​Which is the Best Cinque Terre Village to stay in?

I read many an article about Cinque Terre, Italy before I finally booked my visit and with each colourful clifftop photograph and each glimpse of the small boats cluttered along narrow harbours in the sunshine, my urge to visit heightened. I couldn’t quite grasp what was so special about Cinque Terre, the UNESCO listed cluster of little villages in the La Spezia region of Liguria – but I knew I wanted to be there to find out.

Cinque Terre Vernazza views

The most confusing part, though, was deciding where to stay because I simply wasn’t able to find a consensus. In a place so enchanting, it is not surprising that you develop an inherent bias and compelling affinity towards the village you based yourself in and here I am, aware of this, yet falling under the same spell.

Cinque Terre travel guide information

It is true that each village comes with its own sense of character and vibe, some miniature and sleepy, some more pulsatile and energised but in truth, it makes little difference which one you stay in since travelling between them is quick and easy – so how exactly do you go about choosing which Cinque Terre village is best to stay in?

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

It is no coincidence that I start with Riomaggiore, the village we stayed in and the one, in my admittedly partial view, that weaved the perfect balance of bustle and atmosphere without excessive crowds.

Cinque Terre Travel Blog Guide

Guest houses and hotels are plentiful in Riomaggiore and we stayed at the delightful, family-run Locanda Del Sole, just a few minutes up the hill from the main street in Riomaggiore.

gelato Bar Centrale Riomaggiorebest villages to stay Riomaggiore

With some great foodie finds, including the chocolate and pear gelato at Bar Centrale, the piping hot frito misto seafood cones from Il Pescato Cucinato, you will find a dense proportion of delicious eats in this Cinque Terre village.

antipasto frito misto Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore and Monterosso are served by most train lines, whereas the other villages are missed out on some train journeys so if you are based in either of the former two villages, you are extremely well connected transport-wise.

Cinque Terre Riomaggiore photoswhat to see and do in Riomaggiore

If you continue your ascent up the gentle slope from the main street in Riomaggiore, you will find the Castle of Riomaggiore above and behind the Locanda del Sole, perfectly situated to boast panoramic coral views over the village, particularly if you visit at dusk.

Riomaggiore Castle

Alternatively, amble towards the gravelly beach and relax on the rocks to watch the sunset (if it isn’t lurking behind the clouds as it did so obstinately when we tried.)

Riomaggiore at sunset views

Manarola

If I return to Cinque Terre and choose a different village to stay in, it would have to be Manarola, which I found the most picturesque (but it really is like being asked to choose your favourite child.) Manarola derives its name from a large, old wheel that was once used in the production of olive oil and its namesake stands proudly in the village.

Manarola Wheel Cinque Terre

The other focal point to take note of is the old church in the village that dates back to the 1300s.

Manarola Cinque Terre

It was an endearing sight and a refreshing reminder of regular, daily life in this area, to walk out of the train station towards the main village to find a group of young, local school boys playing football with competitive glints in their eyes and unfazed by the crowds of tourists watching from the sidelines.

Cinque Terre travel blog

There is a clearly delineated, easy walking path in Manarola, commencing with a stroll through small vineyards before looping around to offer inviting aerial views over the village. This gentle walk may be broken up on one of the several benches you will find en route, perfect seating for a charming picnic so do come equipped with food if you fancy a cheap but very cheerful lunch with a view.

Cinque Terre Villages Manarola Italy

Corniglia

Significantly raised from sea level, Corniglia was the only of the five villages not accessible by boat with a climb of approximately 400 steps from the station for the fitness enthusiasts or a shuttle bus for the rest of us.

Corniglia Cinque Terre

Easily the most mellow and unspoilt of all the villages, Corniglia is the village for you if you love all that is humble, unassuming yet reliable and comforting within the confines of a smaller space.

Cornigilia bar restaurant Cinque Terre

We reached Corniglia after a late morning hike from Volastra, which is a short bus ride away from Manarola or Riomaggiore.

hiking routes Cinque Terre
Hiking from Volastra

The hike took us around 90 minutes and after a little peek inside Cornigilia’s peaceful church, we perched on a step in the small but sociable main square. There, we would find other travellers pausing for a mid afternoon break with fresh fruit bought from the small greengrocer in the village or some thirst-quenching granita from Alberto.

Alberto Gelato Cornigliabest gelato gelateria Cinque Terre

And when we could gaze upwards to soak up the last rays of the sunshine for the day, we would spot in the distance, the legs of a local lady, topping up her Vitamin D on a balcony we could only dream of installing in our own home.

Balconies with flowers Italy

Vernazza

Vernazza is the fruit burst of colour in the Cinque Terre. It is the photogenic, lusted-after face of this region and it knows it.

Cinque Terre hiking views

As much as I yearn to play rebel and to pretend I am too alternative to sell out to it, I am swayed by the cluster of bright parasols and its perfectly trimmed harbour.

Vernazza boats Cinque Terre

I am seduced by its energy, by the indulgence of choice with its shops and cafes. We shuffle tediously through the large groups of tourists in the town to reach Il Pirata for lunch. And there, we succumb to the bruschetta and the cannoli because we are in Italy, and in Italy, the temptation is overwhelming.

traditional foccacia Cinque Terre LiguriaIl Pirata Vernazza Cannoli

We hiked from Corniglia to Verrnazza, which seems more of a downhill climb than that in reverse and we start to hone down the art of traversing villages within a 90 minute window. A well-positioned bar greets us with more temptation on the second half of the hike but we hold on for the feast that Vernazza holds in store for us.

Vernazza best viewpoints

The queues for boarding the boat from Vernazza become a bore in peak season so plan ahead and arrive early or work on your patient streak. This village is busy and crowded but I can’t help but find it fabulous.

colourful umbrellas Vernazza
Canopies of Colour in Vernazza

Monterosos Al Mare

Monterosso Cinque Terre beach

I make lighter work of my writing by saving the easiest one till last. Monterosso stands out amongst all the villages for its beach properties. If you want a beach break with easy reach of the seaside, fun bars and a little more nightlife, stay in Monterosso.

Il Gigante Atlas Statue Monterosso
Il Gigante Statue, Monterosso

The beach here is larger and more sandy than the waterside in the other villages with several well-positioned, beachfront hotels and both private and public beaches. Just be mindful that you may have to pay for deck chair usage.

Monterosso beach Cinque Terre

The old and new town in Monterosso are separated by a tunnel and there are clear signals that this village is well-suited to families too with children’s play areas and outdoor activities.

Cinque Terre Churches

The Vernazza — Monterosso and vice versa walks are the most popular in the region and for a leisurely attempt at it, allow yourself 2 -3 hours, as it is quite hilly.

best hiking Cinque Terre

Tucked away in Monterosso, away from the sea front which has an appealing retro feel, we found a tranquil cemetery up in the hills with family mausoleums, dressed with floral decorations and photographs of loved ones no longer here and reminiscent of the Recolleta cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Monterosso cemetery Cinque Terrewhat to see and do in CInque TerreCinque Terre Tourist Highlights

And if you happen to be in Monterrosso in mid June, you may even find yourself in the midst of the Anchovy Festival. Yes, in a day and age where the word niche elbows its way into the psyche of free-spirited, open-ended mentalities, it seems one actually exists dedicated to this love-or-hate, small, salty fish.

Anchovy Fish Festival Italy

It is no easy task trying to portray the true Italian Riviera charm of the Cinque Terre in words but I hope I have shed some light on the differences and similarities between the villages.

Liguria villages

In reality however, if the primary goal of your visit is to be able to visit the 5 Cinque Terre villages, partake in picturesque hikes, consume local produce and relax in a laid back, sleepy part of Italy, then it really makes very little difference, as they ae all so easily accessible.

best places to visit in Italy Europe

Levanto – a hidden jewel in Liguria’s crown

That completes your tour of these five villages or the “five lands” that the name Cinque Terre literally translates to but before you head on your merry way, spend a bit of time svouring a few of the nearby dreamy villages and towns,  which are easy to see with just a day or half day trip from Cinque Terre.

Levanto Liguria Italy

Levanto, only approximately 5 minutes and one train stop away from Monterosso, is the more rustic, quaint and docile of the two we visited, particularly as we turned up on a sleepy and wet Sunday, when many shops and restaurants were shut.

Levanto Italy

Hearing the gurgling in our bellies though and just as put off by the rain as we are at home, we sought shelter under the outdoor canopies of Bar da Brigida,where a few snacks and an iced Freddocino with almond syrup saw me through the afternoon perfectly.

Levanto Restaurants Bars

If you’re heading to the Cinque Terre and want to stay somewhere away from the hustle and bustle but still within easy reach of the villages, Levanto is a great option.

Levanto near Cinque Terre Liguria

Porto Venere

A UNESCO-listed site, just like its neighbouring Cinque Terre villages, Porto Venere has long been a popular, coastal holiday destination, particularly for all those enamoured with the kind of yacht-filled marina views so reminiscent of cities like Cannes and Monaco.

Porto Venere Colourful Buildings

Once we had our fill of the colourful buildings and chose which one of the countless boats we were most keen to lay claim to (I wish!), we commenced our stroll along the cafe-lined seaside promenade.

Porto Venere Marina boats

En route, we stumbled upon the Church of St Peter and the Doira Castle.

St Peter's Church Porto VenereDoria Castle Porto Venere

And even a bride walking down the promenade in flip flops!

weddings Porto Venere

Cinque Terre Travel and Transport Tips:

  • validate tickets before boarding trains
  • boats seemed a bit more reliable with timings than trains
  • trains very crowded so be prepared for survival of the fittest if you’re travelling at peak times
  • not all trains stop at all 5 villages so check before boarding
  • trains are often just one per hour to check the times and plan around them if you have a specific itinerary in mind
  • I didn’t spot any obvious toilet stops on the hike routes that I saw so use facilities beforehand or….
  • carry plenty of sunscreen, water and a hat for the hikes and wear sensible shoes
  • hotels are often high up in the hills with lots of stairs so if you are planning to carry heavy luggage, keep this in mind before confirming a booking
Cinque Terre travel tips advice
Manarola, Cinque Terre

47 thoughts on “​Which is the Best Cinque Terre Village to stay in?

  1. Thanks for this!! Cinque Terre is also on my to do list 🙂

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:13 am

      It is DEFINITELY worthy of a place on everyone’s travel wish list I think! So quaint & colourful. Hope you get a chance to visit one day soon ☺

  2. Great photos Shikha!
    We visited the area 8 years ago so it’s been a while – but we stayed in Vernazza and it was just gorgeous. It gets busy as you say and restaurants can be jam-packed for lunch…but come back in the evening when the day trippers have left and you might find yourself having a peaceful meal at a nice restaurant on the harbor.
    Loved it.

    Frank (bbqboy)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:27 am

      Thanks so much Frank! Vernazza is beautiful & so bustling. I definitely think visitors are cheated out of a truly magical experience if they just come on day trips because just like you, we much preferred Riomaggiore (where we were staying) in the evenings when the sun had gone. I’m glad that they’ve started putting some restrictions on numbers of people entering as I think it was in real danger of becoming spoilt by the crowds.

      1. Agree. I don’t know where all these day trippers come from honestly. We stayed there for a week about 8 years ago and every morning they’d flood out of the train invading the village. Urgg.

  3. I’ve done lots of Italy but never here – pics make me want to go

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:28 am

      Italy is my favourite European country to travel to so although I’ve seen a few cities, there’s so much more I want to discover there! I definitely recommend heading out to Cinque Terre though. It’s so picturesque & laid back (in the evenings especially once crowds have gone) & the hikes are great!

  4. It has to be the most beautifully colour yet rustic place I’ve ever seen. Definitely on my wish list for one day.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:30 am

      Rustic is absolutely the word Angie! Little pedestrianised narrow side streets, small family run gelaterias, cute little fishing boats – it’s all so charming – highly recommend it!

  5. This has been on my list for some time and I missed out on a trip in 2012. Thanks for taking me there.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:33 am

      Thank you for joining along with my little tour of the villages! What a shame you missed it that time Melissa but hopefully you’ll get another chance one day & it’s totally worth going if you do – the views from the hikes are breathtaking and so pretty with the multi coloured buildings everywhere ☺

  6. Shikha, thank you so much for such an insightful post. It has been my big dream to visit Cinque Terre one time with J and will certainly keep these tips in mind once we finally make it there. Your photos are gorgeous and made me feel I was there traveling with you.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:35 am

      Oh thank you for your lovely comment Nano! I hope you do get to go with J one day because it’s a really romantic but relaxing laid back place to go together, watching the sunset whilst eating crispy seafood cubes by the colourful buildings! It’s magical ☺

  7. What a great guide to the area, Shikha! I want to visit all of these places!

  8. This makes me want to go back so much! My favourite place in the whole of Italy and anyone can see from your pics why. My favourite village was Vernazza but that’s probably because it’s where we stayed. But I loved the hustle and bustle during the day and then at night, when all the day tourists had left, it was as if we had a whole village to ourselves. And I totally agree about the amazing food at Il Pirata!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:40 am

      It’s definitely somewhere I could happily return time and again Ayla & I think each time I’d love to experience it from the point of view of staying in a different village. Levanto isn’t one of the 5 but was actually one of my favourites, especially because much fewer people go so it’s still quite untouched. Shame it rained most of the afternoon we were there though!!

  9. I’m really hoping I can squeeze in a visit to Cinque Terre before we depart this side of the world… obviously for the food and instagram fodder, but the whole area fascinates me – love the connected villages.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 12, 2016 — 11:46 am

      I can wholeheartedly support that Cinque should make the cut before you leave Connie! Each village has its own little particular character & quirk and the food is fabulous ranging from cheap but such fresh seafood cones, the home of focaccia, home of pesto with trofie pasta – I could go on and on! :mrgreen:

  10. Cinque Terre villages all look beautiful – I can definitely see what you mean about it being like choosing a favourite child!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 22, 2016 — 9:02 pm

      Exactly Emma! You never want to declare it but everyone has a secret one! 😉

  11. I am the same as you and will vote for the village I stayed in: Vernazza! In the evenings, after the last train had gone and the day-trippers had left, it was so lovely and peaceful. And the little square by the harbour was the perfect place for dinner :-).

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 22, 2016 — 9:04 pm

      I really liked Vernazza too, Laura and can only imagine how pretty & peaceful it must have been by the water in the evenings. I’d love to experience staying in the other villages if I return to compare them to my stay in Riomaggiore.

  12. Walking (hiking?) between the Cinque Terre villages is something high on our travel wishlist. It looks like a perfect combination of fresh air, exercise, gob-smacking views, and delish Italian food. It’s nice to know that when we go, we don’t have to agonize about which town is THE perfect place to stay — because all have their own attractions and you can easily visit the others no matter where you’re based. Thanks for the post!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 22, 2016 — 9:06 pm

      I hope it comes in helpful for when you end up making your trip there. I don’t normally think of myself as a hiker but really enjoyed these walks and hikes as the views were definitely a great way to keep me moving up those hills! All the villages are beautiful & each comes with its own perks so you really can’t go too wrong!

  13. Planes & Champagne November 17, 2016 — 12:42 am

    I am literally itching to visit Cinque Terra and can’t wait to do the hike!!! It looks absolutely stunning!!xx

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 22, 2016 — 9:15 pm

      They have such fun hiking routes with loads of space to pause and take in the gorgeous colourful views! Even when crowds are around, it’s such a charming part of the world to explore & I hope you have an amazing time if you are planning a trip there!

  14. Miriam @londonkitchendiaries November 17, 2016 — 11:28 am

    Cinque Terre is absolutely stunning – we have been there a few year ago and I absolutely loved it!

    Miriam
    http://www.londonkitchendiaries.com

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 22, 2016 — 9:17 pm

      Oh I’m so pleased to hear you enjoyed it so much too Miriam – such a gorgeous part of Italy & with much more of a rustic, quaint charm compared to the more modern glamour of the French Riviera. So many parts of Italy that I have just fallen in love with over the years!

  15. We first discovered The Cinque Terre almost 50 years ago in the late 1960s when it was only possible to drive along the mule track and the locals came out and stared at us! My parents then bought a house in the region which we had for forty years selling it a few years ago. We still travel there, having introduced it to five generations of our family and many many friends, up to five times a year; it is simply in our genes now! The region and the many friends we have made have shaped and enriched all of our lives immensely.

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) November 27, 2016 — 10:41 am

      Sally, what a wonderful story and insight into what the region was like back then! Thank you so much for sharing this with us, as it’s exactly these kinds of tales of affection for certain destinations that I love hearing from others. I’ve only been the one time but will definitely be back and can see why you’ve all gone back time and again. You must know the area inside out like a second home ☺

  16. I’d love to visit it:)

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) December 4, 2016 — 11:42 am

      SUCH a beautiful part of Italy Tanja! I highly recommend it ☺

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 12, 2017 — 11:10 pm

      Isn’t it just Ester?! Such a beautiful part of the world!

  17. Well. That’s very comprehensive. I’d just stay in the place with the best gelato!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) February 11, 2017 — 10:03 pm

      Haha, well as a fellow massive gelato fan, I’d say that’s as good a strategy as any Andy! 😀

  18. Awesome, love cinque terre! My latest post is about it, go check it out if you like!

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) March 3, 2017 — 5:49 pm

      Thank you! Such a gorgeous & picturesque part of the world isn’t it? I’ll be sure to have a read of your post ☺

      1. Yes! Thanks! Read it and give your opinion

  19. Love this education. We so want to,go,there for several days. Just need to figure out when and where to stay….we would want to stay in one place but have days to explore. We are in good physical shape but in our early seventies and any suggestions are appreciated and then visit Other parts of Italy…..we spent a month in Tuscany a few years ago but we love the water…..

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) April 3, 2017 — 8:40 am

      Thank you so much for reading Suzanne and I’m so glad some of this has been useful. We stayed in Locanda del Sole in Riomaggiore during our visit to Cinque Terre. We based ourselves there but during our time there, we were able to visit all the 5 villages as well as Levanto and Portovenere and Pisa, Genoa and Milan are all easily accessible by train for before or after if you want. Cinque Terre is quite hilly so there are lots of steps to be going up and down but having said that, we saw many many people in their seventies doing the walks so if you are in good shape as you say, then I really don’t think it should be a problem. During this same trip, we also went to Florence and Venice, both of which are easy cities to explore on foot and obviously, Venice by water. I would love to go to the Tuscan countryside one day myself.The other thing is, if you love the water, have you considered Amalfi coast or one of the islands such as Sicily and Sardinia? I haven’t made it to the island but I hear they are wonderful and the food especially in Sicily is supposed to fantastic. I hope this helps and I hope you have a wonderful time when you do go!

  20. Loved the pictures, truly a dream come true. Liked how regular life people there live despite the heavy tourism…

    I also collated and shared a few of my own travel nuggets in a post. Hope it helps the fellow travelers. See, sleep, drink and eat in Cinque Terre:

    http://triplyzer.com/italy/travel-guide-cinque-terre-italy/

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) May 27, 2017 — 8:28 am

      Thanks for sharing your own experiences too Vidyut. Cinque Terre is such a pretty & breathtaking part of Italy.

  21. Awesome places to visit. All the places are so amazing. I will definitely visit these places. I am planning a trip with my family to Italy in next month. Please, can you suggest some Travel guide for Italy and Liguria?
    Reisgids Bloemenriviera

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) July 26, 2017 — 6:33 pm

      Hi Martina! I can give you tips on Florence, Venice & Cinque Terre if any of those are the regions you are planning to visit? Otherwise, worth having a look at the Turismo in Liguria website, which might be helpful.

  22. A great and informative post. We are planning to go there next April. We will probably stay at the Riomaggiore too. With a young kid with us, we might not do hiking. Could you please recommend me some vantage locations where we can easily reach to see the colorful village(s) from the high points

    1. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) September 27, 2017 — 10:48 pm

      Hi Wayne, thanks for stopping by & reading & so exciting that you’re planning a trip next year! Most of the best vantage points we came across were during the walks – one was on the Vernazza to Montrrosso walk, which is often one of the most photographed views & another lesser known one is on the Volastra to Corniglia walk. For slightly easier walks with a view, I’d probably suggest eithet heading up the hill towards the castle in Riomaggiore or the raised walking route in Manarola. Hope you guys and your little one have a wonderful time there!

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