The Charm of Cinque Terre
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
There are some places in the World that 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 exceptional with amazing summer weather, convenient transportation options and amazing food, hiking and beaches.
The allure of Cinque Terre is that each time you go you find a new favourite place, more wonderful restaurants and views to absolutely die for. Whether you visit as a solo, couple or later on when you have kids this place is truly amazing.
You would have to have been living under a rock to not have seen photos of the Cinque Terre splashed across websites or newspapers. In real life the five colourful villages are supremely postcard perfect by anyone’s expectations and take my breath away every time we visit. The bright colours of century old buildings hug precariously to the rugged cliff edges and spill downwards to meet the ocean.
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.
The Cinque Terre Towns
Cinque Terre as the name suggests is made up of five small coastal villages arching out from Riomaggiore in the South, through Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare in the northern end.
Many people ask what the best town in Cinque Terre is?
My favourite village is Riomaggiore, due to its laid back, relaxed and classic Italian beauty. It is probably one of the least touristy of the villages and come evening time allows you to find the perfect sunset spot and bask in the beauty with a little bit of peace and quiet.
It has some brilliant elevated walkways that are great to stroll or find a spot to sit in the evening!
Coming a close second for me is Vernazza with its very attractive harbour of 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 the best traditional restaurants where you are served unpretentiously by friendly local families.
Monterosso is the more beachy, sophisticated tourist village with many of the lovely luxury 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. It really comes down to personal preferences and because getting between each of the villages is so quick and easy on the train you can spend plenty of time in each village.
Cinque Terre Weather in Summer
The best time to visit Cinque Terre is any time between the end of April and late September when the weather is warm and mostly sunny.
Summer in Cinque Tere is pretty hot and lines up with the Northern hemisphere summer break so is also the busiest period to visit. Cinque Terre can become a teaming storm of tourist feet in summer which is really not how you want to experience this place.
Prices are cheaper, accommodation more plentiful and the experience more enjoyable if you consider visiting in the shoulder seasons. The ideal months to enjoy balmy weather and slightly lower tourist numbers is May/early June and September.
Cinque Terre Card
Hiking Cinque Terre does require purchasing the "Cinque Terre Card" which can be purchased from the local train stations and visitor centres. The card assists the local regions efforts to preserve the environment and allows you unlimited access to local transportation, hiking trails and wi-fi during your stay.
How many days in Cinque Terre?
To really give justice to the area I highly recommend spending at last 4-5 days and absolutely consider renting 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 afternoons and evenings are when many of the day trippers head back to the larger surrounding towns and gives you a totally different experience of the Cinque Terre.
Things to do in Cinque Terre with Kids
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 from Monterosso. 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.
Riomaggiore to Manarola Walk
The Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Lane as this walk is only 1.5kms and the easiest of all the connecting walks with stunning ocean vistas. This is the perfect walk with young kids or a pram as it is paved.
Unfortunately the Via dell/Amore is currently closed for an extended period due to a landslide and will re-open in 2022.
Manarola to Corniglia Walk
A 3.5km stretch of rugged trails that climb up and down through the vineyards. One of the quieter stretches of trail so a nice one to get away from the crowds.
Corniglia to Vernazza Walk
4km and another quieter section of trail that climbs up and down along the coastline with a lovely viewpoint at Punta Palma.
Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare Walk
This section of the Cinque Terre trekking is the most popular leg and well worth doing it in the direction back towards Vernazza to get the classic shot and view of the harbour as you approach the small town. This leg is 3.5kms and winds through olive groves and seaside mountain trails.
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. There are some sea kayaking options which are a beautiful way to sightsee the coastline from the water back onto the villages.
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 often shared 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.
We have always found the focaccia in this region to be particularly yummy. The focaccia with simple herb flavours and good quality olive oils are super easy and tasty snacks for on the go. There are loads of great local delis and bakeries to pack yourself some super picnics to enjoy in some beautiful locations along the walking trails.
If you enjoy shopping in your holiday then there are also some appealing jewellery shops and boutiques with unique products to browse in each of the villages. There are amazing artists that live in the villages and sell beautiful artworks and collectibles far more unique than your regular souvenirs.
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 of the towns and enjoy a hassle-free visit. La Spezia is the gateway and train travel is easy from all directions in Italy. Your Cinque Terre Card will include free train travel for the duration of your stay.
For getting between the Cinque Terre villages you essentially have three options – train, boat or walk. There are also some local buses that run within towns if needed.
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 as outlined above.
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. If possible stay on the train station side of Riomaggiore as many of the accommodations here give lovely ocean views and rooftop terraces. If you don't mind a climb book somewhere higher in the village for the best views such as Appartamento Giovanna.
Here are some lovely family friendly apartments in different villages through the Cinque Terre. Click on the link to check out the options yourself.
A traditional Italian 3 bedroom apartment with to-die-for views
Modern, clean and highly rated - fully self contained 1 bedroom house.
Get beach ready in Monterosso Al Mare with this self contained home with its own small garden and rave reviews.
Whilst the Cinque Terre has many fancier hotels I really do 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.
You can also search for favourite accommodations via the search box below to find your ultimate Cinque Terre stay.
Cinque Terre with Kids – are the villages family friendly
Absolutely! The lack of any traffic (as Cinque Terre is car-free) 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. If taking on these hikes with babies or toddlers I recommend a carrier as opposed to the pram except for the link between Riomaggiore and Manarola which is paved the whole way.
Supermarkets in the villages are small so if you need anything significant make sure you stock up from a bigger town before arriving. Riomaggiore has a decent mini-mart in the main street and a good option for basic grocery supplies during your stay.
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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