Romantic towns, dramatic scenery and a laid-back Mediterranean lifestyle makes the Cinque Terre an enchanting destination. Indulge in delicious cuisines, hike between charming villages – or simply sit back and bask on sundrenched terraces and recline on pristine beaches.
Translating as ‘Five lands’, the cluster of five small towns along the western coast of Italy that make up the Cinque Terre are situated within the beautiful Cinque Terre National Park. Along with the five famous villages, lesser-known towns that can be found nestled among the rugged cliffs offer visitors an authentic glimpse into life in the Liguria region of north-western Italy and can also be a great place to stay in Cinque Terre.
Map of Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
1. Monterosso al Mare · 2. Riomaggiore · 3. Vernazza · 4. Manarola · 5. Corniglia · 6. Levanto · 7. Portovenere · 8. Moneglia · 9. Bonassola · 10. Framura
It’s easy to explore the rugged coast: try taking the popular hiking route or simply jump on the train that runs from the nearby city of La Spezia and connects the villages. Life is good along this colorful coastal region and it’s waiting for you to explore it…
The largest of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare’s magnificence lies in its rocky beaches and stretch of waterside promenade. The only town for the area to have an ample beach for visitors to enjoy, local fishermen pull up to the shore and sell fresh fish from their boats. This is one of the more lively towns in the area and is known for its welcoming atmosphere as night falls. The town is made up of old and new parts and is separated by the Capuchin Monastery which sits up high on a hill.
Monterosso al Mare is best reached by car or by the local railway service. It’s a popular destination to stay in along the coast as it has a wide range of choice when it comes to budget and style and has more of a holiday resort atmosphere than neighboring towns.
The first of the villages that make up Cinque Terre, after La Spezia is the pretty town of Riomaggiore. Nestled in the valley of the Rivus Maior river, the town is situated along a main street where restaurants and cafes serve freshly caught fish and people sit sipping wine. Take a walk along the town’s tiny back alleys and up narrow steps to where colorful houses are closely packed together.
The local railway divides the town making it easy to catch the train to nearby towns; or you can find the start of the hiking route between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. Riomaggiore itself remains a working town and is made up of mid-range hotels that are housed in traditional old buildings.
Pleasant Vernazza is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy and it’s not hard to see why. The delightful village is popular with tourists who visit whilst hiking along the coast or just to simply luxuriate in the classically Italian surroundings. It’s centred around the natural harbor where colorful boats bob up and down on the ocean and people enjoy taking a refreshing swim.
Several bars and restaurants in town edge the piazza where you can sit and listen to the locals chatting and children playing while washing dries over upstairs balconies. Walk the steps up to Belforte Tower and soak up the fantastic views of the village and the harbor. If you want to stay in Vernazza then you can choose from budget-friendly, family-run apartments, and mid-range hotels with sweeping sea views.
Manarola is a small village set on the glistening Ligurian sea and is popular with visitors who are attracted there to see the famous sight of houses clinging to the cliffs: the romantic town is said to be the best in along the whole of the Cinque Terre for its beautiful pastel buildings. The colorful village doesn’t have a sandy beach and instead eager swimmers jump from big rocks straight into the deep blue of the sea. Manarola has some interesting cultural sites, such as the Church of San Lorenzo, built in 1338, and the remains of Manarola Castle.
The train that cuts through the town line still connects the village to the other sites along the coast, or you can walk the footpath to neighboring villages. If you want to stay in Manarola then you can book yourself a stylish mid-range hotel with sea views – but the village is very popular and rooms book up quickly.
Corniglia captivates as it perches up on the hundred-meter-high rocky cliffs of the coast. As an old village in the area without access to the sea, Corniglia is a little more peaceful and relaxing than neighboring towns. The village offers spectacular views of the Cinque Terre and is the only place where you can capture all five of the villages at once. Corniglia train station is down beside the sea which means a hike down all 382 steps from the village in order to catch the train – or you can opt to walk to the next village.
If you want a relaxing break where you can sit in the sunshine and devour delicious local dishes while sipping coffee then this is the village for you. Hotels in Corniglia are in the traditional style: low, wide buildings that are found further inland, but with that comes larger windows and large terraces with sea views.
Technically, lovely Levanto isn’t part of the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, but it might as well be the sixth one. Levanto has a long pebble beach, which is perfect to spend some hours reclining in the summer sunshine before you can choose to start your hike along to the other villages – or simply spend your time in town enjoying the friendly atmosphere.
Most people travel around Levanto by bicycle, which you can rent in the town and pedal along the small picturesque pathways to small restaurants, or to the local Wednesday market. The architecture in Levanto is grander than in the other villages and hotels are often larger, and a range from budget b&bs to larger resort hotels are available.
Portovenere isn’t an official Cinque Terre town, but that doesn’t mean it that it doesn’t have a charm all of its own. Stuck out on the jut of rocky land the old town is lined with colorful buildings and small streets that lead the way to the Andrea Doria castle with its views across the top of St Peter’s Church and the sparkling sea.
You can reach Portovenere by boat, which can be an impressive way to reach the town’s shores; alternatively you can take the train from the station in the town or catch the bus and travel along the coast. But if you stay in one of Portovenere’s gorgeous beachside hotels then you might not to want move an inch!
Hugged between Punta Moneglia and Punta Rospo is a fantastic little village that is ideal for families. The sandy beach boasts calm, clean waters, and is excellent for sunny days spent building sandcastles. The medieval buildings around the village are coated with shades of orange and pink, and many house small shops selling local crafts and pretty Italian restaurants which serve classic italian cuisine; Moneglia is known for its exquisite extra virgin olive-oil and focaccia.
Moneglia is accessible by train and is a great choice if you want a little bit of everything that this slice of Italy has to offer: the food, the sun, the sea. The town has some fantastic b&bs, which include balconies with sea views, or you could stay in a hotel for a little more money and space.
North of Levanto and Cinque Terre sits the small seaside town of Bonassola. Popular with Italian holidaymakers, the town boasts a small sandy beach that’s busy with sunbathers and adventurous locals who jump into the sea from the large rock at the side of the bay. Bonassola is easy to reach by train or by bicycle and is perfect to explore on foot; along the town’s old streets local ladies play cards and small restaurants serve tasty gelato and fresh pasta.
Bonassola isn’t a big tourist hub and staying there would mean you would get a slice of traditional Italian life, where children play in the street and locals stand on street corners gossiping. There is some budget accommodation in the town, but mainly it’s got mid-range hotels located in distinctly Italian buildings.
The quiet little village of Framura is a haven away from the visiting tourists that come to the Italian riviera during the summer months. Staying in the quaint town is perfect for those who aren’t looking for a lively dining scene or late night bars, but are wanting to soak up local culture and traditions. The village is actually made up of five parts: Anzo, Castagnola, Costa, Ravecca, and Setta. If you are arriving by train you will have to hike up through the various parts of the village.
There are a handful of eateries in the village that serve authentic Italian cuisine and are run by local families. Hotels in the town comprise mid-range accommodation with balconies nestled among blossoming flowers and views over the rooftops across the sea.