Cinque Terre Towns: What to Do and Where to Stay

Published:

Modified: November 2, 2021

by Rina Bernardo

View of the colorful houses in Manarola, one of the most picturesque Cinque Terre towns
Photo by Sung Jin Cho on Unsplash

Located along the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre towns are undeniably some of the most beautiful places in the country. Its colorful houses stacked along cliffsides have long been a postcard staple and a popular backdrop for everyone’s vacation photos. In addition, it was hailed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its incredible coastline, villages, and surrounding hillsides. Offering five towns and seaside villages filled with amazing sights and landscapes, one would be confused about where to go. They have so much in common and the slight differences can affect your overall stay.

 

If you’re planning to visit this coastal paradise in Italy, here’s a guide on each of the small towns along with things to do and accommodation ideas.

Riomaggiore

View of Riomaggiore from the sea

Photo by felix_w on Pixabay

Best for: First-time visitors, getting to know the region as a whole

 

Riomaggiore is often the starting point for travelers wanting to explore Cinque Terre towns due to its proximity to La Spezia. As such, it is the perfect introduction to the region, offering miles of hiking trails, small beaches, and signature pastel-colored houses and slate roofs. This town is particularly stunning at dusk, when the setting sun casts a golden glow over the tumbling buildings. Unlike other towns that have a slow-paced vibe to them, Riomaggiore’s main street has several shops, restaurants, and bars where you can socialize and enjoy the nightlife.

What to Do in Riomaggiore

  • Via dell’Amore – The famous Via dell’Amore (Lovers Lane) starts at Riomaggiore and ends at Manarola. This is one of the shortest hikes in Cinque Terre Italy and can be done within an hour.
  • Castle of Riomaggiore – Built around the 1200s, the castle served to protect the village from pirates and barbarians. Today, the highest point in the village offers sweeping views of the sea.
  • Sanctuary of our Lady of Montenero – From La Spezia, stop by the Sanctuary of our Lady of Montenero for amazing views of the vineyards, sea, and colorful villages.
  • Boat Tour – Boat tours are easily one of the best ways to spend time at Riomaggiore. Find hidden beaches, get the chance to dive or snorkel, and admire the village from a different perspective.
  • Church of San Giovanni Battista – The Gothic church, located in the upper part of town, gives you breathtaking views of Riomaggiore Italy from its piazza. It is also one of the town’s main attractions.

Where to Stay in Riomaggiore

(Take note that prices per night depend on the season and are subject to change without prior notice.)

  • Hotel La Zorza (Starts at 72 USD per night) – Hotel La Zorza is a great budget option for solo travelers. Located near the train station, the hotel offers cozy rooms with basic amenities like air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom. Riomaggiore Beach, along with most restaurants and shops, is within a walking distance.
  • Cinqueterre Residence (Starts at 121 USD per night) – The hotel is located relatively far from the main street, but its location and calm surroundings are perfect for relaxation. All rooms have a private terrace while select rooms have a hot tub.
  • Crêuza de Mä (Starts at 307 USD per night) – Its seafront location is perfect for unobstructed views of the Ligurian Sea and the stacks of houses. Crêuza de Mä boasts four terraces, a solarium, gardens, outdoor pools, and a hot tub.

Manarola

Colorful houses stacked on the cliffside in Manarola

Photo byKookay on Pixabay

Best for: Wine lovers, hiking enthusiasts

 

Manarola is one of the most photographed Cinque Terre towns, famed for its scenic harbor and stacked houses. However, what sets it apart is its hiking trails and vineyards perfect for a day trip. Moreover, Manarola is famous for its Sciacchetrà wine, a sweet wine typically paired with desserts and cheese. This town also houses the Via dell’Amore, one of the highlights of Cinque Terre National Park.

What to Do in Manarola

  • Via dell’Amore – From Riomaggiore, the trail ends at Manarola and connects the start of the Blue Trail. It takes you through a concrete footpath from Manarola to Riomaggiore and can be done in less than an hour.
  • Sciacchetrà wine – Visit an enoteca (wine bar) and try this sweet wine famous in the region. Try it with a cheese platter or Italian desserts like panna cotta or a slice of Genoa cake.
  • Church of San Lorenzo – The small, medieval stone church features a rose window that makes for a great backdrop for your photos. This is also a great place to catch panoramic views of Manarola and the Ligurian coastline.

    Walking Tour – Manarola has narrow streets with charming little nooks and alleys at every turn. Like most Italian villages and Cinque Terre towns, going on a walking tour allows you to discover hidden shops and see different views of the harbor and the cliffs.

  • Manarola Marina – The marina at Manarola is the perfect place to hang out, go swimming, and perfect your suntan. Feel free to pitch a beach umbrella or simply lay down on a beach towel and soak up the sun. Take note that some areas in the marina are rocky and that there are “no swimming” zones for boat docking.

Where to Stay in Manarola

(Take note that prices per night depend on the season and are subject to change without prior notice.)

  • Ca de GianchiVerdeblù (Starts at 58 USD per night) – This is a great option for budget travelers staying in Manarola. All rooms are clean, simple, and come with air-conditioning, a private bathroom, and free WiFi. Some rooms also have a balcony with views of the town.
  • Affittacamere San Giorgio (Starts at 123 USD per night) – Affittacamere San Giorgio has rooms that can fit up to four people, perfect for vacationing families The hotel is located a few minutes away from the seafront and the train station.
  • La Torretta Lodge (Starts at 312 USD per night) – La Torretta Lodge is a romantic accommodation with fantastic views of the village. Enjoy tastefully decorated rooms with a flat-screen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, and free aperitif in the evening.

Vernazza

Vernazza's pastel houses and harbor as seen from the top of a cliff during the day

Photo by djedj on Pixabay

Best for: Picturesque views, vacationing couples

 

Featuring bright houses stacked on a cliffside, Vernazza is perhaps the most photographed out of the Cinque Terre towns. It is also the steepest among the villages, lined with charming boutiques and small cafes along the narrow streets. At every corner, find amazing views of the sea. As the most popular town in the region, take note that it can get pretty crowded especially in the summer.

What to Do in Vernazza

  • Blue Trail – From Vernazza, hike the Blue Trail to Monterosso or Corniglia. Trails to both villages are moderate to difficult and can be done in two hours. Make sure to check with park authorities in advance for trail closures due to landslides.
  • Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia – The church features Ligurian Gothic architecture and can be seen from different vantage points around town. The true origins of the church remain unknown, but it’s still a good place to visit on your walking tour.
  • Beaches – There are two beaches in Vernazza; one is near the harbor and another which you can access by passing through a caved passage that begins at the main square.
  • Walking Tour – The streets in Vernazza are narrow, thus making them inaccessible for vehicles. As such, it’s easier to take walking tours of Vernazza and discover its many viewpoints! By sunset, head to Porto di Vernazza for swoon-worthy views of the sunset.
  • Doria Castle – Get a bird’s eye view of the village from the ruins of Doria Castle. Formerly a lookout to protect the village from pirates, it is now a famous tourist attraction. You can also snap postcard-worthy shots at the castle.

Where to Stay in Vernazza

(Take note that prices per night depend on the season and are subject to change without prior notice.)

  • Hotel Gianni Franzi (Starts at 93 USD per night) – The hotel has an excellent location near Doria Castle, offering panoramic views of Vernazza. Rooms have simple decor with easy access to the train station and hiking trails.
  • Cadè Ventu (Starts at 104 USD per night) – Although far from the city center, Cadè Ventu is perfect for couples who want a secluded escape with a romantic setting. It boasts sweeping views of the neighboring Cinque Terre towns and an unparalleled view of the sunset.
  • Casa Catò (Starts at 201 USD per night) – Casa Catò offers bright and modern rooms with free WiFi access throughout the property. All rooms have views of the sea, the mountains, and the pastel-colored houses that made Vernazza famous. From the hotel, Vernazza Beach is only a short walking distance away.

Corniglia

Corniglia is one of the best Cinque Terre towns for those who prefer a quiet and lowkey place

Photo by ansgarscheffold on Pixabay

Best for: Off-the-beaten-path destination, travelers who prefer avoiding crowded places

 

Out of the five towns, Corniglia is the only village that doesn’t have direct access to the sea. However, that doesn’t mean that you should skip it! In fact, it has a unique and authentic small-town charm to it that tourists often overlook. It offers quiet hiking trails, hidden beaches, and sprawling vineyards. Take note that you’ll have to climb hundreds of steps to get to it, which can be difficult for those with mobility issues.

What to Do in Corniglia

  • Lardarina – Climb more than 300 brick steps to get a gorgeous view of the Ligurian Sea and the surrounding region. For those who would want to skip on the strenuous hike, there are regular shuttle buses that take you to the top of the lookout.
  • Churches – On a walking tour, stop by the famous churches in the village. Visit the Church of San Pietro and see the beautiful rose window. Then, go for a short walk and visit the small chapel at the Oratorio dei Disciplinati di Santa Caterina.
  • Hiking – Aside from hiking the Blue Trail to Manarola or Vernazza, there’s also a separate trail to Manarola that takes you through vineyards and pretty sights.
  • Beaches – Although it doesn’t have direct access to the beach, there are hidden coves and beaches to hang out. If you’re looking for a nude beach in the Cinque Terre towns, visit Guvano Beach.
  • Cinque Terre Wine – Sample the best wines of the region at a winery visit in Corniglia. Within the city and along the Blue Trail, you can find wine bars where you can sip on a glass of wine and enjoy snacks. Best of all, the views of the sea here are unparalleled.

Where to Stay in Corniglia

(Take note that prices per night depend on the season and are subject to change without prior notice.)

  • Arbanella (Starts at 98 USD per night) – Arbanella offers great value for money along with stunning views of the sea and the lush greenery. All rooms have cozy white interiors decorated with wooden touches that give them a rustic appearance.
  • Affittacamere Arbasia De Ma, Terre Marine (Starts at 105 USD per night) – Take in the lovely views of Corniglia at Affittacamere Arbasia De Ma, Terre Marine. The bed-and-breakfast is conveniently located 10 minutes from the train station.
  • Locanda Il Carugio (Starts at 167 USD per night) – Locanda Il Carugio has well-appointed rooms equipped with air-conditioning, a fridge, and a flat-screen TV. Some rooms also have a private terrace with mountain views.

Monterosso

Monterosso's sandy beach and mountains as seen from the water

Photo by djedj on Pixabay

Best for: Beach lovers, families

 

Monterosso, also known as Monterosso al Mare, is one of the biggest Cinque Terre towns. It is divided into two sections: the old town which has most of the historical attractions and a newer part where you can find most hotels. Unlike other towns, Monterosso is relatively flat and isn’t perched on a rocky cliff. That said, walking in the area is easy for children and travelers with mobility issues.

What to Do in Monterosso

  • Swimming – Known for its sandy beaches, swimming is one of the best things to do in Monterosso. It has a sizeable shore with soft, powdery sands lined with sunbeds with plenty of space for you to lie down and soak up the sun.
  • Kayaking – You can rent a kayak, explore the nearby coves, and discover hidden beaches. There are several stores and tour operators near the beachfront that offer guided kayak tours around the sandy beach.
  • Explore Old Town – For your dose of sightseeing, head to Old Town. Catch panoramic views of Monterosso from the monastery in San Francesco Church and don’t miss the famous Van Dyck painting. At the main square, the Church of San Giovanni Battista features an intricate fresco depicting the baptism of Christ.
  • Hiking – Although Monterosso doesn’t have that many steep cliffs, you can still challenge yourself and take on the Blue Trail. The trail connects the five Cinque Terre towns and the trail from Monterosso to Vernazza takes about two hours.
  • Lemon Festival – Held in May, the Lemon Festival celebrates anything and everything about the fruit. Find the village decorated with fresh lemons and sample lemon-based food and drinks like limoncello, lemon jam, lemon cake, and more.

Where to Stay in Monterosso

(Take note that prices per night depend on the season and are subject to change without prior notice.)

  • Hotel Villa Adriana (Starts at 185 USD per night) – Hotel Villa Adriana is a short walking distance to the beach and the train station. It is also one of the few hotels in the area that has a swimming pool and offers free car parking.
  • Hotel Baia (Starts at 143 USD per night) – Hotel Baia is located on the beachfront making it easier for guests to access the private beach area. Rooms are straightforward and guests can enjoy views of the inner courtyard, mountains, or the sea.
  • Hotel Porto Roca (Starts at 340 USD per night) – Hotel Porto Roca boasts a clifftop location with gorgeous sea views a few minutes away from the city center. Not all rooms have sea views, but you can get extras like a buffet breakfast and an on-site seafood restaurant. Free transfers to and from the train station are also available for its guests.

Stay at the Best Cinque Terre Towns

The World Heritage Site of Cinque Terre in Italy showcases the best of what the Ligurian region has to offer. From romantic seaside villages, hidden beaches, and postcard-perfect views at every turn, it is one of the best getaways from the big cities of Italy. Each village offers unique points and a distinct characteristic that sets it apart from one another. Whether you’re looking for a quiet vacation or a place to stretch your legs and enjoy long walks, there’s a town in the region perfect for you!