With five stunning cliffside villages set along the Ligurian Coast that look as if they were made for a postcard, it can be hard to decide where to stay for your visit to the Cinque Terre region. Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia, and Riomaggiore are all captivating but each one has something unique of its own that might make for a better stay depending on your particular interests and budget. La Spezia is also worth considering as it’s very close to the villages and offers plenty of perks of its own. Either way, accommodation is plentiful throughout the area, with everything from family-friendly vacation rentals to romantic guesthouses and luxury hotels.
Are you seeking a romantic stay? Want to swim in the aquamarine sea and soak up the sun from the beach? Or is hiking a top priority? This guide will help you choose the best village for the type of trip you plan to enjoy.
Monterosso is often recommended as the best place to stay in Cinque Terre for first-time visitors. The largest of the five villages, it boasts a picturesque medieval Old Town, a sandy beach, and many accommodation options. There are several beaches and plenty of restaurants and bars, plus you’ll find the widest selection of hotels and guesthouses near the beaches too. Monterosso is almost entirely flat, making it ideal for anyone with mobility issues as well as families with young children, with long stretches along the beach where stroller use is possible. Vernazza is another great pick as the most photographed Cinque Terre village, embodying the kind of experience most visitors to the region expect while offering a wide range of hotels and restaurants. Dating back to the 11th century, it has a rich history with a labyrinth of delightful streets and colorful homes arranged around the port, one of the most charming in the area.
Manarola is one of the prettiest villages in Cinque Terre and offers a more tranquil vibe that’s ideal for couples who want to enjoy more relaxed, peaceful evenings as there isn’t much going on in terms of nightlife. Its colorful houses spill down toward a small harbor and an area filled with sunbathers and swimmers in the summer. It’s a great place to spend the day lounging in the Mediterranean sun and watching the locals jump off the cliffs. Daring visitors might even join them. The square near the harbor is lined with restaurants serving fresh seafood and fish that are ideal for a break in between. Nessun Dorma is one of the most popular restaurants, renowned for its mouthwatering cuisine and fabulous views. During the busy season, you can even digitally queue for your table as you relax by the water. There are some honeymoon-worthy B&Bs and guesthouses with magnificent sea views too.
Located in the heart of Cinque Terre National Park atop a rocky promontory about 330 feet above the sea, Corniglia is quite a bit different than the other villages. It’s the only one that’s not right on the water and as it requires negotiating 377 steps or taking a shuttle bus to reach it from the train station, it’s one of the least visited. While it’s not a good choice for anyone with mobility issues, it’s the best for those who want to enjoy an authentic local feel or hike the trails. Hikers will find two of the most stunning trails linking Corniglia with Vernazza and Manarola via Volastra. Anyone seeking a quiet place to stay away from the big crowds should consider it with fewer tourists staying here. There are several excellent hotels and all have breathtaking sea views, but when it comes to nightlife, the only real options are restaurants and bars.
Riomaggiore is a cascade of multicolored homes built in typically Ligurian style around a small harbor filled with fishing boats, with a pebble beach nearby. While not many come for Cinque Terre’s nightlife, this village offers the closest thing you’ll find with many younger visitors choosing the village for its opportunities to mingle and stay out well after dark. It’s not a “party city” but it does have a busier feel with the greatest concentration of bars and restaurants in the region, many of which stay open until 1 a.m. Of the five villages, if budget is a concern, you’ll typically find the best value accommodation options here too. Riomaggiore isn’t for those with mobility issues as it is rather steep. Many hotels have steep stairs to climb so if you decide to stay here, it’s best to pack light. You don’t want to have to drag heavy bags up a precipitous climb.
Monterosso is ideal for beach lovers as it offers a number of public and private beaches. As soon as you depart the train station you’ll be at the Fegina seafront where there are two free beaches and there are two more at the end of the promenade toward Levanto. Portiglione beach is just beyond the sailing club and Gigante sits below the giant’s statue. The large rocks under the Aurora Tower are popular for sunbathing and there’s a sandy beach right in front of the historic center near the ferry dock where trips to the Gulf of Poets and other villages depart. As mentioned, this is a great village for families with small children and those with mobility issues too as it’s almost entirely flat and avoids the need to climb lots of stairs. You’ll find one of the widest selections of hotels and guesthouses near the beach making it easy to enjoy swimming throughout your stay.
If you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind staying outside of the Cinque Terre villages, consider La Spezia. It’s the most budget-friendly place to stay and it’s only a short distance from the villages which are all only minutes away from each other by train. The small city isn’t as attractive as the Cinque Terre villages but you’ll be only a quick train ride away and you’ll have a wide range of accommodation options to choose from. All will be much cheaper and include everything from apartment rentals in the city center and by the promenade to a wide range of hotels. Staying in the city center will put you close to the central train station and the port for easy connections to Cinque Terre and other destinations in Italy. That includes the Old Town and the seafront promenade. The very cheapest area to stay in is East La Spezia, a quiet residential area.
Vernazza is one of the very best places to stay in Cinque Terre. Heartbreakingly beautiful, many feel it’s the most photogenic of the five villages. It’s home to the region’s only natural port and offers two beaches for those seeking a beach getaway. It has an intriguing history with the first recorded information on Vernazza revealing it was a fortified town in 1080. Today, you’ll glimpse some of its past in the maze of streets and the ruins of Doria Castle. One of the best aspects of staying here is that most hotels overlook the sea and village, so you’ll almost always have a view. As Vernazza is so picturesque, rates for accommodation tend to be more expensive than what you’ll find elsewhere. One of the most popular villages, it’s also one of the busiest, with many day trippers arriving from other villages though traffic eases after dark. If you stay here, book reservations well in advance.
Nestled between Punta Manara and Punta Mesco on the rocky cliffs overlooking the sea, Monterosso is the largest village in the Cinque Terre region. It’s considered the best for those seeking a beach getaway as it’s home to the only sandy beaches with most you’ll find in Cinque Terre pebbly stretches. You’ll find many hotels and restaurants, and getting around is easy with no need to hike or climb lots of stairs. There are two distinct areas of this village, the older and newer sections, with a small tunnel connecting the two. If you arrive by train, as soon as you disembark, you’ll be at Fegina beach which offers a long stretch of sand. Just behind it is the town’s most bustling area, including Piazza Garibaldi, the main square with shops, restaurants, and cafes. From here you’ll see the bell tower of Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista with the old market building in front.
Riomaggiore is the first town you’ll encounter coming from La Spezia. It’s larger than the others and the one with the liveliest nightlife. It’s not a party destination but it does have the most bars and restaurants. A top pick among younger visitors looking to stay out later at night and do some socializing, many establishments stay open until 1 am. There are many cool hangout spots where you can meet up with other travelers and from the harbor, you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful sunsets around. The village also has the quintessential colorful homes and spectacular landscapes the Cinque Terre region is known for as well as being a decent base for hiking. It is important to thoroughly read reviews and look into the location of accommodation options you’re considering if you don’t want to worry about noise late at night. For those on a budget, there are some more affordable hotels.
A popular village among hikers and photographers, Manarola isn’t the best for families with very small children or those who have mobility issues. In addition to Corniglia, it’s a great place for hiking with both Sentiero dell’Amore and Sentiero Azzurro easily accessed from here. Even non-hikers will enjoy it as some of the best views that don’t require a hike can be found here, including an easy loop that will bring you from the village along the Ligurian coast. With countless postcard-worthy views, it’s no surprise that Manarola is a top pick among photographers and romance-seekers. There isn’t much nightlife, but the village is incredibly tranquil and there are many romantic guesthouses and B&Bs with sea views. One of the best-view restaurants can be enjoyed here too: Nessun Dorma. It’s so good, long lines often form outside but the eatery now offers digital queuing so you can relax almost anywhere while waiting for your table.
Of the five Cinque Terre villages, Corniglia is the least touristy and the least busy. It’s by far the quietest with most tourists choosing to stay in the other villages as it’s harder to access, set high above the sea. That makes for some jaw-dropping views but it’s also more difficult to enjoy a swim in the sea. During the day, many tourists pass through, enjoying a casual walk through the charming narrow streets, stopping to admire the view, but most don’t stick around long. For those who want to avoid the crowds, it’s arguably your best choice but to reach it you’ll need to take a shuttle bus from the train station, which is at sea level, or climb nearly 380 steps. Generally, Corniglia is best for those who want to stay off the beaten path, don’t care about being right by the sea, and prefer quieter evenings far from the crowds.
La Spezia is a port city that’s just a 5-minute train ride from the Cinque Terre villages. Many choose to stay here in order to enjoy a more budget-friendly stay with accommodation much cheaper. There is a wide range of hotels and apartment rentals near the seafront promenade and in the city center. It also has a number of attractions of its own, including an archaeological museum, the 14th-century Castle of Saint Giorgio, and the Naval Museum. The best area of the city to stay in is the city center as it’s close to the port and central train station that can get you to Cinque Terre quickly. You can also easily reach other destinations in Italy if you want to explore beyond the region. Some of the best hotels can be found in the city center too, at more affordable prices. For very tight budgets, stay in the eastern part of the city.
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