Your Guide to Cinque Terre Plus Porto Venere
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I set aside two and a half days to see every little town that makes up Cinque Terre. We ended up having a little extra time so we managed to make it to Porto Venere too! I’ll break down what to expect in every little town so if you don’t have enough time for all of them you can pick which ones you want to visit without worrying about if you missed anything!
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This is the most Northern town and the most popular choice for tourists. It is one of the larger towns and features lots of places to eat, shopping and a nice, big beach! If you have your heart set on a beach, Monterosso is the only one with a real sunny beach close to everything.
The train station opens up to a great boardwalk to explore. All of the towns flood with tourists on a daily basis but Monterosso tends to be where cruise tours visit so be prepared for crowds. We went in the end of October and found it to be quite crowded so I can’t even imagine what it would be like in the summer time.
We spent half a day in Monterosso exploring the town as well as hiking up to Punta Mesco. You get great views of the coastline all the way up to the ancient monastery of S. Antonio al Mesco. There are great hikes all over Cinque Terre and we only had time for one. We picked this hike because it promised a view of all five towns at the top and we were not disappointed!
After looking through photos of all the little towns that make up Cinque Terre, I chose to stay in Vernazza. The little waterfront area captured my heart and I decided that was the view I wanted to wake up to every morning. Vernazza is one of the smaller towns and doesn’t take long to fully explore. There are quite a few eating options and great boutiques featuring local artists scattered throughout the town. When you walk into a shop don’t be surprised if you’re greeted with “Hello” instead of “Buongiorno” as it’s a popular choice among English speaking tourists.
We stayed at Albergo Barbara. It was an adorable place to stay and if you’re on a budget I recommend it! It is located right along the waterfront above restaurants and in the heart of it all. Somehow our room was still quiet and peaceful! We didn’t book a room with a view but the lounge/common area offered an amazing view. The rooms are located on the 4th and 5th floor of the building and there is no elevator so keep this in mind if you tend to travel with a lot of luggage. The last flight of stairs up to the 5th floor is a spiral staircase and bags larger than carry on probably won’t fit. Vernazza is small enough that you won’t be far from everything no matter where you stay!
Check out rates for Vernazza accommodations here.
This little town is the only one not accessible by boat. It sits up high on the cliffs so it has to be accessed by car or train. Since the train station goes to all five towns, the station for Corniglia is at a much lower elevation than the town. There is a steep pathway with a TON of stairs up to the town but there’s also a shuttle! If you have purchased a day pass for the trains, the shuttle is included for free so I highly recommend using it (at least for the way up). The town itself has many, many stairs so save your energy for exploring the town instead!
This is one of the smaller towns in Cinque Terre. It feels like a cross between Riomaggiore and Vernazza. It’s quaint in size but offers great views! The main pathway starts out as an easy walk but can get pretty steep. At one point the pathway ascends to a big open plaza that overlooks the lower part of the town.
If you make it to the top you’ll find a stone church called Chiesa di San Lorenzo. This area offers a spectacular viewpoint over the town and great views of the ocean. I wish we had been able to catch a sunset there because I bet it is stunning!
Finally, we reach the most southern town, Riomaggiore. As we pulled in from the ferry the brightly colored buildings towered above us on cliffs. The entire town is so picturesque! It is one of the larger towns and offers quite a few little places to sit outside and enjoy a glass of wine or beer. There is a great beach off to the side but it is a little bit of a walk if you’re staying away from the shore.
When we set out on our second full day of sightseeing, we found that we could book an all-day unlimited ferry pass for less than booking the exact route we wanted. By booking the all-day pass and getting on the first boat in the morning, we were able to add an hour and a half in Porto Venere! I was originally hoping for Portofino but they had shut down ferry service for winter already. I had never heard of Porto Venere but I was excited to check it out!
As you roll down the coast line passing the beautiful little towns that make up Cinque Terre, you suddenly come upon a stone church on the edge of a cliff. The boat turns inland and heads towards the Bay of Poets and you’re greeted with brightly colored architecture and a marina full of little boats. The downtown area surrounding the marina is bustling and offers plenty of food options and shopping.
We weren’t hungry when we arrived in the morning so we set out to explore the church of St. Peter that we spotted on our way in. The church is completely free to explore and offers sweeping views of the ocean. You can also catch a glimpse at lively La Spezia inside the bay. It was a great little hike and just above the church is a cemetery with arguably the best view in the world. It was an unexpected find but we were glad to have found such a beautiful spot!
My most favorite part of Cinque Terre was wandering without reservations and finding hidden gems. The towns are too small to get seriously lost in. But, there are all kinds of side streets that will open up to a little shop or viewpoint that you would’ve never known was there. Often times we would wander down what we assumed was nothing but hotels/homes and found a gallery or gift shop!
All of the towns in Cinque Terre share similar beauties. They all offer breathtaking views of the ocean, charming architecture and mouthwatering gelato. All of the towns are accessible by train or hiking path and four out of five are accessible by boat (Corniglia being the exception). Given how easy it is to access the rest of the little towns, I think you’ll find any of the towns a great choice to stay in!
If you’d like to read about the rest of our adventures in Italy, check out our 10 day Itinerary HERE!