Cinque Terre Views: My Favorite Photo Spots in Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore
February 3, 2016 | Mark Iandolo
I was only supposed to spend a few days in the Cinque Terre back in December. But the moment I got there, I knew I needed more time – because you can never see enough sunrises and sunsets in a place like this. So I spent a whole week photographing the seaside towns.
I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite sunset/sunrise viewpoints in Vernazza and Manarola.
Vernazza is probably the most photographed town of the Cinque Terre, and for good reason. It's hard to capture in words or photographs just how serene a sunset is in this town. The Cinque Terre has become a go-to photography spot – you can constantly find photos of it on Instagram. In my photo story for one of my portfolio images, "Dreams in the Dusk," I talked about how when you visit a spot you've seen a million times in photographs and dreamed about visiting, one of two things happen:
1. You realize that the photos lied to you and the place isn't all its cracked up to be.
2. You realize that no photo could do the place justice.
Vernazza is the latter. No matter how many post cards it appears on, the real thing is always better.
This is first photo is probably the most famous sunset viewpoint, and it doesn’t disappoint! It can be reached within a few minutes from the town center by taking the hiking path toward Corniglia.
This next overlook provides a completely different view of Vernazza than the other, more iconic location on the other side. But I actually like this one better, because you can see the front of the town and the harbor.
This spot can be reached within a few minutes from the town center by starting along the hiking path to Monterosso al Mare.
This next photo was taken at a spot that can be reached within a few minutes from the town center by starting along the hiking path to Monterosso al Mare. This spot is a few-minute walk from the one in the previous photo.
Not all great viewpoints come from above the Cinque Terre. This next photo was actually a bit of an accident, as another shot location I had chosen wasn’t working. So I raced down into the town, stepped out onto the rocks and found a view I liked right as the peak moments of twilight occurred.
The towns of the Cinque Terre are known for ocean views and quaint yet chaotic architecture, but also for wine. I found a spot that captures all three in one image of Manarola. If you start upon the hiking trail from Manarola to Corniglia and climb a bit, you’ll find this stunning view.
The towns are usually photographed during the evening, because the sun sets out over the ocean. But I decided to wake up early and give morning a try and saw this. If you go to the main tourist overlook of the village, and then live just a bit dangerously and climb over the railing and down onto the rocks below, you can get this panoramic view.
I recommend getting up early for sunrise in these towns, and I say that as the world’s worst morning person. It’s worth it to beat crowds and spend a few quiet minutes soaking in the experience and listening to the sounds of the sea.
In this next scene, dozens of illuminated figures line the terraced hills overlooking Manarola in an annual Nativity scene. I visited during Christmas season, and after noticing the nativity scene, I actively sought for a view that would include it. I immediately envisioned the idea of including the setting sun in the frame as well, so I knew I needed to head up into the hills behind the town. After hiking for quite some time, I found a spot just above some vineyards. It took 3 different nights to get the sky patterns I wanted, but I eventually came away with something that I find pretty unique as far as Cinque Terre images go.
I quickly snapped this photo at the beginning of a six-hour hike from here to Monterosso al Mare with some new friends I made during my visit. While the light wasn't great, and while I spent almost no time scouting the town for photography locations to pick the best spot, this photo has become one of my favorites. It was taken out on the rocks by the town's dock area.
I came away with many images I liked during my week-long stay in the Cinque Terre – a solid portfolio. However, I have not photographed Corniglia or Monterosso al Mare and I don't think I've truly done Riomaggiore justice. I hope to return to Italy soon and revisit these seaside fishing villages. Time changes, but the beauty of the Cinque Terre remains.