The Cinque Terre is a National Park on the coast of Liguria in Italy. It includes five little villages that are famous for their architecture and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The rugged coastline can is very steep and the villages are built on rock and cliffs where there is not much space. The result is very narrow streets and colorful houses very close to each other, often overhanging the water. The villages are surrounded by terraces where grapes are cultivated to produce wine.
The villages were a very remote place for centuries, without any access except by water. Rail lines were built in the 1870s and the road was only finished in the 1960s. It is not recommended to use your car because it is very difficult to park in the villages. Train is a good alternative, especially in summer. Hiking between villages is also delightful.
The very traditional and authentic atmosphere of the villages combined with stunning has made the park a very popular location. In summer, trains are overcrowded and it can make the experience less interesting. I would strongly recommend spring and fall: you will get less tourists and better photography conditions (less blue skies).
The five villages are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The nearby Gulf of the Poets offers some other villages and I included Tellaro and Portovenere in the description below.
This is maybe the most famous village in the Cinque Terre. It’s centered around a main street, with houses built on each side on the hills. There is a nice little harbor with little boats, facing the village. I recommend going to the jetty to take images: you will be a bit further away from the village and you will have the boats in the foreground (see image below). You can even use a long exposure to blur the boats. Be careful on the rocks, especially is there are big waves.
This is one of my two favorites villages. The village is built on a hill, hanging over a cliff. The rugged rocks and the scenery are breathtaking. A perfect place for sunset!
Taking pictures from the village is very challenging. It’s better to walk a bit to the west, where you will have an overview of the village and the harbor (see image below).
Corniglia is the only village that doesn’t have a direct access to the sea because it’s on top of a hill. It’s a charming little village but it’s very hard to photograph. A good option is to take one of the shuttle boats and photograph the village from the sea. Corniglia is however one of the best spots to go swimming, if you do not mind going down 300 stairs (and up after).
Vernazza is my other favorite village in the Cinque Terre. It has a very different setting: it goes further on the sea, with a bigger harbor. It also features two roman towers. There are two great spots to photograph the village, one on the trail to Monterosso al Mare (North) and one on the trail to Corniglia (South).
Monterosso al Mare
This is by far the less interesting village of all. It doesn’t feature the characteristic architecture of the other villages, but has big sand beaches filled with tourists. If you do not have time to visit Monterosso, you won’t miss much!
Golfo dei Poeti
The Gulf of the Poets is the gulf around the city of La Spezia, south of the Cinque Terre. Thanks to my good friend Francesco Gola, we discovered two little villages that rival Cinque Terre’s beauty.
Portovenere is a little town at the end of the gulf, with a rugged cape on which they built a church. We were lucky to be able to attend the Madonna Bianca religious ceremony, during which they light hundreds of candles over the rocks (see image below).
Tellaro is on the other side of the gulf. The houses closely resemble the ones of the Cinque Terre. There are some great vantage points if you walk north from the harbor, on the rocks.
Thank you for reading all of this. I hope it helps you plan your trip to the Cinque Terre and that you will bring back beautiful images. Any additional advice/recommendation in the comments is welcome!