Colorful houses of Riomaggiore

Best Towns in Cinque Terre to Visit for the First Time

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. All the villages along with the surrounding coastline and countryside are part of Cinque Terre National Park renowned for science hiking trails and rich biodiversity.

Colorfuls houses in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Each village in Cinque Terre has its own atmosphere and unique charm, making them all worth visiting. If you are into photography and sunsets, I recommend staying in Riomaggiore, Manaroal, or Vernazza. They offer the most picture-perfect settings with colorful houses cascading down the hills facing the Ligurian Sea. There are also great towns near Cinque Terre such as Porto Venere which are worth visiting as a day trip.

Porto Venere

Cinque Terre Location on the Map

Cinque Terre is located on the Italian Riviera, a stunning stretch of coastline along the Ligurian Sea in northwest Italy. The region is known for its scenic beauty, charming seaside towns, and Mediterranean climate. 

How to get to Cinque Terre

The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is by Train. Cinque Terre villages are located on the Genoa-La Spezia-Pisa train line.

The closest international airports are in Genoa, Pisa, and Milan Malpensa. From the airport, you can get a shuttle bus or a taxi to the main train station and then an intercity or regional train to Cinque Terre (mostly Levanto, Monterosso, or La Spezia stations). Cinque Terre from Milan takes around 3 hours and from Pisa or Genoa around 1 hour by fastest connection.

Train going to Cinque Terre

When we visited Cinque Terre for the first time, we came by car. Most villages don’t allow cars and offer quite expensive parking spots nearby. We found a cheaper and better alternative. We booked accommodation in La Spezia with free parking and went to Cinque Terre by train. This was a very convenient option and the train took less than 5 minutes to Riomaggiore. 

Pro Tip: Finding accommodation directly inside the villages of Cinque Terre is very difficult. I highly recommend booking your accommodation far in advance or staying in neighboring towns such as La Spezia and Portovenere. 

Overview of the Best Towns in Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore is a scenic town famous for its cute little harbor and colorful houses cascading down the hill. It is the best town in Cinque Terre for nightlife and shopping. Riomaggiore is the cheapest town to stay in Cinque Terre easily accessible from La Spezia train station. 

Manarola is the most romantic village in Cinque Terre and is best for watching the sunset. Couples and photographers will enjoy staying in Manarola thanks to its scenic beauty and relaxed atmosphere.

Corniglia is a quiet town best suitable for hikers and nature lovers.

Vernazza is the most popular and most photographed town in Cinque Terre. It is the best town for first-time visitors who want to see the postcard-like views of Cinque Terre and enjoy great food.

Monterosso al Mare is the best town in Cinque Terre for swimming and families with small children thanks to its long sandy beach. This is the only flat village in Cinque Terre offering hotels and apartments directly at the beach. It also has a beautiful promenade walkable with a stroller.


Riomaggiore is the southernmost village of Cinque Terre, nested in a narrow valley that slopes down to the sea. Its colorful houses cascade down the hillside, creating a stunning backdrop against the azure waters of the Ligurian Sea. 

Riomaggiore is the ideal place to stay in Cinque Terre for young travelers and couples who enjoy social life. You will find numerous restaurants, bars, and nightlife open until late at night. Compared to other villages, Riomaggiore has more options to go out but is more crowded. If you are into shopping and buying souvenirs, you will find great boutique shops hidden inside the narrow streets of the village. 

Shopping in Cinque Terre Villages

Budget travelers should consider staying in Riomaggiore because of the availability of budget accommodation options. Alternatively, you can find some budget accommodations in La Spezia or Portovenere which are easily reachable from the Cinque Terre villages.

Colorful houses of Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is closed to car traffic. The parking lot Rio Park is located at the entrance of the village.
If you love traveling without a car check out my related post about where to stay in Lake Como without a car. 

All the villages in Cinque Terre are well connected via a Railroad and you can get to the next village from Riomaggiore in a few minutes by train. Alternatively, you can walk to the neighboring village of Manarola via romantic Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Lane. This scenic coastal path offers breathtaking views of the sea and cliffs, making it a popular spot for romantic walks and photography. You can read more about hiking between villages in Cinque Terre further down this article. 

Hiking in Cinque Terre

Riomaggore offers great viewpoints in Cinque Terre for watching the sunset. Head to a panoramic spot like Castello di Riomaggiore, or rocks by the harbor to capture the magical colors of the sunset painting the sky.

Pro Tip: Riomaggiore is quite steep with narrow streets and stairs. Many hotels and apartments are located on a hillside, so make sure to check the location of your accommodation beforehand and bring the right kind of suitcase or better a backpack. 


Manarola is the oldest town in Cinque Terre with picturesque multicolored houses dotted on the rocky hills facing the Ligurian Sea. It has a more relaxed atmosphere and a unique romantic vibe. Here you can find many great viewpoints to enjoy sunset with a glass of wine or watch the waves hugging the rocks. This makes Manarola the best town in Cinque Terre for couples, and photographers.

Sunset in Cinque Terre

The main swimming area in the town is the small harbor full of colorful boats. Here you can spend a relaxed day sunbathing or watching people jumping off the cliffs. Some of my favorite activities are strolling through the narrow alleys of the village and exploring the tiny town square. 

panormic view of Manarola in sunset

If you love hiking and walking, Manarola is a great starting point for several panoramic coastal walks with great views. Sentiero Azzurro and Sentiero dell’Amore are popular hikes starting from Manarola but they are often closed for safety reasons outside of the main season. You can read more about hiking between villages in Cinque Terre further down this article. 

Like other towns in Cinque Terre, cars are prohibited in Manarola. You can park outside of the village in parking lots Posella and Acquarino, located a 10-15 minute walk from the village. Alternatively, you can try to book an accommodation with private parking. 

Pro Tip: Similar to Rimaggiore, Manarola is full of steep narrow alleys, and pathways going up and down which might be problematic for people with mobility issues. Check the location of your accommodation and take the right kind of luggage that you can carry. 


Corniglia is situated 100 meters above sea level on the hills rising above the Ligurian Sea. It is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards giving it a moral local flair. It is the smallest and least crowded village in Cinque Terre ideal for those who prefer to stay in a quieter place and enjoy nature and hiking.  

Panoramic view of Corniglia

One of the main reasons why Corniglia is less visited and cheaper than other villages in Cinque Terre is its accessibility and lack of beach access. To get to the town you will first need to climb up 382 stairs, however, a shuttle bus from the train station is also available. To get to the beach you will need to go down steep stairs for 10 minutes. 

Corniglia is the best village in Cinque Terre for hikers and those who love traveling off the beaten track. Here you will find some of the greatest hikes in Cinque Terre. I highly recommend doing Corniglia to Manarola track as it is one of the most scenic trails in the area. 

Hiking in Cinque Terre with a View


Vernazza, is probably, the most photographed picturesque village in Cinque Terre and is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It is a starting point for great coastal walks such as the Blue Trail connecting Vernazza with Monterosso and Corniglia. If you are into photography I highly recommend doing this hike to get breathtaking views over the town from above, especially during the sunset. We enjoyed this hike very much and it was not too demanding. For more info please scroll down the page.

Panoramiv view over Vernazza during sunset

Another highlight in Vernezza was that we had the best Gelatto of our lives. I had the green one with pistachio taste and it was so delicious. I could taste the real pistachios in it with full flavor and not so watery as normal ice cream.

Vernazza is a fortified town that played an important role in the Middle Ages. It has a natural harbor where you will find a small sandy beach where you can swim on a hot summer day. Inside the town, you will find a small charming piazza full of restaurants and cafes where you can go dining or enjoy a cup of cappuccino. 

The most prominent architectural buildings in Vernazza are the Doria Castle built in the 15th century to protect the village from the pirates,  and the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia, built on the rocks overlooking the sea. 

Vernazza architecture

Like in other villages, driving a car inside Vernazza is prohibited. You can park outside of the town and use a free shuttle service.

Pro Tip: During the high season (May-August) Vernazza can get pretty crowded. It is the most popular town in Cinque Terre and finding accommodation will be challenging if you don’t book in advance. I recommend going there right before or after the start/end of the main tourist season to enjoy this picturesque town in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Monterosso al Mare 

Monterosso al Mare, with a population of 1522 inhabitants, is the largest of 5 villages of Cinque Terre. It is located at the center of a small natural gulf, protected by a small artificial reef. It is the northmost village of Cinque Terre. Monterosso is famous for its large sandy beach occupying most of its coastline. It is the only extensive sandy beach in Cinque Terre. Families and sun-seekers can relax on the beach, swim in the clear waters of the Ligurian Sea, and enjoy various water sports activities. We preferred swimming near rocky beaches in Manarola and Portovenere for cliff jumping and more adventures.

Monterosso al Mare beach

Monterosso is split into two distinct sections marked by the medieval tower of Aurora. The old part of Monterosso has the remains of a castle and narrow, old-fashioned streets called “carruggi”. These streets are full of colorful houses, shops, and trattorias.

Sunny beach in Monterosso al Mare

The main way to get to the village is by train. If you are traveling by car it is possible to park directly in the village. Monterosso is the only village with large parking lots in the center of the village. There are two main parking areas:
The parking lot near Fegina Beach with 300 parking places, and the parking lot in Loreto with 100 parking spaces at the entrance to the old town.

The main attraction of Monterosso is The Giant Statue of Neptune (Il Gigante) at the end of Fegina Beach. It stands proudly on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea. This monumental statue, depicting the Roman god of the sea, is a symbol of Monterosso and offers a dramatic backdrop for photos. 

Monterosso is surrounded by scenic lemon and olive groves. These terraced hillsides provide an insight into the traditional agricultural practices of the region. If you are lucky, you can visit The Lemon Festival, Sagra dei Limoni, which is held on the 3rd Saturday of May each year.

Explore the charming historic center of Monterosso, characterized by narrow streets, colorful buildings, and ancient churches. Wander through the picturesque alleyways and discover hidden gems around every corner.

How Many Days to Stay in Cinque Terre

When I first visited Cinque Terre in 2017, I stayed 3 nights and 3,5 days there. Although I managed to see all 5 villages I felt a bit rushed. 

If you are short in time and fit you can squizz a lot of things in just 3 days including doing some nice coastal walks and nice day trips to neighboring cities. However, to fully enjoy the Italian Riviera and scenic villages of Cinque Terre I recommend staying there for at least 5 days. 

Hiking in Cinque Terre

There are 48 hiking trails in Cinque Terre covering over 120 kilometers. Most of the coastal walks are free except for trails from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia. You will need to purchase a Cinque Terre Card to hike these trails. Here are some of my favorite hiking trails in Cinque Terre: 

Panoramic Views during hiking in Cinque Terre


Difficulty: average
Length: 3,6 km
Duration: 1,5h

Manarola – Corniglia (via Volastra)

Difficulty: average/difficult
Length: 5,4 km
Duration: 2,5h

Manarola – Riomaggiore (Via dell’Amore)

Difficulty: easy
Length: 1,5 km
Duration: 30 minutes

North Italy is a paradise for hikers. Check out my related post about the best hikes in the Dolomites.

Best Time to Visit Cinque Terre 

We visited Cinque Terre at the end of May and the weather was sunny and warm. The water was already warm enough for swimming and sunbathing but it was not too hot so we enjoyed hiking between villages. It was the beginning of the main season and has started getting a bit crowded. 

Cinque Terre is beautiful all year round and you can enjoy it any time of the year. However, if you prefer combining a beach vacation with sightseeing and hiking beautiful coastal walks, I recommend going there during the shoulder season in April/May and September/October. 

Best Towns in Cinque terre

Best Day Trips from Cinque Terre

Liguria has many beautiful places and towns. Some of them you can visit easily as a day trip from Cinque Terre villages. The most popular day trips are to Levanto, Sestri Levante, Portovenere, Portofino, and La Spezia. We had only one day to explore the surroundings of Cinque Terre and followed the advice from a local Italian woman who recommended us to go to Porto Venere. It was the highlight of our trip. I liked Porto Vener even more than Cinque Terre villages. It was less crowded and had amazing views and cliff-jumping spots. 

Day Trips from Cinque Terre

Best Food in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is famous for its terraced vineyards, which are cultivated on steep hillsides overlooking the sea. These vineyards produce grapes for the region’s renowned wines, including Sciacchetrà, a sweet dessert wine. You can try it in a local restaurant with a traditional Italian dinner.

Whenever I visit a new city or a country I always try local cuisine. Ligurian cuisine is absolutely delicious. Here are some of the local dishes that we tried when traveling in Cinque Terre. 

Ligurian focaccia

Nothing can compare to freshly baked fluffy Focaccia alla Genovese seasoned with extra virgin oil. You can find it while strolling through narrow streets in local villages. We grabbed it as a lunch for our coastal hikes between the towns. It helped to save some time with our busy schedule.

Ice Cream at Gelateria Vernazza

We got a recommendation from some friends to try Gelato in Vernazza. It was the best ice cream in Cinque Terre and probably the entire Northern Italy.  Gelateria Vernazza had a good selection of different flavors. I went for the pistachio one and absolutely loved it. Unfortunately, we had only one evening in Vernazza so I didn’t manage to try other flavors. 

Pistachio Ice cream


Farinata is oven-baked flatbread made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt. It is usually baked until crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. It’s often enjoyed plain or with a sprinkle of black pepper.

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