Cinque Terre is the star of the Italian Riveria. The five fishing villages are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The area is known for its preserved architecture, coastal hiking trails and sea views. It’s on many traveller’s bucket lists and for a good reason.
Here are five travel tips to help make your visit to Cinque Terre live up to your expectations.
1) Cinque Terre is Actually 5 Villages and a National Park
You won’t find trains going to Cinque Terre or hotels in Cinque Terre. That’s because while the area is known as Cinque Terre, meaning Five Lands, they are five separate villages. From north to south they are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. More on each village to follow.
2) Cinque Terre is Hilly. Really Hilly
Many travellers arrive at the train station in Riomaggiore, the largest of the five villages and are then surprised to learn that their hotel is located hillside. It’s not uncommon to climb 100+ stairs to reach your hotel. Once you’ve reached your accommodation, you may have to carry your luggage up several flights of stairs. You need to be aware of this, especially if you have mobility issues or are travelling with a heavy stroller. Every visit I’ve seen many a weary traveller sweating as they lug their luggage up stair by stair cursing under their breath saying I wish I would have known how many f$%*ing stairs there were and I would have packed lighter. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
The flattest village is Monterosso, the most northern of the villages. Staying in Monterosso is a good option if you have mobility issues or heavy luggage.
3) Don’t Travel to Cinque Terre In Summer
Cinque Terre has approximately 4000 residents but receives well over 2 million visitors a year. There’s been talk about capping the number of visitors, especially day trippers from cruise ships. The majority of these visits occur during the summer months. As a result, accommodation is expensive and difficult to find, and it’s crowded.
It’s also really hot. And air conditioning in most places, if found at all (my last room didn’t even have a fan) could be called AC Light.
I’m a big fan of visiting most places off season, and Cinque Terre is no exception. You’ll still get warm temperatures in spring and fall, and stores and restaurants will still be open. I haven’t been in winter, but according to a local that I spoke with, many places close from mid-November to mid-February.
4) Do Hike Cinque Terre’s Coastal Trail
The Coastal Trail is the most famous of Cinque Terre’s many hiking trails. While the routes (as of summer 2017) from Riomaggiore to Manarola and Manarola to Corniglia are closed due to previous flood damage, you can still hike from Monterosso-Vernazza-Corniglia. It’s a beautiful route but be prepared for lots of stairs and lots of ups and downs. Bring lots of water. Take your time and stop in each of the villages for gelato. Hey, you’ve earned it 🙂
5) Discover What Each Village Offers
While each village is picturesque and they are similar in appearance, each also has its own flair. It’s important to know the difference so that when you book your accommodation. See our recommendations for each village below. Accommodation fills up quickly so book as far in advance as possible.
This is the southernmost and second largest of largest of the villages. It’s also one of the most picturesque. Follow the steps above the harbour for incredible sunset views as the sun highlights the gorgeous architecture.
Where to Stay in Riomaggiore
a. Hotel Villa Argentina
This hotel is located only 9 minutes away from the beach and 10 minutes away from the Riomaggiore bus station. It also offers amazing views of the town and sea.
b. Hotel Due Gemelli
In this hotel, all of the rooms, the restaurant an a terrace offer some stunning sea views. It is located only 5km away from the nearest bus station and you will need a car to get to it since public transportation isn’t an option.
c. Hotel La Zorza
It is housed in a building from the XV century and used to be home for local sailors. It’s location also allows you to reach the beach and the station easily on foot.
This has a popular dive spot that’s especially popular with teenagers. I’m a big fan of getting a gelato and then watching all those crazy kids dive from the rocks.
Where to Stay in Manarola
a. Hotel Marina Piccola
While staying at the hotel you will only have to do a two-minute walk to the nearest beach. The decoration is also really modern and beautiful.
b. Ca’ D’Andrean
It’s located right in the center of Manarola. The decoration in the common areas is quite traditional while the decoration in the rooms is very modern.
c. La Torretta Lodge
This hotel occupies a medieval tower that has been restored. Each of the rooms and studios has a different decoration. You can also get to enjoy free appetizers every afternoon.
d. Arpaiu – Odeyo Sas
This is another hotel with great views of the nearby ocean. The rooms are in the same building and their apartments are separate but nearby.
This is the smallest of the five villages. It’s also the hardest to reach. Regardless of which side you approach it from, you’ll have a 100-meter (300 feet) climb. As it’s the hardest village to get to, it’s also the least popular with tourists. So go here if you’re looking for a quieter getaway. I recommend it for a day trip or if you only have a small backpack for luggage.
Where to Stay in Corniglia
a. Affittacamere Arbasia De Ma
The hotel is right on the beach, you will be on the sand and rocks in only 3 minutes, and only 10 minutes away on foot from the nearest station.
b. Affittacamere Le Terrazze
All of the rooms from this hotel have a terrace that looks out to the town and sea. The property also has a gorgeous garden where breakfast is served every morning.
c. B&B Da Beppe
This is another one located only 200 meters away from the beach. The look of the rooms is a combination of modern furniture in a traditionally styled building.
This is one of the most picturesque villages (in competition with Riomaggiore in my opinion). Cafes and restaurants line the harbour, and there’s a castle ruin. I usually stop here for lunch.
Where to Stay in Vernazza
a. Hotel Gianni Franzi
You will find it extremely close to Doria Castle. There are also many terraces from where you can look at the sea. all of the rooms are spread over three buildings.
b. Albergo Barbara
Here is another hotel located right on the beach and in the middle of town. From most of the windows of the rooms, you will be able to get a look at the town and sea.
c. La Polena – Affittacamere
The suites in it all have sea views, plus it is at the beach, you will be enjoying the sea only a couple of minutes after leaving your room.
d. Santa Marta Rooms 23
You will find this one in the historical centre of town and a 100 meters away from the Vernazza train station. The beach is also only a few meters away.
The northernmost and largest of the villages has both an old town and a modern new town. It also has the best beaches in Cinque Terre, and the umbrellas give it a resort-like feel. It’s my least favourite of the five villages. But it’s a good option if you want to hit the beach or have mobility issues. It’s the flattest of the villages.
Where to Stay in Monterosso
a. Stella Della Marina
The hotel was built within a XVII century building with terraces. It is in a centric location but far from the noisy main streets.
b. da Benedetta
It provides beachfront accommodation and also easy access to the town. This of course provides great views of the sea.
c. Pietre di Mare
The decoration of the hotel is in a beautiful traditional style with lots of warmth. It is also located only 250 meters away from the nearest beach.
d. La Casa di Zuecca
The style of the hotel is modern, fresh and clean with lost of white and a few accent colors. You’ll find it 10 minutes away from the Monterosso train station and 250 meters away from the beach.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is from Pisa via train. Alternatively, you can also book one of these day tours which includes transportation from Milan, Florence or Pisa.
Follow these five travel tips when visiting Cinque Terre and you’re sure to have a bucket list worthy holiday!