Visiting Corniglia in Cinque Terre, Italy
Corniglia is one of the five villages that make up the beautiful Cinque Terre region of this rugged coastal area on the Italian Riviera. This stunning medieval community is the only one of the Cinque Terre villages that is not directly adjacent to the sea. In contrast, Corniglia sits high on a rocky outcropping approximately one hundred meters above the Ligurian Sea. With this enviable location, visitors enjoy amazing views up and down the coast.
It is not recommended that you try to take a car into Corniglia as there is very limited parking and the roads are winding and narrow. To get here, you can take the local train from either Levanto in the north or La Spezia in the south. To reach Corniglia, visitors must either traverse the 377 steps from the railroad station below, or take the shuttle bus up the hill (recommended when you arrive with luggage). While you’re here, you might as well earn your climbing merit badge and take the steps at least once. Hey, how many times are you going to get his opportunity?
A Change of Pace
Taking the shuttle bus up from the train station deposits you into the main piazza, or the hub of activity for this small community. Locals sit under the trees in the square and greet visitors as they arrive practicing Il dolce far niente, or "the sweetness of doing nothing." In the morning, vendors are out selling their wares and making their deliveries. Corniglia is a hub of activity as the town awakens.
The pace here is easygoing and methodical. There are no famous attractions that you need to rush to see. The main attraction is the down-to-earth, truly authentic life that these people lead, and the beautiful scenery that surrounds them. Spend a day wandering the streets of Corniglia, or join the locals in the town square with a good book and you’ll have a pretty good day.
Time to Eat
If you’re here in Italy, then presumably you’re looking for some authentic Italian cuisine. Corniglia does not have a lot of restaurant/trattorias, but the ones they have are simply fantastic. It was here in Corniglia that I discovered Panna Cotta, my most favorite dessert in the world.
If you enjoy seafood, then it doesn't get any fresher than here on the Ligurian coast where fishing is the main occupation of the locals. This region of Italy is also credited as the birthplace of pesto, so be sure to give it a try at one of the local restaurants or trattorias. The dishes below are from our three nights in Corniglia and they were all terrific. You will not be disappointed with the food here in Corniglia.
Just looking at these pictures makes me hungry.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Where to Stay
For accommodations, Corniglia does not have any fancy resort hotels. Everything here is pretty old although this is part of the charm and attraction of this community. There are, however, numerous small B&B’s and apartments that offer visitors a chance to stay in a beautifully restored building some centuries old.
For something a little more luxurious, you will have to head up the coast to possibly Monterosso al Mare, where there is a newer section of town with more modern accommodations. Our visit to Corniglia took us to Il Girasole, an apartment owned by Stefano and Libia Raso. Their apartments are clean, spacious, affordable, and located in the center of Corniglia. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here.
A Hiker's Paradise
As the middle of the five villages, Corniglia is pretty much a stopping off point for hikers making their way up and down the coast. With only 240 permanent residents it is the smallest of the Cinque Terre communities and the least visited.
Corniglia makes a great base for hiking this area of Italy that was designated a National Park in 1999 and added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
The Cinque Terre is a hikers dream, and visitors can hike to all five of the villages via a network of trails. There are varying degrees of difficulty on these trails, so make sure you are up for the challenge before you head out on any of the longer more vertical hikes. Some incredible views are awaiting those who choose to hike.
There is also the local train that connects all five of the communities, and a ferry system that connects all of the communities except Corniglia due to its location.
When most of us think about a visit to Italy, we envision seeing as much of this beautiful country as possible, and going to as many of its popular cities and attractions as we can get to. It's for a good reason, as Italy is a virtual treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. Why not plan a few days in the Cinque Terre Region to break up the hustle and bustle of touring Italy and to recharge your batteries? For a unique opportunity to see the simple laid-back side of Italian life, spend a few days in Corniglia. It is a warm and hospitable community that will welcome you to a little slice of heaven.
Ciao for now.
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© 2012 Bill De Giulio