CINQUE TERRE, ITALY: TRAVEL GUIDE + ITINERARY

For travelers that arrive in Cinque Terre on the heels of Milan, Rome or Florence, this coastal stretch of Liguria towns will feel like a breathe of fresh air. Yes, it's a part of Italy that has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, but by and large the villages have maintained their charm. And because so many tourists visit Cinque Terre as a frantic day trip, a multi-day stay means plenty of quiet mornings and evenings to really soak in the laidback atmosphere of the seaside villages. Cinque Terre translates to "Five Lands," and it's made up of Monterosso, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. Make a point to visit all five - each village is its own little world, and there's something to love about each one. Below is my guide to Cinque Terre including things to do, places to stay, food recs, travel trips and more.


The most iconic view of Cinque Terre is the Punta Buonfiglio in charming Manarola.


Afternoon of swimming, sunning and cliff jumping in Riomaggiore. Outfit details: One piece, linked here.

HOW LONG IN CINQUE TERRE

Four nights. Yes, you can see all of Cinque Terre in just two days if you are tight on time and sprint through each of the five villages. To really soak in the region and enjoy it at leisure, I suggest five nights. That gives your three full days to visit all four villages, hike the Cinque Terre Trail and spend a couple relaxing afternoons in the water.

A gelato a day in Italy.

Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy

I loved all the al fresco dining in Monterosso.


Monterosso is home to Cinque Terre's prettiest stretch of beach, and the iconic orange + green umbrellas.

EXPLORE CINQUE TERRE

CINQUE TERRE TRAIL

There are more than 70 miles of footpaths in Cinque Terre, a delight for both hikers and outdoor adventurers. The most popular trail connects the region's first and last villages, Monterosso and Riomaggiore, via a 7.5 mile coastal hiking path. It's a five to seven hour one-way trek to complete the trail, plus a 10 to 20-minute return train ride back to Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola or Monterosso. Hikers must purchase a Cinque Terre Trekking Card that grants access to the trails, or a Cinque Terre Train Card for unlimited train rides, plus trail access.

CORNIGLIA

The only village in Cinque Terre without access to the water, Corniglia sits at the top of a terraced hill surrounded by vineyards and agricultural land. It's the least famous of the five beloved villages, but serves as a peaceful escape from the midday bustle of its more popular neighbors. From the train station, visitors must climb 400 steps up the Lardarina to reach the village (sometimes there is a shuttle bus).

MANAROLA

I suggest spending a half-day in Manarola - enough time to wander the quiet pedestrian alleyways, and then grab a rock for an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming. This village is home to Cinque Terre's most iconic viewpoint that can be reached via an accessible coastal pathway from Manarola's harbor. For visitors looking to really soak in the view, sit down for a glass of wine at at Nessun Dorma. It's located just above the Punta Buonfiglio, and the wine bar's views of the colorful village are pretty spectacular.

MONTEROSSO

Monterosso is the first of the five villages, and the most accessible for tourists arriving by car. It's also home to Monterosso Beach, the only true beach in Cinque Terre. This dreamy stretch of calm turquoise water sparkles under the sun, and during summer months, rows of orange + green sun umbrellas line the beach for the perfect Italian touch. The seaside promenade leads to town where the pedestrian lanes are filled with al fresco dining, gelato shops, storefront boutiques and the picturesque black & white Church of St. John.

RIOMAGGIORE

Riomaggiore is my favorite mix when it comes to viewpoints, food and swimming spots. Spend a quintessential Italian summer afternoon sunbathing on the rocks with pizza, book and towel, plus spectacular views of the colorful village.


VERNAZZA

It's a hit with the tourists, and for good reason. Vernazza is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Nestled between Monterosso and Corniglia, this charming fishing village boasts a couple of truly epic viewpoints along the Cinque Terre Trail (easily accessible from town, even if you aren't hiking the entire trail). The best view sits at the start of Hiking Trail 2, a 10-minute climb from the Vernazza harbor. Set aside a half day for Vernazza to really soak in the town - explore the narrow alleys; sunbathe on the rocks with spectacular village views; visit Castello Doria; feast on fresh pasta and seafood; and swim at the tiny village beach.


For the best aperitivo view, head to Nessun Dorma in Manarola.


Of all the villages, I spent the most time in Riomaggiore.


Summer days in Cinque Terre.


EAT IN CINQUE TERRE

BELFORTE (VERNAZZA)

Set in an 11-century castle with tables perched on the rocks above the sea, Belforte just might be the most spectacular dining experience in Cinque Terre. The menu is a mix of fresh seafood and pasta dishes.


GELATERIA 5TERRE (MANAROLA)

Small gelato shop that serves gelato in edible bowls with edible spoons, plus a menu of canolli and crepes.


GERLATERIA VERNAZZA (VERNAZZA)

Popular gelato shop located in the heart of little Vernazza.


KEPRIS PIZZERIA (RIOMAGGIORE)

Satisfy those pizza cravings with classic Italian pies at Kepris Pizzeria. It's located near the train station, making it an ideal stop when arriving or departing Riomaggiore. The pizzas are simple, traditional and absolutely delicious.


NESSUN DORMA (MANAROLA)

Even if you aren't hungry, it's worth having a glass of wine to sit and soak in the Manarola views from Nessun Dorma. The menu offers a delicious selection of bruschetta, cured meats, fruit, wine, spritzers and beer.


SAN MARTINO GASTRONOMIA (MONTEROSSO)

Food is fresh, flavorful and affordable, served up on a little terrace in the pedestrian lanes of Monterosso. Menu includes seafood spaghetti, pesto pasta, seafood salad, pansotti and more.


TRATTORIA DAL BILLY (MANAROLA)

Reservations are a must at this small establishment tucked away in Manarola. Popular dishes include the seafood pasta, lobster pasta, mussels, swordfish truffle pasta and tiramisu.

Beach days in the Vernazza harbor.


Cheers to views like this at Nessun Dorma.


STAY IN CINQUE TERRE (AND LA SPEZIA)

ALMAVENUS STUDIO SUITE (RIOMAGGIORE)

The hotel and apartment selection is far from stellar in Cinque Terre, which makes the charming Almavenus Studio Suite a rarity. The apartment is updated, but retains a lot of character with an exposed brick wall and wood beam ceilings. If this one is available, book it.


LA TORRETTA LODGE (MANAROLA)

One of the only luxury options in Cinque Terre, La Torretta Lodge sits tucked away in little Manarola. The lodge is home to just a handful of rooms and suites that become highly sought-after in busy season. For reference, I made our reservation seven months in advance.


MADA CHARM APARTMENTS (VERNAZZA)

Small apartment building in Vernazza, centrally located in the village. The Terrace apartment has a particularly lovely view of Vernazza, if you're able to snag that room at Mada Charm.


SPAZIOSO APARTMENT (LA SPEZIA)

If nothing of quality is available in Cinque Terre, this three bedroom three bathroom apartment is La Spezia is clean, modern and incredibly spacious. The location is also ideal - an eight minute walk from the train station, and surrounded by cafes and restaurants.


Sweeping scenes over little Manarola.


It's incredibly easy to move between the villages by train.


GET TO CINQUE TERRE

Cinque Terre is accessible by train or car. The main carpark is located in Monterosso, and from there tourists can travel between the villages by train.


Sunbathers fighting the heat of the Italian Riviera.


Woke up early to explore the streets of Monterosso before the tourists arrived.


GET AROUND CINQUE TERRE

Unless you are hiking all the villages on the Cinque Terre Trail, most visitors move between Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Cornigilia by train. The train system is easy to use, and the trains are pretty frequent. Tickets can be bought from the machines at each station, or you can opt for the Cinque Terre Train Card that offers unlimited train rides, plus access to the trails.


Sweet Italian corners in Monterosso.


Cheers to gelato in Cinque Terre.


3-DAY / 4-NIGHT CINQUE TERRE ITINERARY


DAY 1

Train to Monterosso

Explore Monterosso Town

Relax at Monterosso Beach

Lunch at San Martino Gastronomia

Train to Vernazza

Explore Vernazza Town

Swimming Vernazza Harbor

Dinner at Belforte


DAY 2

Hike Cinque Terre Trail

(Pass Through Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia & Riomaggiore)


DAY 3

Train to Riomaggiore

Explore Riomaggiore Town

Pizza To-Go at Kepris Pizzeria

Pizza & Swimming in Riomaggiore

Train to Manarola

Swimming in Manarola

Aperitivo at Nessun Dorma

Explore Manarola Town

Dinner at Trattoria dal BIlly