Bucketlist Cinque Terre 01 Header

The magic and beauty of Cinque Terre

Five picturesque fishing villages along Italy’s rocky Ligurian coast: Cinque Terre looks to be straight out of a fairy tale. The villages feature on many bucket lists, including on iFly’s. Our reporter Iris van den Broek explores these five Italian gems. 

Back in time!
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 02 Rio Maggiore 1
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 02 Rio Maggiore 5
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 02 Rio Maggiore 4

Riomaggiore

It’s late afternoon in Riomaggiore. A gentle sea breeze blows over the harbour, the ice cream parlour at the top of the hill is packed and youngsters jump off the steep rocks into the deep blue water of the bay. As the sun slowly sets and casts a warm glow on the houses, I enjoy the beauty of this village. Riomaggiore is postcard perfect. Even I can’t resist photographing the classic view from the steep rocks of the stacked-up houses that arise from the sea. Cliché? Oh yes! Beautiful? You bet!

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 02 Rio Maggiore 3

Cinque Terre features on many bucket lists and in summer you will have to share these villages with the crowds. But despite the omnipresent tourists, local life goes on as usual. At night, when most tour buses have left, kids play football on the square by the church, men discuss life in the shade of the trees and the women chat as they stroll through the steep streets. It seems as if time has stood still here and people live the way they did sixty years ago. Spending the night in Cinque Terre enables me to take a peek into the daily life of these tiny fishing villages.

  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 03 Large Image Rio Maggiore 1
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 03 Large Image Rio Maggiore 2
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 03 Large Image Rio Maggiore 3
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 03 Large Image Rio Maggiore 4
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek

Riomaggiore

“It seems as if time has stood still here and people live the way they did sixty years ago”

Mighty Manarola

I get up early to begin my tour through Cinque Terre. On the rocks in the harbour I see the sun creeping into Riomaggiore as the village slowly awakes. Hiking trails along the rugged coast connect the villages, but unfortunately the trail to Manarola, the popular Via dell’Amore, is closed. So instead I take the train that connects all villages together. Manarola is a string of colourful houses and narrow streets, surrounded by the vineyards that are everywhere in the area. Manarola is also the oldest village in Cinque Terre and dates back to 1261.

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 04 Manarola 1
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 04 Manarola 2
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 04 Manarola 3

Down by the water, boats are parked like cars. As I walk along the rocky trail by the waterfront, a fisherman hauls in his catch. Fishing and winemaking are the main activities here. Little has changed, just like in the old days.

  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 05 Large Image Manorola 1
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 05 Large Image Manorola 2
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 05 Large Image Manorola 3
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 05 Large Image Manorola 4
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek

Manarola

“Fishing and winemaking are the main activities here. Little has changed, just like in the old days"

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 06 Corniglia 1
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 06 Corniglia 2

Perched proudly on a rock

Corniglia is the only village not located on the water. It proudly perches on a rock, high above the sea. Beautiful, but quite the hike. A steep zigzagging path climbs 400 steps to reach the village. Corniglia has a very different atmosphere from Manarola and Riomaggiore, more rustic and laid-back. Many visitors skip this village because of its more challenging setting so it’s often less crowded. At the end of the main street (which in some spots is just over a metre wide), you will find a beautiful lookout with a view over the ocean and a reflection of Manarola. 

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 06 Corniglia 3

On a patio in the sunny village square I enjoy a regional lunch speciality: pasta with seafood. With a big smile, the waiter reassures me that the seafood was freshly caught this morning. Buonissima!

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 06 Wandeling Bg
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 07 Vernazza 1

The pearl of Cinque Terre: Vernazza

The most beautiful stretch of the hike goes from Corniglia to Vernazza. The path meanders along the coast. I enjoy a practically uninterrupted view of the deep blue ocean and even high above the water I can hear the laughter of people on the boats below. The aromas make this a tour that stimulates the senses. In the air I smell the scents of oranges, lemons and numerous unfamiliar flowers and plants.

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 07 Vernazza 2
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 07 Vernazza 3

Vernazza is also known as the pearl of Cinque Terre and as I stroll into the village I immediately understand why. The village wraps around a natural bay and an elegant bell tower stands in the centre of this tiny town. Children are everywhere, clutching paper bags with fried seafood. Seniors shuffle through the streets on their ‘passeggiata’, a lazy evening walk, as they chat about their day. If I wasn’t keen to see Monterosso al Mare, I would have stayed here for a long time.

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 07 Vernazza 4
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 08 Large Image Vernazza 1
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 08 Large Image Vernazza 2
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 08 Large Image Vernazza 3
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 08 Large Image Vernazza 4
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 08 Large Image Vernazza 5

Vernazza

“Vernazza is also known as the pearl of Cinque Terre”

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 09 Montrosso 1
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 09 Montrosso 2
Bucketlist Cinque Terre 09 Montrosso 3

Life is a beach: Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is a bit of the outsider of Cinque Terre, a larger, vaster and more worldly place. Of course everything is relative, because this is still a small fishing town. Monterosso al Mare is the only village with a long beach and the wide main street is geared more towards the average tourist. But sneak into the ‘caruggi’ – the narrow side streets – and you will stumble across the everyday local life. Laundry hangs outside to dry and the air is filled with the aroma of freshly baked focaccia, a treat you will find on every corner of Cinque Terre.

Bucketlist Cinque Terre 09 Montrosso 4

From Monterosso al Mare I take the boat to return to Riomaggiore, a trip which takes me one more time past all of the villages. From the water you can really appreciate their stunning location. Five villages that take you back in time and refuse to conform to the fast pace of 2016. Fabulous!

  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 10 Large Image Monterosso 1
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 10 Large Image Monterosso 2
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 10 Large Image Monterosso 3
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek
  • Bucketlist Cinque Terre 10 Large Image Monterosso 4
    © Iris van den Broek
    © Iris van den Broek

Monterosso al Mare

“Five villages that take you back in time and refuse to conform to the fast pace of 2016. Fabulous!”