Azure waters, rugged coastline, candy-colored houses in every color of the rainbow: the Cinque Terre, Italian for ‘five lands’, of the Italian Riviera are too beautiful to be true.
Connected by hiking trails and train, these five villages are part of the protected lands of Cinque Terre National Park, and they collectively became a UNESCO site in 1997 for their history and striking beauty.
With dazzling views from its many hiking trails, postcard-perfect fishing villages you can admire from so many angles, and delicious Ligurian cuisine (trofie al pesto, anyone?), you can’t really go wrong no matter where you land when deciding where to stay in Cinque Terre.
Honestly, these five villages are so close that the trail can be walked in a single, yet ambitious day — that is, if the trail is fully open, which it often isn’t due to mudslides and renovations — check the trail opening status before planning anything!
Plus, the train connecting the villages is lightning-fast and frequent, which means you don’t need to stay in different villages to experience the Cinque Terre — you can just pick one home base for your entire Cinque Terre itinerary.
I’ve lived in Italy for over 15 years and traveled all across the country, but the Cinque Terre remains one of my favorite destinations in the entire country.
In this article, I’ll tell you all about the five scenic villages and what makes each of them unique, to help you decide where to stay in Cinque Terre.
Best For Bars & Restaurants: Riomaggiore
The southernmost of the Cinque Terre, this charming village is just 10 minutes by train from La Spezia, making it a great choice for where to stay in the Cinque Terre.
One perfect reason to stay here? It’s a great starting point for those who want to complete the entire Cinque Terre hike in one day (and then take the train back home to eat dinner and rest!).
Plus, it’s a lively place to spend the night, with lots of bars and restaurants up for consideration.
Although it may not have a super-thriving nightlife scene, Riomaggiore is one of the few villages where you can still enjoy a cocktail at night, compared to some of the sleepier Cinque Terre villages.
Aside from strolling around the picturesque village searching for scenic views, you can visit the medieval Riomaggiore Castle and the Church of San Giovanni Battista of Riomaggiore, both sitting on the hillside to provide scenic views of the village.
If you’re up for a short hike, perhaps the most stunning view is the one from the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero on the southern side of the village. As a bonus, the hike provides gorgeous coastal views all along the way too.
As for dining options, you’ll be practically spoiled for choice. Have a light meal on the lovely terrace of Bar e Vini a Pié de Ma or enjoy the fried fish at Il Pescato Cucinato.
If you’re up for that evening drink I mentioned earlier, head to Old School Cocktails & Food or choose a wine from the vast selection at Ghemé.
A wonderful coastal walkway, Via dell’Amore, connects Riomaggiore to Manarola. Unfortunately, the walkway has been closed for many years but is scheduled to reopen in 2024.
Until then, you can walk to the village of Manarola along Via Beccara, a hiking trail a bit farther uphill.
This detour is challenging but the views are gorgeous, so it’s well worth the extra effort!
Where to Stay in Riomaggiore
For a great option in Riomaggiore, The Sunset Line has delightful rooms and apartments overlooking the sea, a short walk from Riomaggiore Castle and the center of the village.
If you want to wake up and look out over the beautiful sea view, enjoy your morning coffee on the terrace, and relax in the hot tub, this is the perfect place to stay in Cinque Terre for you!
Located in the center of Riomaggiore, Le Giare is a guesthouse offering gorgeous views over the colorful village.
Some rooms even have little balconies or terraces to sit and enjoy the view!
The guesthouse is just a short walk from the beach and the port of Riomaggiore, making it a perfect home base for your explorations.
Best For All-Around Beauty: Manarola
In my opinion, Manarola is one of the prettiest towns of the Cinque Terre, along with Vernazza.
The Manarola Overlook Viewpoint provides the perfect postcard (or let’s be real in the 21st century, Instagram!) picture of the colorful village built on the cliffs.
The village is the second smallest of the Cinque Terre, with just 353 inhabitants at the most recent count. Nevertheless, it’s among the most popular, especially during the summer.
If you plan on visiting Manarola in the peak season and want to spend the night in town, book your accommodation well in advance to avoid missing out.
Since it’s one of the smallest villages on the coast, Manarola doesn’t have much in the way of notable attractions.
The best thing to do is to wander around the narrow alleyways, the typically Ligurian caruggi, and enjoy the charming views, including the street with the charming Chiesa di San Lorenzo.
Before the Cinque Terre became a major tourist attraction, Manarola used to be a quiet fishing village.
Historically, the town was often a target of pirate incursions, so it featured several defensive buildings.
Today, you can only make out the remains of the castle at the base of a private building sitting at the edge of the cliff.
If you want to enjoy a light lunch or an aperitivo with a stunning view over the gorgeous village, check out Nessun Dorma, right next to the Manarola Overlook Viewpoint.
Another great spot for lunch or dinner with a view is Trattoria dal Billy.
Manarola is also famous for hosting the world’s largest nativity scene, recreated yearly on the hill just outside town.
The figures of the nativity scene (presepe in Italian) are made out of thousands of lights arranged to cover the entire hill, creating a magical atmosphere.
If you’re visiting in winter, you can check it out from the 8th of December until late January.
Where to Stay in Manarola
The name of this hotel, Il Signo di Manarola (“the dream of Manarola”) couldn’t be more accurate!
This guesthouse is a dreamy place with gorgeous terraces providing sweeping views over Manarola and the Ligurian coastline.
Bright, cozy rooms with sea views are ideal for a romantic stay or to treat yourself to a memorable holiday.
Furthermore, the guesthouse is right in the center of the lovely village, so it’s super convenient for all your explorations.
If you can afford to splurge on accommodation, the suites in this refurbished medieval tower at La Torretta make for an unforgettable place to stay in the Cinque Terre!
Along with the comfortable rooms and stunning terraces with panoramic views, you can enjoy all kinds of little luxuries.
We’re talking everything from a hot tub to a delightful daily breakfast and a tasty aperitivo — not a bad way to spend your Italy vacation!
Best for Budget Travelers: Corniglia
Corniglia is the only village of the Cinque Terre sitting at the top of the hill rather than on the coast.
Corniglia’s location alone means fewer visitors choose to stay here, since most travelers prefer the coastal locations.
If you’re looking for a more local feel with fewer crowds, Corniglia is the perfect place to stay in Cinque Terre!
The quaint village is ideal for pleasant walks, hikes, and slowing down while enjoying the beautiful coastal views.
As an extra perk, Corniglia is right in the middle of the Cinque Terre, making it an ideal base for day trips to the other villages.
Corniglia is also a great option if you’re traveling on a budget.
While you may not find quite as many accommodations and restaurants, they do tend to be cheaper, and they’re just as lovely and delicious as the fancier spots!
For an affordable and cozy place to eat a traditional local meal, try A Cantina da Mananan.
For a sweet treat, try the gelato at Alberto Gelateria or look out for the small stall selling lemon-flavored granita.
Corniglia sits perched on the hillside, which means you get some truly wonderful vantage points to admire the coastal view.
Head over to the viewing area near Bar Terza Terra or check out the view from Scalinata Lardarina, a zig-zagging staircase leading down to the train station.
From Corniglia, you can also hike along spectacular trails to Manarola or Vernazza.
The Sentiero Azzurro leading to Vernazza is challenging but rewards you with sweeping coastal views unlike any others.
The hike takes roughly an hour and a half and is worth every step!
Where to Stay in Corniglia
The hilltop guesthouse of Arbasia de Ma overlooking the sea offers simple but cozy rooms with amazing views.
Plus, it’s perfectly located in the center of Corniglia.
The rooms are also quite affordable compared to other places in the Cinque Terre, especially if you book ahead of time for even better deals.
This accommodation in Corniglia is another lovely option if you want to stay in the center of the village and enjoy beautiful views.
All rooms at Arbanella come with a beautiful view of the sea, while some also have delightful little balconies to relax while enjoying your morning coffee.
Yes, just because you’re not directly on the coast doesn’t mean you can’t have a view of the sea!
Best For Activities: Vernazza
Vernazza may be the most characteristic and picturesque village of the Cinque Terre.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy — not just the Cinque Terre or even Liguria, but the entire country!
If you visit the Cinque Terre, you absolutely have to spend some time in this colorful fishing village — and it may just make the perfect place to spend the night, too.
The picture-perfect village is perfect for a romantic getaway, with gorgeous hotels and guesthouses overlooking the beautiful coastline and the charming little port.
Fair warning: since it’s among the most popular of the Cinque Terre, Vernazza gets more crowded.
As you could probably guess, this also leads to higher prices for accommodation and dining, so budget accordingly!
On the plus side, Vernazza has more things to do.
As with all the villages on the Ligurian Riviera, the best thing to do is to stroll around the picturesque alleys looking for vantage points offering gorgeous panoramic views.
The Church of St. Margaret of Antioch and the San Francesco Convent offer beautiful views over the port of Vernazza and the little sea cliff topped by colorful houses.
At the top of the promontory, you can visit the ruins of the Doria Tower, a 10th-century castle with a tall, round tower looking over the little village.
Vernazza has a rocky beach to the south where you can relax and swim in the crystalline waters.
Right by the little port, you’ll also find a little strip of sand but expect this spot to be very crowded – if you want a spot to relax, you’ll have to get there early.
If you want to hit the hiking trails, walk the Sentiero Azzuro to Corniglia or the slightly longer Sentiero Monterosso to Vernazza.
As for dining options, you have a dizzying array of restaurants and wine bars to choose from.
Try the fresh seafood at Il Gattaccio, grab a takeaway from Pippo a Vernazza, or enjoy a delicious traditional meal at Il Pirata delle 5 Terre.
If you like Italian wine, Cantina Cheo offers wine tours and tastings.
Where to Stay in Vernazza
This little traditional hotel, Albergo Barbara, is in a perfect central location, just a few steps from the Vernazza harbor.
Some rooms have a lovely sea view, while others look out over the mountains.
Either way, you’ll wake up to a beautiful reminder of why you’re lucky to be in the region!
If you’re looking for cozy rooms smack in the center of Vernazza, this place is for you.
If you want to stay in a quainter location, away from the bustling harbor area, I Limoni di Vernazza is a great choice.
The guesthouse is in a lovely, peaceful location close to the train station but within a short distance from the harbor area.
The place has spacious, comfortable rooms, but remember what I said earlier about this town’s popularity, and make sure to book well ahead of your trip!
Best For Beach Time: Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest and northernmost village of the Cinque Terre, nestled within a small gulf.
To the west, the town is protected by a promontory with hiking trails and panoramic coastal views.
Monterosso al Mare is connected to the closest village, Vernazza, via the scenic hiking trail Sentiero Monterosso – Vernazza.
The village is the closest to Genoa, just over an hour to the north. However, the easiest way to reach Monterosso via public transport is from either Levanto or La Spezia, since the train ride only takes about 20 minutes.
As the largest of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare has the advantage of providing more accommodation options, which are also cheaper compared to the other villages.
Even better, this is the only village with a proper sand beach, Spiaggia di Fegina, making it ideal for summer holidays.
Monterosso al Mare may not have the charm of the smaller villages, but it’s still a gorgeous place on the Ligurian Riviera.
The main landmarks in the town are the Convent of the Capuchin Friars and the 14th-century church S. Giovanni Battista with its striped Gothic façade.
Like all the villages of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is also built on the hillside, but it’s less steep, which makes it more accessible for people with reduced mobility.
The town is ideal for families with children, given the beaches, parks, and great variety of restaurants and accommodations for travelers of all ages.
For a traditional Ligurian meal, head to San Martino Gastronomia.
If you’re looking for a beautiful venue with gorgeous sea views, try Ristorante L’Ancora della Tortuga.
Lastly, don’t forget to try the tasty gelato at Gelateria La Scogliera.
Where to Stay in Monterosso al Mare
This beachfront accommodation, Roca Du Ma Pasu, in the center of Monterosso al Mare has modern rooms with cozy beds and offers a delightful breakfast.
Given the location, you can expect to spend more than the average in Monterosso al Mare.
That said, you may find last-minute deals, so keep your fingers crossed and look out for those!
The charming Hotel Souvenir is in a perfect location close to the main beach of Monterosso al Mare and many restaurants and bars.
The rooms are modern and cozy, and some have a balcony overlooking the gorgeous views.
The property also has a delightful garden and offers a tasty breakfast, all for a very affordable nightly price — though again, Monterosso fills up quickly, especially budget-friendly places, so book ahead!
Roxana is a Romanian-born freelance travel writer who has lived in Italy for over 15 years. She has a Master’s in Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Film Studies. Her mission is to find hidden gems, even in the most popular travel destinations, and to inspire people to explore new places and cultures with the same curiosity! When she is not traveling, writing, or planning her next trip, she is either binge-watching TV shows or reading books.