Many tourists in Italy love the five villages of the Cinque Terre. They are a popular spot for tourists in Italy, aside from the “Holy Trinity” of Rome and Florence.
Here’s a quick overview of Cinque Terre’s five towns to help you plan your day or longer stay.
Before I begin, however, let me make a few points. Cinque Terre is a French word that means “five lands”, and refers to the five villages below. Hotels in La Spezia may appear to be in Cinque Terre, claiming they are there. They’re not. They are close and may work for you, but unless an address is listed in one of the five below, it is not technically in Cinque Terre. It’s better to determine which town you wish to visit and search for “Riomaggiore hotels”, “Monterosso al Mare hotel” than “Cinque Terre Hotels”.
The five towns are listed below in alphabetical order, starting in the northwest and ending in the southeast along the coast. For fun, I have described each town’s personality like they were sisters in the same family. This is how I describe each town.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is often called simply Monterosso and is home to the largest Cinque Terre town. It also has the longest beach. It is also easy to walk to the beach from town, while some beaches in the area require a bit more walking. There are many lodging options in Monterosso. These include inexpensive hostel-style places. This town is popular with young tourists in summer. It’s easy to get into and out of Monterosso by train from larger cities. However, they don’t stop at any other stations in the four towns.
Monterosso is my older sister, who has moved out of the home but is still young enough to know how to have fun. Although she has a steady job, she is mainly focused on the beautiful beach right outside her door.
Vernazza is Rick Steves’ favorite Cinque Terre town. With its charming piazza on a small beach, a small harbor, and the remains of a castle tower and small church, Vernazza is one of the most photographed places in the world. Steves’ guidebooks have been seen in Vernazza by many, and I met with them there. He jokes that Vernazza is the best place to avoid his tours. Although the town was flooded by the 2011 mudslides it is still open for business.
Vernazza, the family’s greatest beauty, is effortlessly poised and yet humble and welcoming. She is sweet and generous and makes you feel like a million dollars just by being around. Everyone loves her because she is timeless and unchanging.
Corniglia, the Cinque Terre’s only town, is not located on the water. Corniglia is high up on a cliff that overlooks the sea. This gives it some great views and doesn’t require you to hike from one place to another. When hikers make their way through the five towns during the day, Corniglia can get busy – particularly the restaurants where they stop for snacks before continuing on. But in the evenings, Corniglia is one of the most peaceful spots in the Cinque Terre.
Corniglia is one such shy family member. She’s beautiful in her own right but not as comfortable in the spotlight than her sisters. Although she is the quieter of the two, she can be a great hostess if you don’t stay too long. She is usually happy to look up at the action, smiling.
Manarola, as far as the Cinque Terre sisters are concerned, has always felt a bit rougher than its Cinque Terre brothers. However, none of these towns can be quiet during busy summer seasons. It’s a nice way to put it. If you are looking for something more relaxed and homey in a touristy area, it is possible to find it less polished. Manarola, one end of Via dell’Amore is the paved walkway. It can be busier in the day.
Manarola is somewhat of a rebel. Manarola doesn’t clean her bedroom as often as her sisters would prefer. She insists on dyeing her hair wild colors every day, but that’s not the hard exterior. Although she would like you to believe she is with a more rough crowd, underneath all the studded leather and piercings, she still manages straight A’s and writes poetry about fishermen.
Riomaggiore is at the other end of the Via dell’Amore – the walkway is so flat that its even baby-stroller-friendly – and the town itself slopes steeply away from the small harbor. The town becomes more modern as it climbs higher up the hill. It’s only a short walk to the water, but it’s at an angle. Riomaggiore trains travel to La Spezia, and other larger cities.
Riomaggiore, now that Monterosso is in her own home, is the big sister figure. Although she isn’t the most beloved or loved sister, she is the one everyone turns to when they have a need. She can help you get out of any pickle. Although she might be stern, she is warm and friendly.
Some of the trails linking the five villages, which are popular for hiking, were closed due to the 2011 mudslide. Some of these trails remain closed. You can still hike on other trails in Cinque Terre, but you should verify which trails are available before you leave .