Explore Italy’s Gems: 5 Towns in Cinque Terre

You’ve seen the pictures right? Pretty pastel-coloured houses perched high on the rugged cliffs with the sparkling sea below.

The 5 towns in Cinque Terre, or five lands, lie on the stretch of the Italian Riviera coastline. Each of the five towns of Cinque Terre has its own distinct character making them each worthy of a visit.

The area is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, drawing millions of visitors every year. You can hike, boat or train your way through the five villages of Cinque Terre.

If you are wondering “What are the 5 towns of Cinque Terre”, starting from north to south, the towns of the Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Let’s get to know each of the 5 Cinque Terre towns in order.

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5 Towns in Cinque Terre

Monterosso al Mare

pink building with green shutters in 5 towns in Cinque Terre

Monterosso is the biggest and busiest of all the Cinque Terre 5 villages. With a resort-like feel, Monterosso has noticeably more restaurants, shops, and places to stay.

It’s the only flat village and offers two beautiful beaches – a sandy beach and a pebble beach.

The town is split into two distinct neighbourhoods, the Fegina (beach area or new town) and the Vecchio (historic centre or old town) which are connected by a picturesque promenade and a tunnel that cuts through the rock.

When you arrive by train, you will be in the Fegina neighbourhood.

What to do in Monterosso

beach with rock, blue sea and sunbathers in one of the five towns of Cinque Terre

The most popular attraction in Monterosso is the beach!

Monterosso’s beaches run along most of the coastline and are full of tourists sunbathing under the green and orange striped umbrellas.

Another must-visit site is the Church of San Giovanni Battista. It’s considered one of the oldest churches in Cinque Terre. 

I recommend dining at Ciak, a long-standing restaurant in the historic centre serving delicious gnocchi and risotto.


cliff with houses in 5 towns of Cinque Terre

Vernazza is the closest of the five to remain one of the best fishing villages with its natural harbour and abundance of colourful boats.

It’s often referred to as the quaintest and steepest village.

Uniquely, it only has one street – straight from the train station down to the sea with narrow laneways, called caruggi, and a maze of stairs.

This means almost all of the colourful houses have sea-facing views. 

What to Do in Vernazza

boats in habour in villages of Cinque Terre italy

Vernazza is home to Doria Castle, the oldest surviving fortified castle.

What remains mostly today of this 11th-century ruin is a circular tower. To get there, head up the steep narrow staircase by the harbour.

On the opposite side of the harbour visit a small Ligurian-Gothic church. The sea views through the narrow arched windows from inside this 12th-century church are incredible.

I enjoyed taking a boat tour, as Vernazza is one of the most popular spots for a good starting or ending point. 

I recommend dining at Gianni Franzi, a hotel restaurant offering a fantastic view.


cliff with houses on sea in Cinque Terre towns

Corniglia is the smallest of all the towns and the most unique.

It sits atop a rock formation about 100 metres high off the sea. When you reach it, by train or hiking only, you’ll have to climb 382 stairs to reach the village centre.

It’s quaint and quiet.

The best part of all is it leads you to a large sea-facing terrace where you can view all five towns at one time.

What sets Corniglia apart from the other Cinque Terre villages is its peaceful, off-the-beaten-path atmosphere.

While the other villages can get crowded with tourists, Corniglia remains a quiet oasis of authenticity and charm. So take your time and savour every moment of your visit to this special place.

What to Do in Corniglia

cliff over sea in Cinque Terre

There are two incredible lookout points in Corniglia.

The first is Belvedere di Santa Maria with its 180-degree sea views. To find it, follow Via Fieschi through the village until you eventually reach the clifftop balcony.

The second is La Torre. This viewpoint overlooks the coastline to the next village over which is Manarola. To find it, look for a staircase that leads you to Piazza Taragio. 


night view of houses on cliff when in 5 towns of Cinque Terre

Manarola is the oldest, busiest, and probably the most Instagrammable village of the five.

If you arrive by train, go through a short tunnel and then you can do one of two things.

Go left towards the sea, which is what most people go first.

Or turn right and take the steep hill where you will be amongst the hillside grapevines with a scenic view over to the village. That’s my recommendation, take the walking trail to the right first and then head to the sea.

What to Do in Manarola

houses on side of mountain in five towns of Cinque Terre

Visit Piazzale Papa Innocenzo, a small piazza with a bell tower that was once used as a defensive lookout. One of my favourite memories is hearing the bell chimes ring while sitting in the busy square eating ice cream.

Sitting on the piazza is Chiesa di San Lorenzo, a church dating back to 1338.

Why not enjoy a wine-tasting tour to sample the local wine?

Lastly, the best viewpoint in Manarola is Punta Bonfiglio. Take the walking path by the sea where you can look back at this picturesque village.

I recommend booking a table at Nessun Dorma which offers one of the best views possible – right on the cliffside. This is the perfect spot to enjoy aperitivo hour or a late romantic dinner.


colourful houses in mountain in 5 towns in Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, the most eastern village, is incredibly photogenic with its steep colourful tower houses that frame its tiny harbour.

This town has the best views from the sea (and at night), so if you were to take a ferry this would be a good destination to arrive/depart from.

Riomaggiore is a rather large village and also serves as the headquarters for the national park office. 

What to Do in Riomaggiore

tall colourful houses in 5 villages of Cinque Terre

Head to the small secluded beach in Riomaggiore. The short trail to the pebbly Fossola Beach. The shoreline is rugged and photogenic with the waters framed by steep hillsides.

Visit Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, a church dating back to 1340. Take a wine-tasting tour set in a scenic vineyard.

Seafood lovers will want to dine at Dau Cila to enjoy the fresh catch of the day and enjoy that incredible view.

Highlights from the 5 Towns of Cinque Terre

If you want help planning your Cinque Terre itinerary, check out my 3-day guide. Here are my highlights of what to do in Cinque Terre Italy.

  • One of the most romantic things to do in Cinque Terre is to take a sunset boat tour to see the village lights twinkle at night 
  • A must-do in Cinque Terre is to admire the view, and my favourite can be seen from the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint
  • One of the best places to visit in Cinque Terre is Portovenere. Take a day trip to this UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Be sure to visit Vernazza as it is a must-see in Cinque Terre – why? Many consider it the prettiest village in Cinque Terre 
  • the best village in Cinque Terre to get that postcard picture-perfect shot is Manarola
  • Do at least one of the many hiking trails for the most scenic views of the coastline. The best Cinque Terre villages for hiking would be the popular walking trails in Vernazza Corniglia Trail and the Corniglia Manarola Trail
  • Enjoy a Monterosso beach day as this is one of the best villages in Cinque Terre for beachgoers
  • Take part in a wine-tasting tour and the best Cinque Terre towns would be either Riomaggiore or Manarola

There you have it! Visit this bucket list-worthy destination and experience the best of the Cinque Terre 5 towns.

How to Visit the Cinque Terre Villages

Visiting the towns of the Cinque Terre is easy.

By train, it takes about five minutes to travel from one village to the next. Or there is a ferry service, which connects all the towns but one, Corniglia. You could walk from village to village, but for that, you’ll need to allow extra time. Hiking Cinque Terre is one of the biggest draws to this area.

The best option for exploring the Cinque Terre freely is to purchase the Cinque Terre Card. This gives you unlimited train travel on the La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto railway line and access to the two chargeable Cinque Terre trail paths from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia.

Where to stay in the Five Towns of Cinque Terre

There is a downside to visiting Cinque Terre and that is the accommodations.

You will not find a single 5-star property in any of the Cinque Terre five towns, and 4 stars are still a little underwhelming. Unfortunately, the place where I stayed which was a studio apartment has a new owner and is no longer available.

This list is the best accommodations I could find in the towns of Cinque Terre.

  • Marymar Monterosso al Mare. Bedroom with inner courtyard view mere steps to Monterosso Old Town beach
  • Mada Charm ApartmentsVernazza. A few steps from Vernazza Beach, a charming studio apartment with a sea view
  • La Ripa Camere VernazzaVernazza. Sea-facing rooms with a 2-minute walk to the beach
  • La Terraza Sul Blu Corniglia. 1-bedroom apartment with sea-facing room and large stone terrace
  • L’Emporio RoomsManarola. Comfortable rooms with kitchenette and city view. Short walk to the beach
  • Affittacamere Le GiareRiomaggiore. Located in Cinque Terre National Park, and is a short walk to the Riomaggiore Train Station with lovely terrace views of the town and sea

FAQ About Villages of Cinque Terre

colourful houses perched on rock with sea while spending 3 days Cinque Terre

Where are the Towns of the Cinque Terre located?

The towns of the Cinque Terre are located in the province of La Spezia in the Liguria region along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera.

How many days should you spend in the Cinque Terre?

The ideal number of days to spend in Cinque Terre is at least 2-3 days allowing you to see all 5 villages in Cinque Terre. Spending 4-5 days will allow more time for hiking and relaxing on the beach.

What is the best time of year to visit the Cinque Terre towns?

The best time of year to visit the Cinque Terre towns is April to June and September to November when the weather is pleasant and there are fewer crowds.

How to get to Cinque Terre

The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. From nearby big cities like Genoa, Milan, Florence or Pisa take the train to La Spezia which has a direct train to the villages.

How to get between the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre?

There are several ways to get between the 5 towns of the Cinque Terre. Hiking and boating are the most scenic and taking the local train is the most convenient.

As a Holidaymaker

Don’t let this popular tourist destination deter you from visiting the 5 villages of Cinque Terre Italy.  There’s a good reason why so many people visit here. Be sure to keep these 5 towns of Cinque Terre on your travel bucket list! They are worth visiting.  

To help with your Italy trip inspiration and planning, check out my Italy Travel guide. But I will leave you with a couple of articles I think you might enjoy:

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