I’m not going to lie. Curating 3 years of resources and experiences for a Cinque Terre travel guide has been one of my most favorite posts. Our first trip to Cinque Terre was in 2016. My dad had unexpectedly passed away, we were in renovation hell, and I would comfort myself by working on a puzzle from Vernazza every night. Aside from getting off the (wrong) train in La Spezia on my way to the South of France, I had not spent much time around the Ligurian coast.
I did a lot of research for this trip, so I decided to share the resources that inspired me to visit this beautiful region. I also rounded up some of my Cinque Terre travel experiences and posts on the area. We made three trips in three years. Each year was just as magical as the first.
I am anxious to go back to this area. In addition to revisiting my favorite places, I would like to explore the southern area in the Gulf of Poets (including Portovenere). I’m also very interested in heading further north to Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, and Portofino.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours or products I love. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
Cinque Terre Travel Updates
There is nothing like having the five towns of Cinque Terre all to yourself. You won’t get that opportunity on a big bus tour of the area.
Recommendation: Stay at least one night to experience the magic hours of this beautiful region.
- Convinced? Great! Wondering where to stay in Cinque Terre? Don’t worry; I’ve got the best recommendation.
AirBnB is decimating affordable housing in the Cinque Terre villages. Don’t be a part of the problem. Book a hotel. Gabriele and the staff at La Torretta Lodge are incredible. Rooms have private terraces, access to jacuzzi overlooking the wine terraces, and free breakfast. Oh, and they will pick you (and your luggage) up from the train station. What else do you need?
- What if I don’t hike or visit when it’s too cold to swim? No problem. You can take a delicious Cinque Terre cooking class and learn how to make the Ligurian speciality of pesto.
There’s nothing quite as easy or quite as delicious as fresh pesto. It’s easy to make at home and, by the end of the class, you’ll be able to recognize which restaurants are using pesto from a jar.
Sound delicious? Book here: Pesto Class in Cinque Terre!
2017 & 2018 Updates:
- I scoured the five lands to bring you the best gelato in Cinque Terre.
Five villages and plenty of gelato to try. Gelato is particularly cheap in the Cinque Terre, so you can splurge in every village, if you want.
Spoiler: Vernazza and Corniglia have the best gelato.
- La Torretta is still the best place to stay in Cinque Terre.
We splurged on a bigger room for our second trip. It had a bigger balcony and we spent our afternoons out there. I cannot be convinced to try another hotel at this time. Don’t even try.
- Curious about the regional white wine? Take a Cinque Terre Wine tasting tour.
This tour will show you different areas of Manarola that you might not experience if you stay on the main roads. It might have been so beautiful that it convinced my husband that we’re never staying out side of Manarola.
- Good food can be hard to find. Whether it was pesto in Vernazza or focaccia in Riomaggiore, I’ve got some of the best restaurants in Cinque Terre.
Make some local friends and ask them where to go.
Pro Tip: The further up you go, the better the food can be. Plus, who doesn’t love dinner with a view??
Cinque Terre Travel Inspiration
Believe it or not, I rely on blogs and books to help inspire my travels. Sometimes I’ll read something in a magazine or newspaper, but most of my interest gets piqued by “normal” people having adventures.
Kevin and Amanda – Cinque Terre Part One: beautiful pictures!! Definitely played a part in my decision to nix the Cinque Terre day trip idea. I immediately started looking into Cinque Terre hotels after I read their post.
Kevin and Amanda – Cinque Terre Part Two: This post convinced me that staying in Manarola was the way to go! (I wasn’t disappointed.)
Hand Luggage Only – The Complete Guide to Cinque Terre: This post was helpful in reaffirming that a day trip to Cinque Terre is a bad idea. It also helped convince me to purchase the Cinque Terre card so we could take the trains between villages. The Cinque Terre card gives you so much more flexibility and is much less expensive than a boat.
That Texas Couple – Which Cinque Terre Village Will Fit Your Personality: I love following along with Marty and Michelle, and I think they do a great job of breaking down who will enjoy staying in which villages. I found myself agreeing with a lot of their assessments of the Cinque Terre. That said, we are not (serious) hikers and we love Manarola!
The Cinque Terre on a Budget – The New York Times: The post that started my fascination with pesto before the trip. It’s important to note that Cinque Terre can be enjoyed on a budget, too. I concur with several of the author’s recommendations. See also in the NYT: 36 Hours in Cinque Terre
Travelettes – A Beginners Guide to the Trails of Cinque Terre: A guide to hiking that this girl can get behind. You’ll want to check the Cinque Terre national park website before you set out though. The Cinque Terre hiking trails are not always open.
Italian Fix – The Beginner’s Guide to Cinque Terre: Most important of all, read this post to understand that you might go, fall in love with the area, and NEVER COME HOME.
DK Italian Riviera Travel Guide: This is a great resource for the entire area. They do a great job of teaching about local specialities and recommending things to do, sea, and eat.
Rick Steves Cinque Terre: Buy this book for the walking tours around each city. It really adds to the trip and you’ll see more than the traditional tourist path. Bonus: It’s a small book that fits easily in a pocket or a day bag.
Cinque Terre Travel Tips
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
There are not many luxury hotels in Cinque Terre. Some bloggers will tell you to stay in La Spezia for true luxury, but that isn’t my experience. It also isn’t the same experience as staying in one of the original five villages. You’ll be constantly catching the Cinque Terre trains back and forth, which can eat into your enjoyment of the area. My recommendation is to spend a little bit more per day and enjoy your long, leisurely dinners overlooking the sea.
I’m also a firm believer in staying in the city center of the places that you visit. La Torretta, a small boutique hotel in Manarola, meets all of these criteria for a trip to Cinque Terre.
Gabriele and his staff is unbelievably kind and accommodating. The location, which is a steep walk from Manarola harbor, allows us to escape from the tourist crowds in the middle of the day. The rooms, while small by US standards are lovely with a casual coastal decor.
We’ve stayed here 3 times, referred friends to their property, donated to their staff during the pandemic, and can’t wait to go back again soon.
Bonus: La Torretta can pick you and your luggage up from the train station or the parking lot, too! I’ve made both walks and while it’s doable if you’re in good shape, it’s also really nice to let someone else help with the trip!
Things to Do to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre Cooking Classes
I’m seriously hoping that one of these amazing A Casa cooking classes will be available on one of our trips. I really, really want to take the pasta class. I’ve tried to book these classes for two years. I have yet to succeed because we travel too early in the season. One day…
I’m seriously hoping that one of these amazing cooking classes will open up while we are there. I really, really want to take the pasta class. (I’ve tried to book these classes for two years. I have yet to succeed. One day…)
What We Have Done: I signed us up for this pesto class in Levanto even though it was not in one of the “official” villages. If an area is known for pesto, there’s no better place to learn. Levanto is covered by the Cinque Terre travel card. It’s only a short train ride from Manarola and provided a nice break from the day-trippers. We ended up sending a lot of tasty treats home, too!
Hiking in Cinque Terre
I fell in love with Olya’s post about the beautiful views from the Via del Amore. We try to do most of our hiking early in the morning or around sunset to truly appreciate the views. The trails are less crowded, too. We return to our hotel room in the middle of the day and watch the hikers from the jacuzzi at La Torretta.
Recommendation: The hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza is stunning around golden hour! If you take it slow, you will be in good shape to enjoy dinner in the Vernazza harbor at Gianni Franzi.
Reminder: While trails were slated to reopen in 2017, many were closed (again) in February 2017 after heavy rains destroyed the restoration. Always check what is open before heading out.
Cinque Terre Wine Tasting and Tour of Manarola Vineyards
Did you know that Cinque Terre is famous for its own unique white wine? Did you know that the hills above the villages are actually wine terraces that are maintained, in many cases, by hand?
The best part of this Manarola wine tour was learning so much from a local perspective. Alessandro taught us a lot about wine, but we also learned a more about the population trends, life in the villages, and the history of the area. It turns out that a lot of the popular facts that we knew are actually incorrect.