72 Hours in Cinque Terre
We chose to stay in an AirBnb in the nearby town of La Spezia as it was significantly cheaper. If you also want to go this route, it's super simple and cheap to take the train into any of the five villages for the day, or a ferry if you're feeling fancy. It's only a seven minute train ride to the nearest village. The ferry is more expensive but fun to do once or twice because the view of the towns from the water is incredible. There are no cars in Cinque Terre so don't plan on catching a taxi, and if you have your own car, you'll have to leave it in La Spezia or another nearby town.
If you're willing to shell out a little more cash to be closer to the action and avoid commuting, here are some options for staying in Cinque Terre:
1. La Malà
With rooms ranging from 140-220 euros, La Malà is about as budget as it gets in Cinque Terre. Located in the beautiful village of Vernazza, the rooms, although tiny as all European hotel rooms, are stylish with great natural lighting. Depending on your price point you'll enjoy a great view of the Mediterranean, or of the village of Vernazza. Can't complain either way. All rooms have Wifi and AC.
Only check out this secluded haven if you're willing to hike a bit. Literally hike, as in maybe only if your luggage is all on your back. L'Eremo Sul Mare, or Hermitage Over The Sea, is a gem located between Vernazza and Corniglia. It's located about 500 meters, a 15-25 minute uphill walk, from the Vernazza train station along the "Blue Path" (which we will talk more about later). The effort is worth it though, you'll have an amazing view of the Mediterranean from the B&B's huge terrace, and you won't have 563 other tourists crowding you while you're there. Rooms range from 100-140 euros and have AC and Wifi.
In case you have a little more flexibility in your budget, the spendier La Torretta Lodge will not disappoint. Located in Manarola, my second favorite village after Vernazza, rooms start at 250 euros. BUT you get to enjoy a rain shower, Nespresso coffee machine, minibar, AC, wifi, and an Italian wine selection. The rooms, lobby, and terrace are all beautifully decorated, and - of course - you're steps away from beautiful Manarola and the Mediterranean.
PS: I didn't include Airbnbs because their listings change so frequently, but be sure to check them out! Airbnb is my favorite way to feel at home and the opposite of touristy, and you can also often find insane deals if you're on a budget. If you're planning to create an account, use my link to get a $40 travel credit.
1. Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre (Vernazza)
If you're in Vernazza, hit Il Pirata for breakfast. As in most of Italy, breakfast means fresh pastries and amazing coffee or espresso. The "twins Cannoli" - aka the two Sicilian brothers who run the spot - use fresh ingredients and their cannoli are a must-try. The restaurant is tucked in the back of Vernazza past the train station.
2. Nessun Dorma (Manarola)
I couldn't resist including this wine bar, and not just because the name means "May No One Sleep" which I think may have been a personal mantra throughout my entire Italy trip. The view of the harbor is incredible, the food is fresh and simple, and the drinks are unique variations on regional classics. Stop for a sunset, order a limoncino spritz and bruschetta pomodoro.
3. Trattoria Dal Billy (Manarola)
As with most things in the Five Villages, a steep climb is worth the reward waiting at the top. Trattoria Dal Billy is no different, and the view of the terraced hills falling away into the Mediterranean is well worth the steep incline it takes to get there. Book a table in advance so your climb won't be in vain. Be sure to try the antipasti sampler for two, with 13 bite size samples of fresh seafood and regional specialties. One of the best ways to get acquainted with regional tastes. Via Aldo Rollandi, 122.
4. L'ancora Della Tortuga (Monterosso)
Try specialties like pesto lasagna, lemon-marinated and stuffed anchovies, or go big with the seven-course tasting menu. But the venue is just as impressive as the food; L'ancora Della Tortuga is a converted nazi bunker built into a dramatic cliffside, and the seaside views are not to be missed. Make a reservation if you want to sit outside on the patio. Salita Cappucini, 4.
Cinque Terre is an absolute outdoor wonderland. The five villages are actually a national park and UNESCO world heritage site, and there are dozens of trails linking them. This was the way that we visited all five. The first day we took the train to Riomaggiore, hiked from there to Manarola where we stopped for lunch, and then went on to hike the trail from Manarola up through Volastra and ended our day in Corniglia with dinner. This was all accidental. We were attempting to hike the Sentiero Azzurro, the most popular (and easy!) trail in the Cinque Terre. We ended up taking the much harder path up to Volastra. Ask locals for directions and trailheads. Either way, the trails are doable and beautiful. The second day we took the train to Vernazza and managed to find the Sentiero Azzurro for a much easier trek into Monterosso. Nothing feels better after a long hike than a gallon bucket of margaritas (share, or don't) on the beach and a swim in the Mediterranean.
2. Water Sports
To continue on with this outdoor recreation thing we've got going, there's an abundance of great things to do out in the Mediterranean Sea. You'll find an abundance of brightly colored sea kayaks available for rent in Vernazza's harbor, paragliding in the beachy village of Monterosso, or scuba-diving in Riomaggiore. Don't miss swimming in Manarola, where young people sun bathe on the concrete boat harbor and cliff dive off a rocky outcropping in the center. (We did it. It was awesome. Go do it.)
For those of us not necessarily hiking or water-sport inclined, there are many less - ahem - active ways to enjoy your time in the Cinque Terre. Boat tours are a bit pricier than the other endeavors listed but you get a beautiful and different view of each town from the water. Stop in each town to sample the many different gelatos, and enjoy local novelties like paper cones of fried seafood. This region of Liguria was originally known for wine making, and it's sheer cliffs are still covered in vineyards. After your fair share of gelato, don't forget to visit a local winery like Cantina Cinque Terre, above Manarola. You can reach it via bus or 40 minute hike from Manarola.