Guided tours in the Cinque Terre are a great way to get to know this enchanting destination on the Italian Riviera, in the northern region of Liguria. With its five historic fishing villages, a rugged coastline, terraced cliffs plunging into the sea, and the deep connection between man and nature, the Cinque Terre represents the most iconic stretch of the Italian Riviera.
The five fishing villages that make up the Cinque Terre (east to west) are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
Riomaggiore, the first town you encounter if arriving from La Spezia, dates to the early 13th century. The largest of the five villages, it features a picturesque tiny harbor, a pebbly beach, and pastel-colored houses that glow at sunset. The famous Via dell’Amore departs from Riomaggiore.
The next town over is Manarola, a town of bright and colorful houses where the typical wine of the area, Sciacchetrà, is produced. The main street and waterfront are lined with fishing boats, a reminder of the other main industry of the town, fishing. The Via dell’Amore ends here, but there’s another walk you should take, up to Punta Bonfiglio, a rocky promontory on the path out of town towards Corniglia, for a perfect photo op of Manarola.
Continuing west is Corniglia, the only one of the five towns not on the water. In fact, you need to climb up 400 steps to reach the quiet hilltop village, whose livelihood still largely depends on wine, as it has since Roman times. According to legend, a Roman farmer originally settled Corniglia (naming it for his mother, Cornelia), and produced such a prized wine that its praises were even sang on vases found at Pompeii.
Some say Vernazza is the jewel of the Cinque Terre. We’ll leave that up to you to decide, but surely Vernazza is a charm, with its small harbor overseen by an ancient castle and church, its pastel houses and the typical narrow lanes known as caruggi, an intricate set of stairs and terraces rising up toward the hill.
Monterosso is perhaps the least charming of the five Cinque Terre villages, the only “resort town” on this stretch of coast, with cars, hotels, rentable beach umbrellas on its sandy beach, and crowds. The 7.5-mile Sentiero Azzurro (also known as the Blue Trail) departs from here and connects all five villages.
On land or by sea, read on to learn about some of the top guided tours in the Cinque Terre that will help you make the most of your visit.
4 Guided Tours in the Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre by Train with Professional Guide
To protect the delicate landscape and ecosystem of the Cinque Terre, the Italian Ministry for the Environment declared the region a national park in 1999. Use of a car is strongly discouraged, not just in the spirit of environmental-friendly travel, but also because the roads are twisty, narrow and difficult to drive. You’ll be better off arriving by and using the train, which connects all five villages well. A smart guided tour choice in fact is “Cinque Terre By Train,” where you’ll be accompanied by a professional English-speaking guide who will show you around and let you in on the history and traditions of this unique landscape. Hopping from one village to the next by train, you’ll be free to plan your visit as you wish. This is a great option if you like having time at leisure, but also the professional services of a guide.
Cinque Terre by Sailboat
For maximum impact, you may want to get around on water: and what better way to do that than on a sailboat? One of the most spectacular guided tours in the Cinque Terre is the “Portovenere & Cinque Terre by Private Sailboat Tour”, a full day excursion departing from La Spezia. You’ll be able to admire all five villages of the Cinque Terre from the sea, with a chance for a swim if you’re so inclined, plus a walking tour of the historic seaport town of Portovenere.
Hiking Tour of the Cinque Terre
For those of you who love hiking, one of the best guided tours in the Cinque Terre is no doubt the “Discovering the Cinque Terre: Full Day Hiking Tour”. You’ll first stop at Corniglia, hiking through the famed terraced vineyards and pine forests all the way to Volastra, and then descend to the seaside town of Manarola. After lunch, you’ll catch a train to Riomaggiore, and a public boat to Monterosso, so you’ll be able to combine a land and sea experience of the Cinque Terre.
Romantic Boat Cruise
For the romantically inclined, one of the best guided tours in the Cinque Terre features a sunset boat ride. The “Sunset Small Group Boat Tour” gives you the chance to admire the coastline at the magical sunset hour, when the light glows on the multi-colored houses in the villages and the rocky coastline takes on red, orange and pink hues. All of this will be experienced from the deck of a gozzo, a traditional, wooden Ligurian fishing boat, while enjoying local snacks, including focaccia.
If you are planning to visit the Cinque Terre, just get in touch with our travel experts! They can design an experience right for your travel needs. You can find more Cinque Terre travel inspiration in our blog, too – check out Italian Riviera Hidden Gems and Discover the Cuisine of Liguria.