Discovering the exceptional vegan options in one of the most stunning regions of Italy, Cinque Terre. Travel tips and recommendations for exploring Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre: The Five Towns
Cinque Terre is along the Italian Riviera highlighted by rugged coastline and five isolated towns. The once isolated Italian villages grew around cliffs and ports to create one of Italy's most prominent regions. The towns exhibit authentic Italian culture with few roads, cars, or chain stores. Cinque Terre has been able to preserve its authenticity through the years and the rise of tourism to the area. Cinque Terre is renowned for its pastel-colored buildings, wondrous Italian food, and breathtaking landscapes.
The five towns are tucked between a very mountainous region on the eastern end of the Italian Riviera. Each town is linked by hiking trails that follow along the coast. There are varying degrees of difficulty for each of the hiking trails. Walking along the steep cliffs, greenery, and vast vineyards is an excellent way to soak in the Mediterranian sun. Cinque Terre is obtainable through the rail system. The train line will connect you to Italian cities such as Rome, Pisa, and Florence. Once you arrive in Cinque Terre, it is quick to hop from town to town via the train, which runs every few minutes. The rail system is a very simple and inexpensive way to travel around the towns. I would recommend purchasing a Cinque Terre Railpass. You can also purchase tickets at the kiosks at each of the stations. You will notice many people jumping from train to train without tickets but it is not worth the risk of being caught and slapped with a giant fine.
The Five Towns:
Each town has its own unique personality. I would recommend seeing a town or two in a day. Traveling slowly will allow you to make a connection to each of the towns. These are not villages where you want to see the highlights or tourist spots and move on. Instead, relax and experience what each village has to offer before moving on to the next.
The first town that most travelers stop at and is one of the most traveled to of the five towns. We stayed in Riomaggiore and instantly fell in love with the town. The pastel-colored houses and beautiful sunsets on our porch with a bottle of wine was one of the highlights of our trip. Riomaggiore has several great shops and restaurants along the main strip.
There is a pebbly beach that you can swim in along with a botanical garden. Riomaggiore is the most romantic of the towns. We spent our honeymoon in Cinque Terre and cannot recommend it highly enough as a honeymoon destination. Beautiful, adventurous, and not overly touristy made for a perfect honeymoon.
Monterosso is the next town that we visited at Cinque Terre. Monterosso is home to the most beautiful strip of beach in Cinque Terre. The water was stunning and clear. You could see right to the bottom, which makes for great snorkeling! In the distance are beautiful mountains and cliff ridges which add to the beach experience. This beach is perfect for lounging with an Italian beer soaking up the sun. Swimming and relaxing at the beach is a perfect retreat from the stresses of travel and makes for an excellent way to relax and recharge your batteries.
The smallest of the towns and is located in the middle of the five villages. Even though this town is the smallest it should not be skipped! This town can be challenging to get to and is a few hundred stairway steps from the train station. But it is worth the journey. Corniglia has a unique personality and is a bit more relaxed than the other villages. Small shops and restaurants line the streetways. We also found our way to a fascinating hidden beach that had large slabs of rocks along a cove. It was a bit tricky to maneuver around the giant boulders and crashing waves. It felt like our own small part of the Italian Riveria with only about a dozen people at this beach, and we were surrounded by giant cliffs.
Vernazza is one of the most breathtaking of the towns. Vernazza is home to the medieval castle Belforte which overlooks the steep cliffs to the water. Vernazza has an excellent harbor that is surrounded by the picturesque pastel houses. Vernazza has several great bars and restaurants along the main street. Vernazza is well known for its olives and produces some of the best Italian olive oil in the region.
Manarola is the oldest of the five towns and is home to the most grapevines in Cinque Terre. Manarola is known for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine. I was unable to get in contact with any of these winemakers to see if the wine was vegan, so I did not try any of the Sciacchetrà wine. Manarola is located atop a very high cliff overlooking the water. Manarola is the only one of the five towns that does not have a traditional beach. This town still has a lot to offer and is worth exploring the shops and trails where you can find great lookout points.
I would recommend starting your trip with an Airbnb boat ride experience. This was the highlight of the trip and allowed us to get to know each of the towns. We used the Francesco & Martha sunset tour. The excursion brought us to each oft he five towns by boat where the captain gave us a brief history of each town. The boat was able to take us to remote, beautiful areas. Then the boat took us out to deeper water, where we all jumped off the boat and swam as a beautiful sunset filled the sky. They offer cheese and meat snacks, which we declined. They also provide bottomless wine. I checked in with the companies to see if they were vegan wines. The white wine was not, but after a discussion with the red wine company, I discovered the wine was vegan.
I would ask ahead for the wine name and email them because I am sure they rotate wine.
Cinque Terre is known for its olives and olive oils. On Airbnb experiences, you can find several great olive tours. Many of these will pair the experience with cheeses or meats as well, so I would recommend messaging the owners and let them know you are vegan to see if they can accommodate you or at least knock the price down a bit for you.
The Cinque Terre region is the birthplace of pesto. Personally, pesto is one of my all-time favorite dishes to make at home. I was very excited to book a pesto making class. I messaged several Airbnb experience owners for the classes and could not find a vegan-friendly pesto class. Pesto consists of pine nuts, basil, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. So, if you wish to take a pesto class, simply do not add the cheese. Make sure to message the Airbnb experience beforehand to let them know you are vegan and will simply make an adjustment to their pesto.
Cinque Terre is well known for its wines. I was amazed by how many of the wineries were vegan. These are all small wineries, and I quickly realized that they did not have much of any web presence or could be found on Barnivore (vegan wine resource). However, many of the wineries have wine tours on Airbnb. I messaged as many as I could and found over half of the wines to be vegan. Some of the vegan wineries in Cinque Terre are Vittorio Conforti, Luciano Capellini, Chianti Bio wine. The area is well known for high-quality chiantis. After talking with many of the winemakers, they talked about different regulations in Italy, such as using an egg to clarify the wine is illegal in Italy.
Italy can be a fantastic place for vegans. Much of the food is vegan because they rely more on oil than butter for many of their dishes. Many delicious Italian staples are mostly vegans such as Bruschetta, many kinds of pasta, and pizza marinara. Also, many desserts such as gelato and sorbet can be dairy-free in Italy. You will need to learn a few Italian words to look for when ordering (see my post on ordering vegan in various languages here). So many restaurants or shops sell vegan foods. Just make sure you have a conversation with a waitress or store clerk first. These foods are not universally vegan in Italy, so do not assume that a food item is vegan!
We enjoyed staying in at our Airbnb and making ourselves a nice meal. There are several little corner store types of grocery stores in Cinque Terre which sell fresh foods and the basics you need for most meals. You can find local foods such as sauces, pestos, and pastas in those stores. This is a great way to experience the local cuisine and also save a bit of money. We ended up making several meals including a delicious pesto dish. We would cook our meal and then sit on our terrace with a bottle of wine. Watching the ships streak against the water and the sunset over the village producing the most dazzling colors in the sky.
Best vegan restaurants in Cinque Terre:
Britta was my favorite place to eat in Cinque Terre, and I ate there an alarming amount of time. This is an all-vegan restaurant located in Riomaggiore. The fact that it was all vegan was a high weight off my shoulders. Especially in a country where you don't speak the language fluently, I am always concerned that I may order something that isn't vegan by mistake. Eating at an all-vegan restaurant relieves all of those fears. This is a takeaway restaurant that serves smoothies, cocktails, and sandwiches. They serve vegan "chicken" sandwiches, paninis, and other various vegan foods. For me, the focaccia was unbelievable. There are several types of focaccia, but the potatoes and thyme focaccia were downright addicting! It was refreshing to see such a delicious all-vegan restaurant in the heart of Riomaggiore.
Kepris Pizzeria is a small pizzeria located in Riomaggiore. This is one of the first restaurants that pop up when you search for vegan options. Kepris has great reviews from sites including Happy Cow and Tripadvisor. This pizza shop is positioned very close to the train station and is a perfect spot to grab a quick bite to eat when you are traveling around the towns. We stayed in Riomaggiore and I enjoyed to start the journey with a quick slice. This is not a completely vegan pizzeria but the marinara pizza is vegan and is packed with a rich flavor. They make the pizza right in front of you so you know how fresh it is. It was great to get an authentic Italian pizza that was vegan in Italy.
Wonderland in Monterosso is a prominent bakery that has some delicious vegan desserts. All of the ingredients at Wonderland Bakery are organic. There was a surprising amount of vegan options here, including focaccia, which is one of my personal favorite foods to eat in Italy. Also, several desserts and pies were vegan. This was a pleasant surprise to find in Monterosso.
Gelateria 5Terre has some fantastic vegan desserts. Gelateria 5Terre is located in the town of Manarola. The store is located down a few stairs to a very cool stony design. There are a ton of options. The sorbet and gelato are all dairy-free and gluten-free. The crepes and cannoli were not vegan but I have read online they have in the past had different desserts that are vegan. The gelato was the perfect remedy for the hot Mediterranean sun!
Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I have ever traveled to. It will always hold a special spot in my heart because it is where we honeymooned. These towns are so much more than the photos of the picturesque Italian coastline villages you see on social media. It has a vibrant culture with striking landscapes. Cinque Terre captures the essence of why I love to travel.
The five villages are home to amazing vegan food and wine, breathtaking views, and authentic culture. Yes, Cinque Terre is a significant tourist destination, but it somehow seems to repel commercialism and remain true to its culture. Perhaps, it is because of the size of each of the villages that allow the locals to stay and pass down traditions. Whether it is swimming in the clear blue water, eating a delicious Italian meal at a restaurant or enjoying a glass of wine from a terrace as the sun sets over the bright pastel-colored buildings, Cinque Terre will capture your heart and leave you longing for when you can return to the beautiful Italian Riveria once again.