The Ultimate Guide to the Cinque Terre Villages

Nestled in the heart of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre villages will have you in awe. If you love picturesque landscapes look no further. From the colorful houses to the winding cobblestone streets, and the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea you’ll find a postcard-worthy moment. It’s no surprise that these five towns in the Liguria region of Italy have become a favorite destination for travelers from all over the world.

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How long to stay in Cinque Terre

Spending 3 days in the Cinque Terre villages will allow you to get the most out of a trip here. You can hike between the towns, relax at the sea, and enjoy the amazing seafood. However, many come for a much shorter time than that. If you only have a day to visit, you should put Manarola, Vernazza, and Riomaggiore at the top of your list. You can easily see all 3 in one day if you take the train as they are only minutes apart!

💡Pro-Tip: Buy an all-day train pass for €18 euros if you plan to take the train more than 4x otherwise it’s €5 a journey.  You can easily get around the different villages by train (10 minutes max between each place) and if you love hiking then definitely spend longer here and hike between the villages. Some of the hikes you have to pay to enter but with the Cinque Terre train pass, it’s included!

Popular Cinque Terre Hiking trails

Below you’ll find the common hiking trails connecting the Cinque Terre Villages. Hiking is one of the highlights of visiting these villages as you can see fantastic views and see what each unique village has to offer. All of the trails are free except for the blue trails from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia but if you get an all-day train pass mentioned above, then it’s included. You can do the hikes in either direction. I tried one of the most famous hikes from Monterosso to Vernazza and really enjoyed it.

If you’re going in the summer be mindful of how hot it can be and always bring proper hiking gear (hiking shoes, water bottle, backpack, etc). I also love these Teva Sandals. I personally have them and they are a lifesaver for walking on those rugged rocks in Cinque Terre. These sandals are practical and stylish as well as waterproof (amazingly!) which is perfect for being by the sea.

Riomaggiore to Manarola hike

Distance: 1.5km
Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Time: 30 minutes

Manarola to Corniglia hike

Distance: 3km
Difficulty: Easy
Hiking Time: 1 hour

Corniglia to Vernazza hike

Distance: 4km
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Time: 1.5 hours

Monterosso to Vernazza hike

Distance: 3.5km
Difficulty: Moderate
Hiking Time: 1.5 hours

What are the 5 Towns of Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre means the Five Lands in Italian and it’s comprised of 5 beautiful coastal villages. The 5 Villages are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.

1. Monterosso al Mare

Photo by Daniel Rickard on Unsplash

The first village of the Cinque Terre is Monterosso al Mare, also known as “the pearl of the Cinque Terre.” This village is the largest and most beach-oriented of the five. It has a long sandy beach (as pictured above), a plethora of restaurants and bars, and a charming old town. Monterosso is also the flattest of the 5 towns and the best for a family vacation in Italy.

It is also known for some of Italy’s oldest churches, such as the famous Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista. While you’re here try Trofie pasta which is a traditional dish here. It is pasta with pesto sauce and anchovies— be sure to try them if you find yourself here! One highly recommended place to try this dish is Ristorante Ciak.

Why Visit? If you want to lounge at the beach and explore the nightlife
Hotel Top Pick: Hotel Porto Roca offers stunning views of the sea and the coastline with its own private beach, a pool, and a spa (check prices & book here).
Best thing to do: relax on the long sandy beach

2. Vernazza

Vernazza is a charming town with a lovely port and brightly painted homes sitting on the cliffside. It is renowned for its beautiful hiking paths and top-notch seafood eateries. Due to its breathtaking vistas of the emerald-blue ocean and lush, undulating slopes, the quaint fishing village has been considered one of Italy’s most romantic locations. It is also the most popular choice when visiting the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. You will find it the busiest and most touristic of them all.

Don’t miss climbing the Belforte Tower where you will find even more panoramic views of Vernazza as well as the ruins of Doria Tower. You can take advantage of Vernazza’s numerous hiking routes or explore the town’s vibrant lanes. Be sure to stop by Ristorante Belforte for dinner. You can dine with a view and indulge in fresh seafood, homemade pasta, and regional wines.

Why Visit? The most popular town to visit. Be sure to go hiking for the views!
Hotel Top Pick: Camera vista mare Francesca for an incredible host and nice views from the room (check prices & book here)
Best thing to do: Explore the vineyards and taste wine! (Book this tour)

3. Manarola

Manarola was the most photogenic of the Cinque Terre Villages in my opinion and was my favorite town! Plus you can go to Nessun Dorma, the Instagram famous restaurant! It’s perfectly situated in front of the best view in town and the food is as delicious as the view. This place can have extremely long waits in peak season as it’s a very popular restaurant. You should join the virtual waitlist ahead of time by downloading the “Nessun Dorma app”. It is the perfect place for an aperitivo – I had an Aperol Spritz and some delicious bruschetta. Another delicious place to eat in Manarola which is more of a dinner spot is La Regina di Manarola. Here you can, fortunately, make a booking in advance and enjoy dinner from the terrace.

Why Visit? The most photogenic of the villages
Hotel Top Pick: Giovanni Rooms Manarola offers stunning views right from your window! (check prices & book here)
Best thing to do: Take an authentic pesto cooking class! (Tour link here)

4. Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the most rugged and dramatic of the five villages, with steep cliffs emerging out into the sea. It is known for its beautiful sunsets and great seafood restaurants. It is also a good base for your visit. This is where I stayed and it’s closest to La Spezia which is likely how you will get into Cinque Terre. It was also a lovely town and I had some great pesto pasta and heavenly tiramisu at Dau Cila. If you want some cheap eats, be sure to eat seafood in a cone (yum!). The best places in Riomaggiore to get that is at Tutti Fritti or Il Pescato Cucinato.

Why Visit? The perfect base for your stay and dramatic sea cliff views
Hotel Top Pick: La Ripa is a well located guest house with great views (Check prices & book here)
Best thing to do: Vineyard & Wine Cellar Tour with Wine Tasting (Book the tour here)

5. Corniglia

Photo by Claudio Poggio on Unsplash

If you have more time in Cinque Terre, I highly recommend going to Corniglia. It was the most unique of the Cinque Terre towns. It’s quite a trek to get there from the train station which is why fewer people go. You have to climb many stairs but once you arrive it will be worth it! 

It is often thus referred to as the most hidden of the villages due to its tucked-away location atop a cliff 100 meters above sea level. You’ll be amazed when greeted with both sea and mountain views. Corniglia is not directly connected to the sea but instead surrounded by vineyards and terraced hillsides that produce local wine and olive oil. There are also some amazing gelato shops here like Alberto Gelateria which is located in the heart of the village (trust me, you won’t want to miss out on this!). Corniglia also has some great options for exploring nature with its many hiking trails.

Why Visit? If you like off-the-beaten-path destinations
Hotel Top Pick: Sound of Silence, Terre Marine is like being tucked away in paradise and offers stellar garden views (check prices & book here)
Best thing to do: hike and explore the incredible nature

How to decide which Cinque Terre Village is for you?

If you are most into hidden gems then visit Corniglia. On the other hand, if all you want to do is lay on the beach and be near the lively night scene then go to Monterosso al Mare. My style is searching for the most picturesque, postcard-worthy places. You can’t really go wrong with any of the Cinque Terre Villages for that but my favorites for the scenery were definitely Vernazza and Manarola. I would say Manarola was the most beautiful and photogenic in my opinion. Riomaggiore was also quite beautiful and a great base for those wanting to be conveniently located near La Spezia which is where you’ll likely be arriving in from. If you have time, go to them ALL! That’s what I did, after all 🙂

Cinque Terre Towns Map

I’ve saved the 5 Cinque Terre Towns onto this map and also highlighted some of my favorite stops and restaurants.

For more reading, you might also like these posts!
🌊 Amalfi Coast Itinerary
🍋 What to see in Positano, Italy in One Day
♥ Things to do in Vietri sul Mare, the hidden gem of the Amalfi Coast
🌈 Procida – the most colorful island on the Amalfi Coast
👩 Solo Female Travel Guide to Italy
For more Italy travel, visit my Italy Section!

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