If you have a few days to dedicate to these five Ligurian fishing villages, you’re in luck. Not only can you savor the sleepy atmosphere that descends once the daytime crowds have left, you can also explore farther along the coastline to Portovenere or Portofino. Here are your options for three days in the Cinque Terre.
Day 1: On Land
For centuries, the Cinque Terre was accessible only by sea or via a small footpath skirting the coastline. Today, this historic trail is one of Italy’s most scenic, and a popular way to explore the area on foot. If you’d rather take it easy, tours are also available on the local train line. Head out first thing in the morning, before visitors flood the coast. When the crush becomes too much, hit the beach, join a paragliding experience for a bird’s-eye view of the coast, or sign up for a cooking class. Make your way back to the villages in the evening after the crowds have left, and unwind over a seaside meal.
Day 2: On the Water
Like much of Italy’s coastline, the Cinque Terre is particularly picturesque when glimpsed from the water. Admire dramatic views of the national park during a full- or half-day boat tour that includes stops to swim in tiny coves—or look for local wildlife on a kayaking tour that takes you even closer to the craggy coastline. Alternatively, spend most of the day on land, then cruise away on a sunset boat tour with a cocktail in your hand, marveling at the view of the postcard-perfect villages in the golden light of dusk.
Day 3: Portofino or Portovenere
The villages of the Cinque Terre are known for their humble charm, but Portofino has been a favorite among celebrities and the jet set for decades. Set sail north along the coast to this tony coastal town, stopping to shop on land and enjoy lunch on the water. Or, opt for an afternoon sail to Portovenere, located closer to the Cinque Terre to the south. Considered more sophisticated than the Cinque Terre but less glamorous than Portofino, Portovenere’s clutch of traditional fisherman’s dwellings is so romantic that it once attracted poets like Byron and Shelley. Both harbor towns are delightful spots for snapping colorful photos, poking around local boutiques, and relaxing over an alfresco meal.