Originally settled by the Romans, the five coastal villages of Cinque Terre date from the medieval era. You'll find terraced cliffs and pastel-coloured houses at this UNESCO World Heritage site – ideal if you're after landscape photos. A popular cliffside spot to take pictures is Punta Bonfiglio (pop to the nearby bar for a glass of local wine afterwards). Keen hikers flock to the 38km Sentiero Rosso trail that follows the coastline. There are also small beaches at a handful of the villages.
Cinque Terre hostels have sea views and some have direct access to the beach. You'll also find some with outdoor terraces and on-site bars for meeting fellow travellers. Free Wi-Fi at most places lets you keep in touch with family. Stay in a Cinque Terre hostel that used to be a 12th-century Augustinian friary, a hostel with home comforts in a slow-paced village or a hostel surrounded by panoramic mountain views, a short stroll from Cinque Terre National Park. Several of the hostels in Cinque Terre have a shuttle service to help you get easily to and from the towns.
Cinque Terre has five main villages. With its multi-coloured houses, winding alleyways and ancient architectural remains, Vernazza is said to be one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Monterosso has the largest beach in the region, alongside a historical centre with restaurants serving local food – try its famous anchovies. It also has a new town, Fegina, where you can watch the glorious sunsets from its quiet beach – cars are banned in the area.
Architectural sites, like the 13th-century Church of San Giovanni Battista, decorated in white and green marble, are found in Monterosso. Riomaggiore is the base for hikes from the beginning of the Via dell’Amore to the coastal Blue Path. A little further afield, you can visit the small, unspoiled fishing village of Tellaro. This lies south of La Spezia (the area's main city), and its charm is known to have inspired famous Romantic poets.
If you're flying over, the nearest airports are Genoa (100km) and Pisa (119km). Train is the simplest way to travel – the main Cinque Terre station is in La Spezia. From Pisa, it takes around two hours by train and from Genoa it's about 15 minutes longer. It's also possible to travel to the region by boat. Ferries depart from Portofino, Genoa and Porto Venere from Easter till late summer.