The Cinque Terre located along the Ligurian Coast are some of Italy’s most fabled villages. A delightful mix of rustic charm and natural scenery makes them a popular destination for swimming, hiking and relaxation – and they’re a dream for photographers. The Cinque Terre National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the five coastal villages include Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
The towns are easy to reach by public transportation from La Spezia train station and their small size makes them perfect for a weekend getaway. There are beautiful hiking routes that link the villages (some of the loveliest trails are between Vernazza and Monterosso, and Vernazza and Corniglia). You can also hop on a train or boat to travel between villages. Monterosso al Mare is the largest town, with a long stretch of sand and beach clubs, and Corniglia is set further up in the hills (though you can hike down to a hidden cove to lay out on rocks below and swim in the crystalline sea).
There are many gems in the area beyond the Cinque Terre that are worth exploring, including Portovenere to the south and Portofino in the north – two chic destinations along the coast. Sestri Levante, Bonassola and Camogli are equally charming but with more of a more local flair.