After the top 3 cities, Cinque Terre is a must-see in my opinion.
Towns from North to South:
- Monterosso al Mare – biggest town. Old and new town sections. small (crowded) beach
- Vernazza – fisherman’s port town (where we stayed)
- Corniglia – smallest town (the only place I wouldn’t stay)
- Manarola –
- Riomaggiore – a great mix of tourist town, views, etc.
- Monterosso to Vernazza: 1:45 – most challenging trail, ups & downs
- Vernazza to Corniglia: 1:30 – challenging, but doable for me & my parents
- Corniglia to Manarola: 0:45 – easier
- Manarola to Riomaggiore: 0:20 – pleasant stroll on a wide, paved path. Via dell’Amore
We took the train to Cinque Terre and it was pretty easy. Highly recommended. There are trains that run between the towns all day and there are hiking trails between them as well. The views from the trails are stunning, so that is highly recommended as well. The longest one is probably 1.5 hrs, so they aren’t that long.
We stayed in Vernazza, where we ate dinner by the port every night. The restaurants we ate at were:Trattoria Capitano, Trattoria Gianni, and Gambero Rosso. I think Ryan’s favorite was gianni, and mine was Capitano. Rosso was very good – but expensive. They were all right on the harbor in Vernazza – which was convenient to our rooms. In the morning we’d stop in and make a reservation for dinner, and then we’d set out for the day. I’ve also heard that al Tortuga in Monte Rosso is good, and it has an excellent view.
Monte Rosso is the farthest north, it is much more like a beach town if you are interested in that. It was too cool for us at the time to do the beach, so we skipped that. The other towns to the south of Vernazza are worth a visit… and the ‘hike’ between Riomaggiore and Manarola is a 20 minute paved stroll – called the “lover’s trail” … and it was really nice.
Best thing to do is pick a base, any of the cities will do, but a lot of people like Vernazza b/c it’s in the middle. Then you can easily hike, take a boat or take the local train to the other towns. You can do 3 towns in one day pretty easily, even if you are hiking.
Corniglia is the only one I really wouldn’t want to stay in. It’s super super small, and it’s just as expensive as the others. It worked well for us to have dinner in our home base every night – so we didn’t have to worry about catching the last train, etc.
We stayed here:
The room was simple, but it had a little kitchen, and a really nice view. It worked out well for us, and the price was right. We got the recommendation from Rick Steves.
My impression is that in Vernazza all of the places are rooms you rent, as opposed to hotels like we’re used to. So, you’re basically renting a room with beds and a bathroom, not a hotel w/ a concierge and a breakfast room.
There weren’t too many steps to get up to the hotel (maybe 10?), which I get the impression can be a problem in Cinque Terre.