TRAVEL TIPS: See And Stay Guide To Cinque Terre

where to stay in cinque terre italy

Don't miss my 3-day itinerary for Cinque Terre.

So, you've found all of the instagram shots of Cinque Terre and all the blogs tell you what to do -- but what about planning all of the logistics?  I watched so many vlogs, pinned so many pins, read so many blogs, and googled so many pictures, but, like, figuring out where to stay? What village? How to get around? That information was not as available.

So, glad you're here. Consider this you Crash Course to Cinque Terre.


So Tell Me About These 5 Lands?

The Cinque Terre makes up 5 seaside villages. It’s also often referred to as 5terre. From East to West, you’ve got Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each has its own charm.

And….Where Should I Stay?

If you’re totally lost and confused– you are not alone. I really struggled with figuring out where to stay. Which village was the best? The worst? The most touristy? And why can’t I find Cinque Terre (or 5terre) on Airbnb or hotels.com? (Hint – search by village name).

When planning, I took to every forum, travel Facebook group, and friend I knew who had visited to ask where to stay.  I really stressed over not wanting to choose the “wrong” or “bad” village. Spoiler alert –there is no wrong or bad village! They just all have something different to offer.

RIOMAGGIORE: You’ve definitely seen pictures of Riomaggiore. First village stop when coming in from La Spezia/Pisa/Florence. It is small, and also the busiest. Definitely livelier than Manarola and Corniglia. Decent number of restaurants and bars that stay open, and has a dock. 

MANAROLA: This is where we stayed, only because our #1 priority was an Airbnb with the best views. We took too long deciding where to go and stay, almost everything with a view was booked. And then we found this AMAZING apartment with the most gorgeous views and we were sold.

We were SO happy with our choice.  Manarola ended up being my favorite village.  Quiet while having enough restaurants to enjoy an evening out. Our goal was relaxation after busy and long days of sightseeing the rest of the trip and Manarola served up exactly what we were looking for.

If you want something more lively with more nightlife, look at another village, but if you’re good with fantastic restaurants then retreating to your hotel or apartment, then I highly recommend Manarola --- and 100% recommend our apartment. It’s worth every Euro, especially if you’re on a romantic honeymoon or anniversary getaway. 

CORNIGLIA: All we kept hearing was Corniglia was the only village not right on the water or with any direct access to water. So, in my head I took that to mean it was waaaay up high on the mountain. While it is high from the water (i.e. no boat/dock access) it’s not as crazy high as I expected. Corniglia came very highly recommended as the most underrated village to stay in.

While all the towns are steep once you get off the train (with the exception of parts of Monterosso al Mare), Corniglia requires a trek up 200 stairs, or in a bus to get from train station to main part of the village. So, if you or a travel companion have some mobility issues, you’re better off staying in Monterosso al Mare.  If mobility is not a problem, and you’re looking for an even more quiet village than Manarola, Corniglia is the gem you’ve been looking for.

VERNAZZA: Ah Vernazza.  This was the village recommended over and over and over again to us. It’s really gained in popularity as it is the village always suggested by Rick Steves. This was our first choice in part due to Rick Steves, and in part because it had some “nightlife” (aka few bars) and solid restaurant options, especially right by the water. But, in the end, views from our Airbnb ended up top priority and we missed all the best apartments.

MONTEROSSO: If mobility issues are highest concerns, then Monterosso al Mare is the right spot for you.  This village is broken up in two parts – Monterosso al Mare is newer and the only part of the villages to have an actual beach. Follow the coast and go through a tunnel and you’ve found the old town of Monterosso.  Lots of restaurants and the only place you’ll find a more traditional “hotel” or “resort” feel accommodation.  Monterosso is the largest and one of the busiest villages.

Now, some logistics…

HOW DO I GET TO THE CINQUE TERRE?  By train you’ll arrive at La Spezia train station and transfer to the Cinque Terre express train to access each of the villages.  I highly recommend getting the Cinque Terre pass (you can purchase at the tourist office in the La Spezia train station, or at any of the other village train stations). This allows unlimited train rides between La Spezia and Levante, including stops in each of the five villages. It also includes free wi-fi at the train stations (although not the best), access to public restrooms, and entry into the Cinque Terre National Park – which you’ll need if you plan on doing any hiking.  You can get the pass for either 24, 48, or 72 hours.

FROM FLORENCE: We arrived in the Cinque Terre by train from Florence bright and early. The quickest and shortest train ride in is once a day departing Firenze Campo Di Marte train station at 7:38 am, arriving in La Spezia at 9:11 am (double check train schedules!).  Other trains have a transfer in Pisa and take longer. This made for an easier trek and maximized our time in Cinque Terre.

FROM ROME OR MILAN: You may want to come in a night earlier to make the most of your time. Recommended train from Rome (with transfer in Pisa) or Milan to La Spezia. 

FROM OTHER RIVIERA TOWNS: Find a regional train that takes you into Monterosso or Riomaggiore. To access other towns you’ll need to transfer at either of those stations via Cinque Terre Express train.

WHAT IF I HAVE A CAR? Driving in any of the Cinque Terre villages is not ideal – cars are prohibited from each of the villages, so you’ll have to find parking above each village at a pricey €20 a night – and it’s pretty limited. Or there’s a parking lot in La Spezia where you can leave your car and then rely on the express train. Trains make it so easy to get from village to village. So unless you can’t get rid of a car for the rest of your trip, I highly recommend train.

GETTING FROM TOWN TO TOWN:  You can hike, train, or even take a ferry. Note that as of press time (January 2018), most of the lower hiking trails – including the Villa Dell’Amore -- are closed to renovations. 2011 brought devastating flooding and landslides to the villages and the hiking trails. You can currently hike from Monterosso to Vernazza, then from Vernazza to Corniglia but that’s about it for the lower trail. You can follow trails through all five towns if you take a tougher network of trails but allocate about 8 hours for that (plus stops in each town). 

How To Spend Three Days in Cinque Terre

File Under: Why Cinque Terre deserves more than a day trip.

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Don't miss the See and Stay Guide to Cinque Terre!

I remember exactly where I was when I first learned about the Cinque Terre and saw photos of the five seaside towns located on the Italian Riviera.  It was oddly enough in a French language class in high school while discussing the French Riviera, which led to the Italian Riveria….and photos of these five majestic towns. 

It was also the moment I realized love at first sight was a real thing.  And the moment I decided that someday, I had to explore this part of the world.

It took about 15 years, but finally, this past May, I made it to the Cinque Terre.  I had the same debate as most others do when planning an Italian adventure – Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast? The best advice I was given was you can’t go wrong with either. And while Amalfi Coast is definitely at the top of my list for next time, Cinque Terre was everything that 17-year old me had hoped and dreamed it would be.

We opted to end our 10-day Italian adventure (also included Rome, Florence, a day trip to Tuscany, and a pit stop in Pisa) relaxing in the Cinque Terre which was a fantastic way to end the trip --- but also made it that much harder to get on the plane home. I could’ve stayed in our apartment in Manarola forever.

Cinque Terre is advertised as a popular day trip destination whether staying in Florence, Lucca, or elsewhere on the Italian Riviera.  And while I’m usually a big fan of day trips as a way to maximize your time, not all towns are created equal. The “5 lands” are truly as magical as they’re hyped up to be.  They’re also as busy and crowded as they’re hyped up to be. The real magic of the gorgeous waterfront hill villages happens in the early morning and later evening when all the day-trippers have left. 

So, what’s so magical about Cinque Terre?  I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves…..

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A stop in the Cinque Terre could easily be shortened to 1-2 nights as much as it could be lengthened to 5-7 nights.  I spent 2 nights in Cinque Terre, but maximized train schedules to arrive early enough the first day; I essentially had 2 full days and 2 nights. I could’ve easily spent another 2 days to delve deeper into the five villages, more time on a boat, and see more of the Riviera Coast. But, if you’re crunched for time, 2 days is plenty to explore the 5 towns and spend the third venturing out along the Italian Riviera.


First things first….I’m a realist.  What the heck are these 5 lands?
The Cinque Terre is made up of 5 seaside villages. It’s also often referred to as 5terre. From East to West, you’ve got Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each has its own charm.

If you’re completely lost about the 5 villages and where to stay – keep reading here!


DAY ONE

Arrival. Arrive by 9 am to maximize day one. See transportation guide. Check into Airbnb/VRBO.

Hit the trailheads. Head to Monterosso via train to start the hike. Walk along the coast from Monterosso al Mare through the tunnel to old town and follow signs for the hike. The hike to Vernazza takes about 2 hours give or take depending on heat, crowds, and your fitness level. Once you get to Vernazza go down through the village and cool off with some lunch al fresco at one of the restaurants right along the water.  Also, you’ve definitely earned a glass of vino.

Explore the towns. Soak up the sun, hang out by the water, explore the shops, and eat some gelato in Vernazza. Then either continue on the hike to Corniglia….or hop on the train. In Corniglia you can’t miss trying the local white wine – Vin Sante. You’ll see tons of vineyards on the hike to Vernazza and all over the hillsides of Corniglia.

Chill waterside: Take as long or as short as you want exploring the towns before heading back to get ready for dinner. If you wind up with extra time, go back and hit the beach in Monterosso, or lay out along the water in one of the other villages.

Dinner with a view: Get a reservation at Billy’s da Trattoria in Manarola (just minutes away from the Airbnb we stayed at), especially on the patio at sunset. The views are to di(n)e for.

Not feeling it?
Alternative options: arrive the night before if you’re coming from anywhere other than Florence, Pisa, or Genoa to have a full day. 

If it’s hot you’ll want to save the hike for day 2 to get an early start. It gets hot on the trail! In that case, Explore the towns on day 1, then spend day 2 hitting the trails and closing off on the water.

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DAY TWO

Rise and Shine: If you booked the same accommodations, start your morning with some coffee on the gorgeous veranda. No better way to start the day and realize how lucky you are to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world!

Hit the towns – again: If you followed our day one suggestions, you only really saw 3 of the 5 villages. Hop the ferry or train to explore the other two (i.e. Manarola, Riomaggiore).

Rent a boat: Head to Riomaggiore boat dock and hire a boat and captain for the day. Those views of the 5 villages and dramatic hillsides are unbeatable from the water.

Aperitivo: I know, I know. We’re partial to Manarola.  But, you can’t hit the Cinque Terre without a visit to Nessun Dorma – a bar with the best views in the Riviera. The cocktail or rosé menu are the best, and don’t miss a cheese plate or bruschetta. Mmmmm.  We enjoyed it here at sunset.

Dinner and drinks: Venture to another town, or find a solid local restaurant for dinner in your village. If staying in Riomaggiore or Vernazza, hit the local watering hole.

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DAY THREE

Free Day! By now you’ve explored all 5 towns, you’ve hit the trailheads, and you’ve spent time out on the water. You can delve deeper into any of those areas (there are some serious hiking trails in the park) – or…take a day to go explore the rest of the Riviera.

I Found My Love…. in Portofino. Buy a train ticket to Rapallo and head toward the water. Buy a roundtrip ferry ticket that will take you to Santa Margherita Ligure, Portofino, and San Fruttoso. We booked a roundtrip ticket so we could go to Portofino first, then got off in Santa Margherita Ligure to explore and catch a train home from there. Oh, and when in Portofino, definitely sit and get a bottle of wine or bubbly and people watch the yacht parties and the lamborghinis driving down the tiny main road.  Note – if weather and wave conditions are not friendly, the ferry service to San Fruttoso won’t run.

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Not feeling it?
Head east instead to Porto Venere.  Not as well-known as the rest of the towns, a total hidden (for now) gem that fits right in with its sister 5terre and has a few more sights to explore.

Fry Not?
Another gem in the area is Camogli. If you’re in the area the second weekend of May, don’t miss their annual Fish Fry festival. The main festivities run on the Sunday with a giant frying pan on the beach serving up some fresh fish. Events start the night before with giant bonfires on the beach and fireworks. 

3 day itinerary for cinque terre

8 Photos To Make You Fall In Love With Venice

File Under: Travel Inspo

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Do you remember the first time you fell in love with a foreign city, country, culture, or language?

I do.

I remember like it was yesterday. I arrived in Venice and had just absolutely fallen in love.

Love at first sight does exist.

Every nook and cranny of the city. The gondolas. The romance that just oozes out of the city. The food and wine - oh goodness, the food and wine.

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Maybe it was just circumstance - the first overnight stop on our Trip Around the World. The first city I'd ever explored outside of North America.

But I think we were meant to be.  

Venice is a city that grew to power after the fall of Rome.  The city floats, with it's canals as roadways, gondolas as taxis, and vaporettos as public buses or subway system. A city destined to be wandered and explored with no set plans or schedules. 

We arrived in the early evening with just 24 hours to explore.  And within 2 hours I decided I was never going to leave.

Unfortunately, I did leave, but only because Austria was calling my name.

With just 24 hours to soak everything in, we didn't waste a minute before getting lost in the alley ways and enjoying a little dinner with our wine.  

A picture is worth 1000 words, so here's about....10000 words:

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Have you been to Venice? Did you love it or have a different take?  What other city made you fall in love at first sight?

Pin Me!

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How To Help Hurricane Harvey and Irma Survivors

Puerto rico before the devastation...

Puerto rico before the devastation...

It's so hard to watch the destruction and suffering brought on by the hurricanes in Texas, the Caribbean, and the entire south, but there's a silver lining in how it's brought people together to help one another during a time of such divide.

Looking for a way to help?  For now donating is the best option. As the cities, states, islands, nations start to recover, there will be more opportunities focused on volunteerism and rebuilding.  We'll continue to update you on how you can help.

In the meantime, here are some places you might consider a monetary donation, in addition to the American Red Cross:

What's Up With...The Wild Wild(Fire) West?

While Texas recovers from Hurricane Harvey damage, and Florida and the Caribbean braces for Hurricane Irma, the western states, from Montana to the Pacific, are burning. Raging wildfires are burning throughout Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California.  Smoke is being seen and felt hundreds of miles away (reports in central CA, NV, CO, and even IA and IL).

The wildfires in Los Angeles, CA are the worst in history but now 80% contained.  Wildfires in Oregon are ravaging the Columbia Gorge and threatening Multnomah Falls Lodge.  The Sperry Chalet – a 1914 hotel and dining room in Glacier National Park in Montana only accessible by trail - unfortunately fell victim to the Sprague fire. 2,700 year old sequoias in Sierra National Forest were under threat earlier this week.

80 fires have burned down 1.5 million acres across 9 states since August 28, 2017. Here is a breakdown of total acres burned and locations via National Interagency Fire Center.

Up to date information on Eagle Creek FireColumbia River Gorge, Oregon (into Washington).
 

Up to date information on La Tuna FireLos Angeles, CA.

Colorado is the latest state to suffer from fires – the Deep Creek Fire started Monday, while the Big Red Fire continues to burn just south of the Colorado-Wyoming state line (started earlier this month).

What This Means For Travel: Air quality in Washington State, Western Oregon (including Portland), Northern California, Montana, Nevada, Los Angeles, CA, and parts of the 9 states listed above -- is reportedly very poor.  Many areas have also called for mandatory and voluntary evacuations.  Continue to check reports and practice caution when traveling to a location near an active fire, or reportedly has poor air quality.