Where to Stay Cinque Terre, Italy

Italy’s “Cinque Terre” (Five Lands) is a popular tourist destination featuring five beautiful seaside villages. Each village is located at the foot of terraced hills that fall steeply toward the sea, making for some spectacular scenery.

There are two ways that you can enjoy the charm and beauty of Cinque Terre. You can simply visit the five villages, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the wonderful Italian food. Or you can hike the trails that connect the five villages, with easy trails for the casual hiker and challenging trails for the experienced hiker. It is easy to visit as many of the villages and trails as you wish, as they are well connected by train, boat, and local bus.

The biggest question for someone planning a trip is where to stay in Cinque Terre? Staying in one of the five villages can be challenging! They are hard to reach by car, and getting there with a lot of luggage will be difficult. The villages have a few small hotels but these tend to be expensive and they sell out quickly. We think the best place to stay is in the nearby city of La Spezia.

La Spezia is a compact city with excellent connections to major cities in Italy and the rest of Europe. It takes just a few minutes to reach the villages in Cinque Terre by train, so you can go back and forth quickly and easily. La Spezia also has a number of affordable hotels and restaurants, so you can easily stay on budget.

In this article we’re going to show you how to enjoy three days and four nights for less than €300, including accommodations in La Spezia, transportation to the five villages, access to the hiking trails, and a few extras. If your budget is very tight, we’ll also show you a two day itinerary that costs just a little over €200!


Where is Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is located on the seashore in northern Italy, in the province of Liguria. It is close to several major Italian cities, including Genoa, Florence, Bologna, and Pisa, making it relatively easy to get to from anywhere in Europe. We’ll show you the best ways to get to Cinque Terre in the “Practical Information” section below.

Where is Cinque Terre

Visiting the Villages

It is possible to stay at a hotel in one of the villages, but these are expensive and difficult to reach by car. Instead, we recommend that you stay at a hotel in the nearby city of La Spezia. La Spezia is a compact city with excellent connections to major cities in Italy and the rest of Europe. It is just a few minutes from Cinque Terre by train, so you can go back and forth quickly and easily. La Spezia has a number of affordable hotels and restaurants, so you can easily stay on budget.

Cinque Terre is located within a national park and protected marine area called “Parco Nazionale Area Marina Protetta Cinque Terre”. In order to visit the park and hike the trails, you can purchase a pass called the “Cinque Terre card”.

Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre

The cards are available in two versions, the “Trekking” version and the “Treno” version. The “Trekking” card allows hiking in the park, but we recommend that you purchase the “Treno” card which entitles you to hiking and to unlimited train travel between the five villages and La Spezia. That will make it easy to stay in La Spezia and visit all of the villages. Both cards also includes other privileges, which we’ll describe in detail below. (Photos courtesy of Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre)

Cinque Terre Trekking card
The Cinque Terre “Trekking” Card
Cinque Terre Treno card
The Cinque Terre “Treno” card

Each of the five villages has unique charms, and so we recommend that you visit all five. It’s possible to visit them all in two days, or even in one day, but we think you need three days to really enjoy them properly, so our proposed itinerary is for four nights in La Spezia and three days visiting the villages.


The Villages of Cinque Terre

the villages of cinque terre

Here are brief descriptions of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre, from north to south.


Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso is the biggest of the five villages with about 1500 inhabitants. It is divided into two parts by a steep cliff. The “old” village is on the east side and the “new” village is on the west side. You can walk between the two parts of the village via a tunnel: just follow the road called “Via Fegina”.

There are a few sights and activities to entertain you. Both sides of the village have nice sandy beaches where you can swim or sunbathe. There is a beautiful Gothic church “San Giovanni Battista” (in English, St. John the Baptist) just behind the railway tracks in the old village. High above the village, overlooking the sea, is a convent “Convento Frati Cappuccini” (in English, the Capuchin Friars). If you can reach it, you’ll be rewarded with some great artwork and spectacular sea views. Finally, there is the “Statua del Gigante” (in English, the Statue of the Giant), a huge statue carved into the rock overlooking the beach.

Monterosso beach
Monterosso Beach
Monterosso
Monterosso
Monterosso
Monterosso
Monterosso
Convento Frati Cappuccini
Statue of the Giant Monterosso
“Statue of the Giant”
Monterosso beach
San Giovanni Battista Monterosso
San Giovanni Battista church
Monterosso
Monterosso
Time for Lunch!

To reach Monterosso, take the train from La Spezia until you reach Monterosso train station. When you exit the train, you’ll be in between the two parts of the village. Exit the station and turn left (east) to see the old village, or turn right (west) to see the new village.

There is a Cinque Terre “Welcome Centre” inside the railway station in case you need assistance.

For more information:

Click here to visit the official village of Monterosso website.

Click here to visit the Convento Frati Cappuccini” (Capuchin Friars) official website.


Vernazza

Vernazza is perhaps the most beautiful of the five villages. There are roads but no cars, and only about 1,000 people live there. It is simply a picturesque fishing village, with dozens of small boats in the harbour, and surrounded by high cliffs covered with grape vines.

There are a few unique places to visit in Vernazza. Overlooking the small harbour is a church “Santa Margherita di Antiochia” that has stood on this site for more than 600 years. It has beautiful views inside and out. Castello Doria (in English, Doria Castle), is a historic castle perched high on a rocky promontory on the southwest corner of the village. It was built in the 15th century to protect the village from pirates. Finally, Vernazza has a rocky beach that you can reach by following some narrow walkways and a tunnel.

Vernazza
Vernazza Marina
Vernazza sunset
Vernazza
Vernazza
Vernazza
Santa Margherita di Antiochia

Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church
Santa Margherita di Antiochia
Vernazza
Doria castle Vernazza
Doria Castle in Vernazza
Vernazza
Now, that’s a table with a view!

To reach Vernazza, take the train from La Spezia until you reach Vernazza train station. When you exit the train, you’ll be standing on a platform right in the middle of the village. Exit the station, walk down the stairs, and you’ll be on the village’s main street “Via Roma”. Walk straight ahead to reach all the sights.

There is a Cinque Terre “Welcome Centre” inside the railway station in case you need assistance.

For more information:

Click here to visit the official website of the village of Vernazza.

Click here to visit the official website of Santa Margherita di Antiochia church.

Click here to visit the Facebook page for Doria Castle.


Corniglia

Corniglia may be the smallest of the villages, and it is certainly the most challenging to reach. It is perched on a cliff about 100 meters above the sea and the railway station. To reach it, one needs to climb the “Scalinata Lardarina”, a long brick staircase that includes 33 flights with a total of 377 steps. It’s time for some cardio! The good news is the staircase will give you lots of opportunities for photographs as it is open to the sea view below.

If you are unable or unwilling to climb the steps, there is an alternative. You can ride the shuttle bus from the railway station to the village. The shuttle is operated by the local transit system operator “ATC”, and the cost of a ticket is a reasonable 1.90€. If you purchase the Cinque Terre Card, you can ride the shuttle for free.

Unfortunately, Corniglia does not offer many noteworthy tourist attractions, so you will likely spend much of your visit recovering from the lengthy climb, practicing you photography skills, or enjoying a snack. You should be able to find a few vistas where you can take some spectacular photos to show your friends, just by wandering around the streets. Be sure to visit “Largo Taragio”, which is the main square.

Corniglia
Corniglia offers some spectacular view……
Scalinata Lardarina
….but is it worth the climb up “Scalinata Lardarina”? (There’s a shuttle, just in case)
Largo Taragio in Corniglia

To reach Corniglia, take the train from La Spezia until you reach Corniglia train station. When you exit the train, if you plan to climb the stairs, just exit the platform at the north end and start climbing! If you plan to take the shuttle, walk in the opposite direction and look for a small white building marked “Stazione”, and wait for the shuttle.

There is a Cinque Terre “Welcome Centre” inside the railway station in case you need assistance.


Manarola

Manarola is another very small village, with only a few hundred residents living there, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in beauty and things to do.

You will start your tour of the town as soon as you emerge from the tunnel that connects the village to the train station. Turn right, and climb the hill, to visit the shops and restaurants that are popular with tourists. Part way up the hill you’ll see the old water wheel that has been spinning for hundreds of years! Keep climbing and you’ll reach the Church of San Lorenzo, a simple but beautiful church that dates back to the 14th century. Across the street, you’ll see the Torre Campanaria, a watch tower built atop the ruins of the original structure.

Now start your walk downhill, towards the main part of the village and the sea. Here you’re going to see that many of the buildings in Manarola are painted like an old fresco, which is especially beautiful as the sun sets in the evening. Keep walking and you’ll soon find yourself in a maze of winding streets and alleyways. Follow “Via Belvedere” all the way to the end and you’ll find a long walkway with a great view of the sea. Follow the main street “Via Renato Birolli” and you’ll come to the marina, with more spectacular vistas. Now turn right and walk along the water’s edge, along the pedestrian walkway, all the way to the end, for more great views of the village.

If you’re visiting Manarola at Christmas time, you’re going to get an extra treat. When the sun goes down, look up from anywhere in town and you’ll see the “Presepe” (in English, the “crib”), which is a fantastic, hilltop lighted display of the Christian nativity scene, with more than 300 characters.

Manarola
Church of San Lorenzo Manarola

Church of San Lorenzo
The old water wheel just keeps on spinning!
Presepe di manarola
If you visit at Christmas time, you’ll see the nativity scene “Presepe di Manarola”

To reach Manarola, take the train from La Spezia until you reach Manarola train station. Exit the train and follow the signs towards Manarola. You’ll descend a ramp and then enter a long tunnel which leads into town.

Manarola railway station
Manarola railway station

There is a Cinque Terre “Welcome Centre” inside the railway station in case you need assistance.

For more information:

Click here to visit the official Church of San Lorenzo website.


Riomaggiore

Last but not least, Riomaggiore is the village that is closest to La Spezia. It is split into three parts by the tall cliffs that run right to the sea. The first (northernmost) part holds the train station and a few small restaurants and guest houses. The second part is the main part of the village itself. This is where you will be when you exit the pedestrian tunnel from the train station. The third (southernmost) part is a rocky beach and promontory that you can reach by following the walkway along the seaside.

There are just a few noteworthy sights here. Atop the cliff that separates the village from the train station you will find a castle “Castello di Riomaggiore” which has a fortified tower and some great views of the village and sea below. There is a charming, tiny church next door called “Oratorio di San Rocco”. You will find a larger church, Chiesa di S. Giovanni Battista (in English, St. John the Baptist) in a plaza just off the main street. There is a winery and terraced grape fields (Terra di Bargon) on the steep hills just east of the village where you can see part of the wine making process and try some local wine for a fee.

If you’re comfortable on the water, you can rent a kayak at the “Cinque Terre del Mare” marina and paddle around the area. Rates are very reasonable and start at just €10 for an hour.

Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore
Inside Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista church

To reach Riomaggiore, take the train from La Spezia until you reach Riomaggiore train station. When you exit the train, be careful as part of the platform is inside the train tunnel. You need to walk towards the daylight to get to the station. Once you’re at the station, look for the pedestrian tunnel which will take you to the village of Riomaggiore.

Note the Cinque Terre Welcome Centre is located in “Località Lavaccio” at the top of the hill in Riomaggiore.

For more information:

Click here to visit the Village of Riomaggiore official website (Italian only).

Click here to visit the Terra di Bargon Winery official website.

Click here to visit the “Cinque Terre del Mare” Marina for kayak and boat rentals.


Hiking in the National Park

Besides visiting the five villages, the most popular thing to do in Cinque Terre is to hike the trails in the national park. There are dozens of trails to choose from, ranging from easy (called “tourist” level) to challenging (“hiking” level) to very difficult (“skilled” level).

If you’re an experienced hiker, in good physical condition, and properly equipped, you could certainly try some of the “skilled” trails. These are free to hike; you don’t need a Cinque Terre card or ticket to hike these trails.

If you’ve got good hiking skills and you’d like a challenge, you could go for some of the “hiking” level trails. The entire “Upper Trail” falls into this category, meaning you could hike all the way from Riomaggiore to Monterosso if you choose. Be careful because parts of the trail are steep and narrow.

If you’re not an experienced hiker, or your physical condition is not great, you may want to stick to the easy (tourist level) trails. These are not too steep, easier to walk, and well marked so you should be able to enjoy a relaxing hike. The most popular trails are those that connect the five villages together. To use these, you must have a Cinque Terre card or purchase a ticket before you enter the trails.

Hiking in Cinque Terre

Until recently, many tourists would come to Cinque Terre to hike the “Sentiero Azzurro” (in English, the “Blue Trail”), which ran along the sea shore and connected all five villages. The Blue Trail is 12 km (7.5 miles) long, divided into four sections, and is relatively flat and easy to hike. Unfortunately, erosion and landslides have damaged portions of the Blue Trail, and the authorities have closed these portions of the Blue Trail until they can be repaired.

At this writing (late 2020), only two small portions of the Blue Trail are open to the public. Trail 592-1 goes from Manrola south towards Riomaggiore. This trail was popularly known as “Via dell’Amore” (in English, the “Way of Love”) for it’s beautiful and romantic sea views. Unfortunately only a portion of the trail (the Manrola end) is open at this time. Trail 592-2 goes from Manarola north towards Corniglia, but again only a small portion is open at this time.

Another popular tourist level trail is Trail 530 which runs between two villages (Telegrafo to Volastra) up in the hills. This is a longer trail, about 10 kilometers, and will take about 3 hours to travel one direction. There are buses at either end which will take you back to the nearest train station. This trail is open.

Here is a colour coded map showing the current status of the trail network in Cinque Terre National Park (December 2020).

Trail network Cinque Terre national park
Map courtesy of Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre
Blue“Tourist” level trail – open
Green“Hiking” level trail – open
Orange“Skilled” level trail – open
Blacktrail closed for repair

For more information on hiking in Cinque Terre National Park:

Click here to visit the official National Park website.

Click here to see the latest Trail Map.

Click here for a detailed list of all the Trails.


Things to Do in La Spezia

Here are a few things to do in La Spezia.

First, to help you to get the most out of your time in Cinque Terre, you can visit the Welcome Centre inside La Spezia railway station. They will have the latest information on the park, trails, and villages. You can buy your Cinque Terre Trenso Card here in case you haven’t already done so.

La Spezia railway station
La Spezia Railway Station

La Spezia has a number of museums for you to enjoy. Just a few blocks from the railway station you’ll find an archaeological museum located inside the 13th century “Castello San Giorgio” (in English, St. George Castle). Closer to the water, and next to an active Italian naval base, there is a Naval Technical Museum showing the history of the Italian Navy from a technical perspective.

Castello San Giorgio La Spezia
Castello San Giorgio in La Spezia

Finally, if you walk down to the water, you’ll find a public garden and promenade where you can enjoy views of the marina. There are a number of sightseeing and ferry boats that can take you to nearby islands or even visit the villages of Cinque Terre. Along the way, you can visit the oldest part of La Spezia by walking around the “Via del Prione” area. Today, this area is full of shops and restaurants but this was the site of the original village in the 13th century.

For more information on La Spezia:

Click here to visit the official website of the city of La Spezia.

Click here to visit the official website of the Castello San Giorgio Museum.

Click here to visit the official website of the La Spezia Naval Museum.


Practical Information

Weather for Cinque Terre

When is the best time of year to visit Cinque Terre? It really depends on just two factors, the weather and the crowds.

Cinque Terre is a very popular tourist destination and draws large numbers of tourists, especially in the summer season (June, July, August, and September), when the weather is ideal. It’s a great time to visit, just be prepared for the large crowds.

The crowds are significantly smaller, but the weather is not quite as nice, in the “shoulder” seasons. The shoulder seasons include March, April, May, October, and November. You can expect cool days and chilly nights during these months. October and November are the rainy months. This is a good time to visit, but be prepared for less than ideal weather.

The winter (January, February, and December) in Cinque Terre is quite chilly, with temperatures dropping almost to freezing. You might enjoy your visit to Cinque Terre in the winter if you don’t mind the cold.

Click here to visit “Weatherspark” which has very detailed information on the weather in La Spezia and Cinque Terre.

Language and Currency

Italian is the first language in all of Italy, but you’ll find English widely spoken in the Cinque Terre towns, especially at hotels and restaurants. The euro (€) is the currency used in Italy.

Where to Stay Cinque Terre

While there are quite a few hotels in the Cinque Terre villages, these tend to be very small, expensive, and they sell out quickly. We recommend that you stay in the nearby city of La Spezia, where you will find a number of clean, safe, and inexpensive hotels located within a few steps of the train station. This will allow you quick and easy access to the train station, and there are many bars, restaurants, and shops nearby.

Hotels in La Spezia

Here are a few hotels that we found that offer private rooms with ensuite bathrooms for less than 50 euros per night (double occupancy). Make sure you shop around and check the hotel reviews before booking. Just click on the name of the hotel to check prices or to book a room.

L’Opera Rooms and Suites
Via Lazzaro Spallanzani, 19, 19122 La Spezia SP
2 star hotel € 50

Affittacamere Casa Danè
Via Pietro Paleocapa, 4, 19122 La Spezia SP
2 star hotel € 50

Lia Rooms 2
Via Privata Antonio Bertoloni, 5, 19122 La Spezia SP
2 star hotel € 40

Affittacamere Lunamar
Via Pietro Paleocapa, 2, 19122 La Spezia SP
2 star hotel € 40

Parfumerie 5 Terre
Via Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina civico 12, 19122 piano secondo, SP
2 star hotel € 40


Getting to Cinque Terre

You have a lot of choices for getting to Cinque Terre. Here is a quick summary to help you decide.

By Car

You can drive to La Spezia using Italy’s “Autostrade” highway system. The Autostrade connects La Spezia to Genoa, Parma, Florence, and Pisa. Keep in mind there is no highway in the Cinque Terre National Park, just a small, winding mountain road. The villages do not have much public parking, so driving through the park is not recommended.

Click here to visit the official Autostrade website.

By Train

Italy’s national railway operator “Trenitalia” offers train services from all over Italy and Europe to Cinque Terre.

The best way to get there is to take the train directly to La Spezia, rather than through the villages, because Trenitalia is restricting travel through the Cinque Terre National Park (see below for details).

If you enjoy riding in a high speed train, you can take the “Frecciargento” train directly to La Spezia from Genoa or Pisa. Alternatively, you can ride a conventional train to La Spezia from virtually anywhere in Italy or Europe.

Frecciargento

Click here to visit the official Trenitalia website.

Click here for up-to-date Trenitalia schedules.

By Plane

If you are flying to Cinque Terre, the nearest airports are the Cristoforo Colombo International Airport (IATA code: GOA) in the city of Genoa and the Galileo Galilei International Airport (IATA code: PSA) in the city of Pisa. A number of Low Cost Carrier (LCC) airlines, including Ryanair, WizzAir, and Vueling, fly into PSA, making this a very affordable option for getting to Cinque Terre.

Genoa airport: https://www.airport.genova.it/en/

Pisa airport: https://www.pisa-airport.com/en/

By Bus

Flixbus offers inexpensive bus service to La Spezia from 55 cities in Europe. The Flixbus station is located at Via Giosuè Carducci 128 in La Spezia, which is about a kilometer from the railway station.

Flixbus website: https://global.flixbus.com/bus/la-spezia


Getting around in Cinque Terre

If you’re staying in La Spezia and visiting Cinque Terre, there are three practical choices for getting around: by train, by boat, or by local bus. Let’s take a look at those three choices.

Getting around by train

The most affordable and convenient way to get around is by riding the train. There is frequent train service from La Spezia railway station into all five villages. The travel time between La Spezia and the five villages is no more than a few minutes, and the train stations, with the exception of Corniglia, are practically right in the middle of town. Remember, to get to Corniglia from the train station you have to climb all those steps or else ride the ATC shuttle bus.

Staring on 2 November 2020, the railway operator Trenitalia has changed their policies to restrict the number of travellers riding along the Cinque Terre line. Travellers wishing to travel on this line now must purchase one of these three types of ticket:

Single trip Trenitalia ticket with regional fare number 39/9 “Liguria”

  • this type of ticket allows you to ride the regional trains to any of the five villages
  • the ticket must be stamped before departure
  • tickets up to 50 kilometers are valid 75 minutes after stamping
  • tickets for greater mileage are valid 4 hours after stamping
  • this type of ticket is the best choice if you’re just visiting a single village

Weekly, monthly or annual subscription at regional or supra-regional Liguria fare

  • this type of ticket must be accompanied by a valid identity document
  • these tickets are best if you’re staying a long period of time and want to do a lot of local train travel

Cinque Terre “Treno” Card

  • these cards allow an unlimited number of trips between Levanto and La Spezia on regional trains in second class and the use of facilities of the National Park
  • they are personal and non-transferable
  • they must be filled out with the owner’s name and surname and must be stamped
  • they must be exhibited along with a valid identification, and are not refundable
  • they may be purchased in Trenitalia ticket offices and in the Parco Nazionale della Cinque Terre’s points of sale, or online
  • this card also entitles you to some “extras” at no additional charge, including:
    • Access to the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail); you cannot access this trail without buying a ticket ;
    • Free ATC bus rides in all the villages of the Cinque Terre; without the Cinque Terre Card a bus ride costs 1.90 euro or 2.80 euro (if the ticket is purchased on the bus);
    • Access to Wi-fi in the train stations;
    • Free use of public toilets at all train stations
    • Discounts in most museums in La Spezia

We think the Cinque Terre “Treno” card is excellent value and we recommend this card for anyone who wants to stay one, two, or three days in Cinque Terre.

The current prices for the Adult (12 to 69 years old) Cinque Terre cards are:

One Day “Treno” card €16

Two Day “Treno” card €29

Three Day “Treno” card €41

There are discounted cards available for children (4 to 11 years old), families, and adults over 70 years old. Children under 4 can ride the train and visit the park at no charge.

Click here to read the official Trenitalia website for visiting Cinque Terre.

Click here to purchase Cinque Terre Treno MS card online.

Getting around by boat

There is a ferry boat operator “Consorzio Marittimo Turistico” that runs a fleet of boats from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre villages every day during the summer. This is a very nice way to visit the villages, but of course it is a bit slower than the train. Also, the ferry does not stop a Corniglia due to the location.

Their services were suspended for the 2020 season due to COVID-19. They hope to resume services in 2021. Prices are unknown at this time.

The ticket office is located in La Spezia on the pedestrian promenade at the marina (in Italian, “Passeggiata Costantino Morin”).

Click here to visit the official Consorzio Marittimo Turistico website.

Getting around by local bus

There is a local bus service operated by a company called “ATC”. These buses are the best choice for visiting the villages or hiking trails that are higher up in the mountains in Cinque Terre, but they are not a good choice for visiting the five villages. ATC operates dozens of routes in the region.

Click here to visit the ATC website (Italian only).


Budget

Here is our budget for a four night/three day itinerary in Cinque Terre, Italy. This should give you plenty of time to visit all five villages and to do a little hiking on the trails. With three full days to explore the villages, you are sure to find the absolute best spot to take that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Our budget includes four nights in a basic but comfortable 2-star hotel in La Spezia with a private sleeping room and ensuite washroom. All of the hotels on our list are close to La Spezia train station, so you can easily hop on and off the trains into the villages. The budget also includes a pair of 3-Day Cinque Terre “Treno” cards that will give you unlimited train travel, use of the ATC shuttle buses, access to all of the trails, Wi-Fi, and free use of the washrooms. All in, this should cost you around 282 euros, which we think is a great value.

3 Days in Cinque Terre budget

If you’re on a very tight budget, you could save even more by shortening the trip to three nights hotel and two days visiting Cinque Terre. A lot of people are able to see all five villages and do a little hiking in just two days. In this case, the budget would be just € 208 (€ 150 for the hotel and € 58 for a pair of 2-Day “Treno” passes).

Wrapping Up

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading the article. With it’s spectacular scenery, Cinque Terre is a very popular destination and we hope that you’re able to visit some day. Happy travels!