Cinque Terre is one of those places where you simultaneously feel like you can’t take a bad photo but at the same time, you can’t quite capture what it’s like to see it in person! Cinque Terre photos inevitably focus on the candy-coloured five villages set amongst vineyards and forest on steep hills leading down to the sparkling sea, with good reason – they’re beautiful! And yes, I’m being fluffy with my writing about Cinque Terre, but it’s because it really is such a beautiful fairy-tale place!
When I visited Cinque Terre I found it hard to put my camera down, I wanted to try and capture Cinque Terre in photos, to show what I was seeing and experiencing. Unfortunately (for photography purposes at least!), we had a lot of beautiful weather which made for bright and difficult light conditions, but I still took so many photos of Cinque Terre that I really want to share them all! Instead, I’ve narrowed it down to my favourite, with some top tips for finding the best photo spots in Cinque Terre and what to do there in between (check out my article on things to do in Cinque Terre for more info!).
The thing is, Cinque Terre is just only a tiny part of Italy, although understandably it is a very popular part. There are countless other beautiful tiny towns both inland and on the coast, so when you’re planning a trip to Italy be sure to check out the hidden gems in this beautiful country, as well as all these well-known places!
Table of Contents
Riomaggiore is either the first or last village in Cinque Terre, depending on what direction you’re coming from. It is divided into a new and old area by a hill in the middle, and we spent most of our time in the historical part. In fact, we actually stayed in the village for our whole visit to Cinque Terre, in a beautiful apartment overlooking the village and the sea. Bliss!
The main street in the historical part of town leads down to the ocean, and you can take boat tours or catch the ferry to other towns from just around the corner. There is also a rocky beach if you follow the trail around the side of the hill.
There are a few restaurants down near the ocean, or you can grab food to take away from one of the places on the main street and watch the sunset while you eat. The best sunset views are from the plaza just up on the left-hand side as your looking at the ocean, or from the rocks down in front of it, as you can see the sun setting behind the colourful buildings on the other side of the harbour and out at sea.
Next along is Manarola, said by some to be the most picturesque of the Cinque Terre towns. This is thanks mostly to one view looking back at the town and harbour, and where I ended up taking a ton of my Cinque Terre photos! We were short on time, or I would have loved to return when it wasn’t the middle of the day and the harshest light possible (note to self: must get a filter for my lens to help!).
There are more restaurants here than in Riomaggiore that overlook the ocean with beautiful views, but you may need to wait for a table in the high season. We enjoyed a delicious birthday lunch for me, overlooking the gorgeous harbour. I would recommend visiting later in the afternoon if you want the best pictures, as the sun won’t be directly overhead and will be behind you as you look back at the main view.
Corniglia is the middle of the 5 villages in Cinque Terre and the most unique. Instead of being next to the sea as the others are, it’s perched high on top of a hill. This means you need to climb a lot of stairs to reach the top! Or there is a minibus available from near the train station if you need it…
Corniglia is less crowded than the other villages but has the same colourful buildings and squares. I loved wander down the alleyways looking at the different shops and little places to eat before emerging into another square, some with a sea view!
I actually found the best spot to take photos of Corniglia was while we were walking towards Vernazza. You’ll pass through a large square before entering the path to Vernazza, where you can take some great pictures of houses with the sea in the background, and then if you continue up the path and look back you’ll see various viewpoints of the town.
Vernazza is a crowd favourite for Cinque Terre photos! There are a lot of different viewpoints where you can get iconic photos of Vernazza, and take in the beautiful views. Our first view was from the trail we hiked between Corniglia and Vernazza, when we could see Doria Castle and the houses around it. From there it only got better!
After walking through colourful alleyways we emerged into a plaza which overlooked a small beach and the harbour. You can go to both the left and right to look back at the views of Vernazza. Down the left-hand side towards where you would get the ferry are some rocks you can step out onto (carefully!) to look back at the town, and on the right-hand side is a path around to some rocks and other small sandy areas where people will be swimming.
However, the best view and one of the most popular Cinque Terre photo spots is along the path from Vernazza to Monterosso. You don’t need to walk too far up the steep path to be greeted by the breathtaking view of Vernazza from above. It’s best to visit as the afternoon goes on so that you have better light on the buildings and it’s not too bright in the sunlight.
Monterosso has the only really sandy beach of the Cinque Terre villages and there are bigger resorts and accommodation options here. To me, it wasn’t the most photogenic from afar, but I did love many of the alleyways and the distinctive black and white striped church.
As we walked down the path from Vernazza we were able to spot the umbrellas on the beach at Monterosso, and coming down into the town itself was a relief for us as it ended our hike in Cinque Terre! There are lots of restaurants and cafes down all of the side streets, and a beautiful fountain just before you head under the railway tracks to the beach. If you walk around to the newer part of Monterosso, on the other side of a tunnel through the rock, there are lots of stalls along a promenade and another sandy beach.
We stopped for pizza and delicious gelato that was well deserved after a walk of several hours all the way from Corniglia!
Getting around Cinque Terre
There are several ways to make your way around the 5 villages of Cinque Terre.
The first is via the train that runs between all five villages. This is how we initially arrived in Cinque Terre and quite often how we travelled around as we found it easy to head to the station and jump on the next train. These can get quite crowded in peak season and especially with day visitors but are less busy in the early morning and evening. Many people also stay in Levanto or La Spezia, the towns on either side of Cinque Terre, and travel in by train to explore rather than staying in the towns themselves.
Next, you can take a ferry between all the villages, except Corniglia. I would recommend doing this at least once to give you another opportunity to take some photos of Cinque Terre from the sea since it provides another perspective of all of the villages. We did this a couple of times but found waiting for the ferry in the hot sun with a huge crowd to be less pleasant than just getting a train sometimes! You can also get a ferry to Portovenere, a pretty village at the end of the peninsula Cinque Terre is on.
There are boat tours that will take you between the villages and on other excursions nearby, or for special things like sunset tours.
Hiking is another way to get around Cinque Terre, although this has become more difficult since damaging flooding occurred in the region in 2011. Unfortunately, many of the coastal hiking tracks have not been repaired so you will need to stick to more difficult higher tracks around the hillsides that are can often be closed after rain and should be approached with caution. I would still try and add it into your Cinque Terre itinerary if you’re up for it though!
We ended up walking between Corniglia to Vernazza and on the Monterosso. At times the track was very steep and narrow and it can get quite busy, but we (or at least me!) enjoyed it nonetheless. I would consider your level and fitness since it can be challenging and make sure you have the right footwear.
Check what tracks are open at the Visitors Centres in the towns and buy a pass for hiking. However, even though we did this we were still met with police when we arrived at Monterosso who were not letting people onto the track and telling us we should not have been walking it since it rained the day before! It appeared the message had not been passed on to the people checking tickets for the track or to the Visitors Centres, and although we had not encountered any issues on the track itself I would be careful about checking the forecast for yourself and maybe double checking with the Visitors Centre!
I hope these Cinque Terre photos have given you some insight into what visiting this beautiful part of Italy is like and inspired you to want to plan your own trip to Italy!