When I first started planning our trip, I kept thinking about doing Cinque Terre as a day trip from Florence. It was suggested on multiple tour websites (and offered as such), but I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I eventually decided that we would stay a few days. By evening on our first day, I completely understood why you need to stay in Cinque Terre to truly appreciate how amazing it is. By the end of our trip, we were planning to come back. It comes down to this: when the daytrippers have gone home, you have the villages entirely to yourself. The restaurants are (basically) empty (except for locals). The views are unobstructed. And, it might just be the most relaxed I’ve been in a long, long time. I’m not a Cinque Terre expert (yet), but here’s what made the trip for us.
- Being able to experience the sunrises and sunsets. There is nothing more beautiful than watching the sunrise and sunset over the sea. Blue hour is an especially incredible experience.
- Feeling like we had the villages (and trails!) to ourselves in the mornings and evenings.
- Relaxing. The speed of life is far less frantic than Rome or even Florence. That alone is why you need to stay in Cinque Terre.. at least a little while. This is Italy at its best.
Why You Need to Stay in Cinque Terre – Where to Stay
When we arrived emerged from the train tunnel, La Torretta had a golf cart to meet us (and our luggage). As we wound up the hills away from the tourists, we realized we had picked the best place to stay in Cinque Terre. We were greeted with prosecco, fresh, local treats, and an ocean view. Even better, we were invited to relax on the terrace and take in our first views of Manarola while they handled the paperwork. We were shown to our classic room, which had its own terrace, a stocked mini bar (included!), and another bottle of prosecco for us!
Breakfast was included so we enjoyed a European breakfast, which meant that my husband would go downstairs to enjoy breakfast and bring it to the room for me. Once we knew where La Torretta was, we didn’t have any trouble making the walk down to the village. We could feel the burn on the return trip up. It works for burning off all the pesto! 😉 La Torretta offers amazing views, comfortable rooms, and unparalleled service. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the highest rated hotels in the area! I wish I had brought a swimsuit to take advantage of the hot tub!
Why You Need to Stay in Cinque Terre – Getting Around
Cinque Terre Card (Treno) – We didn’t find out about this until halfway through our trip, but it saved us some money! Seriously. Buy this. It gives you the ability to hop on/off the trains between villages. Individual tickets were 4 Euro a piece so it added up quickly! Word to the wise – although the rides are short and the trains are crowded during the day, we definitely tickets being checked. You need to buy a ticket and validate it. We saw multiple people fined 50 euro for not having a ticket. Buy and validate your ticket or get a train pass. It’s not worth the headache. It also gives you a free wifi code to use in the stations; we found it to be pretty reliable. We bought our passes at the Levanto train station after we finished making pesto, but you can find it at all tourist information offices. We just didn’t know to ask for it.
Cinque Terre Card – This card is for the hiking paths between the villages. We made the hike between Monterroso al Mare and Vernazza. There was a checkpoint at the beginning of the trail to pick up a pass. These can be picked up at train stations or other tourist offices. Not all trails have been reopened so get a map and check your plan.
Why You Need to Stay in Cinque Terre – What to Do
Hiking – We’re novice hikers. We enjoyed the Monterroso-Vernazza hike, but we were thankful that we are in really good shape. It started out pretty easy, but there are a lot of stairs, narrow paths, and it can be a little intimidating at times. It’s worth it for the views, and it wasn’t uncommon to see residents peddling wine and cold limoncino. (We skipped out on that – alcohol while hiking didn’t seem like a good idea.) The trail doesn’t go directly along the coast – it dips inward and around before emerging on the side of a cliff. It circles back around to the postcard view of Vernazza. It took us about 3 hours or so, and we started late in the afternoon when the trail was pretty empty. We emerged over Vernazza around sunset which was beyond amazing. (More of our Cinque Terre hike photos here.)
Making Pesto in Cinque Terre – Again, this is Levanto, which isn’t technically one of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre. It is only a 15 minute train ride from Manarola. You can purchase the class in advance; it remains one of my favorite things we did on the trip.
Relax – If you read my blog (or know me in real life), you know I’m really bad at slowing down. I’m constantly going, doing, moving, and while that’s good in my work life, sometimes, I just need to stop. We sat on our terrace and drank wine. We sat on seawalls, ate gelato and watched people (braver than us) jump off of cliffs. At sunset, we sat on trails and watched the sun disappear into the ocean. We took long, leisurely meals with lots of wine and tried multiple things on the menu. Simply put, we just enjoyed being in Italy. People always say that Cinque Terre changes you and a lot of people end up staying longer than they plan to. I didn’t believe them. Looking back, I can see that there’s a really good life in Cinque Terre… one that I wouldn’t mind emulating more. The best part about staying in Cinque Terre is being able to relax. You don’t have to go-go-go to get to the next village. You can go there, sit, and enjoy it. All of the villages are beautiful, and you should take some time to enjoy them all. I learned to relax because of all my Cinque Terre trip planning.
Why you Need to Stay in Cinque Terre – Restaurants
Gianni Franzi (Vernazza) – We THOUGHT the pesto we had our first night in Manarola was good (until we made our own)… and until we came here. This is where it’s at. The wine is reasonably priced, the pasta is cooked to perfection, and the pesto is tasty. The house wine is cheap and the service was efficient and friendly. (They were incredibly apologetic that melon wasn’t in season, but the proscuitto was just as tasty without the melon!) I just realized that I didn’t grab any pictures of our meal… which just goes to show how tasty it was (or how much wine we had been drinking!). It’s right on the harbor and provides some pretty incredible views at sunset. We really enjoyed watching some kids play soccer in the small area near the restaurant – it just felt exactly like life should be. I don’t know – it’s hard to explain. After dinner, we were able to hop up to the lookout point at the end of the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza to grab some great pictures of the village as the lights came on.
Belforte (Vernazza) – The service here was absolutely incredible. The trofie and pesto was divine – it’s very different than you’ll find at other restaurants in the villages. I can’t explain except to say that it tasted more cheesy – in the best possible way! There’s a certain showmanship that comes with seafood dishes. My husband enjoyed the squid ink pasta – since it’s what they are known for, it’s the only place my husband will agree to eat it. The staff really made this restaurant though – they were so friendly and helpful and didn’t seem at all bothered that we arrived late in the evening. We didn’t feel rushed, and everything from the bread to the pasta was fresh.
Gelateria Il Porticciolo (Vernazza) – amazing cinnamon gelato (hard to find – I’ve now found it in Venice and Vernazza). Grab a cup, sit on the seawall and people watch until your heart’s content. Or until you need more gelato. It’s SO good and the scenery can’t be beat. For more options, I’ve scoured all the villages for the best gelato in Cinque Terre. Il Porticciolo didn’t get ranked because I couldn’t catch it when it was open, but it should be on the list.
Coop – We found a small Coop grocery store in almost all the villages. These are great for picking up water and snacks. Some of my favorite things to grab at the coop are: proscuitto, focaccia, Kinder Duplo candies, and Mulino Bianco Baiocchi cookies.
Why You Need to Stay in Cinque Terre:
Every travel blog will tell you that you need to visit Cinque Terre (here are some of my planning resources), but no one tells you why you need to stay in Cinque Terre. You need to stay in Cinque Terre because it’s a slower pace and a chance to relax and enjoy the good things in life, because the food is delicious, because you don’t want to spend all your time on crowded trails, because you have to see a sunrise or a sunset in Cinque Terre at least once in your lifetime, and because there’s no way to really experience its magic without staying overnight. Don’t make the mistake and day trip it. Take your time… and maybe I’ll see you there again soon.