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Guide to the best food and wine in the Cinque Terre

Succulent fish, crisp white wines, aromatic basil pesto over fresh trofie pasta: the Cinque Terre is a seaside haven for food and wine lovers.


Cinque Terre in Liguria is famed for its quaint villages, challenging hikes between vineyard-laced terraces, and local seafood so succulent it’s worth visiting this nook of Italy just for a bowl of frutti di mare or anchovies fresh off the local fisherman’s boat. In between hiking and enjoying the water sports, finding a spot for a leisurely lunch should also be high on any visitor’s agenda. That’s why you’ll love this food and wine guide to Italy’s “famous five.”
Insider tip: Timing is everything, as this part of Italy is incredibly popular—during the summer, cruise ships dock in nearby La Spezia and descend in droves of day-trippers. Visit in early spring or during harvest season in the autumn, when you can miss the crowds and have the five villages to yourself. Check out our guide to seeing Cinque Terre without the crowds.

Cinque Terre food and wine: your guide to the "five lands"

Riomaggiore

Cinque Terre food and wine: Octopus salad - by franzconde Octopus salad - by franzconde

Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, offers one central street that slides into the natural curve of the hillside, lined with brightly colored houses and perfumed by the smell of fried fish. The most scenic part of this village is by its tiny port, cluttered with wooden boats and offering spectacular views out to the azure blue of the Ligurian Sea. Here you will find Dau Cila (via San Giacomo 65; www.ristorantedaucila.com), which has a prized small terrace overlooking the sea. They serve up fresh pesto pasta, octopus carpaccio, and locally caught anchovies, which pair well with the restaurant’s extensive cellar offering bottles from local winemakers. Bar e Vini a Piè de Mà (Via dell' Amore, 55) is another worthy stop, especially come sunset during aperitivo hour. A simple bar nestled on the cliff en route to the famed Via dell' Amore (Walk of Love), it offers simple yet satisfying antipasti plates that match well with their wine list, ideal to sip as the sun sets on this incredible part of the Italian coast.

Manarola

Cinque Terre food and wine: Vermentino grapes - © Cantine Lunae Vermentino grapes - © Cantine Lunae

Manarola is a short boat ride away. Here, you can truly see the skill and dramatic beauty of the agricultural terraces that snake along the mountainous backdrop of the Cinque Terre. These terraces host gardens and vineyards that made up the tiny Cinque Terre DOC; and immediately behind this zone is the larger (though still small) Colli di Luni DOC area. You’ll definitely find local wines of these denominations (along with a delicious dessert wine, Sciacchetrà), but Liguria in itself is small, so you’ll likely find Riviera Ligure di Ponente DOC wines in red and white (the largest and most varied DOC zone of Liguria), Golfo dei Poeti IGT, and other Ligurian gems. Nessun Dorma’s (Localita Punta Bonfiglio; www.nessundormacinqueterre.com) motto is “eat local;” they pride themselves on serving seasonal produce to make bruschetta, meat and cheese platters, and crisp salads. They also offer a pesto-making course, should you wish to learn the local tricks to create this aromatic local sauce. A post-lunch gelato is a prerequisite for any sweet tooth. Try 5 Terre Gelateria (via Discovolo 229), which serves up cones of seasonal artisan treats handmade on site. Try the local favorite, crema di limoni, a smooth, creamy gelato laced with tangy lemon; or in summer, watermelon and peach are especially refreshing.

Corniglia

Cinque Terre food and wine: Trofie - by Artizone Trofie - by Artizone

Corniglia, with only 150 permanent residents, is the quietest of the five villages, and some say the most charming. Eateries are more limited, yet don’t despair—the food and wine pack a punch on par with that of its colorful, foodie neighbors. A Cantina da Mananan (Via Fieschi, 117) is a hole-in-the-wall wine bar serving up dishes using ingredients so local, they’ve been handpicked from the terrace gardens surrounding the town. Choose your dish from the daily food menu written simply on a black board, such as the house specialty coniglio (rabbit), roasted in a white sauce; or try orata, a locally caught fish, all enjoyed whilst mixing with the locals. Another local charmer is Enoteca Il Pirun (Via Fieschi, 115), named after a unique wine pitcher in which the local wine is served, and from which you drink, funnel first. Their menu offers a feast of seafood dishes including octopus or sea urchin, but try the local handmade pasta trofie, traditionally served with fresh basil pesto.

Vernazza

Vernazza is distinguishable by its colorful piazza lined with al fresco seats for some of the best dining views in all of Cinque Terre. Vernazza - by Jason OX4 Vernazza - by Jason OX4

Taverna del Capitano (Piazza Marconi, 21/24; www.tavernavernazza.com) is a family-run restaurant with a collective of tables shaded by colorful umbrellas and stunning views towards Monterosso al Mare. Their anchovies “three-ways” (fried, “cooked” in lemon juice, and simply served on buttered bread) showcases the local cuisine at its simple best, as does their frutti di mare of spaghetti tossed with fresh prawns, mussels, and clams in a light, fresh tomato sauce. Across the piazza is Gambero Rosso (Piazza Marconi, 7; www.ristorantegamberorosso.net) that also boasts al fresco dining and is open later in the season when many of the eateries shut for the cooler months. Try the warm octopus salad with potatoes or Risotto alla "Ciccio" (with calamari, prawns, and mussels) for a true taste of the Ligurian Sea direct to your plate. The same restaurateurs own Belforte Restaurant (Via G. Guidoni, 42; www.ristorantebelforte.it), tucked into the old fortress walls a few hundred meters away.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five villages, also boasts the longest beach for summertime frolics. Still small compared to many Italian villages, the pedestrianized area of the old town is charming and includes a number of great eateries that will draw you in. Cinque Terre - © Nardia Plumridge Cinque Terre - © Nardia Plumridge

If looking for a quick food fix, Wonderland Bakery (Via San Pietro 8) is tucked down a quaint backstreet and serves fresh panini and baked items worth taking away and eating by the water’s edge. For a wine to match, pop in and say “ciao” to Lorenzo, the proprietor of  Cantina du Sciacchetrà (via Roma 7; www.cantinadusciacchetra.it) arguably the most bronzato (bronzed) man in Cinque Terre who hails from the Amalfi coast yet has been in these parts, happily tanning since 1964—the same year he began also making some of the best limoncino in town. Known as limoncello in southern Italy, this digestive is a stiff liqueur infused by the skins of fresh, local lemons for a tangy kick and sipped at the end of a meal. Lorenzo also has a number of other flavors to try, including melon, basil, chocolate, and wild strawberry. He calls the latter “Viagra,” for, as he says cheekily, “It gets everyone going!” The cantina also sells local wines—including those of Cantine Lunae—dry pastas, and condiments to take away. They are happy for you to try the local delicacies to your heart’s, or stomach’s, content with samples displayed along the long wooden counter. This is just a start for exploring the food and wine offerings of this popular destination in Italy, an adventure for any food lover and outdoors enthusiast. Lemons for making Limoncino in the Cinque Terre - by Tavallai Lemons for making Limoncino in the Cinque Terre - by Tavallai