Though not necessarily familiar by name, once you’ve been shown a picture of any of the five little towns along the Cinque Terre with their brightly colored old buildings densely packed along the coast, you’ll remember seeing a photo and telling yourself that that is one of the places you’d love to visit. If you haven’t been already, hopefully this article will convince you to visit one of the five towns of the Cinque Terre; they are a true hidden gem in Italy and an absolute must if you’re looking for a bit of adventure, a splash of bright colors, deep blue-green waters, delicious food, and picture-perfect surroundings.
The Cinque Terre (literally, “the five lands”), located along the Italian Riviera just west of La Spezia, is comprised of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes these towns special is the large amount of brightly colored buildings that are all stacked on top of one another right along the coast. Another thing that sets these towns apart is that you’ll find no franchised corporations, so you really do feel (and it really does look) like you’re miles away from home. Despite being a bit of a task to reach, the trip to one of the five towns of the Cinque Terre is well worth your time. Here are five reasons why:
1. The Cinque Terre Is Picture-Perfect
Straight up, the photos do not do the Cinque Terre justice (pictured above is Riomaggiore); you have to physically see it to really take in and appreciate just how awe-worthy the towns of the Cinque Terre are. With all of their brightly colored quaint buildings built up on top of one another right by the water, you can’t ask for a more beautiful setting – an absolutely treat for the eyes.
2. Mouth-Watering Food
Very unique to Riomaggiore are these little seafood stalls selling an array of local fried seafood in a cone: squid, shrimp, mussels, anchovies, and white fish. I had the anchovy and french fry combination and it was honestly so good – freshly fried, piping hot, and perfectly crisp on the outside. Grab a cone full of seafood and a few drinks, and head to the water to relax for a bit while enjoying some delicious food among surreal surroundings.
3. Crystal-Clear Water
If staring out into the depths of a beautiful blue ocean sounds appealing, then the towns along the Cinque Terre are perfect. Whether you’re interested in taking a quick dip in the crystal clear water (just be careful when getting in and out along the slope – tonnes of people slip and fall!), renting a kayak to paddle around, doing some water sports, or, if time permits, going diving for a half or full day, there are endless possibilities throughout the Cinque Terre.
4. Authentic Old-School Italian Vibes
If you walk throughout the little town and actually take the time to look around, you’ll notice lots of older local Italians sitting outside on their verandas or porches, watching all of the action happening below them. Also, the towns along the Cinque Terre aren’t commercialized at all, so you won’t find any big-name shops, like Starbucks or McDonald’s, ruining the atmosphere. All in all, the town feels incredibly authentic and unique.
5. That Home-Town Feel
Despite the busy tourist-filled streets (at least in Riomaggiore, since it is the first town along the Cinque Terre and thus the most active) you really can’t help but feel at home when you’re in the Cinque Terre. There are smiles all around from tourists and locals alike, and inviting shops selling food, souvenirs, and everything in between, all giving off a home-y vibe that makes it hard to pack up and leave at the end of the day.
Visiting one of the town’s along the Cinque Terre is an absolute highlight of Italy: words and photographs just can’t do this charming town justice. In order to fully appreciate everything the Cinque Terre has to offer, you just have to see it for yourself.
*Note: All the photos and information above are based solely on my experience in Riomaggiore.