Colorful houses nestled atop dramatic seaside cliffs—many a traveler ventures to Italy’s Cinque Terre to get a glimpse of this iconic sight. And the perpetually picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site definitely delivers the goods.
Largely unspoiled by commercial development, Cinque Terre is a refreshing throwback to simpler times. As its name suggests (cinque = five, terre = lands), the region consists of five towns—Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare—each with its own flavor and charms. Spend a couple days or more in this enchanting stretch of the Italian Riviera and you should be able to hit them all to find your favorite Cinque Terre town.
Or, who knows, it might just be a five-way tie for first place.
As the largest of the five towns and the first one you’ll reach if traveling from most other parts of Italy, Riomaggiore makes a fine base for your Cinque Terre stay. It’s also freaking gorgeous. The Riomaggiore wharf is where a lot of the magic happens. Beautiful at all times of day and especially so during the twilight hours.
Curve around the southern side of the wharf and you can walk along a (safe) path that hugs the cliffs and brings you to the Riomaggiore Beach. It’s a small, secluded bit of sand and a lovely spot to relax at.
Between the wharf and the beach, a rocky breakwater juts out from the cliffs, inviting you to walk out and bask in the incredible landscape.
Among the best things about Cinque Terre is the easy availability of fritto misto. A combination of fried calamari, fried shrimp and fried fish (you can usually decide which seafood types you want in your popcorn box of awesome), it’s one of my favorite quick bites anywhere. Two Cinque Terre seafood shops that got me to snack on their fritto misto multiple times: Il Pescato Cucinato in Riomaggiore and Il Bocconcino in Monterosso al Mare. So good!