting between the villages you essentially have three options – train it, boat it or walk it.

When is a good time to visit Cinque Terre

We have always visited Cinque Terre in the shoulder season (either April/May or September/October) and from what I have heard this is a really good thing. In the height of summer, Cinque Terre can become a teaming storm of tourist feet which is really not how you want to experience this place. Prices are cheaper, accommodation more plentiful and the experience ever more peaceful if you consider visiting in the shoulder or lower seasons. The weather in the shoulder seasons is comfortably warm still without sharing it with thousands of other people.

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

Many people visiting the Cinque Terre want to know where to focus their time and importantly where to stay. For me, it is difficult to answer this question decisively because each of the villages have their own personality and individual beauty which will appeal to different people for different reasons.

My favourite village is Riomaggiore, due to its more laid back, relaxed and classic Italian beauty. Riomaggiore is the largest of the Cinque Terre villages so has a great range of affordable home stay and pensione accommodation, many of which have lovely views over the ocean and village.

Whilst the Cinque Terre has many fancier hotels I really do prefer and enjoy staying and living like the locals in this area. It is nice to blend into a traditional apartment and live for a few days as the locals do to feel a part of the community. The roof tops of many of these buildings are perfect for an evening drink watching the sun go down.

Coming a close second for me is Vernazza due to its very attractive harbour with colourful boats and a vibrant, umbrella filled piazza. Vernazza is a great lunch time visit with bustling cafes and interesting people watching. The sleepier towns of Manarola and Corniglia have some exceptional boutique shopping and what I would consider some of the best traditional restaurants where you are served unpretentiously by friendly local families. Monterosso is the more beachy, sophisticated village with many of the lovely hotels. In Monterosso a perfect day on the beach awaits followed by a stroll along the waterfront with gelati in hand.

All in all, every village is worthy of your time and you will love every moment you spend here.

Cinque Terre with Kids – are the villages family friendly

Absolutely! The lack of any traffic and the footpath friendly nature of the Cinque Terre means it is a safe and fun place to travel with kids. The trails are not overly pram friendly as there are a large amount of steps and uneven terrain but the villages themselves are very navigable with prams. If your kids are a little older and out of the pram then many of the hikes are a great way to get out and about as a family. Kids will love the colour and vibe of the Cinque Terre and family days are spent swimming, exploring and eating all their favourite foods – it’s a pizza and gelati heaven for kids.

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