Cinque Terre Italy, the breathtaking coastline of five charming villages, has long been a favourite destination for travellers seeking stunning landscapes, colourful houses perched on cliffs, and delicious seafood. While summer is the peak season for tourism in this region, there’s a certain magic that descends upon Cinque Terre in winter. With fewer tourists and a serene atmosphere, it’s an excellent time to explore the Cinque Terre villages without the crowds.
But regardless of time of year, where should you stay in Cinque Terre? This article will act as your guide to visiting Cinque Terre. What is it? How do you get there? Where should you stay? How long? Read on to find out!
What is Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre, which translates to “Five Lands” in Italian, is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed coastal area located along the Ligurian coast of Italy. It comprises five towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Perched on rugged cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, these villages are renowned for their colourful buildings, terraced vineyards, and scenic hiking trails that connect them.
Cinque Terre is famous for its unique and charming atmosphere, making it a popular destination for travellers seeking stunning natural beauty, local culture, and delicious cuisine. The area is also known for producing delicious wines and is home to some of Italy’s most breathtaking coastal landscapes, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and photographers alike.
How to get to Cinque Terre
Let’s start from the beginning, before you find anywhere to stay you need to figure out how to get to Cinque Terre. While there’s no direct airport that will take you right to Cinque Terre, there’s a few great options of places you can fly into and take the train. I’d also recommend adding on a day or two to explore wherever it is you fly into before making your way to Cinque Terre.
Easily the train to La Spezia from Genoa, Pisa, Rome, Florence and Nice airportsTraveller tip
Alternatively, you can opt to book a tour to Cinque Terre from many major Italian cities. A few great options are:
- From Florence: Cinque Terre day trip with optional hike
- From Milan: Cinque Terre Full-Day Guided Trip With Cruise
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Tour by Train with Limoncino
How long to stay in Cinque Terre
The ideal length of stay in Cinque Terre depends of course on your preferences, interests, and the activities you plan to do in the area. Generally, most travellers (myself included!) find that spending 2 to 3 days in Cinque Terre allows them to get a good taste of the region’s beauty and experience some of its highlights. Here are some factors to consider when deciding how long to stay:
- Hiking: If you enjoy hiking and want to explore the scenic trails that connect the five villages, you may want to stay for 3 to 4 days to have enough time for leisurely hikes and to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
- Relaxation and Exploration: For a more relaxed pace and to thoroughly explore each village without rushing, 2 to 3 days should be sufficient to immerse yourself in the local culture, savour delicious Italian cuisine, and take in the stunning coastal views.
- Season and Crowds: Consider the time of year you plan to visit. During peak tourist seasons, the villages can get quite crowded, so a shorter stay may be preferable to avoid the crowds. On the other hand, visiting during the shoulder seasons might allow you to stay a bit longer and enjoy a more tranquil experience.
What time of year to go to Cinque Terre
Here are some considerations for each season:
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a wonderful time to visit Cinque Terre. The weather starts to warm up, and the landscapes come alive with blooming flowers and lush greenery. It’s a great time for hiking the trails between the villages and enjoying the beautiful coastal views. Additionally, the tourist crowds are relatively smaller compared to the summer months.
- Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Cinque Terre, as it offers the warmest weather and long daylight hours. The villages are bustling with visitors, and the beaches are inviting for swimming and sunbathing. However, keep in mind that the area can get quite crowded during this time, so you’ll need to be prepared for higher accommodation prices and potentially long lines at popular spots.
- Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another excellent time to visit Cinque Terre. The weather remains pleasant, and the summer crowds start to dwindle, providing a more peaceful experience. The grape harvest takes place in September, and the vineyards become a beautiful sight with changing colors. Autumn is a great time to savour the local wines and cuisine while enjoying the quieter atmosphere.
- Winter (December to February): Winter is the off-season in Cinque Terre, and it’s the time when the fewest tourists visit the area. While the weather can be chilly and some businesses may close for the season, the villages retain their charm and offer a more authentic and tranquil experience. It’s an ideal time for travellers who prefer to avoid crowds and want to experience the local life at a slower pace. Check out my post all about visiting Cinque Terre in Winter.
Travelling Around Cinque Terre
Do I need a car in Cinque Terre?
Absolutely not, exploring Cinque Terre is so easy because the villages are all connected by train. Each village is just a couple of minutes train ride away and you can easily buy a day train pass from every station.
Can I walk between the villages?
Absolutely yes! One of the best ways to see Cinque Terre is to hike between each of the 5 villages. Note that during the summer months (March – November) there’s a €7.5 fee to access the hiking trails between Monterosso – Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia.
Best Places to Stay in Cinque Terre
When looking for Cinque Terre accommodation, you might be struggling to decide on which town is best. The truth is, they’re all absolutely lovely and you can’t go far wrong with any of them. Below I’ll summarise a few important points about each of the five Cinque Terre Towns.
Note: You wont find many hotels in Cinque Terre, instead you’ll find a range of locally owned apartments and B&Bs to choose from
At a glance
|Monterosso al Mare||The largest of the five villages, Monterosso boasts the only sandy beach in Cinque Terre, making it a favorite destination for sun-seekers. It is also known for its medieval old town and a wide range of accommodation options.|
|Vernazza||With its natural harbor, Vernazza is a postcard-worthy fishing village famous for its picturesque setting. It attracts visitors with its quaint charm, lively piazzas, and delectable seafood.|
|Corniglia||Perched high on a rocky promontory, Corniglia offers breathtaking panoramic views of the sea and vineyard-covered hills. It is known for its peaceful and authentic atmosphere, away from the bustling crowds.|
|Manarola||Often considered the most romantic of the five villages, Manarola captivates visitors with its stunning sunsets, charming harbour, and narrow winding streets lined with vibrant houses.|
|Riomaggiore||Riomaggiore is renowned for its colourful buildings cascading down the cliffs, creating a picture-perfect coastal village. It is also known for its lively atmosphere, bustling streets, and delicious local cuisine.|
Monterosso al Mare
Ideal for Families and Beach Lovers
Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five enchanting villages that make up Cinque Terre, is a coastal gem nestled along the Italian Riviera. With its golden sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, and colorful pastel buildings, Monterosso al Mare exudes a captivating charm that draws travellers from far and wide. The village is divided into two distinct parts: the old town with its narrow medieval streets and historic landmarks, and the new town with its modern amenities and lively atmosphere. Visitors can explore ancient churches, picturesque squares, and indulge in the region’s delightful seafood and Ligurian cuisine at the local trattorias. Whether relaxing on the beach, hiking the surrounding trails, or simply strolling through the charming alleys, Monterosso al Mare offers an idyllic coastal retreat that captivates the hearts of all who set foot on its shores. If you’re looking to enjoy the water more than hiking, Monterosso is the perfect place for a beach-focused stay.
Top things to do in Monterosso al Mare
- Go on a kayak and snorkelling tour
- Visit the church of San Giovanni Battista
- Go for a dip in the sea
- Admire the Aurora Tower
Accommodation options in Monterosso al Mare
Il Giardino di Ada
Situated in Monterosso al Mare, 300 metres from Fegina Beach and 1 km from Monterosso Old Town Beach, Il Giardino di Ada Ground Floor Studio with AC and Patio offers free WiFi, a terrace and air conditioning.
€240 per night
Zia Letizia Bed And Wine
The Zia Letizia rooms are located in the historic centre of the village in one of the oldest buildings, and can only be reached by a typical Ligurian staircase, which will take you to the wonderful view that you can enjoy from the terraces.
€183 per night
The Iconic Cinque Terre Experience
Nestled in a small natural bay, Vernazza is characterised by its charming harbour, colourful buildings that rise dramatically from the sea, and a medieval tower that stands proudly overlooking the village. The narrow cobblestone streets wind their way through the village, revealing quaint shops, inviting cafes, and local artisan workshops. Travellers can wander up the hillside to discover breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and lush terraced vineyards that surround the village. The warm and welcoming atmosphere of Vernazza invites visitors to slow down, savour fresh seafood at local trattorias, and immerse themselves in the serene coastal ambiance. With its enchanting landscape and authentic Italian charm, Vernazza truly captures the essence of Cinque Terre’s timeless allure. Vernazza is a favourite among couples and, due to its popularity, booking accommodation well in advance is essential.
Things to do in Vernazza
- Vineyard tour and wine tasting
- Octopus sandwich from Il Gattaccio
- See the Doria Castle
- Visit Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church
Accommodation options in Vernazza
Casa Catò is an elegant and romantic accommodation that offers rooms with sea views. The structure was originally a typical dwelling house of the Cinque Terre, meticulously restored and furnished.
€267 per night
The property offers 2 furnished terraces, which offer 360° panoramic views across the town and the Ligurian Sea. All rooms at the Elisabetta Affittacamere feature a sea-view balcony, a kettle with tea and coffee, and an en suite bathroom with free toiletries.
€139 per night
A Tranquil Retreat Off the Beaten Path
Corniglia offers a unique and tranquil charm that sets it apart from its neighbouring counterparts. Perched high on a rocky promontory, Corniglia is the only village without direct access to the sea, giving it a more secluded and authentic atmosphere. To reach Corniglia, visitors must climb a series of steps from the train station, but the effort is rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the azure waters below. Corniglia boasts a slower pace of life, making it an ideal spot for those seeking a quieter and more intimate experience in Cinque Terre. Visitors can explore the nearby terraced vineyards and indulge in local delicacies, surrounded by the tranquil beauty of this hidden gem on the Italian Riviera. If you prefer quieter evenings and a budget-friendly stay, Corniglia is an excellent choice.
Things to do in Corniglia
- The Sanctuary of San Bernardino
- Visit the church of San Pietro
- Climb up the Lardarina
- Take in the views from Saint Mary’s Terrace
Accommodation options in Corniglia
Owned by three brothers who together manage the B&B, the lands – cultivated with vines, lemons, olive trees and vegetables – and their bar “La Scuna”, where breakfast is served to guests in a beautiful panoramic terrace.
€136 per night
A Romantic Haven for Couples and Photographers
Manarola, a jewel among the five coastal villages of Cinque Terre, is a postcard-perfect destination that captures the hearts of all who visit. With its iconic cliffside houses painted in vibrant hues, Manarola presents a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea. The village’s charming harbour is dotted with fishing boats and lined with inviting waterfront restaurants. Narrow winding alleys lead to hidden piazzas and historic landmarks, creating an atmosphere of authentic Italian charm. Manarola is famous for its local wines, and visitors can explore the surrounding terraced vineyards or enjoy a glass of the region’s prized Sciacchetrà wine. With a more relaxed nightlife compared to Riomaggiore, Manarola is perfect for couples seeking a romantic getaway and photographers looking for breathtaking vistas. Keep in mind that the town’s steep roads may not be suitable for travellers with very small children or mobility issues.
Things to do in Manarola
- Try an authentic pesto making class
- Watch the sunset from Nessun Dorma restuarant (book in advance!)
- If you’re visiting in winter, check out the world’s largest nativity scene
- Visit the church of San Lorenzo
Accommodation options in Manarola
Ca’ de Carlin
Bright apartment located in the center of Manarola, close to the train station and the sea. The wonderful terrace overlooks the small square of Manarola, where musical and artistic events are staged in summer.
€225 per night
A historic house completely renovated in 2018
with four large and bright rooms in the centre of Manarola. The rooms of the Olimpo guest house enjoy a spectacular view of the sea and the terraced hills that embrace the village.
€254 per night
A Vibrant Base for Social Butterflies and Nightlife Enthusiasts
Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the magical Cinque Terre, is a captivating destination that epitomises the allure of coastal Italy. Nestled in a steep valley, Riomaggiore boasts a postcard-worthy view of colourful houses cascading down the rocky cliffs and overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. Riomaggiore, the first town you encounter when coming from La Spezia, offers the most dynamic nightlife in Cinque Terre. While the region isn’t known for glamorous nightlife, Riomaggiore stands out with its abundance of bars and restaurants, making it a favourite among young tourists seeking social opportunities and longer days out. This vibrant atmosphere, coupled with the classic Cinque Terre charm and stunning landscapes, makes Riomaggiore an all-around excellent choice as a base for exploring the area. Check the location of your hotel if you’re concerned about noise late in the evening. Riomaggiore is often the most budget-friendly option among the five villages.
Things to do in Riomaggiore
- Pasta and Tiramisu making class
- See the Castello di Riomaggiore
- Visit the church of San Giovanni Battista
- See the view from the pier
Accommodation options in Riomaggiore
Affittacamere Le Giare
Informal guesthouse with views of the Mediterranean Sea that is an 8-minute walk from Riomaggiore train station. The airy rooms come with complimentary Wi-Fi access, as well as flat-screen TVs, en suite bathrooms, and tea and coffeemaking facilities. Some rooms feature balconies and/or sea views.
€106 per night
Scorci Di Mare
Located in a 14th-century building in the heart of the Cinque Terre National Park, 50 meters from the rocky coast of Riomaggiore. The rooms with sea view offer many comforts, such as satellite TV. Recently renovated with eco-friendly materials, the rooms feature modern furnishings, wood-beamed ceilings and tiled floors.
€123 per night
Deciding on where to stay in Cinque Terre can significantly impact your experience in this captivating coastal region of Italy. Each of the five villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – offers its own unique charm and attractions, catering to different types of travellers. Whether you seek vibrant beach vibes, tranquil coastal seclusion, or authentic Italian charm, Cinque Terre has something to offer for everyone. To make the most of your visit, consider your preferences, interests, and the activities you wish to indulge in. Be sure to plan ahead and book accommodations early, especially during peak tourist seasons. With its breathtaking landscapes, delicious cuisine, and rich cultural heritage, Cinque Terre promises an unforgettable experience for travellers seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty and magic of the Italian Riviera. So, pack your bags, and get ready to embark on an enchanting journey through the picture-perfect villages of Cinque Terre – a destination that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.