Cinque Terre National Park is both Italy’s smallest and oldest national park. It features some of the world’s most spectacular coastlines, lined with terraced centuries-old vineyards, steep cliffs and five incredibly picturesque fishing villages. Cinque Terre means literally “Five Lands”, which refers to those five villages. Because of its wealth of cultural history as well as stunning natural landscapes, Cinque Terre National Park has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The five villages that make up Cinque Terre are, from north to south: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Although it is no longer the unspoiled and peaceful place that it once was, Cinque Terre is as beautiful as ever. Now, throngs of tourists fight for the best spot to snap a picture of the stunning coastal villages, each perched on a steep hillside and home to the most colorful of houses.
Although masses of tourists flood Cinque Terre National Park, especially in summer, it doesn’t take away from the mesmerizing beauty of the area. The park is crisscrossed by hiking trails and bisected by a historic 19th-century railway—that railway is now more valuable than ever, transporting visitors to and from the five villages. The railroad easily connects all five villages and the larger towns that border the national park and, by doing so, keeps cars and tourist buses out. It is a convenient way to get around, but visitors are advised to prepare themselves for extremely packed trains.
All railroad stations have a Cinque Terre visitor center—useful information centers that sell maps, Cinque Terre Cards and souvenirs.
Location: Liguria, northwestern Italy
Nearest Cities: La Spezia and Genoa
Area: 15 square miles (39 square kilometers)
Features: UNESCO World Heritage, fishing villages, wineries, coastal cliffs
Main Attractions: All five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore)
Main Activities: Hiking, boating, wining and dining, sunbathing
Suggested Stay: 3-4 days
Further Information: Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre