This is the most remote of all the villages, and it is perched high on top of a cliff thus it is the only village that is not located near the water. It is a town of narrow streets and stairways that cut through the hills filled with vineyards. There is also a 14-century church that is located in a pastel-colored piazza (square) called San Pietro. The view from the top is spectacular if you are able to make the climb. For those less physically fit, there is a shuttle bus that can take you there.
The black rock that this village is built upon gives Manarola a unique characteristic. It is located in the center of vineyards and olive trees. The pastel-colored houses sweep down the steep hill and overlook a tranquil swimming cove and harbor.
Monterosso al Mare
The largest of all the villages is Monterosso al Mare and it has the only real sandy beach. The water is crystal-clear and turquoise in color and the cliffs are very rugged and steep. It is also full of small and quaint hotels and restaurants. There is an older part of the village and a newer part that is separated by a medieval tower called Aurora on the hills of the Cappuccini. This town also has more festivals than any of the other Ligurian villages.
According to ancient legend, Riomaggiore was founded by Greek refugees looking to escape persecution during the Byzantine empire. They picked this place because of the harbor, which is protected by two large mountain slabs. The town is also built into a river gorge, which is thus the name in Italian meaning "river major". There are many colorful homes, and remote rocks that are perfect for sunbathing.
The most charming of all the villages perhaps is Vernazza. There are many narrow streets and small piazzas that make up the town's character. It is also made up of pink-roof houses and there is also a medieval fort, castle and two towers that add to the ambiance. It is about a 90-minute hike to get here, but well worth it.
Therefore, if you are looking for the most beautiful part of Italy on your Italian holiday, then the Cinque Terre should be on your itinerary.
Larry Aiello is an Italophile that loves to share his passion about Italy such as practical advice for renting a car in Rome. He also loves to teach people how to learn Italian.