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 Fly Around the World for Under $200

This blog post could also be titled, How I Afford Travel, or How I Convince My Husband To Travel Internationally Every Year, or How Not To Get Ripped Off by the Airline Industry (just kidding. I love you airline industry).

As you have likely already gathered about me if you know me, if you've read my early posts, or if you've read the "About Me" on this site, I'm a relative newbie in the travel world.  I've always had the desire to travel, but didn't get my first passport until 2013, and didn't leave the continent until 2014 when I went on a trip around the world.

Booking the trip around the world opened my eyes to a new world of travel.  Since that fateful night when I booked flights from New York - Milan, Prague - Paris - Thailand for $177 (yes, total!), I've become obsessed with fare glitches, fare deals, fuel dumping, and insane airfare deals.

I find airfare to be the most daunting - and often most expensive - part of travel.  Especially when you're brand new to travel.  Booking an expensive flight, hotels, researching where to go, what to do, what to eat, cultures, potential scams, and everything else with travel can be scary!

But.  The more I travel, the easier and less daunting it has become.  Honestly.  

TRAVEL. IS. AS. EASY. AS. BOOKING. A. FLIGHT.

And guess what?  Booking a flight can be as quick as 5 minutes.

Since the Round-The-World trip in November 2014, my husband and I have returned to Europe the last 2 years, and have another trip booked to Italy come May. That's 4 years in a row traveling to Europe, when I had never been in my life!  And it's all thanks to finding crazy good travel deals.

I'm constantly asked how I find these deals.  So, I'm sharing my favorite sites here for you to browse, follow on social media, and check out for inspiration for your next trip!

TIPS:
1. BE FLEXIBLE. The best deals I've found have been about 6 months in advance of the trips I've taken, but I've been flexible with destination and exact timing. Often amazing deals pop up for the next 1-3 months - with my full-time job I can't usually jump on those, but if you have a more flexible schedule, you're in luck.

2. ACT FAST. You NEVER know how long a deal will be up. Be (somewhat) spontaneous. Deals most likely won't last longer than 24-48 hours after they've first been discovered. (Note - you can cancel airfare within 24 hours, so you may want to book now, ask wife-husband-boss for forgiveness later.)

3. KEEP REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Sometimes these deals really are too good to be true and can get cancelled.  I booked a $200 rt flight on Delta to Portugal over a 5 day weekend that ended up getting canceled. I was bummed, yes, but another deal popped up a month later that was honored. 

4. HAVE AN OPEN MIND. And be ready for adventure. When we booked Round the World, we didn't know how we'd spend the time between Milan and Prague. We pulled up a map and Austria was on the way - a country that was not on my radar.  AND WE FELL IN LOVE. Be ready to be surprised and wowed and keep an open mind!

5. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A NEXT TIME. Found an amazing deal but it's not the right timing, or you don't have the right financials? There will be another deal that will pop up.  This one I still struggle with on a daily basis. :)

Now that we got that out of the way.....are you ready to book your next trip of a lifetime?  

FLIGHT RESOURCES

SecretFlying  posts great flight deals with tips on how and where to book. Easily search by trending deals, latest deals, and deals by continent.  I follow them on  Facebook  and  Instagram  (@secretflying) as well.

SecretFlying posts great flight deals with tips on how and where to book. Easily search by trending deals, latest deals, and deals by continent.  I follow them on Facebook and Instagram (@secretflying) as well.

The Flight Deal : Sign up for the Flight Daily Deal e-newsletter.  They send out a daily email with about 10 flight deals. Also share travel tips.

The Flight Deal: Sign up for the Flight Daily Deal e-newsletter.  They send out a daily email with about 10 flight deals. Also share travel tips.

Google Flights  is my favorite search tool.  Google makes it easy to search by location or date and compare airports for arrival or departure to really find the best fares.    Play with the explore anywhere, or have fun clicking around the map to find the best deals.  You can also narrow search to x number of stops or specific airlines if you want to avoid multiple layovers and really budget airlines.

Google Flights is my favorite search tool.  Google makes it easy to search by location or date and compare airports for arrival or departure to really find the best fares.  

Play with the explore anywhere, or have fun clicking around the map to find the best deals.  You can also narrow search to x number of stops or specific airlines if you want to avoid multiple layovers and really budget airlines.

Skyscanner  is a global travel search website that provides a free flight search service as well as online comparisons for hotels and car hire.  Explore best deals by month or destination.  They have a website and app. 

Skyscanner is a global travel search website that provides a free flight search service as well as online comparisons for hotels and car hire.  Explore best deals by month or destination.  They have a website and app. 

Momondo  helps you find and compare fares from 700+ travel sites, giving you access to the best rates for airline tickets online. Momondo will also search third party agent sites for the best flight deals.  They have a website and app. 

Momondo helps you find and compare fares from 700+ travel sites, giving you access to the best rates for airline tickets online. Momondo will also search third party agent sites for the best flight deals.  They have a website and app. 

TravelZoo  puts out a weekly  Top 20  list of the best travel deals and packages every Wednesday.  You can access via website or sign up for their email list.

TravelZoo puts out a weekly Top 20 list of the best travel deals and packages every Wednesday.  You can access via website or sign up for their email list.

I've launched TheRoundTrip -- a weekly 5 minute tip sheet on all the top travel news and deals.  I spend hours each week going through each of the above resources, to share the very best deals with you.  You can find each week's newsletter and deals by clicking  TheRoundTrip  in the header, or sign up  here . 

I've launched TheRoundTrip -- a weekly 5 minute tip sheet on all the top travel news and deals.  I spend hours each week going through each of the above resources, to share the very best deals with you.  You can find each week's newsletter and deals by clicking TheRoundTrip in the header, or sign up here


Pin so you can easily access these resources next time you're ready to book a trip!

Pin so you can easily access these resources next time you're ready to book a trip!

The Trip That Started It All...

It all began with Shonda Rhimes....

It was Thursday evening ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, 2014. I stayed up past my usual bedtime to watch the Scandal season finale.  At about 11 pm I looked at my husband and told him that while I should be going to bed, I had to see the finale.

Olivia Pope is my spirit animal

Olivia Pope is my spirit animal

By 11:30 pm, I received a text from a friend.  The text simply provided a link to a blog post, and read, “wanna go around the world??”

Confused, I clicked the link.  Fly around the world for $150.  Flights from New York to Milan, and then Prague to four asian cities. For $150.

This was a joke, right?  A glitch you hear about on the news, and airlines would never honor, right?

Let me back up a bit.

Husband and I were dead set on going to Oktoberfest (yes, the one in Germany) in 2014. We agreed about 14 months ahead of time that no matter what, we were going. We made all our plans around it.  And then, my work schedule proved impossible.  At the advice of my boss, we started planning a trip to France and Spain (2 of our dream locations) for that June instead. Until yet again, a client’s needs interfered. Everything we tried conflicted with my work schedule. I was so utterly devastated that I wouldn’t be able to pull off a Eurotrip in 2014 after all.

So. $150? To go to Europe after all...AND Asia?  All we’d have to do is get from San Diego to New York, make our way from Milan to Prague, and then home from Asia?

You better believe I wanted to go around the world!  

The next half hour was a bit of a blur, but before I knew it, I was booking airfare.  

Even if the tickets got cancelled, we figured it was a really good story.  Hey, remember that time we booked flights around the world for $150?

In the end we opted to shell out the big bucks to have a 24 hour stopover in Paris.  And by big bucks I mean $27.  And then we decided to be smart and get trip insurance because..well…this was way too good to be true.  So, $234 (each) later, three of us were flying most of the way around the world.

In the end a number of friends were smart enough to jump on the deal. We waited some time, but the internet was still telling us our flights were confirmed. Ticketed. Seats assigned.

Before long we realized, holy crap.  We’re flying around the world.

Inspiration for planning the trip - possibilities were endless

Inspiration for planning the trip - possibilities were endless

Travel Makes You Rich

travel makes richer_image

I was born and raised in the same city, and lived in the same house my whole life (in fact, my parents still live in that house).  While I was lucky enough to travel at a young age, it was mostly only to visit family on the opposite coast.  But, I've always had a deep desire to travel, explore, and go on adventures.  

Call me crazy, but I dreamt of my parents picking us up and moving us to somewhere new.  You know, that whole grass is greener thing.  They had moved quite a bit before I was born, but my dad's job kept them in San Diego after I arrived, so I only ever knew one home. 

Since my childhood moving dreams never came true (of course a romanticized notion that never would've turned out as exciting as I had imagined), I jumped at the first chance I had to move away...College.  I had some limitations (within the state), so I specifically wanted to choose the school furthest away, and where I didn't know a single person.  I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.  Meet new people. Explore a new place. Have an adventure. Re-invent myself if that's what I really wanted.  

And I did that. 

I chose a school 500 miles away from the only home I'd ever known.

Once in college, I studied French and Italian, despite already meeting the foreign language requirement. I was only 3 classes shy of a French minor.

I switched majors at one point from International Business to International Relations.  (The subject matters couldn't be that different, right? Both international and all....)

When I made a 10 year plan at 21 years old, it involved moving to the East Coast, and even living in Europe (France) for at least 3 months.

I took a job on the east coast in my mid-twenties because I thought that might make it easier to travel to Europe, at least compared to my entire life spent on the west coast.

I was someone who didn't really travel, but lived my life as if I did. I made all of my important life decisions based on having such an interest (no, desire) in exploring the world, yet I had barely explored my own country.

In fact, I didn't even get my first passport until I was 29 years old.  

I always assumed I would have traveled to at least Europe at a much earlier age - especially to France since I studied the language - and culture - over the course of six years.  While I have a thing about living life with no regrets, if I had to choose one...it would be that I didn't study abroad during college, or travel internationally sooner in life. 

So, in the last 3 years, I've finally traveled. I've traveled to more states and two continents.  And it's absolutely become a passion.  I didn't realize all that I was really missing out on until I did leave the country.  My passion and desire to see the world, meet new people, explore new places, and learn history has magnified.  

I decided to take this passion - and all the information I've gathered during hours of looking up travel deals and planning itineraries for trips I have yet to take - and put it into words on this blog.

I hope I can inspire even just one person to travel, explore, and wander.  To be pushed out of their comfort zone.  To learn new things and gain a new perspective.  And to be forever changed and inspired.  Travel really does make you rich.