The Incredible Italian Riviera
The Cinque Terre is deservedly known as one of Italy’s most beautiful places. Dotted along the gorgeous Italian Riviera coastline, there’s a string of five enchanting and colorful villages. To one side, the villages are flanked by the azure sea, while the sprawling Cinque Terre National Park beckons on the other, with its olive groves and hiking trails.
Centuries-old, these Cinque Terre villages on the Ligurian coast are made up of a hodge-podge of bright and magical buildings that seem to hover over the deep blue sea. The incredible sight is so unique that the entire coastline is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
All of the individual villages delightful, but that raises an important question – where to stay in Cinque Terre?
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Should I stay in the Cinque Terre or nearby?
As mentioned (and hinted at by the name) there are five main villages of the Cinque Terre. Most people choose to stay in one of the villages of the Cinque Terre, as it makes visiting super easy – and the atmosphere is delightful. If you can, I highly recommend staying in one of these villages as there’s nothing like it. In this guide, I’ll help you find the best village to stay in the Cinque Terre.
That said, the villages are fairly petite, yet very popular. As a result, prices can be steep – however, there are accommodation options to cover a range of budgets, from Italian villas with a private pool to small bed and breakfasts. Another option is to stay somewhere nearby and drive or train in. You’ll be sacrificing a little bit of the wow factor, but you’ll still get a chance to explore the Cinque Terre. So, in this guide, I’ll also look at some places to stay near the Cinque Terre.
Where to stay in the Cinque Terre: the Towns of the Cinque Terre
The five towns of the Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore and Manarola. While it’s completely understandable to agonize over which Cinque Terre village to stay in, the good news is – they’re all beautiful. Trust me. You could stay in any of them, and you’re sure to fall madly in love.
However, to help you make the best possible choice for you – let’s take a closer look at each.
Monterosso al Mare: the largest town to stay in the Cinque Terre
Another of the most popular places to stay is the Cinque Terre town of Monterosso. This village is the most westerly of all of the villages of the Cinque Terre and is the first you’ll stumble upon if driving in Italy from Milan or Genoa.
Monterosso is the largest of all of the villages of the Cinque Terre and is divided up into a “newer” and an old town section, which is linked by an underground tunnel. As a result of this, it has the widest range of accommodation options and can be the most budget-friendly of the towns along the Cinque Terre.
Some visitors to the Cinque Terre feel that Monterosso is the least “authentic” of the five. It’s the most accessible by car, which makes traveling more convenient – but also eats into some of the traditional charms. That said, it’s still pretty delightful with its abundant lemon trees and anchovies.
Another big tick for Monterosso is that it boasts the Cinque Terre’s best beach, Fegina Beach (yes, I said it!). With a long stretch of soft sand and ubiquitous umbrellas, it’s a fabulous place for spending a few hours soaking up the sun along the Italian Riviera.
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Best accommodation in Monterosso al Mare
- Albergo Degli Amici (Budget)
- La Rosa Dei Venti (Budget)
- Pietre di Mare (Mid-Range)
- Piccolo Principe Affittacamere (Upper Mid-Range)
- Bellambra (Luxury)
Vernazza: the most popular village to stay in the Cinque Terre
The most popular place to stay along the Cinque Terre is Vernazza, and there are plenty of good reasons why it’s taken the #1 crown. The octagonal tower of the spectacular church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia is always in your sights when you’re in Vernazza. As with each of these villages, Vernazza is astonishingly beautiful, dripping with traditional charm and historic beauty.
It’s particularly easy to enjoy this as there are no cars in the village, meaning there are no modern distractions to take away from its charming good looks. It’s the place to go to enjoy the charm of the village and its surrounding nature – one of the most popular things to do in Vernazza is to hike to the nearby village of Corniglia, taking in amazing views along the way.
Another highlight of Vernazza is that it enjoys not one but two beautiful beaches. Nearby, you’ll find lots of eateries and gelaterias, so it’s an incredibly charming place to enjoy a day by the sea. Just be prepared to share the beach with many other visitors!
The crowds are the biggest downside to staying in Vernazza, so it may not be ideal if you’re looking for a peaceful stay. Due to the popularity, it can also be one of the more expensive villages to stay in the Cinque Terre and can book out if you are visiting Cinque Terre during the popular summer season. So, be prepared to book early to secure your spot (and the best deals) in this beautiful village.
And as with most accommodation of 2 stars and above in these five villages, you will find double rooms, free wifi, and air conditioning as standard – along with sumptuous breakfasts that truly pack on the calories!
Best accommodation in Vernazza
- Camere Carlo (Mid-Range)
- Hotel Gianni Franzi (Mid-Range)
- Cade Ventu (Upper Mid-Range)
- Santa Marta Rooms (Luxury)
Corniglia: the quietest village in the Cinque Terre
While parts of the Cinque Terre can be overwhelming, Corniglia is like a little oasis of calm. Set back from the sea, it occupies an elevated location which means it gets stunning panoramic views.
The maze-like streets are lined with beautiful and historic buildings, while the calm atmosphere allows its authenticity to shine through. Perhaps best of all? You’ll only share it with a few other tourists.
What’s the catch, you may ask? Well, Corniglia’s peacefulness requires some sacrifice. You see, from the train station it’s found at the top of 350 steps – not an easy climb, but oh so worth it if you can do it. The lactic acid is nothing compared to enjoying the beauty of this rustic and authentic village, and getting a taste for what traditional life is like along the Cinque Terre.
Best accommodation in Corniglia
Riomaggiore: the Goldilocks village of the Cinque Terre
In many ways, Riomaggiore is the “goldilocks” village of the Cinque Terre. It’s not too big but not too small; not too crowded, but not too quiet, either. So, if you’re looking to enjoy a little bit of everything while staying overnight in the Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is an excellent choice.
It boasts some of the most beautiful views of any of the villages, with the panoramas out over the sea being particularly captivating. One of the most popular places to take in the beauty of the surrounds is from the Castello di Riomaggiore… from here, you can take in some of the most stunning sunsets imaginable.
Nature lovers will also surely love the abundance of hiking and walking opportunities around Riomaggiore. One of the most popular is the Via dell’Amore (the romantically-named Walk of Love) which stretches between Riomaggiore and Manarola (see below).
Do you plan on letting your hair down a little in one of the most beautiful places on earth? I certainly don’t blame you! If so, then Riomaggiore is a great choice. This is one of the bigger villages in the Cinque Terre and has established itself as offering some of the best dining and nightlife of all of the villages.
Best accommodation in Riomaggiore
- La Dolce Vita (Budget)
- Allo Scalo Dei Mille (Mid-Range)
- Stellio Affitacamere – Guest House (Upper Mid-Range)
- Malbo (Luxury)
Manarola: Peace, quiet and panoramas in the Cinque Terre
If you loved the sound of Corniglia’s serenity but weren’t so keen on those 350 steps, Manarola may be an equally enchanting choice. This village is the Cinque Terre’s second smallest, having once been part of Riomaggiore. Today, it’s considered a village in its own right – albeit a pint-sized one!
Manarola is particularly ideal for those who want to enjoy the famous Cinque Terre hikes, all the while taking in pinch-yourself views. The village itself is enchanting, and the surrounding landscapes just add to the wow factor. You certainly won’t regret choosing Manarola for where to stay in the Cinque Terre!
Unfortunately, Manarola doesn’t have a beach, however, it does have a very picturesque harbor that you can explore. As it is the second smallest village, it offers fewer amenities such as shops as restaurants, but you’ll still find some traditional options to enjoy. Plus, it’s within walking distance to Riomaggiore (30 minutes) if you’re looking for more options. For a more peaceful choice, beautiful and still close to the action of Riomaggiore, look no further than petite Manarola.
Best accommodation in Manarola
Where to stay outside of the Cinque Terre
As you can see from my enthusiastic descriptions above, I highly recommend staying in one of the villages of the Cinque Terre. It’s such a unique place, and it’s truly magical to explore the villages after the day-trippers have left. A short walk down any winding street brings you encounters with charming crumbling buildings and stairways, cats sunning themselves on boats, and tiny cafes. However, there may be some cases (such as when your time is very short) where you should stay in a larger city near the Cinque Terre and visit on a day trip.
In this case, you’ll need to either drive or catch the train to the Cinque Terre. If you are catching the train, just be sure to leave plenty of leeway in your transfers. Italian trains are notorious for running late, and you don’t want to miss yours!
The Cinque Terre lies about halfway between the well-known cities of Genoa and Pisa. Genoa is a larger city, while Pisa is famous for… well, you know! It’s leaning tower, of course. So Pisa may be a more convenient city if you’re looking to combine a day trip to the Cinque Terre with other sightseeing in a compact amount of time.
La Spezia (pictured above), known as the gateway to the Italian Riviera, is also conveniently located for exploring the Cinque Terre and has plenty of accommodation options.
Best accommodation in La Spezia
- Hotel Birillo (Budget)
- Elegant Apartments 5 terre la spezia (Mid-Range)
- La Maison Des Anges (Upper Mid-Range)
Yet another option is to stay in the seaside resort town of Levanto (pictured below) with its long sandy beach, about 20 kilometers away from La Spezia.
Best accommodation in Levanto
Further Links and Information
There are so many things to do in the Cinque Terre, Italy. See all of the best things to do in the Cinque Terre, from Get Your Guide here
Where to stay in Cinque Terre? See my comprehensive guide on how to choose the best Cinque Terre village for you here
If you’ve decided to stay in the beautiful village of Vernazza on Cinque Terre, see my detailed guide to this colorful UNESCO village here
If you’re on a lovers trip to Europe, consider that other iconic destination, Santorini. Read my Athens and Santorini posts here
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