World-famous Cinque Terre Italy is a conglomeration of five villages in the Italian Riviera. Le Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, Corniglia, Manarola, and Vernazza, known for their hillside landscapes, their crystal blue waters and their laidback lifestyle. While there are other places in Italy that are better suited to children, the warmth and hospitality of Cinque Terre makes everyone feel welcome. The region has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Getting to Cinque Terre:
Cinque Terre Italy is easiest accessible by train – from Pisa, Milan or Genova. From the airports of these major cities you can catch shuttles to the train stations and trains to your particular stop in Cinque Terre. It is also possible to arrive via boat or by car in some cases. There is no airport in Cinque Terre.
Getting around Cinque Terre:
You can get between the five villages by train, by boat, or by foot (not recommended with little children). Most people use the train, which is the fastest way to get between the towns. Trains run at frequent intervals and only take 3-4 minutes between adjacent villages. They also run quite late into the night, although less frequently. You can buy a 5terre day pass for unlimited use at the train station.
The boat takes you to each of the towns and to Porto Venere (a beautiful little village not part of the Cinque Terre but a must-visit if you are in the region). You can plan your day around the boat schedules and get more time in the bigger towns like Monterosso or Portovenere. Keep in mind that the return from Portovenere to the cinque terre by boat takes about 90 minutes.
Driving between the towns is not recommended as the roads are small and many are closed off. Parking, if available, tends to be quite far outside the city center.
Private boats are an option. There are many day excursions that will take you through the 5 villages and also to little swimming coves for lovers of the water. Depending on the size of the boat and your party, these excursions go at about $100-$150/hour.
Water taxis are available to take you between the towns, should you find yourself stranded.
What to visit in Cinque Terre:
Monterosso al Mare: Monterosso has a bustling square as its city center and also the best beach in Cinque Terre (which doesn’t say much – it’s not a beach place) but you will find calm waters, deck chairs and umbrellas which will be more than enough to keep the family entertained. Eateries by the water and on the square will dish up fresh seafood and also the usual Italian suspects: pizza, pasta and gelato. In the center of Monterosso is a little playground for kids. As in many of these European small towns, safety is not a big concern so parents can keep an eye on their kids while sipping a glass of wine at a nearby café. Watch out though: the summer sun in the afternoon can be quite strong.
Levanto: Levanto is a smaller town right next to Monterosso and not an official part of the cinque terre italy . It also has a beach but with fewer facilities. Downtown Levanto doesn’t have much to see so you can take a quick walk-through if you feel curious.
Vernazza: Vernazza’s town center is bustling with restaurants, bars and shops and is fun to walk about. Its small streets do tend to get quite crowded especially in the summer with the influx of cruise ships so be careful to keep kids close by.
Riomaggiore is the one most photographed for postcards and 5 terre paraphernalia but its beauty is best experienced by the water. The town is full of staircases and there isn’t much in terms of eateries. Similarly, Corniglia and Manarola are best viewed from the water.
Porto Venere: As mentioned above, Porto Venere is not part of the Cinque Terre, but is well worth the visit, in fact some would argue that it’s the prettiest town in the area and has the distinction of being the oldest town of the Mediterranean.
Many visitors come to Cinque Terre to do the 5-hour hike between the towns but portions of the track have been closed off due to landslides. If you are an adventure-loving family, make sure to check the status of the trail before visiting. Or do as we did, and enjoy this beautiful area from the soothing waters of the Mediterranean.