The best photo locations in Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is a beautiful stretch of coastline in north west Italy comprising the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Each village has its own special character, from the extensive sandy beach resort of Monterosso al Mare, to the pretty harbour village of Vernazza, from the quiet rocky cliff-perched village of Corniglia, to Manarola with its iconic photo location looking back across the bay and finally Riomaggiore with its pretty harbour and pebble beach.

The view of Cinque Terre that everybody comes for. This shot taken from the cemetery wall

The view of Cinque Terre that everybody comes for. This shot taken from the cemetery wall (position 3)

All five villages lie within the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the ‘Cinque Terre National Park’. From top to bottom takes just 14 minutes by local train, cutting through tunnnels within the mountainside. Alternatively there are numerous boat trips between them, but sadly no longer a complete stretch of the world-renowned ‘Cinque Terre walking trail’ which is now closed between Riomaggiore and Corniglia due to recent rockfalls. It’s still worth doing one of the two remaining legs though, with Montorosso to Vernazza being the toughest, but with a spectaularly rewarding view of the harbour as you descend down into Vernazza.

The whole area has become a Mecca for photographers, bloggers and THAT “picture postcard” view in Manarola? With inspiration from Polkadot Passport and Route Perfect Blog we went to seek out those coverted best photograph spots for ourselves. So where are they then?

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is the most northern of the five villages but is only a short train ride away from the others. As it’s the only sandy beach resort in the area so it’s time to take some symmetrical beach parasol shots looking out to sea and leave the narrow alleyway and harbour shots to the other villages as you head south along the coast.

Some Monterosso al Mare parasols. Mine not so symmetrical though

Some Monterosso al Mare parasols. Mine not so symmetrical though!

The toughest leg of the “half -open” walking trail is from Montorosso to Vernazza. As you begin to climb out of town you’ll have a few chances to take photos looking back towards the beach through gaps in the hedges. Just wipe the sweat from your eyes before taking aim.

Looking back down to Monterosso al Mare from the Cinque Terre trail

Looking back down to Monterosso al Mare from the Cinque Terre trail

Vernazza

The walk is amazing in its own right. However a key shot is towards the end of the walking leg from Monterosso al Mare after about 1.5h as you descend down into Vernazza. There are a few designated viewing platforms (normally with a short queue) but we found this section below the telegraph wires with the top of the castle below the horizon to be the best spot.

THAT view down to Vernazza below the telegraph wires

The view down to Vernazza below the telegraph wires

You can’t miss the village’s Castello di Vernazza castle and you can climb up it too for a small fee. Perfect for some panoramic shots! This one was taken on my iPhone.

The view of Vernazza from the top of the Castello di Vernazza

The view of Vernazza from the top of the Castello di Vernazza

… and afterwards you can stroll down and along the harbour wall looking back towards town with its lovely array of boats in the foreground.

A photo from the harbour wall of Vernazza

A photo from the harbour wall of Vernazza

Corniglia

We didn’t walk the extra 1.5h from Vernazza to Corniglia so this photo comes from Route Perfect Blog instead. We took the short 5 minute train ride from Vernazza and in doing so so missed this lovely shot of the hillside as walkers approach it.

The view of Corniglia on the walking trail from Vernazza

The view of Corniglia on the walking trail from Vernazza

Once in Corniglia there are some nice pictures of the shop frontages, displaying among things lots of yellow lemon bath soaps! Wiggle through the streets and you come to a school playground and then up some steps you sit atop the cliff edge looking straight down to the sea or across to Manarola in the distance.

The view from Corniglia towards Manarola in the distance

The view from Corniglia towards Manarola in the distance

Manarola

Manarola contains THE shot that has made the region famous and was ultimately the reason that we headed to Cinque Terre in the first place. Our minds were made up when my friend Rob blogged at hornblowertravels that it was his favourite place in the whole wide world! A bold statement so we had to find out for ourselves.

Some of the best viewpoints in Manarola

Some of the best viewpoints in Manarola

Walk up through the pink cemetery arch for the best shots

Walk up through the pink cemetery arch (2) for the best shots. This one taken at (5)

Opposite the main bank of pastel-coloured buildings is a walkway (1) that takes you around the headland which sits just below the Nessun Dorma bar. A great place to try a strawberry smoothie as you cool down thanks to the fence-mounted mist sprays. There’s no bad spot here but we found a quieter uninterrupted view through a pink arch (2) that leads up to the cemetery. Here you can take photos from the top of the flight of steps (5) looking down on a friend on the brick wall (above), take photos from the brick wall itself (3), or get “arty” by leaning right back against the wall to take some shots through the curved brickwork (4) with a slightly wider angle lens. Of course be respectful when there.

The view of Manarola through some arches by the cemetery

The Manarola view through the cemetery arches (4)

Taking a cemetery wall shot with someone in the foreground

The Manarola view from the cemetery wall (3)

In fact the view of the buildings in Manarola changed throughout the course of the day. These photos below were all taken below the Nessun Dorma bar on the main walkway (1) that goes around the headland. Some people took their photos on the tip of the headland but we moved a but further down the slope so we could get closer to the sea wall.

The view of Manarola from the main walkway at sunset

The Manarola view from the main walkway at sunset (1)

The view of Manarola from the main walkway at dusk

The Manarola view from the main walkway at dusk (1)

and finally the view of Manarola from the main walkway at night

The Manarola view from the main walkway at night (1)


Polkadotpassport
took some great looking photos by venturing down onto the rocks. Be careful though!

The view of the bay gets the most attention of course but just around the headland is a barrier where you can look out to see and also watch the sunset if you’re not too preoccupied with all those pastel-coloured buildings!

Looking out to sea just around the Manarola headland

Looking out to sea just around the Manarola headland

Riomaggiore

Another harbour town but with slightly more going on compared to Manarola. Also it has the benefit of a small pebbley beach when photo time is over.

The shot I loved was from the seawall looking back towards town with a few boats bobbing around on the foreground. Take some shots later in the evening to catch some softer colours and increase the chance of there being more boats in the foreground.

Riomaggiore harbour from the rocky breakwater

Riomaggiore harbour from the rocky breakwater

Head up to the Castello di Riomaggiore to take a nice shot down onto the town, plus at the Castello’s base there’s a chilled out viewing spot with some steps, by a cross under the welcome shade of some trees.

A panoramic view of Riomaggiore from the Castello di Riomaggiore

A panoramic view of Riomaggiore from the Castello di Riomaggiore

In summary …

Cinque Terre is gorgeous and I can see why my pal Hornblowertravels has it as his favourite place in the world. We went to Cinque Terre at the very beginning of June just before peak season and certainly encountered busy train stations during the day.

However by staying in one of the villages overnight you can enjoy the early evening and sunset relatively undisturbed as all the hordes of daytrippers from Pisa and Florence have gone home by then … which is perfect for photography really as that’s when you’ll most likely be taking all of your best shots!

… and of course there are may other photo opportunities taken out on the boats as well as off of the main routes between the villages where you can take great pictures that nobody else will have! πŸ™‚

The walkway below Nessun Dorma and the lovely view back to Manarola

The walkway (1) below Nessun Dorma and the lovely view back to Manarola

Happy adventures and let me know if you find some even better locations?!

Check out my tips on taking better starburst and sunset photosΒ too.

You can go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa?

For much of the 1990s I assumed you’ve couldn’t go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa … because you couldn’t go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa! It’s only now after a recent trip there that I realise it was just closed between 1990 and 2001 for maintenance work in an attempt to reduce its lean, which at the time was 5.5Β°. So now, 14 years after the works’ completion the lean is a far less “leany” 3.97Β° and since December 2001 tourists have once again been able to climb up it. And you can climb up it too!

Staring up to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Staring up to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

We visited Pisa’s Piazza del Miracoli in May while enroute to Florence so we could tackle Pisa’s tower, check out the Cathedral, and behold the beautiful Bapistry. Many friends had advised us to only spend half a day in Pisa and not stay overnight there. However due to our flight times from Luton it was easier to stay for 24 hours; the late afternoon on arrival to have a “wander around” amongst all the day-trippers, the evening to have a nice meal and savour the tower in relative peace and quiet, and then the following morning to actually climb up it.

We bought our tower tickets for €18 each from the official site at http://www.opapisa.it/en/tickets/buy/ which releases them 20 days in advance. This gave us a far better time selection throughout the day compared to sites like http://www.towerofpisa.org/tickets/ who additionally add on a cheeky €10 booking fee! Our €18 choice included entry to the Cathedral too.

Pisa's Piazza del Miracoli

Pisa’s Piazza del Miracoli – Baptistry, Cathedral and Tower

So having photographed countless tourists pushing the tower upright, holding it up between their fingers, karate kicking it and pretending it was an ice cream cone we headed the 100m from our hotel (Hotel Kinzica) to the tower. With pre-bought tickets in hand we waited in the welcome shade of the tower’s shadow 15 minutes before our time slot of 11am. Handbags/bags/luggage/bumbags aren’t allowed up and must be left in the cloakroom (which is free) so we patiently waited our turn to enter with just cameras hanging around our necks, before having a routine hand-held metal detector check. Up close you notice how incredibly clean the tower’s smooth marble is along with the jaunty angle of the door as you walk through it.

The base of the Leaning Tower and the door at the entrance

The base of the Leaning Tower and the door at the entrance

The entrance room has some pictures and vertical metal stands to show you what “straight” looks like. A few of the devices we couldn’t work out immediately so we headed speedily for the staircase instead. There are 8 stories in total but you’re not allowed to walk out onto any of them apart from the very top level so it’s a straight 55 metres slog to the top. It was a hot day when we visited so it was a relief to eventually exit the narrow staircase and arrive up on the top level.

Inside the entrance to the tower

Inside the entrance to the tower next to a vertical metal pole

 

The Leaning Tower's view half way up!

The Leaning Tower’s view half way up!

As you climb up be sure to check out the worn white marble steps which must have had millions of feet walk over them to erode them like this since its construction begun back in 1173. Once at the top I was surprised to see a round open roof rather than a flat domed roof of some sort. I didn’t even realise they had 7 bells at the top (one for each note of the musical major scale). One of which scared the living skylights out of an Indian family posing right next to it as it struck 12.

Millions of footsteps up the Leaning Tower of Pisa have done this

Millions of footsteps up the Leaning Tower of Pisa have done this

 

The top of the Leaning Tower and its 7 bells

The top of the Leaning Tower and its 7 bells

A round trip might take about 40 minutes but there’s no one ushering you down so within reason you can stay up there as long as you like. We took some photos of the Cathedral below on one side and our hotel on the other, and then sat on the south side which slopes forward sufficiently enough that you’re weary of placing anything on the steps in case it slides forwards and falls through the gaps onto the crowd below. Also it’s only just noticeable but on the way down you also have that sensation of slipping down off the steps as they are angled down slightly due to the 4Β° tilt on that side of the tower.

Sitting at the top of tower on the downward facing side

Sitting at the top of tower on the downward facing side

A few shots you don’t see that often are of the base of the tower and of its exposed open top half so make sure you take photos of both while remembering to chill out 251 steps up in the air as well. Grateful that the tower didn’t fall down at some point in the past, wasn’t targeted with an artillery strike when the US army found out the Germans were possibly using it as an observation post during WWII, and finally that it’s now open to the public once more. πŸ™‚

The view from the top of the Pisa Cathedral nextdoor

The view from the top of the Pisa Cathedral nextdoor