Best villages to stay in Cinque Terre
Monterosso al Mare
With the best beaches in Cinque Terre, not to mention the most wine shops, artisan shops, hotels and restaurants, Monterosso is a great place to relax and take in the unhurried Italian atmosphere. It's a place where the 'good life' is the norm and where time seems to stand still as you sip a steaming coffee or local aperitif in one of the many pavement cafés and restaurants. Dating back to 1201, the village landscape is dominated by the remains of the medieval fortifications, the Aurora Tower, the remnants of Orbertengo Castle and the walls of the ancient fortress.
Monterosso is a good place to make your base if you prefer not to have to hike up and down hills, as it's not quite as hilly as some of the other Cinque Terre villages plus, if you're holidaying with a young family, it has a long seaside promenade which is the perfect place for an evening stroll with a pushchair. So if you want to avoid steep roads and hundreds of steps, and you prefer a more 'resort' feel to your holiday together with great beaches, then Monterosso would be a good choice for you. You'll also find the most upmarket hotels here, together with a range of well priced B&Bs and hostels.
Famous for its large attractive open harbour and amphitheatre shaped natural pier, Vernazza is considered the most picturesque village in Cinque Terre, so if you're looking for a scenic and relaxing place to stay during your holiday in Cinque Terre, you may want to book into one of the many small hotels, rooms and apartments in the village. Dating back to Roman times, Vernazza boasts a small attractive piazza, the Piazza Marconi, which overlooks the sparkling Ligurian Sea, together with a watch tower which was once part of the Castello Doria. While you may be tempted to linger in the many open air waterfront restaurants and bars enjoying the day's catch brought home by the local fishermen in their brightly coloured fishing boats, a short walk will take you to the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia, built to honour St. Margaret whose bones, according to local legend, were found on a nearby beach. When it's time to move on, the main cobbled street, Via Roma, will take you from Piazza Marconi right up to the train station.
Located on a very steep promontory, the sugared almond coloured houses of Corniglia are set amidst lush vineyards, and it's the only village in Cinque Terra which doesn't have any access to the sea. When you arrive by railway, the village can be reached by the 382 steps known as the Lardarina, or by a small narrow road. Hiking trails connect Corniglia to the other Cinque Terre villages, making it an ideal stopping off point if you're planning to explore the surrounding area on foot. In the tiny village itself, you'll find a few restaurants and plenty of rooms to rent among its winding, narrow streets and colourful terraces, but generally Corniglia has a quieter feel than the other villages in the area, so is perfect if you're looking for complete and utter relaxation. However it's not a good choice if you suffer from impaired mobility or are holidaying with children, due to the amount of steps.
Perched 70 metres above the shimmering sea, surrounded by vineyards and straddling a bubbling stream, you'll find the pretty village of Manarola, probably the most delightful and romantic of all the Cinque Terre villages. Whether you're spending time in the tiny seaside piazza in one of the excellent seafood restaurants, or exploring the narrow and atmospheric carrugi, you're sure to be captivated by this charming and picturesque community, especially if you're looking for a totally peaceful location for your base. However due to its size, it's not a good place to stay if you like variety, as it only has one street.
Just a twenty minute walk from Manarola along the two kilometre long Via dell'Amore brings you to Riomaggiore, the largest and eastern most village, and the start of the Santiero Azzuro coastal path. It's easily accessible by road and rail, being connected to La Spezia by a scenic road which boasts some of the most spectacular views in the region. The village comprises a main street, the rocky Fossola beach, which is perfect for swimming, and a harbour, together with a dozen restaurants and a pharmacy. It's also home to a castle and the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a gothic style church built in 1340. It's a great place to make your base if you plan on exploring the region either on foot or by train, as it has all the amenities you need to enjoy a relaxing but fun holiday.