Cinque Terre is one of the most enticing photography destinations in Italy. If you are planning to visit this stunning part of Italy to shoot amazing photos, you’ll probably benefit from a few tips to wander around and admire not only its scenic beauty, but also the quaint villages along this astonishing part of the Ligurian coast.
Cinque Terre is simply a wonderful place to visit and offers you endless opportunities to shoot some beautiful landscape, street and lifestyle photos. This post covers the top Cinque Terre photography tips and helps you find the best spots to shoot the most representative photos of Cinque Terre.
All five towns are well known for their stunning views of this part of the Italian riviera, but that is not all. Visiting Cinque Terre in Italy is a delight for the taste buds as well. The seafood served up in this northern part of Italy is second to none.
Let’s get started
The 5 Towns of Cinque Terre
The best images of Cinque Terre are found in the towns along the coast. It is up to you where you start your tour, just make sure you have your camera with you, and plenty of SD cards.
I’ll describe the five towns starting form the southernmost Riomaggiore, since that’s where I always start my photographic adventures. Remember, train is by far the best way to get to these five old villages.
By car you can reach the entrance of the villages, park and walk from there, but roads are very narrow and parking very expensive. Each village has a train station and with a daily pass you can hop back and forth unlimited times.
Don’t forget to bring the map you can find at the end of this post with you to make sure you make the best out of this guide. I’ve added the best photography spots on the map so that you won’t need to waste your time figuring out where the most popular shots are taken from.
Riomaggiore is the first place you will come across when you get to Cinque Terre from La Spezia central station.
This beautiful town looks like it has sprung from the sea. Taking a boat trip from the little marina in the village gives you a chance to snap some lovely images of the village from the sea. However, the majority of photographers go to the point on the map called “Riomaggiore A”.
If you visit around summer or during the warm months from late April to early September, sunset is the best hour to snap beautiful images from this point. Don’t forget that from late June till the end of August, this point will be inundated by crowds of tourists and fellow photographers like you.
I suggest using a wide-angle lens, probably something on the 14mm to 35mm range.
From “Riomaggiore B” on the map you can admire the town form the water, but be very careful since you have to walk on top of the big rocks delimiting the marina. Use shoes with a good grip and I don’t advise to go there on big swell days. Again, use a wide-angle lens and if you want to get some ‘sneaky’ close-ups of Riomaggiore from this angle bring a telephoto lens too.
If you want to shoot some street photography, point “Riomaggiore C” is where during warm months you’ll find small colorful boats parked. Add them to your composition in as many creative ways as you like.
You also have to wander the narrow streets of Riomaggiore and discover both its hidden culinary and photographic delights. It is a step back in time you simply have to experience to appreciate.
The name Manarola probably comes from the old water wheel which is still visible in town. This pretty town can be reached by trail from Riomaggiore, but if it is too hot to walk or the trail is closed, you can easily get there on a train. Once again, you may want to head straight from the station to the marina and the beach, but there are plenty of other places to explore in Manarola.
My favorite spot in Manarola is marked on the map as “Manarola A” from here with a wide lens you can capture a beautiful reverse sunset. With the sun behind you the village will be perfectly lit by the setting sun and if you’re lucky a beautiful red sky will complete the background behind the colorful homes.
Point “Manarola B” is where you can get closer to the water at the center of the marina and shoot with a wide angle the village from a very interesting angle.
Please do yourself a favor and stop by a bar or cafe to try some of the excellent wine which is made locally!
If you have any walking difficulties, you may find Corniglia a little bit challenging. The village can only be reached by climbing 382 steps from the station. Visitors have said that they have been lucky enough to catch a local bus service, but it does not always seem to be running.
Due to limited time, I haven’t been able to visit Corniglia, but since this town is not right on the coast, probably the best panoramic shots you can get here will probably require a drone (and special permission from the Council!).
Vernazza derives its name from the local wine Vernaccia which is still enjoyed by the locals. This is the only of the 5 villages in Cinque Terre which has a natural harbor.
Walking around in Vernazza make sure you sneak up all of the small inviting lanes. Nobody will mind and the friendly locals are always keen to point out the best locations for a photo or two.
In the map, you’ll find in point “Vernazza A” the most representative photo spot of this beautiful treasure. Getting to this point is a bit challenging. A short but uphill 15 minutes walk over steep irregular step will take you there.
At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view and a few meters ahead of a nice little restaurant called “La Torre” where you can enjoy amazing food and wine.
I recommend sunset hours and try to wait for the blue hours so the lights in the town will light up your composition. You’ll get away with a really special shot.
From the point Vernazza B you can use once again the boats as a foreground element for your composition with the town as background. From here try to experiment with a 75mm lens.
And from Vernazza Point C, near the water, you can use the rocks as your foreground and as always the town, with the Church and a beautiful sky to complete the composition.
Monterosso Al Mare
To arrive in Monterosso Al Mare you can hike from Vernazza. Up until fairly recently, this scenic town was only accessible from the sea or by foot using one of the many trails which leads into Monterosso Al Mare.
Monterosso was bombed during the war, and this is why many parts of the village look more modern than the other villages on the Cinque Terre riviera. Despite that, it is still worth a visit to enjoy traditional seafood, sample the local white wine and complete your visit with a swim off the small sandy beach.
Map of Cinque Terre
A Final Word
To summarize, these are my best tips for photographing Cinque Terre:
- Try to spend more than one day in the area or you won’t have enough time to get to all the best panoramic spots and at the same time enjoy the beautiful area and many restaurants and bars.
- Don’t drive to Cinque Terre. If you can reach the city of La Spezia, you’ll be able to park your car for free for a few days near the Stazione Centrale and catch a train to Riomaggiore. From there your exploration begins.
- Bring a tripod (better if it’s a travel one) if you are into long exposure photography. There are plenty of opportunities for capturing dramatic images with rough sea conditions.
- I had with me my 7 – 14mm, 12 – 40mm and 40mm – 150mm M.Zuiko Pro Micro Four Thirds lenses. One wide angle lens and one mid-range telephoto lens would be enough.
- Train delays are a thing. Plan your stay accordingly.
- Wear good quality footwear especially if you want to hike around. Some trails are patrolled and might not let you go if you don’t wear proper hiking shoes.
Snap away beautiful photos and have fun in Cinque Terre, and don’t forget to ask me questions or info in the comments below!
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.