What’s The Best Village for Your Cinque Terre Stay? An In-Depth Guide

by | Feb 19, 2023

Perched atop rugged cliffs along the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre is a breathtaking stretch of coast comprising five medieval villages, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. If you’re planning a visit, one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is to decide which visit to stay in.

Translated literally from Italian, Cinque Terre simply means “Five Lands.” The UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, with terraced vineyards and olive groves clinging to the cliffs and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea below.

The compact, pastel-colored houses of the villages stand in stark contrast to the rugged landscape, creating a charming and picturesque atmosphere.

Despite its remote location, the Cinque Terre is easily accessible by train including a new night train option, making it a convenient and luxurious destination for travelers seeking a relaxing beach vacation with a cultural twist. The region is also a paradise for hikers, with a network of trails connecting the villages and offering breathtaking views of the coast.

Each village has its own unique character and the one you choose will depend on your personal tastes. Let’s take a closer look at each of the five villages and discuss what makes them unique.

At a glance: Which Cinque Terre village is best for you?

Click the name of the village to jump to more information about the town:

TownBest village to stay in Cinque Terre for
Monterosso al MareLooking for easy beach access (it’s the only option with a beach) and families with children or travelers who want to spend more time swimming and relaxing by the water
VernazzaRomantic trips, photographers looking for the perfect shot
CornigliaNature lovers who don’t mind a hike to get away from the crowds
RiomaggioreYoung and/or interested in nightlife, easy access to La Spezia
ManarolaLooking for a peaceful and beautiful stay with moderate crowds

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is the largest and most developed of the five Cinque Terre villages, with a charming old center and a more modern section connected by a tunnel.

One of the main reasons travelers might choose Monterosso as their base in Cinque Terre is for its beach and easy access to the sea. Monterosso is the only village with a proper beach, making it a great choice for families with children or travelers who want to spend more time swimming and relaxing by the water.

Another factor that sets Monterosso apart is its wide range of accommodation options. The Hotel Porto Roca, Cinque Terre’s most well-known and storied luxury hotel is located here. The hotel offers a spa, a private beach, and a terraces with panoramic views of the sea. Many rooms come with their own private balconies overlooking the sea. For a more unique but less fussy experience, the Agriturismo Buranco is a farm stay located just a short walk from the old town, offering stunning views of the surrounding lemon orchards, vineyards, and olive groves.

Monterosso is the only village with a resort-style beachfront area, and it has the widest selection of hotels, B&Bs, and other types of accommodation. This makes it a great choice for travelers who want a more modern and developed vacation experience.

Monterosso is also known for its excellent restaurants, which serve a range of local specialties, including fresh seafood, homemade pasta, and the famous pesto Genovese. The village is also home to the Gelateria Golosone. The gelato shop is known for their delicious gelatos made in small batches with locally sourced fruits. The gelateria is hard to find, hidden away in an alleyway but it’s worth the hunt. The village is also home to a number of small family-run producers of wine, ceramics, and other local products, which can make for a unique and authentic shopping experience.

Despite its development and popularity, Monterosso retains a laid-back and charming atmosphere. Its old town and surrounding countryside are filled with charming streets, historic landmarks, and stunning views of the sea. Swimmers have several beaches to choose from, including Fegina, Il Gigante, and the old town beach (Tragagia). The village is relatively flat, making it more accessible for travelers with mobility issues or who prefer a less strenuous vacation experience.

Overall, Monterosso is a great choice for travelers who want a luxurious and beachfront vacation with plenty of amenities, excellent dining and shopping options, and a charming and relaxed atmosphere. It’s connected to the neighboring village of Vernazza by a popular stretch of the Blue Trail (Sentiero Azzurro), offering incredible views of the coast, and has easy access to the rest of the Cinque Terre region making it a convenient base for exploring the other villages.

Monterosso al Mare

Vernazza

Vernazza is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Cinque Terre towns with its particularly charming and authentic atmosphere.

It has a picturesque port and medieval tower perched on a rocky cliff, which offer a glimpse into the region’s long history. It’s known for its stunning harbor and tightly packed houses that are perched on a rocky cliff. The main street, Via Roma, connects the train station to the harbor and is lined with small shops, bars, and restaurants.

The narrow cobbled streets and passages known as caruggi lead off from the main street and offer a glimpse into the village’s history. Colorful houses add to the village’s unique charm, making it a great destination for travelers who want to experience a more authentic Italian vacation

Like every village in Cinque Terre, Vernazza has excellent restaurants serve the local specialties, including fresh seafood, homemade pasta, and the famous pesto Genovese. The village is also a popular destination for wine lovers in a region known for its production of white wine. For an upscale stay in the village, Casa Catò is set inside the beautiful Cinque Terre National Park just 100m from the sandy beach in Vernazza. Alternatively, La Malà is a small, intimate hotel located inside the village, with epic terrace views and a restaurant serving local specialties.

The port of Vernazza is the only natural harbor in the Cinque Terre, protected by a breakwater and home to the village’s only sandy beach. The Castello Doria Tower, built in the mid-1500s to protect the village from pirates, can be climbed for views of the Mediterranean and the neighboring village of Monterosso. The medieval church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia is also located in Vernazza, offering a glimpse into the village’s long history.

Vernazza is also the midpoint of the current ‘Blue Trail’, a popular coastal hiking trail that links all five of the Cinque Terre villages. The trail offers stunning views of the coast and is a great way to explore the Italian Riviera on foot.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Corniglia

Corniglia is the middle village of the Cinque Terre and is known as for its tranquility and stunning views of the Mediterranean. It vies Perched on a promontory more than 100 meters above the sea, it is the smallest of the five villages and is only accessible by a 382-step pathway called the Lardarina that winds up the mountainside from the train station.

Despite its difficult accessibility, Corniglia is a great choice for travelers seeking a more peaceful home base in the Cinque Terre.

The main street of Corniglia is Via Feschi, which is lined with colorful houses and narrow cobbled streets. Corniglia is known for its stunning views of the Mediterranean and its tranquil atmosphere. It is the only village in the Cinque Terre that does not have a sea access, but it is surrounded by vineyards and terraced gardens.

Corniglia is a smaller village. While there are still plenty of tourists, the village is all about a more authentic Italian experience with fewer luxury options. There’s only one true hotel which is the Locanda Il Carugio. The hotel has a simple design aesthetic and a well-appointed terrace. Meanwhile, the Luxury Penthouse Sea View isn’t a hotel but this holiday rental might be the perfect place for a couple to base their stay in Cinque Terre. This spacious penthouse has comfortable living quarters and is well-equipped for al fresco dining on a large terrace with stunning city and sea views.

One of the main attractions in Corniglia is the Belvedere di Santa Maria, a panoramic terrace offering views of all five of the Cinque Terre. No trip to Italy would be complete without some good food. Corniglia does not disappoint. It’s home to a number of excellent restaurants, which serve a range of local specialties including fresh seafood and homemade pasta. For example, Trattoria La Posada offers a menu of traditional Ligurian dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.

Overall, Corniglia is a great choice for travelers looking for a more peaceful home base for their Cinque Terre experience even if it’s not the most convenient or luxurious. Its charming streets, stunning views, and tranquil atmosphere make it a unique and memorable destination.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre and is known for its picturesque harbor, narrow, winding streets and charming pastel-colored houses built into the rocky cliff. The main street, Via Colombo, connects the train station to the harbor and is lined with small shops, bars, and restaurants.

Riomaggiore is an ideal location for travelers or couples looking for a little more atmosphere in the evening. It’s known for having the best nightlife among the Cinque Terre villages. However, it is worth noting that the streets of Riomaggiore are quite steep, so be prepared for some hills.

One of the main attractions in Riomaggiore is the Castello di Riomaggiore, this fortress built in 1260 and expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries, this stone castle offers stunning views of the coast and the neighboring villages. The castle is located on a small hill above the village and can be reached by a short walk from the harbor. From the castle, you can also access the train station or follow the path towards the harbor to take in the beautiful views of the water, the vineyards, and the small plots of land filled with ripe fruit.

Another popular activity in Riomaggiore is hiking. The village is the southern starting point of the Sentiero Azzurro or Blue Trail, a popular coastal hiking trail that links all five of the Cinque Terre villages. The leg from Riomaggiore to its neighboring village to the north, Manarola, offers particularly breathtaking views of the coast.

Meanwhile, the harbor is a popular spot for boat rentals. There are several companies offering rentals of both self-drive and skippered boats allowing visitors to explore the stunning coast and visit the neighboring villages by sea. Other water-based activities available in Riomaggiore include snorkeling, diving, and fishing. The crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean provide the perfect backdrop for these activities, making it a great destination for travelers who love spending time in and on the water.

Riomaggiore is also home to a number of small artisan studios where you can find handmade ceramics, jewelry, and other locally made products. If you’re looking for a unique souvenir from your trip to Cinque Terre, a visit to one of these studios is a must.

If you’re looking to stay in Riomaggiore, start your search for accommodation at the Cinqueterre Residence. This apart-hotel boasts a panoramic terrace and a hot tub in a calm setting just seconds from the main street. Each room comes with a private terrace overlooking vineyards. Another more basic option is Hotel Villa Argentina, located just a 10-minute walk from the train station.

Between its beautiful setting, excellent restaurants, and lively nightlife make it a great choice for visitors to Cinque Terre who want to enjoy the natural beauty while having some activities to do in the evening.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola

Manarola is the other Cinque Terre village that’s widely considered to vie for the title of the most beautiful of the five hillside villages. It’s known for its picturesque harbor, colorful houses built into a rocky cliff tumbling down towards the sea, and its peaceful atmosphere.

It’s one of the most peaceful of the Cinque Terre villages making Manarola a good choice for travelers looking for a peaceful home base in a gorgeous setting.

The marina is the center of the action during the day. It’s a popular spot for sunbathing, swimming, and people watching. Located in the center of the village, the marina is free to access and is a great place to spend a lazy day soaking up the sun. The village is also home to the Chiesa di San Lorenzo, a medieval church dating back to the 13th century, and the Oratorio di Nostra Signora Assunta, a small chapel with a beautiful fresco.

The other must-see attraction in Manarola is the hilltop viewpoint. This viewpoint offers some of the best views of the Cinque Terre region. To reach the viewpoint, simply follow the narrow stone walkway from the harbor around the rocks and then go up the stairs on your right.

The viewpoint is especially popular at sunset, when the changing hue of the buildings in the setting sun is truly magical. Nessun Dorma is a popular spot for an aperitivo on the viewpoint to enjoy the gorgeous views with a glass of Cinque Terre wine or Aperol Spritz.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants in Manarola to satisfy your urge for Italian foods. One option that’ll be hard to miss is Il Porticciolo, known for its delicious seafood pasta and tiramisu. Located in the center of the village, the restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes to choose from, including traditional Italian pasta and seafood dishes.

Manarola is a small village and only has a limited number of hotel options. The Hotel Marina Piccola is a modern hotel located in the heart of Manarola, featuring contemporary design elements throughout. For a romantic getaway or honeymoon, La Torretta Lodge is a great choice with tastefully decorated rooms, a jacuzzi, and a restaurant on a panoramic terrace.

If you’re looking for a peaceful place to stay while visiting Cinque Terre, Manarola is a great choice. Between its beautiful setting, excellent restaurants, and a peaceful atmosphere, you’re sure to fall in love with this charming and authentic village on your visit to Cinque Terre.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Bottom line

Cinque Terre is a breathtaking region of Italy that offers something for every traveler, from stunning natural beauty and charming pastel-colored houses to excellent restaurants and sandy beaches. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach vacation or an adventure on the trails, the Cinque Terre has something for you.

Each of the five Cinque Terre villages — Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso — have unique qualities that make them a better fit for different types of travelers. So which of them fits your travel personality best? We hope our article has been helpful as you plan your travel to Italy in Liguria and beyond!

Frances Benaglia

ad516503a11cd5ca435acc9bb6523536?s=150&d=mm&r=gforcedefault=1 - Cinque Terre

Frances Benaglia is an Italian-American native of Milan, Italy. After earning her degree from Bocconi University during which she did an ERASMUS exchange in Stockholm, she embarked on a journey of discovery and took a gap year to travel to over 20 countries. She's now a management consultant and is known for her meticulous planning research skills, making the most of her time off by finding the perfect places to unwind and relax.

Frances Benaglia is an Italian-American native of Milan, Italy. After earning her degree from Bocconi University during which she did an ERASMUS exchange in Stockholm, she embarked on a journey of discovery and took a gap year to travel to over 20 countries. She's now a management consultant and is known for her meticulous planning research skills, making the most of her time off by finding the perfect places to unwind and relax.
All posts by Frances Benaglia

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