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Visiting Cinque Terre and the Gulf of Poets by Ferry

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Overhanging coasts colorful with houses that cling to the cliffsides, bays and small beaches, terraced vineyards climbing up from the sea: this is Cinque Terre and the Gulf of Poets. Hiking trails run between each of the five villages, which Cinque Terre (literally translated to five lands) is name for. Over-crowded and popular with tourists in summer, we visited in the peak of the season when it was just too hot and miserable to even consider hiking between any of the villages. Instead, the ferry is an excellent option to see the villages from the water and hop-on-hop-off to the villages of interest.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare

Beaches of Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare (Cinque Terre)

Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost of the five villages of Cinque Terre and is divided by a central tunnel that connects the Old Town and the New Town. It is also the most extensive sand beach of the five villages and is well used by tourists and locals alike. Monterosso al Mare was our favorite of the villages and we spent time wandering in and out of the shops around the Old Town and searching for the perfect cup of gelato in the New Town.

Vernazza

Vernazza

Vernazza (Cinque Terre)

Vernazza is said to be the most dramatic and picturesque of Cinque Terre. The web of carrugi (narrow lanes) and staircases converge in Piazza Marconi, the main square, overlooking the sea. The church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, built in 1318, stands in the piazza and is said to have foundations in the sea. Opposite on the craggy cliff stands the Doria Castle, which was once a strategic defense against and lookout tower for spotting pirates. Vernazza also has a tiny beach, but the rocks are a perfect place to soak up some sun and have a picnic lunch.

CornigliaCorniglia (Cinque Terre)

Corniglia is the only of the five villages that cannot be visited by the ferry since unlike the other villages, it is not directly adjacent to the sea. A wildfire dominating the hillside prevented anyone from visiting and we watched a helicopter and plane make a continual loop as they scooped up water from the sea and dumped the water fighting to extinguish the fire before it spread further.

Portovenere

Portovenere

PortovenerePortovenere (Gulf of Poets)

While we did enjoy Monterosso al Mare, we found the colorful houses and medieval streets that lead up from Portovenere’s harbor to the castle to be much more charming and far less crowded than the village of Cinque Terre. Below the castle sits the picturesque black and white striped church of San Pietro, which was once the site of a temple to Venus for which Portovenere gets its name. There are fantastic views of the church of San Pietro on the path leading up to the castle.

Lerici

Lerici

Lerici (Gulf of Poets)

Lerici, just minutes from the villages of Cinque Terre, has largely managed to evade the tourist radar and we were more than happy to make it our base during our stay. A jumble of pastel colored buildings line the crescent shaped beaches and waterfront cafes look out to the craggy cliff melting into the sparkling sea. An imposing medieval castle looms above Piazza Garibaldi, Lerici’s central piazza, where you’ll find Gelateria Arcobaleno serving up the best gelato in the area.

Know Before You Go

  • The ferry service operates from the end of March to the end of September.
  • Stay at Doria Park Hotel Lerici, just a few minutes walk from Lerici’s Piazza Garibaldi. Find our full review of the Doria Park Hotel Lerici here.
  • Book a table at Bontà Nascoste (Via Cavour 52, Lerici). It is renowned for its pesto and seafood, but only has 8 tables so be sure to make a reservation.

UNESCO_Logo-150x150This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites we’ve visited here.

 

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter and bases herself in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and innovation strategist in higher education and is a regular contributor on johnnyjet.com. Her website, jdombstravels.com, is the 2012 Destinology Travel Bloggy Best Newcomer award winner. Google+

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20 comments

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  1. Laurel

    This is perfect timing as we’re hoping to go here in May, hopefully before it gets really busy. Great photos.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    You’ll definitely enjoy the hiking. Most people just hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola. That part might be packed but the rest should be much less busy. Funny thing about the photos – these were from 2009 and I just finally got around to writing about it!

    [Reply]

  2. Thomas Dembie

    Great article! I’ll be visiting the area in July and definitely will stop in at Bontà Nascoste for some good food. Thanks for the tip!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Thanks Thomas! You’ll have to let us know how you like Bontà Nascoste!

    [Reply]

  3. Andrew Graeme Gould

    What a beautiful area to visit. So well shown here. Good to know about the ferry. All the best fron Santiago…

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Thanks, Andrew! It is a beautiful area of Italy.

    [Reply]

  4. Andrea

    Still haven’t made it here…was headed that way when I met John back in ’04 and plans changed. Still hope to do the hikes here someday!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Funny how life takes you in different directions sometimes. I’m sure you’ll get to Cinque Terre someday soon!

    [Reply]

  5. memographer

    Thanks for the introduction to the area.
    Love your photos. All of them are great, but, the top and bottom ones are breathtaking.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Thank you! I would like to revisit Monterosso al Mare for sure, hopefully when there are a few less tourists.

    [Reply]

  6. Freya

    Those photos are stunning. I have been there about 2 years ago, an incredible beautiful place.

    [Reply]

  7. emma@gottakeepmovin

    I absolutely LOVED Cinque Terre! It’s annoying that it does get busy in summer but we still did the hike from Riomaggiore and Monterosso, tiring but completely gorgeous. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

  8. Ali

    I wish we had time for Cinque Terre on our upcoming trip but it’ll have to wait. Looks so gorgeous!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I think you are visiting Italy in May? That would be a perfect time to go to Cinque Terre before we enter the unbelievably hot and miserable months of June to August here and before it gets overrun with tourists and backpackers.

    [Reply]

  9. Andrew

    The last time I went was a few years ago early in March. We just too the trains and didn’t look at the ferries. I saw one from Santa Margherita to Portofino, but it was pretty expensive compared to the bus.
    Portovenere was actually a really great town to visit. It was touristy in its own way, but at the time more with Italians than backpackers, which was nice.

    We are headed to Amalfi in June and I intend to use the ferry system there much more.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Be sure to visit Ravello when you go to the Amalfi Coast. We stayed right in Ravello and liked it so much more than the over-crowded and touristy Amalfi.

    [Reply]

  10. Cristina

    Great resourceful guide. I’m hoping to head here in May as well. Will def keep this bookmarked :)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Thanks, Christina! Enjoy your trip to Italy! May is the perfect time to go.

    [Reply]

  11. Cristina

    Hey Jennifer, I just got back from Cinque Terre and browsing your site again, I forgot that I commented here. Well now that I’m here I wasn’t impressed. I think I had too high expectations. It’s a pretty place but I wasn’t wow’d unfortunately. I do absolutely love the colours of your photos and mine too! No one can deny how esthetically pleasing it is but I’m glad I visited – I think my travel style may be changing so it’s nice when you can learn more about yourself on your travels :)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I agree, Cristina! Cinque Terre is pretty, but it isn’t my favorite place I’ve been even in Italy. We’re finding we really like the off-the-beaten-path spots and need to be doing something. Just walking around looking at places isn’t our thing anymore. I think we finally just found our travel style and it really is the adventure we seek.

    [Reply]

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