Cinque Terre National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of postcard-worthy landscapes: sweeping sea cliffs dotted with sandy coves, brightly painted villages clinging to steep terraces, and forested plateaus blooming with wildflowers. Stretching some 4,300 acres (1,740 hectares) along northern Italy’s rugged Italian Riviera, the park dazzles visitors with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean coastline.
The five centuries-old villages comprising Cinque Terre National Park—Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Manarola, and Vernazza—are the main draw for travelers. A well-worn footpath links the towns; some portions of the trail are better maintained than others, but all offer stunning views over the Ligurian Sea. Day tours are the most convenient way to visit the coast, running to the Cinque Terre from La Spezia, Siena, Pisa, San Gimignano, and most commonly, Florence. Most day trips squeeze in all five towns plus a stop in nearby Portovenere, but those who want more time in the Cinque Terre can stay overnight or on a multi-day tour to make the most of outdoor activities—such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and paragliding—plus the region’s seafood and warm hospitality.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Cinque Terre can get extremely busy in peak summer season, so book tours and accommodations in advance.
- Pack sunscreen, a refillable water bottle (drinking fountains are available throughout the park), and comfortable and sturdy walking shoes (the village roads are often steep and uneven).
- While many hotels and attractions in Cinque Terre National Park are wheelchair and stroller accessible, the villages’ steep and narrow lanes can be challenging for those with mobility issues.
- Wi-Fi is available throughout the national park.
How to Get There
Cinque Terre National Park is two hours from Florence by road, an hour from Pisa, and 20 minutes from La Spezia. Parking is limited in the villages, so unless you are staying in Cinque Terre overnight, ditch the car and join a tour or arrive by train. Trains (year-round) and ferries (mid-April through October) connect the five villages, but the best options for exploring the national park are hiking and mountain biking.
When to Get There
Cinque Terre National Park sees the most visitors (especially day-trippers) and the highest temperatures—upwards of 100°F (40°C)—during summer. Hikers should aim to visit in May or September to avoid the heat, while budget-minded might plan around August, when hotel prices rise. Visiting in winter is possible, but some hiking trails may be inaccessible in rainy weather.
Hiking in Cinque Terre National Park
There are over 75 miles (120 kilometers) of hiking trails in Cinque Terre National Park, some of which were the only connection between the villages and the hinterland for centuries. Today, the most commonly traversed path is the Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro), a six-hour coastal trail linking Cinque Terre’s villages and offering spectacular views. For visitors who fancy more of a workout, there are plenty of rugged mountain trails, including the Sciacchetrail, a challenging 29-mile (47-kilometer) route that loops around the entire protected area—and hosts an annual trail-running race.