A Comprehensive Guide to the Five Cinque Terre Towns

The Cinque Terre towns are five, centuries old, seaside villages the can be found in the Liguria region of Italy. These five towns are small, colorful and surrounded by stunning, rugged, coastlines. We highly recommend venturing into Cinque Terre to visit one or five of these villages. For a complete breakdown on the five Cinque Terre towns, keep reading. If you’re looking for further information for how to access Cinque Terre, get around the towns and everything you need to know to plan a trip – check our complete guide to Cinque Terre.

The Five Cinque Terre Towns:

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the southern most town of the five, it’s located a short train ride away from La Spezia. The most famous view of this town is from the harbor looking into the town. We recommend heading out to the harbor first thing in the morning as this area will get busy with the afternoon crowds. We also recommend wandering around the town and exploring the shops. Kepris is a great pizza restaurant here and Old School is a must visit gelateria.

If you’re spending the day in Riomaggiore, you can get a little more adventurous. We recommend visiting Castello di Riomaggiore. Built in 1260 this castle offers history and incredible view over the ocean. It is a bit of a walk to the castle, along steep roads, so be sure to follow Google Maps.

Women standing with one of the Cinque Terre towns in the background.

Manarola

Manarola is built on a cliffside 70m above sea level and this may be our favorite of the five towns. The main attraction of Manarola is that this town boasts one of the best views in Cinque Terre. The viewpoint, appropriately called Manarola Scenic Viewpoint, offers a panoramic view of Manarola. While it does require a short hike to get here, you will be rewarded with both views and the Nessun Dorma restaurant. After lunch, and an Aperol Spritz, head back down towards town. From here, you can wander the streets, go for a swim in the marina or continue onto another one of the Cinque Terre towns.

View of Manarola, one of the Cinque Terre towns.A man and women standing in the foreground, with a view of Manarola, one of the Cinque Terre towns.

Nessun Dorma

Nessun Dorma is arguably one of the most popular restaurants in Cinque Terre. It’s a highly popular spot to eat at and while it’s not exactly a local attraction, it is well worth it. The restaurant opens at 1pm and uses a virtual line. We recommend getting to the restaurant shortly before 1pm so you can scan the QR code at the restaurant, download the app and be prepared to joint the virtual line at 1pm. We did this and were seated by 1:20pm.

Corniglia

Corniglia is the only one of the Cinque Terre towns without water access, rather this town is located 100m above sea level on a cliff overlooking to water. Due to the limited water access, this tends to be the least crowded town with a more local feel to it. Furthermore, this town requires a 400 step climb to get into from the train station which thins the tourism crowds as well. With that said, we still feel Corniglia is worth a visit. We recommend stopping here for a bite to eat, wander around the streets and then enjoy the lookout point at sunset. Restorante La Posada is a popular restaurant that overlooks the water, this place is popular so make a reservation in advance if you plan to eat here. We opted to eat at Dau Tinola which was delicious with great service. Corniglia is surrounded by vineyards so make sure to get a local wine to balance out your pasta.

Viewpoint Corniglia offers views of both the coastline and Manarola in the distance. If you’re here for sunset, the bar here will bring out a drink to enjoy while you wait.

Vernazza

Vernazza is toted as the most beautiful of the five Cinque Terre towns and is also one of our favorite towns. We recommend heading towards the harbor to start your day at Ananasso Bar for a cafe latte and pastry. From here, you can settle down at the waterfront of Vernazza as there’s a sliver of sand here to enjoy. If you prefer a more secluded area for a beach day, head over to Vernazza Beach. From here, Alberto Gelateria is a great spot to grab an afternoon treat to cool down while you wander through the streets.

Lastly, Vernazza has one of the best viewpoints in Cinque Terre. The viewpoint is on the Blue Trail towards Monterosso. To access the viewpoint you will need to pay the 7.50 euro hiking fee, or if you have the Cinque Terre Card this is included. We dropped a pin at the viewpoint, but make sure to take breaks on your way here as the hike leading up to this point is filled with great views. We recommend continuing your hike along the Blue Trail to Monterosso, once in Monterosso you can cool down with some more beach time.

View of the Vernazza harbor, one of the Cinque Terre towns.A coastline view of the Cinque Terre towns.

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso al Mare is the biggest and most resort-like of the five Cinque Terre towns. Due to the size, there are a fair amount of hotels and AirBnbs located here which makes it a good town to use as a home base. Before we jump into what to do in this town it’s important to understand its layout. Monterosso is divided pretty distinctly by the ‘old Monterosso’ and the ‘new Monterosso’. The old area of town is surrounded by walls of the ancient fortress and the new area of town is accessed by a a pedestrian tunnel underneath the San Cristoforo promontory.

We recommend walking along the Seafront Promenade, enjoying the stalls and souvenir spots. San Giovanni Batista is a church found in the old part of Monterosso that can be visited. Furthermore, if you have some energy left, you can hike up to the cemetery for stunning views of Monterosso. Cimitero di Monterosso will take a bit of a waking to access but it does offer sweeping views of the town.

Lastly, there are a lot of restaurants found in the old area of Monterosso. Two that we would recommend visiting are La Cantina Di Miky and San Martino Gastronomia. If you’re feeling adventurous you should try out their anchovies as this region is famous for them.

Monterosso Beaches

Spiaggia Fegina is the sandy beach found in the new area of Monterosso and is the best beach in Cinque Terre. You can stay here in the free areas or opt to rent two chairs and an umbrella for 30 euros a day.

Scoglio di Monterosso is another beach found in the new area of Monterosso. This beach has the iconic rock formation just off of the beach, perfect to grab some great photos.

Spiaggia Tragagia is the beach found in the old part of Monterosso. While this is a pebble beach, you can still enjoy the water, the views as well as purchase chairs and umbrellas for the day.

A overlooking view of Monterosso coastline, one of the Cinque Terre townsA view of the beach umbrellas at Spiaggia Tragagia, found in Monterosso (one of the Cinque Terre towns).

Itinerary for 2-3 days in the Cinque Terre Towns

Day One:

Morning: Arrive at anytime to your lodging, if you’re staying in La Spezia – drop your bags off and plan to head back to the train station.

Afternoon: Get introduced to Cinque Terre by taking the ferry from La Spezia up to the Cinque Terre town Manarola. Once in Manarola spend some time exploring the streets, grab some lunch, gelato and some souvenirs before heading down to the marina. Enjoy the marina in the afternoon, feel free to jump into the water or simply soak up the sun.

Evening: We recommend going to Nessun Dorma for dinner, a pro tip is to go up and reserve a spot in the virtual line a few hours beforehand. With your time waiting, explore the area and take some photos at the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint. Enjoy the evening sun until it’s time to head back down and catch the ferry back to La Spezia (or to the Cinque Terre town you’re staying in).

Day Two:

Morning: Head out to Riomaggiore for the morning via the Cinque Terre train. Train details can be found on the Cinque Terre website. Spend the morning wandering around the streets and stopping for a cafe latte and pastry.

Afternoon: We recommend getting lunch in Riomaggiore, Kepris is a great pizza spot to enjoy. After lunch you can either head directly to Corniglia via train OR you can take the hike to Manarola and train from there.

Evening: Spend the evening in Corniglia. Grab dinner and enjoy the wine and pesto that originated in the region. Head over to Viewpoint Corniglia for an after dinner drink and enjoy the sunset.

Day Three:

Morning: Take the train to Vernazza in the morning. Spend the morning enjoying this town and grabbing some breakfast.

Afternoon: In the late morning or early afternoon start the hike to Monterosso. This hike will take 2-3 hours so ensure you have water with you. Enjoy the best viewpoints of Vernazza in the beginning of this hike. Once you reach Monterosso, head over to Spiaggia Fegina and spend a few hours relaxing at the beach.

Evening: Spend the evening exploring old Monterosso and grabbing dinner. After sunset, take the train back into La Spezia and prepare to head out to your next Italian destination!

An overlooking view of one of the Cinque Terre towns along the coast.A view of cliffside building, found along the coast of the Cinque Terre towns.

Tips for Visiting the Cinque Terre Towns

  • As with all current travel, these towns are bustling with tourists. I would recommend getting to a town early (before 9am) to best enjoy the views crowd-free.
  • Bring sunscreen and a hat. The sun will be unrelenting when visiting Cinque Terre during the summer. Furthermore, there are minimal shady spots when exploring and eating, so be prepared with adequate sun protection.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle. Throughout the towns of Cinque Terre there are outdoor fountains with drinking water, we found these the best option for water.
  • If you are doing any of the hikes between the Cinque Terre towns we recommend getting an early start. These trails are busy and hot, so the early start will help to combat this. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water!
  • Bring your bathing suit. Every town, with the exception of Corniglia, has water access. The best way to beat the afternoon heat and crowds is to head to the water.

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