HOW TO VISIT CINQUE TERRE
By Roman Martin
One of the first destinations we ever offered at Photo Workshop Adventures was Cinque Terre. It has always been a favourite for both us and our guests. It’s certainly one of the most photogenic areas in Italy, and a photographer’s dream site. In a long list of must-see destinations in the world, Cinque Terre should be near the top. Read on for our advice on how to visit Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre (literally: Five Lands) is a string of 5 small villages on the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera di Levante. Geographically, all the towns are situated in a National Park in the Liguria region, just north of Tuscany. The large city of Genoa lies to the north, and Pisa, Florence and Livorno are south of the National Park. All five towns are beautiful and charming in their own way, and they all have a unique character.
Like many other locations in Italy, Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. When you’re in the park, it will quickly become clear why this might be. The 5 villages seem to have escaped modernization, and stayed in a period of bygone centuries, at least visually.
Getting to and around the region is really quite easy. Your best options are by train or ferry, or a combination of both. Cars are discouraged, and quite impractical in the hilly towns.
We suggest you begin your journey into the region by starting in Genoa. The charms of this ancient port city are many, and can help prepare you for what’s to come. Trains and ferries are frequent and inexpensive when leaving from Genoa, so getting into Cinque Terre can be done with minimal effort.
While you’re en route, consider spending a day in the seaside village of Santa Margherita. From here, you can easily access the very picturesque towns of Portofino, Camogli, and San Frutuoso as well. All of these places are worth your time.
The Five Villages
Now, on to the five villages that make up Cinque Terre. From north to south, they are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Three of the towns are truly spectacular, with colourful homes built right on the cliffs overlooking the sea below. These three villages, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore, provide the best opportunities for photographs that you’ll cherish.
Going between the five villages can be done by train, by boat, or by foot if you’re an avid hiker. The train, called the Cinque Terre Express, can take just a few minutes. Boats are a wonderful way to see the villages from the water side, and very much recommended. Hikes can take up to a few hours, even if you’re a skilled and fit hiker. The trails can be slippery if it’s been raining, and sometimes the trails are closed if there’s been a landslide in the recent past, so use caution.
Further south, past the National Park, lies the towns of La Spezia and Portovenere. Both of these towns are also worth visiting, especially since they are so close. Portovenere is quite a pretty village, with a beautiful harbour and narrow streets, perfect for people watching.
We suggest giving yourself about one week to explore this area of Italy. You can base yourself in Monterosso, or even La Spezia, and travel to a few villages each day. Once you’re in the Park, you’ll find places to eat, rest, sunbathe and photograph. The days will pass by quickly. And since you’re in the neighbourhood, maybe you can check out nearby Tuscany.
Photo Workshop Adventures visits Cinque Terre twice each year, in May and September. These periods are at the beginning and the end of the busy season for the region. Join us for a truly spectacular adventure, capturing some amazing photographs of this area.