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The Beginner's Guide to Visiting Cinque Terre

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.



If you are planning your first visit to the Cinque Terre region of Italy, otherwise known as the Italian Riviera, there are a several things you may want to consider before you decide which village to stay In. As we get ready to return to this beautiful stretch of coastline famous for its stunning views, incredible hiking, and local cuisine it dawned on me that many people have a serious misconception as to what to expect when it comes to accommodations here.

While the term “Italian Riviera” conjures up images of posh resorts along a stretch of beautiful sandy beaches, the Cinque Terre is anything but this. The five villages that make up this UNESCO World Heritage site are old-world Italy, although their recent popularity threatens to change that. Thank you, Rick Steves. In all but one of the villages, there are no hotels to speak of. And if you are looking for a Bed & Breakfast, you will see many advertised yet most do not offer breakfast. What you do get is an odd assortment of rooms, apartments, hostels, and Bed & Breakfast like places. Finding and securing accommodations can sometimes be a challenge and realizing exactly what you booked can often times offer a surprise.



Keep in mind also that your arrival at your accommodations in Cinque Terre will not be to a check-in lobby and do not expect an elevator to whisk you and your luggage to your room. There are steps everywhere and I have never seen an elevator here although they may be hiding somewhere.

Your arrival process will most likely involve searching aimlessly for where you are supposed to go and then climbing some stairs to find your room, which will most likely be smaller than you envisioned. You would be well advised to get accurate directions before you leave or better yet have someone meet you at the train station when you arrive. Many of the accommodations will do this for you if you ask. But, and I say this with all sincerity, this is all part of the charm of this region of Italy. If you are looking for resorts and fine sandy beaches then you would be advised to go elsewhere, perhaps to the Amalfi Coast or the French Riviera? If you are intent on visiting Cinque Terre the closest thing you will find to a resort feel would be Monterosso, which is the flattest of the five villages. It is also the only one with a stretch of beach to enjoy.





Monterosso: The largest by area and flattest of the five villages with a population of just over 1,500. Stay here if you want a strictly beach vacation or if climbing stairs is an issue. It does not have the steep slopes and long vertical stairs that the others are known for. Definitely offers the largest selection of accommodations.

Vernazza: Perhaps the most scenic of the five villages with the train station right at the top end of town. Hiking in either direction from Vernazza will involve a steep ascent out of town but the views are unforgettable. Probably the most popular village to stay in for visitors so start your search early. Vernazza has a population of about 1,000 residents.

Corniglia: Definitely the smallest and quietest of the villages. It's perched high on a cliff above the sea and offers great views and sunsets. We stayed here on our first visit to the Cinque Terre and loved it. The train station is located down by the shore and there are 382 steps to reach the town although a shuttle bus does make the trip for a small fee. With a population of about 250 there are many more steps than people in Corniglia.

Manarola: Offers scenic views as you hike in along the coastal trail. Bustling village during the day due to its close proximity to Riomaggiore, which is a short walk away through the Via dell’Amore. Accommodations are limited so start your search early. Manarola has a population of about 450 residents.

Riomaggiore: The easternmost and first of the villages as you head into Cinque Terre from La Spezia. The village rises quickly from the tiny harbor so expect a lot of steep steps and hills. Riomaggiore offers a few more options when it comes to accommodations than Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola, and with a population of about 1,700 residents it is the most populous of the five villages.



There may certainly come a day when this magnificent place will change and become more mainstream although I hope not. There may be big-name hotels with plush lobbies and elevators and I suppose this might be considered progress, although it's hard to envision Cinque Terre ever becoming this. Even now, while Cinque Terre retains its charm and old-world feel, it is being overrun with tourists on a daily basis during the peak season and being forced to change as it copes with its ever-increasing popularity. To understand and appreciate the true allure of Cinque Terre you will need to stay there. I say this because during the day tour buses and cruise ships arrive and hordes of people descend on these villages. At night they leave and the villages return to their somewhat peaceful and relaxed norm and you see what it is that makes this region so appealing to visitors.





When to visit

The best months to visit Cinque Terre are considered April through mid October. While the winter months can offer some nice weather the rainy season begins in mid October and the trails are sometimes closed due to the weather. Summer months bring larger crowds and higher accommodation rates along with the summer heat, which makes the shoulder season as the ideal time to visit. If I had to pick the best months to visit I would go with May, early June and September.



Known for its scenic hiking trails, all it takes is a short hike out of one of the villages and you will soon realize why you came here. When you find yourself high up on a trail with a beautiful view of one of the villages and the Ligurian Sea you will realize that this stretch of coast is indeed one of the most beautiful in the world. And your affection for this region will only be reinforced when you reach your destination and find one of the many wonderful restaurants here to relax and sample some of the local cuisine that Cinque Terre is famous for. Yep, that’s what this region of Italy is best known for, hiking and eating. Throw is some locally crafted wine made from the vineyards that dot the hills and you have hit the trifecta.

If this is not what you had in mind for your Italian Riviera vacation then you may be somewhat disappointed. Understandably, when one hears the term “Riviera” they immediately form a mental image and I’m sure this has misled many a visitor to this stretch of coastline. The Amalfi Coast this is not. Yet, if you enjoy hiking, beautiful scenery, great food and wine, then you have certainly come to the right place.

Terraced hillsides of Cinque Terre.

Terraced hillsides of Cinque Terre.


Something else to be aware of is that the villages are for the most part no drive communities. Monterosso, the largest of the five villages does allow limited vehicle traffic for locals but you will be forced to park outside of the villages and walk if you bring a car. It is not really a good idea to being a vehicle when visiting Cinque Terre. Even if hiking between the villages does not appeal to you all five communities are connected by the local train that stops every 30 minutes. There is also ferry service available, which will offer a different perspective of the coastline. The easiest way to access Cinque Terre is to take the train to either La Spezia or Levanto, which are the towns just outside of Cinque Terre and then take the local train from there.

Travel Time by Train to Cinque Terre

FromToApproximate Travel Time

Pisa Central Train Station


1hr 30min

Genoa Brignole Station


1hr 15min

Florence Santa Maria Novella Station


2hr 45min

Milan Central Railway Station


3hr 15min




Because many of the trails connecting the villages are located within the Cinque Terre National Park there is a fee to access the trails. The Cinque Terre Card gives visitors access to the trails and use of the park buses. The cost is 7.50 euro for a one day card and 14.40 euro for a two day card.

There is also the Cinque Terre Train Card, which includes access to the trails, park buses and daily unlimited use of the train from Levanto - Cinque Terre - La Spezia. The one day card is 16 euro, two day card is 29 euro, and the three day card is 41 euro.

One last thing to consider before you plan a trip. While you should certainly pack your bathing suit, be forewarned that only one of the communities has a true sandy beach. Riomaggiore and Manarola have no beach what-so-ever although both have rocky areas where I suppose you could place a towel and sunbathe. Corniglia is perched high up on a cliff with no beach also, but it does have great views. Vernazza has a small harbor with a very small beach area but small boats come and go here so it’s not ideal. There are some rocky cliffs that kids use to jump into the sea but that’s probably not a good idea. Monterosso al Mare is the only village with a true sand beach but it is interspersed with pebbles and small rocks with intermittent patches of sand. Many visitors use the beach here and we have used it in the past but be sure to bring appropriate footwear for navigating the rather uncomfortable beach terrain.

The beach in Monterosso

The beach in Monterosso

Hopefully this helps you as you prepare for your visit to the Cinque Terre. A little preparation and wisdom always helps and can certainly prove useful to avoid any misconceptions you may have about the area. This really is one of the most scenic and beautiful regions of Italy with amazing food and scenic hiking so enjoy all that it has to offer.

Ciao for now.

Did I Mention the Beautiful Sunsets?

A Cinque Terre sunset

A Cinque Terre sunset

Questions & Answers

Question: Can you give some recommendations to me about how to see CT? I have an old injury to my ankle and want to plan my day with the easiest walking options. Should I take the local trains or stick with the ferries?

Answer: Depending on how long you will be there I would do both. The local train is very easy and quick to get from one village to another. The ferry takes longer but provides a unique look at the coast. If you are there for more than one day I would do both. If you are there for just a day then use the train to maximize your time there.

Question: Is Sunday an okay day to visit Cinque Terre? We would be taking a train from Florence.

Answer: Yes, a Sunday will be fine to visit Cinque Terre. It will probably take you a couple of hours to get there from Florence, but it’s a beautiful area and worth the effort. Restaurants, cafes, and shops will be open so no worries about that.

Question: Where should I stay in Cinque Terre?

Answer: Well, there are five villages, so you need to start by selecting one of the villages. They are all beautiful but different with their unique vibe. Corniglia is the quietest and Monterosso is the largest with the most nightlife. I would start by researching the villages and deciding which one you would prefer to stay in. Once you know which village I would utilize TripAdvisor to search for a place. Keep in mind that there are no name hotels there, it’s pretty much all B&B type places, apartments, and rooms for rent. The closest thing to a real hotel would be found in Monterosso. Also, Cinque Terre is very vertical, so some places require some steps.

On our latest visit to CT, we stayed in a place called Gianni Franzi. It’s in a beautiful location, but about 100 steps up to the rooms. Be aware that these villages are old and as many such rooms are small but quaint.

© 2017 Bill De Giulio


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 07, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy. It’s a beautiful place but some of the trails between the villages are challenging. Glad you enjoyed the tour.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 07, 2020:

I have watched Rick Steves hiking between these villages so I knew of them, but you filled in even more information. I will never go there now because of my aging knees. There is no way that I could do all of that climbing. So I will just settle with seeing your photos and others about this gorgeous place. Thanks for the tour.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 26, 2018:

Hi Adrienne. Riomaggiore is beautiful, we certainly enjoyed our visit there. I think most of the five villages have become touristy, a sign of the times I suppose? Maybe Corniglia not as much as it still seemed quiet and less trampled. Will have to look for the “farinata” next time we are there. Have a nice weekend.

Adrienne Farricelli on May 26, 2018:

Riomaggiore is my dad's birthplace. We have been traveling there several times to visit my uncle, aunt and cousin. It is a wonderful place, and has recently become very turistic. Most inhabitants have moved out the center to turn their homes into vacation rentals. This place has wonderful focaccia with onions or olives and a chick pea specialty known as "farinata."

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 21, 2017:

Hi Sam. Thank you. We are going back in September and can't wait. It really is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited.

Sam Dreiberg from India on March 21, 2017:

I travelled to Italy 2 years ago and went to so many beautiful cities there. Cinque Terra is such amazingly beautiful place. Its so scenic everywhere u look. This post made me nostalgic. You used some amazing pictures to describe this place. Great hub!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 13, 2017:

Hi Linda. Thank you. I do feel very fortunate to be able to visit these places. And to return to Cinque Terre is just a blessing. It really is an amazing place and we are extremely excited to be returning. Thanks so much for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 12, 2017:

I love your photos, Bill. This is yet another article that makes me wish that I could see what you describe in real life. You always show such interesting and beautiful places.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 12, 2017:

Hi Mary. Thank you. If you ever get back definitely stay a few days. It's certainly one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Italy and we found the food to be wonderful. Have a great day.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 12, 2017:

Thanks for this detailed description of Cinque Terre. Next time, we will not just drive through it but stay for a few days. Your hub has made it more attractive to me.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 07, 2017:

Thanks Glenis. I'll have to check it out.

Glen Rix from UK on January 07, 2017:

Posted a link to this Hub on my Flipboard, Bill :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2017:

Hi Glenis. Thank you. So glad that this brought back some nice memories for you. It's certainly a beautiful area and we are very much looking forward to returning. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2017:

Thanks Bill. Haha. It's cold here also with snow coming this weekend. Just looking at the pictures warms me up. We are very much looking forward to returning to this area of Italy and seeing a few new areas. Thanks as always for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Glen Rix from UK on January 06, 2017:

Great hub, which brought back some happy memories. The day we were in Manarola the walking paths were closed because they were dangerous and the sea so rough that the boats couldn't sail from the "harbour". Had to make our way back to base by train. Lovely pics!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2017:

I'm cold this morning, the critter's water is frozen solid, and you show me pictures of this beautiful place? How cruel is that, Bill? LOL Another wonderful travel article done by the master!

Happy weekend my friend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2017:

Hi Suzie. Thank you. Nice to see you here. It's one of our favorite areas in Italy and we are very excited to be returning. We'll also be visiting Lucca, Milan, the Lakes region and a few yet to be discovered Tuscan towns so I should have plenty of new material to write about. Hope all is well. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 06, 2017:

Hi Flourish. Thank you. I do feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel the way we do. We are very excited to be returning to Cinque Terre, it really is an amazing place. Have a wonderful weekend.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on January 06, 2017:

Hi Bill, great article on this region with useful info all travelers will be glad to have. Knowing what to expect here is key such as steps, accommodation and transport. Stunning pics as always enticing us into this historic beautiful must see part of Italy, congratulations on another winner!!

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 05, 2017:

What a terrific hub on a gorgeous place to visit. You are so fortunate to be able to travel frequently and to such amazing places. The photos are beautiful and several remind me of wistful paintings I've seen. I'd love to experience the real deal.

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