Corniglia (pronounced core-neel-ee-uh) is the smallest of the Cinque Terre villages and arguably the most underrated (as it is oftentimes overshadowed by its larger and easier to reach neighbors).
If you are a numbers person, Corniglia is considered the third village in the Cinque Terre (from either direction).
There are a few things that set Corniglia apart from its more popular neighbors:
- Its location off the sea.
Unlike the other four villages, Corniglia sits on a mountaintop reigning over the sea. When you reach the Corniglia train station you’ll find that you still have to climb 382 stairs (yes, 382, I’ve counted them myself!) to reach the village center.
The fact that it takes a bit of effort to reach the village tends to weed out visitors that can’t be bothered (which is a BIG plus in my opinion). Little do these people know, you can actually “cheat” and take a bus up the hill to the village.
Despite that, I still prefer to take the stairs (probably because of my next point).
- It has my *favorite* gelateria in all of the Cinque Terre.
You can get traditional homemade gelato in a plethora of flavors all throughout the Cinque Terre. And to be honest, it’s all pretty delicious. But in how many places can you get gelato al basilico, made with fresh basil from the owner’s garden? Or, gelato al miele made with the honey harvested from local Corniglia bees? Yeah, I didn’t think so. This place is unico. What better way to treat yourself after climbing all of those stairs?
- Most consider Corniglia to be the only Cinque Terre village without access to the sea, which isn’t exactly true.
They have this lovely little cove where you can swim off the rocks (granted you’ll have to hoof it up and down the hill but you didn’t come to the Cinque Terre to be sedentary, right?).
There’s also a famous/infamous nude beach called Guvano hidden beneath Corniglia (but you’ll need a boat to reach it).
- Locals are so nice here.
While sitting at a tiny café I witnessed a foreign couple ask the barista to place a slice of savory cheese in a sweet croissant (I must be turning Italian as I winced simply at the thought!). The barista didn’t bat an eye and accommodated their request with a smile. I must admit, I was really impressed.
- It’s less commercial.
You won’t find hotels here, just a scattering of affittacamere (room rentals). It’s quaint and personable and you’ll feel like you’re staying amongst the locals.
- It’s quiet when the sun goes down.
And heck, it’s pretty quiet during the day, too. If R&R is your scope and you like to turn in early, Corniglia could very well be your own little piece of paradise.
My personal recommendations in Corniglia
Gelateria Alberto, via Fieschi (you can’t miss it!)
A quick coffee or aperitivo:
Bar Pan e Vin, via Fieschi 123 (this place is tiny and gets cramped quickly… grab a coffee and sit on the bench outside to people watch)
Affittacamere da Cristiana is family-run with love and care by friendly Cristiana and Stefano (they also run the bar listed above)
Corte del Gallo offers a convenient location (an easy and quick walk from the Corniglia train station), beautiful views and comfortable accommodations. Owners Roberto and Claudia are lovely, lovely people that I had the pleasure to meet when Roberto so kindly volunteered to be Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) for my son’s preschool. Their stellar reviews just go to show what lovely hosts and people they are! Contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org