The Cinque Terre - Best of Italy - Rick Steves

Best of Italy - Rick Steves (2016)

The Cinque Terre

Along a six-mile stretch of the Riviera lies the Cinque Terre (CHINK-weh TAY-reh), gently carving a good life out of difficult terrain. With a traffic-free charm—a happy result of their natural isolation—these five (cinque) towns are the rugged alternative to the glitzy resorts nearby. With sun, sea, sand (well, pebbles), and wine, this is pure, unadulterated Italy.

Each addictively photogenic village fills a ravine with a lazy hive of human activity—calloused locals and sunburned travelers enjoying a unique mix of culture and nature. Enjoy swimming, hiking, and evening romance in one of God’s great gifts to tourism. While the Cinque Terre is now discovered (and can be crowded midday, when tourist boats and cruise ships drop by), I’ve never seen happier, more relaxed tourists. Most of the crowds are day-trippers, so make a point to get the most out of those cool, relaxed, and quiet hours early in the day and in the evening.

I cover the five towns in order from south to north—from Riomaggiore to Monterosso. Vernazza is my top choice for a home base, while Monterosso, the most resorty of the five towns, is an excellent runner-up, offering maximum comfort and ease. Avoid visiting in winter, when tall, crashing waves batter the charm out of the Cinque Terre.


This string of five villages dotting the Italian Riviera makes an idyllic escape from the obligatory museums of turnstile Italy. The ideal stay is two full days (or three days to really relax). It’s easiest to arrive and depart by train. If you have a car, park it in one of the few lots (then catch a shuttle bus into town).

Within the Cinque Terre, you can connect the towns in three ways: by train, boat, or foot. Trains are cheap, boats are more scenic, and hiking lets you enjoy more pasta. Consider supplementing the often frustratingly late trains with the sometimes more convenient boats.

Study your options, and piece together your best visit, mixing hiking, swimming, trains, boat rides, and a search for the best focaccia.

You could spend one day hiking from town to town (or take a boat or train partway, or as the return trip). For the best light, coolest temperatures, and fewest crowds, start your hike early. Cool off at a beach. Spend a second day visiting each town, comparing main streets, beaches, and gelato.


In the evenings, linger at a restaurant, enjoy live music at a low-key club, stroll any of the towns, or take a glass of your favorite beverage out to the breakwater to watch the sun slip into the Mediterranean.

Helpful Hints for the Cinque Terre

Book in Advance: Reserve rooms well in advance for May, June, July, and September, and on weekends and holidays. If you want to reserve long in advance, choose a hotel (Monterosso has the most), because smaller places generally don’t take reservations very far ahead. Reserve by email, and if you must cancel, do it as early as possible. More formal places have strict cancellation policies.

Shuttle Buses: Each town has a helpful ATC shuttle bus route that generally runs through town and links the train station, nearest parking lot, and destinations farther up in the hills. Take a cheap joyride (€1.50 one-way, €2.50 from driver, free with Cinque Terre park card). For more info, see here. The buses don’t connect Cinque Terre towns with each other.

Money: Banks and ATMs are plentiful throughout the region.

Internet Access: All Cinque Terre train stations offer free Wi-Fi with a Cinque Terre park card.

Baggage Storage: You can store bags at La Spezia’s train station (€3/12 hours, daily 8:00-22:00), at the gift shop in Vernazza’s train station (€1/hour for the first 5 hours, daily 8:00-20:00, closed Nov-March, see here), and at the Wash and Dry Lavarapido in Monterosso (€5/day, daily 8:00-19:00, Via Molinelli 17).


▲▲Riomaggiore (Town #1) The biggest and most workaday of the five villages. See here.

▲▲Manarola (Town #2) Waterfront village dotted with a picturesque mix of shops, houses, and vineyards. See here.

▲▲Corniglia (Town #3) Quiet hilltop village known for its cooler temperatures (it’s the only one of the five villages not on the coast), few tourists, and tradition of fine wines. See here.

▲▲▲Vernazza (Town #4) The region’s gem, crowned with a ruined castle above and a lively waterfront cradling a natural harbor below. See here.

▲▲Monterosso al Mare (Town #5) Resorty, flat, and spread out, with a charming old town, a modern new town, and the region’s best beaches, swimming, and nightlife. See here.


Services: Every train station has a free WC, but it’s smart to bring your own toilet paper. Otherwise, pop into a bar or restaurant.

Tours: Arbaspàa, which has an office in Manarola, can arrange wine-tasting at a vineyard, cooking classes (6-person minimum), or a fishing trip with sailors (office closed Tue, Via Discovolo 252/A, tel. 0187-920-783,


All five towns are connected by good trails, marked with red-and-white paint, white arrows, and some signs. The region has several numbered trails, but most visitors stick to the main coastal trail that connects the villages—that’s trail #2. You’ll need a Cinque Terre park card to hike this trail.

Trail Closures: Trails can be closed in bad weather or due to landslides. Usually one or two trails are closed at any given time. Official closures are noted on the national park website ( and are posted at the park-information desks in each town’s train station.

Hiking Conditions: Other than the wide, easy Riomaggiore-Manarola segment, the coastal trail is generally narrow, steep, rocky, and comes with lots of challenging steps. Readers often say the trail was tougher than they expected. The rocks can be slippery in the rain (avoid the steep Monterosso-Vernazza stretch if it’s wet). Don’t venture up on these rocky cliffs without sun protection or water.

When to Go: The coastal trail can be crowded (and hot) at midday. It’s better to hike early or later in the day. After dark, there’s no lighting on the trails. Before setting out for an evening hike, find out what time the sun sets, and leave yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.

Navigation: Maps aren’t necessary for the basic coastal hikes described here. But for more serious hikes in the high country, pick up a good hiking map (about €5, sold everywhere). The Cinque Terre Walking Guide (sold locally in an English-language edition for about €15) is worth seeking out.

Give a Hoot: To leave the park cleaner than you found it, bring a plastic bag and pick up trail trash along the way.

Cinque Terre Park Cards

The Cinque Terre—villages and all—is a national park. Each town has a well-staffed park information office, which generally serves as an all-purpose town TI as well (listed throughout this chapter).

Visitors hiking between the towns on coastal trails need to pay a park entrance fee. You have two options: the Cinque Terre Trekking Card or the Cinque Terre Treno Multi-Service Card. Both are valid until midnight on the expiration date and include free Wi-Fi at train stations. Write your name on your card or risk a fine. The configuration and pricing of these cards is often in flux—be aware that the following details may change. Those under 18 or over 70 get a discount, as do families of four or more (see

The Cinque Terre Trekking Card costs €7.50 for one day of hiking or €14.50 for two days (covers trails and ATC shuttle buses plus a few other extras but does not cover trains; buy at trailheads and at most train stations, no validation required).

The Cinque Terre Treno Multi-Service Card covers what the Cinque Terre Trekking Card does, plus local trains from Levanto to La Spezia, which includes the five Cinque Terre towns between them. It’s sold at TIs inside train stations, but not at trailheads. To break even with this card, you’d have to hike and take three train trips every day (€12/1 day, €23/2 days, validate card at train station).

The Coastal Trail

If all of the main trails between the towns are open, the entire seven-mile coastal hike (which is very hilly between Corniglia and Monterosso) can be completed in about four hours; allow five for dawdling. Take it slow...smell the cactus flowers, notice the scurrying lizards, listen to birds singing in the olive groves, and enjoy vistas on all sides.

If you’re hiking the full five-town route, consider these factors: The trail between Riomaggiore (#1) and Manarola (#2) is easiest (when open). The hike between Manarola and Corniglia (#3) has minor hills (for a much steeper, more scenic alternative, consider detouring higher up, via Volastra). The trail from Corniglia to Vernazza (#4) is demanding, and the path from Vernazza to Monterosso (#5) is the most challenging. Starting in Monterosso allows you to tackle the toughest section (with lots and lots of steep, narrow stairs) while you’re fresh—and to enjoy some of the region’s most dramatic scenery as you approach Vernazza.

Riomaggiore-Manarola (20 minutes): The popular, easy Via dell’Amore (Pathway of Love) was washed out by a landslide; the park hopes to reopen it soon—inquire locally. If it’s open, here’s how to find the trailhead: Face the front of the train station in Riomaggiore (#1), go up the stairs to the right, following signs for Via dell’Amore. The photo-worthy promenade winds along the coast to Manarola (#2). A long tunnel and mega-nets protect hikers from mean-spirited falling rocks. A recommended wine bar, Bar & Vini A Piè de Mà, is located at the Riomaggiore trailhead and offers light meals and awesome views. There’s a picnic zone, a water fountain, and shade just above the Manarola station (and a WC at Manarola station). If the trail is closed, you can connect these towns by train or a scenic €4 boat trip.

Manarola-Corniglia (45 minutes): The walk from Manarola (#2) to Corniglia (#3) is a little longer, more rugged, and steeper than the Via dell’Amore. To avoid the last stretch (switchback stairs leading up to the hill-capping town of Corniglia), end your hike at Corniglia’s train station and catch the shuttle bus to the town center (2/hour, €1.50, free with Cinque Terre park card, usually timed to meet trains).

Corniglia-Vernazza (1.5 hours): The scenic hike from Corniglia (#3) to Vernazza (#4)—the wildest and greenest section of the coast—is rewarding but hilly. From the Corniglia station and beach, zigzag up to the town (via the steep stairs, the longer road, or the shuttle bus). The trail leads you through vineyards and lots of fragrant and flowery vegetation. If you need a break before reaching Vernazza, stop by Franco’s Ristorante and Bar la Torre, with a strip of shady tables perched high above the town.


The trail views are worth the effort.

Vernazza-Monterosso (1.5 hours): The trail from Vernazza (#4) to Monterosso (#5) is a challenging but scenic up-and-down-a-lot trek. Trails are narrow, steep, and crumbly, with a lot of steps, but easy to follow. The views just out of Vernazza, looking back at the town, are spectacular. From there you’ll gradually ascend, passing little waterfalls. As you approach Monterosso, you’ll descend steeply—on tall, knee-testing stairs—through vineyards, eventually following a rivulet to the sea. The last stretch into Monterosso is along a pleasant, paved pathway clinging to the cliff. You’ll end right at Monterosso’s old town beach.

Longer Hikes

While the national park charges admission for the coastal trails, they also maintain a free, far more extensive network of trails higher in the hills. Shuttle buses make the going easier, connecting coastal villages and distant trailheads. Ask for pointers at a TI or park office. Manarola-based Cinque Terre Trekking is a good resource (daily 9:00-13:00 & 14:00-20:00, Via Discovolo 136, tel. 0187-920-715).

Manarola-Volastra-Corniglia via the High Road (2.5 hours) leads from Manarola up to the village of Volastra, then north through high-altitude vineyard terraces, and steeply down through a forest to Corniglia (about six miles total). You can shave the two steepest miles off this route by taking the shuttle bus from Manarola up to Volastra (€1.50, free with Cinque Terre park card, schedule at park office, about hourly, 15 minutes). Another good option is hiking between Monterosso and Levanto (about 3.5 hours one-way, moderately strenuous, take the train to or from Levanto one-way).


Coastal trails are busiest at midday—hike early or late.


(Town #1)

Riomaggiore is a laid-back, workaday town that feels more “real” than its touristy neighbors. The main drag through town, while traffic-free, feels more urban than “village,” and surrounding the harbor is a fascinating tangle of pastel homes leaning on each other like drunken sailors.


Arrival in Riomaggiore: The train station is separated from the town center by a steep hill. The easiest way to get into town is to take the pedestrian tunnel that begins by the big mural (and parallels the rail tunnel). You’ll exit at the bottom of Via Colombo, the main street. Other options: You can take my self-guided walk into town (see next page); catch the shuttle bus at the bottom of Via Colombo and ride it partway up; or ride the elevator up from the pedestrian tunnel (€1/person, daily 7:00-18:00). The boat docks near the base of Via Colombo. Drivers can park at one of two pay-and-display lots above town (€3.50/hour, €23/day, best to pay in cash).


Tourist Information: The TI is in the train station at the ticket desk (daily 8:00-20:00, shorter hours off-season, tel. 0187-920-633). If it’s crowded, you can buy your hiking pass at the Cinque Terre park info/shop office next door (daily 8:00-20:00, shorter hours off-season, tel. 0187-760-515).

Internet Access: The park info/shop office has four public computers with Internet access upstairs, plus Wi-Fi (€1.50/20 minutes, free with Cinque Terre park card). The recommended Bar Centrale and La Zorza Café both offer free Wi-Fi with the purchase of a drink.

Services: A WC is near the Co-op grocery on Via Colombo, and another is under the tunnel where the street dead-ends.

image Riomaggiore Walk

This partly uphill but easy self-guided loop takes the long way from the station into town. Enjoy some fine views before strolling down the main street to the harbor.

✵ Start at the train station. (If you arrive by boat, cross beneath the tracks and take a left, then hike through the tunnel along the tracks to reach the station.) You’ll see some...


Jumping for joy in Riomaggiore

Colorful Murals: These murals, created by Argentinean artist Silvio Benedetto, glorify the nameless workers who constructed the nearly 300 million cubic feet of dry-stone walls that run throughout the Cinque Terre. The walls, made without mortar, give the region its characteristic muri a secco terracing for vineyards and olive groves.

Looking left, notice the stairs climbing up just past the station building. These lead to the trail to Manarola, also known as the Via dell’Amore.

✵ The fastest way into town is to take the pedestrian tunnel (which parallels the tracks from near the murals) straight to the bottom of Via Colombo, just above the marina. But I’d rather take the scenic route, up and over the hill. Facing the mural, turn left, then go right up the wide street just before the station café. Take the stairs leading through the garden on your right to the upper switchback, then, once on high ground, hook back toward the sea. Soon you’ll pass the concrete tower marking the top of an elevator near the tunnel entrance, and a bit farther, a fine viewpoint.

Top o’ the Town: Here you’re treated to spectacular sea views. Hook left around the bluff; once you round the bend, ignore the steps marked Marina Seacoast (which lead to the harbor) and continue another five minutes along level ground to the church. You’ll pass under the city hall, with murals celebrating the heroic grape-pickers and fishermen of the region (also by Silvio Benedetto).

✵ Before reaching the church, pause to enjoy the...

Town View: The major river of this region once ran through this valley, as implied by the name Riomaggiore (local dialect for “river” and “major”). As in the other Cinque Terre towns, the river ravine is now paved over. The romantic arched bridges that once connected the two sides have been replaced by a practical modern road.

The church (established in 1340 and rebuilt in 1870) is dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Genoa, the maritime republic that once dominated the region.

✵ Continue straight past the church and along the narrow lane, watching on the right for wide stairs leading down to Riomaggiore’s main street...

Via Colombo: Starting downhill, you’ll pass (on the right, at #62) a good pizzeria/focacceria, facing the Co-op grocery store across the street (at #55). Farther down on the left is the town butcher (macelleria, #103). The big covered terrace on the right belongs to Bar Centrale (at #144), the town’s most popular hangout.

As you round the bend to the left, notice the old-timey pharmacy just above (on the right). On your left, at #199, peek into the Il Pescato Cucinato shop, where Laura fries up her husband Edoardo’s fresh catch; grab a paper cone of deep-fried seafood as a snack. Where the road bends sharply right, notice the bench on your left (just before La Zorza Café)—the hangout for the town’s old-timers, who keep a running commentary on the steady flow of people. Straight ahead, you can already see where this street will dead-end. The last shop on the left, Alimentari Franca (at #251), is a well-stocked grocery where you can gather the makings for a picnic.

Where Via Colombo dead-ends, look right to see the tunnel leading back to the station (and the Via dell’Amore to Manarola). Look left to see two sets of stairs. The “up” stairs take you to a park-like square built over the train tracks, which provides the children of the town level land on which to kick their soccer balls. The murals above celebrate the great-grandparents of these very children—the salt-of-the-earth locals who earned a humble living before the age of tourism.

✵ The “down” stairs take you to a pay WC and the...

Marina: This most picturesque corner of Riomaggiore features a cluster of buildings huddling nervously around a postage-stamp square and vest-pocket harbor. Because Riomaggiore lacks the protected harbor of Vernazza, when bad weather is expected, fishermen pull their boats up to the safety of the square. It’s a team effort—the signal goes out, and anyone with a boat of their own helps move the whole fleet. Sometimes the fishermen are busy beaching their boats even on a bright, sunny day—an indication that they know something you don’t know.

A couple of restaurants—with high prices and memorable seating—look down over the action. Head past them and up the walkway along the left side of the harbor. Enjoy the views of the town’s colorful pastel buildings, with the craggy coastline just beyond. Below you, the breakwater curves out to sea. These rocks are popular with sunbathers by day and romantics at sunset.


Riomaggiore’s harbor

For a peek at Riomaggiore’s beach, continue around the bluff on this trail toward the Punta di Montenero, the cape that defines the southern end of the Cinque Terre. As you walk you’ll pass the rugged boat landing and eventually run into Riomaggiore’s beach (spiaggia). Ponder how Europeans manage to look relaxed when lounging on football-sized “pebbles.”


Riomaggiore’s rugged beach (spiaggia) is rocky, but still peaceful and inviting. There’s a shower here in the summer, and another closer to town by the boat landing—where many enjoy sunning on and jumping from the rocks.

The town has a diving center that rents scuba, snorkeling, and kayaking gear (daily May-Sept 9:00-18:00, open in good weather only—likely weekends only in shoulder season, office down the stairs and under the tracks on Via San Giacomo, tel. 0187-920-011, Kayak at your own risk. Some readers say that the kayaks tip easily, training is not provided, and lifejackets are not required.

A hiking trail rises scenically from Riomaggiore to the 14th-century Madonna di Montenero sanctuary, high above the town (45 minutes). Take the main road inland until you see signs, or ride the shuttle bus 12 minutes from the town center to the sanctuary trail, then walk uphill another 10 minutes. There’s a great picnic spot up top.


Bar Centrale, run by sociable Ivo and Alberto, serves €8-10 pizza, pasta, and popular American fare, with rock music and a fun-loving vibe. During the day, it feels like the village’s living room. At night, it offers the liveliest action and best mojitos in town. This popular expat hangout is also a good spot for breakfast (daily 7:30 until late, closed Mon in winter, 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi with drink, Via Colombo 144, tel. 0187-920-208).

Trattoria la Grotta, also in the town center, serves reliable food with a passion for anchovies and mussels in a dramatic, cave-like setting (€11-14 pastas, €11-15 secondi, daily 12:00-14:30 & 17:30-22:30, closed Thu in winter, Via Colombo 247, tel. 0187-920-187). The same family runs the upscale Il Grottino Ristorante next door (same hours, tel. 0187-920-938).

Bar & Vini A Piè de Mà, at the trailhead of Via dell’Amore, on the Manarola end of town, has piles of charm. A meal or cocktail (€6) on its terrace offers dramatic views and a memory (€8-12 dishes, €4 panini, daily 10:00-20:00, June-Sept until 24:00, free Wi-Fi—password on chalkboard, tel. 0187-921-037).


La Zorza Café is a hip, youthful alternative to the other bars in town, with thumping music, a free-style bartender, and a spread of snacks (€6 cocktails, spring-fall daily until late, winter until 21:00, free Wi-Fi with drink, tel. 0187-920-036).

Enoteca & Ristorante Dau Cila (pronounced “dow CHEE-lah”) is a cool hideaway in a centuries-old boat shed on the harbor, with extra tables on a rustic deck. It’s also cool for cocktails, with a mellow jazz-and-Brazilian-lounge ambience (€9-12 salads and bruschette for lunch; €12-19 pastas, €15-18 secondi; daily 12:00-24:00, closed Jan-Feb and Mon in March, Via San Giacomo 65, tel. 0187-760-032).

Various eateries along the main drag, which you’ll encounter on my self-guided walk, offer good lunches or snacks. At the top of town, the nameless pizzeria/focacceria at #62 is a reliable standby (€3 slices). For deep-fried seafood in a paper cone, try Il Pescato Cucinato, where the chalkboard out front explains what’s fresh (€5-9, daily 11:20-20:30, Via Colombo 199, mobile 339-262-4815), or Siamo Fritti, a few doors away (€5-9, daily 10:00-21:00, Via Colombo 161, mobile 347-826-1729).

For picnic supplies, head to handy Alimentari Franca, at the bottom of the main street, conveniently located right by the train-station tunnel and stairs down to the marina (Thu-Tue 8:00-12:45 & 15:30-19:00, closed Wed in winter, Via Colombo 251).


(Town #2)

Mellow Manarola feels just right. Its hillsides are blanketed with vineyards and it provides the easiest access to the Cinque Terre’s remarkable dry-stone terraces. The trail ringing the town’s cemetery peninsula provides some of the most accessible and most striking views anywhere.

The town fills a ravine, bookended by its harbor to the west and a hilltop church square to the east. The touristy zone squeezed between the train tracks and the harbor can be congested, but just a few steps uphill, you can breathe again. The higher you go, the less crowded it gets, culminating in the residential zone that clings to the ridge.





Arrival in Manarola: The town is attached to its train station by a 200-yard-long tunnel. Walking through the tunnel, you’ll reach Manarola’s elevated square. To reach the busy harbor, cross the piazza, then go down the other side. To reach the town, hilltop church, and vineyard strolls, turn right. The boat docks near the base of the main street and the start of my self-guided walk. Drivers can park in one of the two lots just before town (€2/hour), then walk down the road to the church; from there, the street twists down to the main piazza, train-station tunnel, and harbor.

Tourist Information: The TI/national park information office is in the train station (likely daily 7:30-19:30, shorter hours off-season).

Shuttle Bus: The ATC shuttle bus runs from near the post office (halfway up Manarola’s main street), stopping first at the parking lots above town, and then going up to Volastra (€1.50 one-way, buy ticket on board for €2.50, free with Cinque Terre park card, about hourly), which hardy hikers can use as the jumping-off point for a hike to Corniglia (a higher-altitude alternative to the regular Manarola-Corniglia hike).

Hiking Gear and Tips: Cinque Terre Trekking, near the top of the main street (halfway up to the church), fills its cramped shop with hiking gear (boots, clothes, walking sticks, and more); they also sell hiking maps and offer free advice (daily 9:00-13:00 & 14:00-20:00, shorter hours off-season, Via Discovolo 136, tel. 0187-920-715).

image Manarola Walk

From the harbor, this 30-minute, self-guided circular walk shows you the town and surrounding vineyards and ends at a fantastic viewpoint, perfect for a picnic.

✵ Start down at the waterfront. Belly up to the wooden banister overlooking the rocky harbor, between the two restaurants.

The Harbor: Manarola is a picturesque tumble of buildings bunny-hopping down its ravine to the fun-loving waterfront. The breakwater was built just over a decade ago.

Facing the water, look up to the right, at the hillside Punta Bonfiglio cemetery and park. The trail running around the base of the point—where this walk ends—offers magnificent views.

The town’s swimming hole is just below you. Manarola has no sand, but offers the best deep-water swimming in the area. The first “beach” has a shower, ladder, and wonderful rocks. The second has tougher access and no shower, but feels more pristine (follow the paved path toward Corniglia, just around the point). For many, the tricky access makes this “beach” dangerous.

✵ Hiking inland up the town’s main drag, climb a steep ramp to reach Manarola’s “new” square, which covers the train tracks.

Piazza Capellini: This square gives the town a safe, fun zone for kids. Locals living near the tracks also enjoy less train noise. Check out the mosaic in the middle of the square, which depicts the varieties of local fish in colorful enamel. The recommended Ristorante di Aristide has an inviting terrace right out on the square.

✵ Go down the stairs at the upper end of the square. On your right, notice the tunnel that leads to Manarola’s train station (and the trailhead for the Via dell’Amore to Riomaggiore). But for now, head up...

Via Discovolo: The sleepy main street twists up through town, lined by modest shops. Just before the road bends sharply right, watch (on the right) for a waterwheel. Mills like this once powered the local olive oil industry. Manarola’s stream was covered over by a modern sewage system after World War II. Before then, romantic bridges arched over its ravine. You can peek below the concrete street in several places to see the stream surging below your feet.

Across the street from the waterwheel and a bit farther up, notice the Cinque Terre Trekking shop (on your left).

✵ Keep switchbacking up until you come to the square at the...

Top of Manarola: The square is faced by a church, an oratory, and a bell tower, which once served as a watchtower. Behind the church is a youth hostel, originally the church’s schoolhouse. To the right of the oratory, a stepped lane leads to Manarola’s residential zone. The recommended Trattoria dal Billy is nearby (see map).

According to the white marble plaque in its facade, the Parish Church of St. Lawrence (San Lorenzo) dates from “MCCCXXXVIII” (1338). Step inside to see two late-15th-century altarpiece paintings from the unnamed Master of the Cinque Terre, the only painter of any note from this region (left wall and above main altar). The humble painted stone ceiling features Lawrence, the patron saint of the Cinque Terre, with his grill, the symbol of his martyrdom (he was roasted on it).

✵ With the bell tower on your left, head about 20 yards down the main street below the church and find a wooden railing. It marks the start of a stroll around the high side of town, and back to the seafront. This is the beginning of the...


Church of St. Lawrence

Manarola Vineyard Walk: Don’t miss this experience. Follow the wooden railing, enjoying lemon groves and wild red valerian. Along the mostly flat path, you’ll get a close-up look at the dry-stone walls and finely crafted vineyards (with dried-heather thatches to protect the grapes from the southwest winds). Smell the rosemary and pick out the remains of an old fort. Notice the S-shape of the main road—once a riverbed. The town’s roofs are made of locally quarried slate, rather than tile, and are held down by rocks during windstorms.

Halfway along the lip of the ravine, a path marked Volastra panoramico (Corniglia) leads steeply up into the vineyards on the right. This path passes a variety of simple wooden religious scenes, the work of local resident Mario Andreoli. Before his father died, Mario promised him he’d replace the old cross on the family’s vineyard—he’s been adding figures ever since.

High above, a recent fire burned off the tree cover, revealing ancient terraces that line the terrain. This path also marks the start of the scenic route to Volastra (on the hilltop above), and eventually to Corniglia (see here).

✵ Continue on the level trail around the base of the hill. Soon the harbor comes into view. Keep looping around the hill for even better views of town. Once you’re facing the sea (with the cemetery peninsula below you), the trail takes a sharp left and heads down toward the water. When you hit the clifftop fence, the T-intersection gives you a choice: right, to the coastal trail to Corniglia, or left, back to town. Turn left for now. Before descending, watch for the turnoff on the right, detouring into...

The Cemetery: Ever since Napoleon—who was king of Italy in the early 1800s—decreed that cemeteries were health risks, Cinque Terre’s burial spots have been located outside the towns. The result: The dearly departed get first-class views. Each cemetery—with evocative yellowed photos and finely carved Carrara marble memorials—is worth a visit.

✵ The Manarola cemetery is on...

Punta Bonfiglio: This point offers commanding views of the entire region. For the best vantage point, take the stairs just below the cemetery (through the green gate), then walk farther out toward the water through a park. Your Manarola finale is the bench at the tip of the point. Pause and take in the view. The easiest way back to town is to take the stairs at the end of the point, which join the main walking path—offering more views on its way back to the harbor.


These restaurant options are listed from lowest to highest, in terms of quality and elevation.

Touristy restaurants are concentrated in the tight zone between Piazza Capellini and the harbor. While these are mostly interchangeable, the Scorza family works hard at Trattoria il Porticciolo (€7-13 pastas, €10-16 secondi, Thu-Tue 7:30-23:30, closed Wed, Via Birolli 92, tel. 0187-920-083).


Cinque Terre Cuisine

Hanging out at a seaview restaurant while sampling local specialties could become one of your favorite memories.

The staple here is anchovies (acciughe; ah-CHOO-gay)—ideally served the day they’re caught. Even if you’ve always hated American anchovies, try them fresh here. They can be prepared marinated, butterflied, and deep-fried (sometimes with a delicious garlic/vinegar sauce called giada). Tegame alla vernazzana is the most typical main course in Vernazza: a casserole-like dish of whole anchovies, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Antipasto here means antipasti ai frutti di mare (sometimes called simply antipasti misti), a plate of mixed “fruits of the sea.” Splitting one of these and a pasta dish can be plenty for two people.

This region is the birthplace of pesto. Try it on trenette (the long, flat Ligurian noodle ruffled on one side) or trofie (short, dense twists made of flour with a bit of potato).

Pansotti are ravioli with ricotta and a mixture of greens, often served with a walnut sauce (salsa di noci).

Focaccia, the tasty pillowy bread, also originates here. Locals say the best focaccia is made between the Cinque Terre and Genoa. It comes plain or with onions, sage, or olive bits and is sold in rounds or slices by weight (a portion is about 100 grams, or un etto).

The vino delle Cinque Terre, while not one of Italy’s top wines, flows cheap and easy throughout the region. It’s white—great with seafood. Sciacchetrà dessert wine is worth the splurge (€4-12 per small glass). Order torta della nonna (“grandmother’s cake”) and dunk chunks of it into your glass.

Ristorante di Aristide, right on Piazza Capellini, offers trendy atmosphere and a pleasant outdoor setting (€8-11 pastas, €11-20 secondi, €12-18 daily specials). Down the stairs, at the bottom of the main street, is their simpler café (€5 omelets, €7 pizzas, sandwiches, salads; Tue-Sun café open 8:00-22:30, restaurant 12:00-22:30, both closed Thu and Jan-Feb, Via Discovolo 290, tel. 0187-920-000).

Via Discovolo, the main street climbing up through town from Piazza Capellini to the church, is lined with simpler places, including some grocery stores and a gelateria.

Up at the top of town, in the residential zone above the church, Trattoria dal Billy offers both good food and impressive views over the valley. With black pasta with seafood and squid ink, mixed seafood starters, and homemade desserts, it’s worth the climb. Across the street is an elegant dining room carved into the rock—perfect for a romantic candlelight meal. Dinner reservations are a must (€8-12 pastas, €13-20 secondi, generally daily 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:00, sometimes closed Thu, Via Aldo Rollandi 122, tel. 0187-920-628,


(Town #3)

According to legend, this tiny, sleepy town’s ancient residents produced a wine so famous that vases found at Pompeii touted its virtues. Wine remains Corniglia’s lifeblood today.

The only town of the Cinque Terre not on the water, Corniglia (pop. 240) is less visited and feels remote. If you think of the Cinque Terre as the Beatles, Corniglia is Ringo. It has cooler temperatures, a windy overlook on its promontory, and rocky sea access below its train station. The one-time beach has all been washed away. Signs that say al mare or Marina lead from the town center steeply down to sunning rocks. There are a few restaurants.


Arrival in Corniglia: From the train station, located deep in a ravine, a footpath zigzags up 385 steps to town (allow at least 15 minutes). Thankfully, the shuttle bus—generally timed to meet arriving trains—connects the station with the hill town’s Ciappà square (€1.50 one-way at ticket office, or buy as you board for €2.50, free with Cinque Terre park card, 1-2/hour). Drivers can park past Villa Cecio.

Rick’s Tip: To avoid the steep hike to Corniglia and the long descent to the train station, use the handy shuttle bus. Upon arrival in town (where a schedule is posted at the bus stop), jot down the departure times for the bus and plan your time accordingly.

Tourist Information: A TI/park information office is at the train station (daily 8:00-20:00, shorter hours off-season).


image Corniglia Walk

This self-guided walk might take up to 30 minutes...but only if you let yourself browse and lick a gelato cone.

✵ Begin near the bus stop, located at a...

Town Square: The gateway to this community is Ciappà square, with an ATM, phone booth, old wine press, and bus stop (shuttle buses timed to coordinate with train schedules).

✵ Look for the arrow pointing to the centro. Stroll the spine of Corniglia, Via Fieschi. In the fall, the smell of grapes becoming wine wafts from busy cellars. Along this main street, you’ll see...

Corniglia’s Enticing Shops: On the right as you enter Via Fieschi, a pair of neighboring, fiercely competitive gelaterias jockey for your business. My favorite is Alberto’s Gelateria (at #74). Before ordering, get a free taste of miele di Corniglia, made from local honey.

Farther along, on the left, Enoteca il Pirùn—named for an oddly shaped old-fashioned wine pitcher—is located in a cool cantina at Via Fieschi 115. Sample some local wines (small tastes generally free, €3/glass). If you drink out of the pirùn, Mario will give you a bib. While this is a practical matter (rookies are known to dribble), it also makes a nice souvenir.

In the Butiega shop at Via Fieschi 142, Vincenzo and Veronica sell organic local specialties (€3 sandwiches and antipasti misti priced by the weight, daily 8:00-19:30). There are good places to picnic farther along on this walk.


Tiny Corniglia

✵ Following Via Fieschi, you’ll end up at the...

Main Square: On Largo Taragio, tables from two bars and a trattoria spill around a WWI memorial and the town’s old well. What looks like a church is the Oratory of Santa Caterina. Up the stairs behind the oratory, you’ll find a clearing that children use as a soccer field. The stone benches and viewpoint make it a peaceful place for a picnic.

✵ From the square, continue up Via Fieschi to the...

End-of-Town Viewpoint: The Santa Maria Belvedere, named for a church that once stood here, marks the scenic end of Corniglia and makes a super—but sometimes crowded—picnic spot. High to the west (right), the village and sanctuary of San Bernardino straddle a ridge. Below is the tortuous harbor, where locals hoist their boats onto the cruel rocks.


The typical array of pizzerias, focaccerias, and alimentari (grocery stores) line the narrow main drag. For a real meal, consider one of these options.

Osteria Mananan—between the Ciappà bus stop and the main square—serves the best food in town in its stony, elegant interior (€10 pastas, €10-16 secondi, Wed-Mon 12:30-14:30 & 19:30-22:00, closed Tue, no outdoor seating, Via Fieschi 117, tel. 0187-821-166).

Enoteca il Pirùn, next door on Via Fieschi, has a small restaurant above the wine bar (€8-10 pastas, €10-16 secondi, €28 fixed-price meal includes homemade wine, daily 12:00-16:00 & 19:30-23:30, tel. 0187-812-315).

La Posada Ristorante offers dinner in a garden under trees, overlooking the Ligurian Sea. To get here, stroll out of town to the top of the stairs that lead down to the station (€8-10 pastas, €10-16 secondi, €18 tourist fixed-price meal, daily 12:00-16:00 & 19:00-23:00, tel. 0187-821-174, mobile 338-232-5734).

La Lanterna, on the main square, is atmospheric, but without particularly charming service (€10-14 pastas, €10-18 secondi, daily 12:00-15:00 & 19:30-21:30).


(Town #4)

With a ruined castle and a stout stone church, Vernazza is the jewel of the Cinque Terre. Only the occasional noisy train reminds you of the modern world.

Proud of their Vernazzan heritage, local families go back centuries; several generations live together. Fearing the change it would bring, keep-Vernazza-small proponents stopped the construction of a major road into the town and region. Leisure time is devoted to taking part in the passeggiata—strolling lazily together up and down the main street. Learn—and live—the phrase “la vita pigra di Vernazza” (the lazy life of Vernazza).

The action is at the harbor, where you’ll find outdoor restaurants, a bar hanging on the edge of the castle, and a breakwater with a promenade, corralled by a natural amphitheater of terraced hills. In the summer, the beach becomes a soccer field, with teams fielded by bars and restaurants providing late-night entertainment.


Arrival in Vernazza: The town’s train station is only about three train cars long, but the trains are much longer—so most of the cars come to a stop in a long, dark tunnel. Open the door, get out, and walk through the tunnel to the station. From there the main drag flows through town right to the harbor. The boats dock at the harborfront square, at the base of main street. Don’t drive to Vernazza. Roads are in terrible shape and parking is limited. If you’re coming from the north, park in Levanto. If arriving from the south, park your car in La Spezia. From either town, hop on the train.

Rick’s Tip: A steep 10-minute hike in either direction from Vernazza gives you a classic village photo op. For the best light, head toward Corniglia in the morning—best views are just before the ticket booth for the national park—and toward Monterosso in the evening—best views are after the ticket booth.

Tourist Information: Two information points at the train station face each other across the platform: the gift shop, where you can get answers to basic questions (daily 8:00-20:00, closed in winter), and the train ticket desk/park office (likely daily 8:00-20:00, shorter hours off-season, tel. 0187-812-533). Public WCs are just behind.






Internet Access: The Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre bar (behind/above the train station) and Blue Marlin Bar (along the main street) both offer free Wi-Fi with a purchase. The slick, expensive Internet Point is in the village center (daily June-Oct 9:30-23:00, until 20:00 Nov-May).

Baggage Storage: You can leave your bags at the train-station gift shop (near track 1). Bags are kept in a secure room below the tracks on the main street, but you can only access them during shop hours (€1/hour, €10/day, daily 8:00-20:00, closed in winter). Friendly Francesco and his staff will happily take your luggage from the train station to your hotel—and back (€2-3/piece).

image Vernazza Walk

This walk includes the town squares and ends on the scenic breakwater.

✵ From the train station, walk uphill along the stream until you hit the small square in front of the recommended Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre café, near the post office. The stream in this ravine once powered Vernazza’s water mill. Shuttle buses run from here to hamlets and sanctuaries in the hills above.

Walk to the tidy, modern square called...

Fontana Vecchia: Named after a long-gone fountain, this is where older locals remember the river filled with townswomen doing their washing. A steep lane leads from here up to the cemetery (20-minute hike) and to the sanctuary beyond that (1-hour hike). It’s marked by an icon of Madonna di Reggio, beloved by the people of Vernazza. Imagine the entire village sadly trudging up here during funerals. (The cemetery is evocative at sunset, when the fading light touches each crypt.)

You may see some construction work going on here. Following the 2011 flood, Vernazza attracted worldwide sympathy. Having enjoyed many relaxing vacations in Vernazza, architect Richard Rogers (who designed London’s Millennium Dome) wanted to give something back. He helped redesign the spine of the town (basically the route of this walk). Over the next several years, his plans will reshape Vernazza—making it more modern, but keeping its traditional soul.

✵ Begin your saunter downhill to the harbor. Just before the Pensione Sorriso sign, on your right (at #7, with big brown garage doors and a croce verde Vernazza sign), you’ll see the...

Ambulance Barn: A group of volunteers is always on call for a dash to the hospital, 40 minutes away in La Spezia. A few steps farther down is the town clinic. The guarda medica (emergency doctor) sleeps upstairs.

✵ At the corner across from the playground, on a marble plaque in the wall on the left, you’ll see a...

World Wars Monument: This is dedicated to those killed in World Wars I and II. Listed on the left are soldiers morti in combattimento, who died in World War I; on the right is the WWII section. Some were deported to Germania; others—labeled Part (for partigiani, or partisans, generally communists)—were killed while fighting against Mussolini. After 1943, Hitler called up Italian boys over 15. Rather than die on the front for Hitler, they escaped to the hills to remain free.

The path to Corniglia leaves from here (behind and above the plaque). Behind you is a small square, decorated with big millstones, once used to grind local olives into oil.

From here, Vernazza’s tiny river goes underground. Until the 1950s, the river ran openly through the center of town. Old-timers recall the days before the breakwater, when the river cascaded down and the surf sent waves rolling up Vernazza’s main drag. (The name “Vernazza” is actually local dialect for “little Venice”—the town once had a string of bridges, evoking those in Venice.)

Corralling this stream under the modern street, and forcing it to take a hard right turn here, contributed to the damage caused by the 2011 flood. After the flood, alpine engineers were imported from Switzerland to redesign the drainage system, so any future floods will be less destructive. They also installed nets above the town to protect it from landslides.

On the left, just past the tracks, you’ll see a giant poster with photos of the 2011 flood (alluvione) and the shops that it devastated. “The 25th of October” is a day that will live forever in this town’s lore.

✵ Follow the road downhill to...

Vernazza’s “Commercial Center”: Here, you’ll pass many locals doing their vasche (laps). Next, you’ll pass souvenir shops, wine shops, the recommended Blue Marlin Bar, and the tiny stone Chapel of Santa Marta, where Mass is celebrated only on special Sundays. Above and behind the chapel is the Vineria Santa Marta wine bar. Farther down, you’ll walk by a gelateria, bakery, pharmacy, a grocery, and another gelateria. There are plenty of fun and cheap food-to-go options here.

✵ On the left, in front of the second gelateria, a stone arch was blasted away by the 2011 flood. Scamper through the hole in the rock to reach Vernazza’s shrinking...

“New Beach”: In the flood’s aftermath, Vernazza’s main drag and harbor were filled with mud and silt. Workers used the debris to fill in even more of this beach, and for several years Vernazza had a popular beach that felt a world away from the bustle of the main drag. But as time goes on, the erosion from the churning surf is taking it away.

✵ Back on the main drag, continue downhill to the...

Harbor Square (Piazza Marconi) and Breakwater: Vernazza, with the only natural harbor of the Cinque Terre, was established as the sole place boats could pick up the fine local wine. The two-foot-high square stone at the foot of the stairs (on the left) is marked Sasso del Sego (stone of tallow). Workers crushed animal flesh and fat in its basin to make tallow, which drained out of the tiny hole below. The tallow was then used to waterproof boats or wine barrels. Stonework is the soul of the region. Take some time to appreciate the impressive stonework of the restaurant interiors facing the harbor.

On the far side (behind the recommended Ristorante Pizzeria Vulnetia), peek into the tiny street with its commotion of arches. Vernazza’s most characteristic side streets, called carugi, lead up from here. The narrow stairs mark the beginning of the trail that leads up to the quintessential view of Vernazza—and, eventually, on to Monterosso.

Located in front of the harborside church, the tiny piazza—decorated with a river-rock mosaic—is a popular hangout spot. The church is unusual for its strange entryway, which faces east (altar side), rather than the more typical western orientation. In the 16th century, the townspeople doubled the church in size, causing it to overtake a little piazza that once faced the west facade. From the square, use the “new” entry and climb the steps. Inside, the lighter pillars in the back mark the 16th-century extension. Three historic portable crosses hanging on the walls are replicas of crosses that (locals believe) Vernazza ships once carried on crusades.


✵ Finish your town tour seated out on the breakwater. Face the town, and see...

The Harbor: In a moderate storm, you’d be soaked, as waves routinely crash over the molo (breakwater, built in 1972). Waves can rearrange the huge rocks—depositing them onto the piazza and its benches. Freak waves have even washed away tourists. Enjoy the waterfront piazza—carefully.

Vernazza’s fishing fleet is down to just a few boats (with the net spools). Vernazzans are still more likely to own a boat than a car, and it’s said that you stand a better chance of surviving if you mess with a local man’s wife than with his boat. Boats are on buoys, except in winter or when the red storm flag (see the pole at the start of the breakwater) indicates bad seas. At these times, the boats are pulled up onto the square—which is usually reserved for restaurant tables.

The Castle (Castello Doria): On the far right, the castle, which is now a grassy park with great views (and nothing but stones), still guards the town (€1.50 donation, daily 10:00-18:30; from harbor, take stairs by Trattoria Gianni and follow Ristorante al Castello signs, tower is a few steps beyond). This was the town’s watchtower back in pirate days, and a Nazi lookout in World War II. The castle tower looks new because it was rebuilt after the British bombed it, chasing out the Germans. The squat tower on the water is a great spot for a glass of wine or a meal (from the breakwater, you can follow the rope to Ristorante Belforte and pop inside, past the actual submarine door; a photo of a major storm showing the entire tower under a wave—not uncommon in the winter—hangs near the bar).

The Town: Before the 12th century, pirates made the coast uninhabitable, so the first Vernazzans lived in the hills above (near the Reggio Sanctuary). The town itself—and its towers, fortified walls, and hillside terracing—are mostly from the 12th through the 15th centuries.

Vernazza has two halves. Sciuiu (Vernazzan dialect for “flowery”) is the sunny side on the left, and luvegu (dank) is the shady side on the right. Houses below the castle were connected by an interior arcade. The square before you is locally famous for some of the area’s finest restaurants. The big red central house—on the site where Genoan warships were built in the 12th century—used to be a guardhouse.

In the Middle Ages, there was no beach or square. The water went right up to the buildings, where boats would tie up, Venetian-style. Buildings had a water gate and a front door on the higher inland side. There was no pastel plaster—just fine stonework (traces survive above the Trattoria del Capitano).

Above the Town: The small, round tower above the red guardhouse reminds us of the town’s importance in the Middle Ages. Back then, Back then, the enemies of key ally Genoa were Vernazza’s enemies. Franco’s Ristorante and Bar la Torre, just above and beyond the tower, welcomes hikers starting or finishing the Corniglia-Vernazza hike. That tower recalls a time when the entire town was fortified by a stone wall. Vineyards fill the mountainside beyond the town; notice the many terraces.


Castle at Vernazza

The Church, School, and City Hall: Vernazza’s Ligurian Gothic church, built with black stones quarried from Punta Mesco (the distant point behind you), dates from 1318. The gray stone marks the church’s 16th-century expansion. The gray-and-red house above the spire is the elementary school. Older students go to the “big city,” La Spezia. The red building to the right of the schoolhouse, a former monastery, is the city hall.

Finally, on the top of the hill is the town cemetery. It’s only fair that hardworking Vernazzans—who spend their lives climbing up and down the hillsides—are rewarded with an eternal world-class view.


The harbor’s sandy cove has sunning rocks and showers by the breakwater. There’s also a ladder on the breakwater for deep-water access. The sunbathing lane directly under the church has a shower. Vernazza’s “new beach” can be accessed through a hole halfway along its main drag.


Santa Margherita Church

Save Vernazza began as a post-flood relief organization but has evolved into an advocacy group, emphasizing sustainable tourism. “Voluntourism” activities, scheduled regularly through the high season, include rebuilding terrace walls and harvesting grapes (reservations required, lunch and wine provided, generally 2/week late May-Oct 8:30-13:30, mobile 349-357-3572,,

Vernazza’s skimpy business community is augmented Tuesday mornings (8:00-13:00), when cars and trucks pull into town for a tailgate market.


Vernazza’s restaurants are worth the splurge. All take pride in their cooking. Wander around at about 20:00 and compare the ambience, but don’t wait too long—many kitchens close at 22:00. To get an outdoor table on summer weekends, reserve ahead. Expect to spend around €10-12 for pastas, €14-21 for secondi, and €2-3 for a cover charge.

Harborside restaurants and bars are easygoing. You’re welcome to grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine and disappear somewhere on the breakwater, returning your glass when you’re done.

Rick’s Tip: If you dine in Vernazza but are staying in Monterosso, be sure to check train schedules before sitting down to eat, as trains run less frequently in the evening (with a nearly 2-hour wait after the 21:30 departure).


Trattoria del Capitano serves a short menu of straightforward local dishes, including €12 spaghetti allo scoglio—pasta entangled with seafood (€8-14 pastas, €14-22 secondi, Feb-Nov Wed-Mon from 8:00 for breakfast, 12:00-15:30 & 18:30-22:00, closed Tue except in Aug, closed Dec-Jan, tel. 0187-812-201).

Gianni Franzi is an old standby with well-prepared seafood and reliable, friendly service. While the outdoor seating is basic, the indoor setting is classy (€9-14 pastas, €11-22 secondi, check their menù cucina tipica Vernazza, Thu-Tue 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-22:00, closed Wed except in Aug, tel. 0187-812-228).

Gambero Rosso is a venerable place with a fine interior and perhaps the best seating on the harbor (€10-16 pastas, €16-25 secondi, March-Nov Fri-Wed 12:00-16:30 & 19:00-22:00, closed Thu and Dec-Feb, Piazza Marconi 7, tel. 0187-812-265).

Ristorante Pizzeria Vulnetia has a jovial atmosphere and serves regional specialties and pizzas, making it a good choice for budget and family meals (€6-10 pizzas, €11-13 pastas, €13-18 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:00-22:00, closed Mon, Piazza Marconi 29, tel. 0187-821-193, Giuliano and Tullio).

Pizzeria Baia Saracena (“Saracen Bay”) is the other budget option on the harbor, with a memorable atmosphere and reasonable prices (€6-10 salads, €7-10 pizzas and pastas, Sat-Thu 10:30-22:00, closed Fri, tel. 0187-812-113, Luca).

By the Castle

Ristorante al Castello is high above town, just below the castle, with commanding views. Reserve one of the dozen romantic cliff-side seaview tables for two. Their “spaghetti on the rocks” (noodles with shellfish) is a family specialty (€15 pastas, €15-20 secondi, May-Oct Thu-Tue 12:00-15:00 for lunch, 19:00-22:00 for dinner, closed Wed and Nov-April, tel. 0187-812-296).

Ristorante Belforte serves a blend of traditional and creative cuisine. The off-menu baccalà pastellato plate takes fried cod to new heights. Reserve ahead for tables on the view terrace (€14-17 pastas, €22-30 secondi, April-Oct Wed-Mon 12:00-16:00 & 19:00-22:00, closed Tue and Nov-March, tel. 0187-812-222, Michela).

Vernazza Wine Experience hides out at the top of town, just under the castle. It’s romantic, with mellow music, wines, and the €10 small plates that match them. It’s pricey, but the quality is excellent and the view is unforgettable (daily 17:00-21:00, hike from harborfront and turn left before castle, Via S. Giovanni Battista 31, tel. 331-343-3801).

Rick’s Tip: After the restaurants close down, Vernazza is quiet except for a couple of nightspots: Blue Marlin Bar and Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre. All Vernazza bars must close by 24:00.

On or near the Main Street

Several of Vernazza’s inland eateries manage to compete without the harbor ambience, but with slightly cheaper prices.


Trattoria da Sandro, on the main drag, mixes quality cuisine, including award-winning stuffed mussels, with friendly service (€8-13 pastas, €13-18 secondi, Wed-Mon 12:00-15:00 & 18:30-22:00, closed Tue, Via Roma 62, tel. 0187-812-223).

Antica Osteria il Baretto is a solid bet for homey, reasonably priced traditional cuisine, including homemade fish ravioli (€9-14 pasta, €10-22 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:00-22:00, closed Mon, indoor and outdoor seating in summer, Via Roma 31, tel. 0187-812-381).

Blue Marlin Bar, just below the train station, serves a short, creative menu of more casual dishes. It also serves breakfast and dominates the late-night scene with home-cooked food until 23:00, good drinks, and occasional piano jam sessions (€6-8 pizzas, €9-10 pastas, €10-12 secondi, Thu-Tue 7:00-24:00, closed Wed). If you’re awaiting a train any time of day, the Blue Marlin’s outdoor seating beats the platform.

Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, behind and above the train station, is popular for breakfast and attracts many travelers for lunch and dinner. Don’t come here for the cuisine, but for a memorable evening with the Cannoli twins, who entertain while they serve, and aim their menu squarely at American taste buds (€10-14 pastas, €10 salads, daily 6:30-24:00, Via Gavino).

Other main-street eateries offer a fine range of quick meals. Forno Bakery has good focaccia and veggie tarts (at #5). Pino’s grocery store makes sandwiches to order (generally Mon-Sat 8:00-13:00 & 17:00-19:30, closed Sun).


Gelateria Vernazza, near the top of the main street, takes gelato seriously. Gelateria Amore Mio (midtown) has great people-watching tables but less exciting gelato. Out on the harbor, Gelateria Il Porticciolo is the best, with fresh ingredients and intense flavors.


People recommended here are listed for their communication skills (they speak English, have email, and are reliable with bookings). Anywhere you stay here requires some climbing, but keep in mind that more climbing means better views. Most do not include breakfast. Cash is preferred or required almost everywhere. Night noise can be a problem if you’re near the station. Rooms on the harbor come with church bells (but only between 7:00 and 22:00).


$$$ Gianni Franzi, a busy restaurant on the harbor square, rents 25 small rooms in three buildings—one funky, two modern—up a hundred tight, winding spiral stairs. The funky ones, which may or may not have private baths, are artfully decorated à la shipwreck, with tiny balconies and grand sea views (con vista sul mare). The comfy new (nuovo) rooms lack views. Both have modern bathrooms and access to a scenic, cliff-hanging garden. Pick up your keys at the Gianni Franzi restaurant on the harbor square (on Wed, when the restaurant is closed, call ahead to make other arrangements). Check in before 16:00 or call to explain when you’re coming (S-€55, D-€110, Db-€130, Tb-€160, view room-€20-30 extra, includes breakfast mid-April-mid-Oct, lower prices at other times, cancellations less than a week in advance charged one night’s deposit, closed Jan-Feb, Piazza Marconi 1, tel. 0187-812-228, tel. 0187-821-003, on Wed call mobile 393-9008-155,,

$$$ Pensione Sorriso, the oldest pension in town, rents 13 overpriced, tired rooms above the train station. While the building has charm, it comes with train noise and saggy beds (Sb-€65, D-€70, Db-€110, Db with air-con-€120, T-€90, Tb-€140, breakfast-€10, closed Nov-March, Via Gavino 4, tel. 0187-812-224,,

Sleep Code

Abbreviations: S=Single, D=Double/Twin, T=Triple, Q=Quad, b=bathroom

Price Rankings for Double Rooms: $$$ Most rooms €100 or more, $$ €50-100, $ €50 or less

Notes: Many Italian cities levy a hotel tax of €1.50-5 per person, per night (often collected in cash; usually not included in the rates I’ve quoted). Room prices change; verify rates online or by email. For the best prices, book directly with the hotel.

$$ Albergo Barbara rents nine basic rooms overlooking the harbor square—with small windows and small views—and piles of stairs (D-€60, D with private bath down the hall-€70, Db-€80, big Db with nice harbor view-€120, extra bed-€10, 2-night stay preferred, closed Dec-Feb, reserve online with credit card but pay cash, Piazza Marconi 30, tel. 0187-812-398, mobile 338-793-3261,,

Private Rooms (Affitta Camere)

Private rooms offer the best values in town. Owners may be reluctant to reserve rooms far in advance. Doubles cost €55-120, depending on the view, season, and plumbing—you get what you pay for. Apartments (with kitchens) go for a bit more. Most places accept only cash. Some have killer views, come with lots of stairs, and cost the same as a small, dark place on a back lane over the train tracks. Most owners speak just enough English.

While a few places have all their beds in one building, most have rooms scattered over town. Some have an informal “reception desk” (sometimes at a restaurant or other business) where you can check in. A few places have no reception at all. (On the Vernazza map, I’ve marked only places that have a fixed address or reception office; if I say “reception,” you’ll check in there, then continue on to your actual room.) Because this can be confusing, clearly communicate your arrival time (by phone or email) and get instructions on where to meet the owner and pick up the keys. In some cases, they’ll meet you at the train station—but only if they know when you’re coming.

Some of my favorite places in town are located in the ravine a five-minute, gently uphill stroll behind the train station. While this sleepy zone is less atmospheric and less central, it also has less noise and fewer stairs. The recommended Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre is the neighborhood hub/eatery, and a launderette is next door.


Alessandra runs two different sets of rooms in a single elevator-equipped, modern building: bohemian-chic $$$ La Perla delle 5Terre (Db-€100, Tb-€120, 6 clean rooms, no air-con) and colorful $$$ Tonino Basso (Db-€120, Tb-€140, 4 rooms, air-con). This is a top choice for modern comfort (contact for both: Via Gavino 34, mobile 339-761-1651,,

$$ Camere Fontana Vecchia has eight bright, spacious, quiet rooms overlooking the ravine, across the street from the post office (D-€70, Db-€80, three Db with terrace-€100, Via Gavino 15, tel. 0187-821-130, mobile 333-454-9371,,

$$ Giuliano Basso’s four carefully crafted rooms are just above town, straddling a ravine among orange trees. The building is built out of stone by the owner himself—the town’s last stone-layer (Db-€80-100, Tb-€120, two rooms have air-con, above train station—take the ramp just before Pensione Sorriso, mobile 333-341-4792,,

$$ La Rosa dei Venti (The Compass Rose) houses three tranquil, airy rooms at the top of town, three floors up from the ravine. One room has a balcony. Call to arrange a meeting time (Db-€80, Tb-€110, Via Gavino 19, tel. 333-762-4679,


La Malà, La Marina Rooms, and Memo Rooms are not located on the map in this chapter; arrange a meeting time and/or ask for directions when you reserve.

$$$ La Malà is Vernazza’s jet-setter pad, with four pristine white rooms, hotel-type extras, and a common seaview terrace. It’s way up at the top of town, but they’ll carry your bags to and from the station (Db-€160, Db suite-€220, includes breakfast at a bar, air-con, mobile 334-287-5718,, They also rent the simpler “Armanda’s Room” nearby—a great value, with all the attention and amenities but without the view (Db-€80, includes simple breakfast, air-con).

$$$ La Marina Rooms are run by Christian, who speaks English and meets guests at the station to carry their bags. The beautiful, top-end units are high above the main street. One single works as a tight double, three doubles share a fine oceanview terrace (town view Sb-€60, Db-€110, seaview Db-€150), and two spacious apartments come with fine terraces and views (town-view Db-€120, seaview 2-bedroom apartment with big terrace-€260, mobile 338-476-7472,,

$$$ Martina Callo’s four simply furnished rooms overlook the square; they’re up plenty of steps near the silent-at-night church tower. While the rooms are nothing special, the views are (room #1: Tb-€120 or Qb-€130 with harbor view; room #2: big Qb family room with no view-€120; room #3: Db with grand view terrace-€100; room #4: roomy Db with no view-€60; air-con, ring bell at Piazza Marconi 26, tel. 0187-812-365, mobile 329-435-5344,,

$$ Memo Rooms rents three clean and spacious spaces overlooking the main street, in what feels like a miniature hotel. Enrica will meet you if you call upon arrival (Db-€70, Via Roma 15, mobile 338-285-2385, otherwise tel. 0187-812-360,,

$$ Monica Lercari rents several rooms with modern comforts, perched at the top of town (small Db-€80, seaview D-€100, grand seaview terrace D-€120, includes breakfast, air-con, tel. 0187-812-296, mobile 320-025-4515, Friendly Monica and her husband, Massimo, run the recommended Ristorante al Castello, in the old castle tower overlooking town.

$$ Nicolina Rooms consists of seven units in three different buildings. Two rooms are in the center over the pharmacy, up a few steep steps (Db-€90); another room is on a twisty lane above the harbor (large studio Db with terrace-€200); and four more are in a building beyond the church, with great views (D-€100, Db-€140, two-bedroom suite with harbor view-€180 plus €30/extra person, Wi-Fi and loud church bells in these rooms only). Inquire at Pizzeria Vulnetia on the harbor square (all include breakfast, Piazza Marconi 29, tel. 0187-821-193, mobile 333-842-6879,,

$$ Rosa Vitali rents two four-person apartments across from the pharmacy overlooking the main street (and beyond the train noise). One has a terrace and fridge (top floor); the other has windows and a full kitchen (Db-€95, Tb-€115, Qb-€130, prices include city tax, cash only, reception just before the tobacco shop near Piazza Marconi at Via Visconti 10, tel. 0187-821-181, mobile 340-267-5009,,

$$ Francamaria and her husband Andrea rent 10 sharp, comfortable, creative rooms. While their reception desk is on the harbor square (on the ground floor facing the harbor at Piazza Marconi 30—don’t confuse it with Albergo Barbara at same address), the rooms they manage are all over town (Db-€95-145 depending on size and view, Qb-€130-160, extra person-€20, cash only, some with air-con, Wi-Fi is spotty, tel. 0187-812-002, mobile 328-711-9728,,


(Town #5)

Monterosso al Mare is a resort with lots of hotels, rentable beach umbrellas, crowds, and more late-night action than the neighboring towns. Even so, don’t expect full-blown Riviera glitz. The small, crooked lanes of the old town cradle Old World charm and locals appreciate quiet, sensitive guests. Strolling the waterfront promenade, you can pick out each of the Cinque Terre towns decorating the coast. After dark, they sparkle.

The only Cinque Terre town built on flat land, Monterosso has two parts: a new town (called Fegina) with a parking lot, train station, and TI; and an old town (Centro Storico). A pedestrian tunnel connects the old with the new, but take a small detour around the point for a nicer walk.


Arrival in Monterosso: Trains arrive in the new town. For hotels in the new town, turn right out of the station. For the old town, turn left; it’s a scenic, flat 10-minute stroll.

Shuttle buses run along the waterfront between the old town (Piazza Garibaldi, just beyond the tunnel), the train station, and the parking lot at the end of Via Fegina (Campo Sportivo stop). The bus saves you a 10-minute schlep with your bags but only runs once an hour (€1.50 one-way, €2.50 on board, free with Cinque Terre park card).

Taxis usually wait outside the train station, but you may have to call (€7 from station to the old town, mobile 335-616-5842, 335-616-5845, or 335-628-0933).

For drivers, Monterosso is 30 minutes off the freeway (exit: Carrodano-Levanto); at the fork in the road, follow signs for Fegina to reach the new town (with a huge beachfront guarded lot, €18/24 hours), or for Monterosso Centro Storico to get to the old town (Loreto parking garage on Via Roma, same prices). Only locals are allowed to drive between the old and new towns.

Medical Help: English-speaking Dr. Vitone charges €50-80 for a simple visit (less for poor students, mobile 338-853-0949,

Tourist Information: The TI Proloco is next to the train station (April-Oct daily 9:00-19:00, closed Nov-March, exit station and go left a few doors, tel. 0187-817-506, For national park tickets and information, head upstairs within the station to the ticket office near platform 1 (likely daily 8:00-20:00, shorter hours off-season). If you arrive late on a summer day, the old town’s Internet café is helpful with tourist information.

Internet Access: The Net, a few steps off the old town’s main drag (Via Roma), has high-speed computers and Wi-Fi (under €1/10 minutes). Enzo also happily provides information on the Cinque Terre, and rents rooms (daily 9:30-23:00, off-season until 19:00, Via Vittorio Emanuele 55, tel. 0187-817-288,,

Baggage Storage: Wash and Dry Lavarapido, two blocks from the station, provides a wonderful €5 bag-check service (€13/load, daily 8:00-19:00, Via Molinelli 17, mobile 339-484-0940).

image Monterosso Walk

This easy, self-guided walk begins at the breakwater. Part 1, focusing on the mostly level town center, takes about 30 minutes; for Part 2, summiting the adjacent hill, allow another hour or so.


✵ Hike out from the dock in the old town and climb five rough steps to the top of the concrete...

Breakwater: If you’re visiting by boat, you’ll start here anyway. From this point you can survey Monterosso’s old town (straight ahead) and new town (stretching to the left, with train station and parking lot).

Looking to the right, you can see all cinque of the terre from one spot: Vernazza, Corniglia (above the shore), Manarola, and a few buildings of Riomaggiore beyond that.

The partial breakwater (a row of giant rocks in the middle of the harbor) is designed to save the beach from washing away, but sand erosion remains a major problem. While old-timers remember a vast beach, their grandchildren truck in sand each spring to give tourists something to lie on. (The Nazis liked the Cinque Terre, too—find two of their bomb-hardened bunkers, near left and far right.)

The four-star Hotel Porto Roca (pink building high on the hill, on the far right of the harbor) marks the trail to Vernazza. High above, you can see the roads that connect the Cinque Terre with the freeway over the hills.

Two prominent capes define the Cinque Terre. The farther cape is Punta di Montenero (to the right). The closer cape, Punta Mesco (to the left), marks a sea-life sanctuary, home to a rare grass that provides an ideal home for fish eggs. Buoys keep fishing boats away. The cape was once a quarry, providing employment to locals who chipped out the stones used to build the local towns (including the greenish stones making up part of the breakwater below you).

On the far end of the new town, marking the best free beach around, you can just see the statue named Il Gigante (hard to spot because it blends in with the gray rock). It’s 45 feet tall and once held a trident. Made of reinforced concrete, it dates from the early 20th century, when it supported a dance terrace for a fin de siècle villa. A violent storm left the giant holding nothing but memories.


Monterosso al Mare

✵ From the breakwater, walk into the old town. At the top of the beach, notice the openings of two big drains, ready to let flash floods rip through town without destroying things. Walking under the train tracks, venture right into the square and find the statue of a dandy holding what looks like a box cutter.

Piazza Garibaldi: The statue honors Giuseppe Garibaldi, the dashing firebrand who, in the 1860s, helped unite the people of Italy. Facing Garibaldi, with your back to the sea, you’ll see (from right to left) the orange city hall and a big home and recreation center for poor and homeless elderly. You’ll also see A Ca’ du Sciensa restaurant (with historic town photos inside and upstairs; you’re welcome to pop in for a look).

Just under the bell tower (with your back to the sea, it’s on your left), a set of covered arcades facing the sea is where the old-timers hang out. The crenellated bell tower marks the church.

✵ Go to church (the entrance is on the inland side).

Church of St. John the Baptist (Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista): Before entering, check out the facade. With white marble from Carrara and green marble from Punta Mesco, this church is typical of the Romanesque style. The marble stripes get narrower the higher they go, creating the illusion of a church that’s taller than it really is. Note the delicate stone rose window above the entrance, with 18 slender mullions.

Step inside for more Ligurian Gothic: original marble columns with pointed arches to match. The octagonal baptismal font (in the back of the church) was carved from Carrara marble in 1359. In the chapel to the right of the high altar, look for the wooden statue of St. Anthony, carved about 1400, which once graced a church that stood atop Punta Mesco. The church itself dates from 1307—see the proud inscription on the left-middle column: “MilleCCCVII.” Outside the church, on the side facing the main street, find the high-water mark from an October 1966 flood. Nearly half a century later, the October 2011 flood hit Monterosso. But the church’s statues survived, thanks to townspeople who carried them through raging waters to safety.

✵ Leaving the church, immediately turn left and go to church again.

Oratory of the Dead (Oratorio dei Neri): During the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic Church offset the rising influence of the Lutherans by creating brotherhoods of good works. These religious Rotary clubs were called “confraternities.” Monterosso had two, nicknamed White and Black. This building is the oratory of the Black group, whose mission—as the macabre interior decor indicates—was to arrange for funerals and take care of widows, orphans, the shipwrecked, and the souls of those who ignore the request for a €1 donation. It dates from the 16th century; membership has passed from father to son for generations. Notice the fine carved choir stalls (c. 1700) just inside the door, and the haunted-house chandeliers. Look up at the ceiling to find the symbol of the confraternity: a skull-and-crossbones and an hourglass...death awaits us all.


Church of St. John the Baptist

✵ On that cheery note, if you’re in a lazy mood, you can discreetly split off from our walking tour now to enjoy strolling, shopping, gelato, a day at the beach...or all of the above. If you’re up for a hike, continue on to Part 2.


✵ Return to the beach and find the brick steps that lead up to the hill-capping convent (starting between the train tracks and the pedestrian tunnel, and passing in front of Albergo Pasquale). Approaching the bend in the path, watch for the stairs leading steeply and sharply to the right. This lane (Salita dei Cappuccini) is nicknamed Zii di Frati, or...

Switchbacks of the Friars: Follow the yellow brick road (OK, it’s orange...but I couldn’t help singing as I skipped skyward). Pause at the terrace above the castle at a statue of St. Francis and a wolf. Enjoy another opportunity to see all five of the Cinque Terre towns. From here, backtrack 20 yards and continue uphill.

✵ When you reach a gate marked Convento e Chiesa Cappuccini, you have arrived at the...

Church of the Capuchin Friars: The former convent is now manned by a single caretaker. The church’s striped Romanesque facade is all fake: not marble, just cheap 18th-century stucco. Go inside and sit in the rear pew. The high altarpiece painting of St. Francis can be rolled up to reveal a statue of Mary behind it. Look at the statue of St. Anthony to the right and smile (you’re on convent camera). Wave at the security camera—they’re nervous about the precious painting to your left.

This fine painting of the Crucifixion is attributed to Anthony van Dyck, the 17th-century Flemish master (though art historians suspect that it was painted by someone in the artist’s workshop). Notice the eclipsed sun in the painting, just to the right of the cross. When Jesus died, the earth went dark.

✵ Leave and turn left to hike 100 yards uphill to the cemetery that fills the remains of the castle. Look back from the gate and enjoy the view over the town.

Cemetery in the Ruined Castle: In the Dark Ages, the village huddled within this castle. You’re looking at the oldest part of Monterosso, tucked behind the hill, out of view of 13th-century pirates. Explore the cemetery, keeping in mind that cemeteries are sacred places. Q.R.P. is Qui Riposa in Pace (a.k.a. R.I.P.). Climb to the summit—the castle’s keep, or place of last refuge.


View from the Capuchin Church


✵ From here, your tour is over—any trail leads you back into town.



Monterosso’s beaches, immediately in front of the train station, are the Cinque Terre’s best and most crowded. If you see umbrellas on a beach, it means you’ll have to pay a rental fee; otherwise, the sand is free. Figure €20 to rent two chairs and an umbrella for the day. Light lunches are served by beach cafés to sunbathers at their lounge chairs. It’s often worth the euros to enjoy a private beach. Prices get soft in the afternoon. Don’t use your white hotel towels; most hotels will give you beach towels—sometimes for a fee. The local hidden beach, which is free, gravelly, and less crowded, is tucked away under Il Casello restaurant at the east end of town, near the trailhead to Vernazza. Another free beach is at the far-west end, near the Gigante statue.

Samba rents kayaks on the beach (€7/hour for 1-person kayak, €12/hour for 2-person kayak, cheaper for longer rentals, to the right of train station as you exit, mobile 339-681-2265, Domenico). The adjacent La Pineta beach also rents stand-up paddleboards (€12/hour, Diego).

Boat Rides

Stefano or Nico can take you on a cruise around the Cinque Terre (€100/hour, one hour is enough for a quick spin, two hours includes time for swimming stops). Stefano’s boat, Matilde, holds up to six people, while Nico’s boat takes up to four and is slightly cheaper (about €50 one-way to Vernazza, €80 one-way to Riomaggiore, €300 to Portovenere, Stefano’s mobile 333-821-2007, Nico’s mobile 339-564-0907,,

Wine Tasting

Buranco Agriturismo offers visits to their vineyard and cantina (reserve 2 days ahead). You’ll taste some of their wines plus a grappa and a limoncino, along with home-cooked food (€20-30/person with snacks, English may be limited, follow Via Buranco uphill to path, 10 minutes above town, tel. 0187-817-677,


Enoteca Eliseo, the best wine bar in town, comes with operatic ambience. Eliseo and his wife, Mary, love music as much as they love wine. Eliseo offers an education in grappa, stocking more than a hundred varieties (Wed-Mon 12:00-23:30, closed Tue, Piazza Matteotti 3, a block inland behind church, tel. 0187-817-308).

At Fast Bar, Customers mix travel tales with cold beer. The crowd (and the rock ’n’ roll) gets noisier as the night rolls on (€5 panini and €7-9 salads usually served until midnight, Fri-Wed 9:30-late, closed Thu except in peak season; Via Roma in the old town).

La Cantina di Miky, in the new town just beyond the train station, is a trendy bar-restaurant with an extensive cocktail and grappa menu and occasional live music. Manuel offers a fun “five villages” wine-tasting with local meats and cheeses (€15/person for just wine, €20/person with food). It’s the best place in town for top-end Italian beers (Thu-Tue until late, closed Wed, Via Fegina 90, tel. 0187-802-525).

Nuovo Eden Bar, overlooking the beach by the big rock just east of the train station, is a fine place to enjoy a cocktail or ice cream with a sea view. During happy hour (17:00-19:00), cocktails come with a snack (daily 7:30-24:00, closed Mon off-season).


With a Sea View

Ristorante Belvedere, big and sprawling, is the place for a good-value meal indoors or outdoors on the harborfront. Their anfora belvedere (mixed seafood stew, €48) can easily feed four and the misto mare plate (2-person minimum, €15/person) can be an entire meal (€8-10 pastas, €10-19 secondi, Wed-Mon 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-22:00, closed Tue except Aug, on the harbor in the old town, tel. 0187-817-033).

Il Casello, with outdoor tables on a rocky outcrop, is the only place for a fun meal overlooking the old town beach (€9-13 pastas, €14-18 secondi, daily April-Oct 12:00-22:00, closed Nov-March, mobile 333-492-7629).

Ristorante Tortuga is a worthwhile splurge because of its seaview elegance, with gorgeous outdoor seating high on a bluff and white-tablecloth-and-candles interior. It offers the most romantic dining in town (€14-19 pastas, €15-20 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:00, closed Mon, just outside the tunnel that connects the old and new town—or climb up the ramp in front of Albergo Pasquale, tel. 0187-800-065, mobile 333-240-7956).

In the Old Town

Via Venti is a quiet trattoria hidden in an alley deep in the heart of the old town. Imaginative seafood dishes use the day’s catch and freshly made pasta. There’s nothing pretentious, just good cooking, service, and prices (€13-14 pastas, €16-20 secondi, Fri-Wed 12:00-14:30 & 18:30-22:30, closed Thu, Via XX Settembre 32, tel. 0187-818-347).

Ristorante al Pozzo is a local favorite, with one of the best wine lists in town, homemade pasta, and wonderful seafood antipasti misti (€10-16 pastas, €15-25 secondi, Fri-Wed 12:00-15:00 & 18:30-22:30, closed Thu, Via Roma 24, tel. 0187-817-575).

Ciak is known for its huge, sizzling terra-cotta crock for two crammed with the day’s catch. Reservations are smart in summer (€12-14 pastas, €18-20 secondi, Thu-Tue 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:30, closed Wed, Piazza Don Minzoni 6, tel. 0187-817-014,

L’Alta Marea is buried in the old town two blocks off the beach, and has covered tables out front for people-watching. Try the special fish ravioli or fresh, steamed mussels (€10-13 pastas and pizza, €15-17 secondi, 10 percent discount with cash and this book, Thu-Tue 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:00, closed Wed, Via Roma 54, tel. 0187-817-170).

Gastronomia “San Martino” is a warm, humble place (with almost no ambience) that serves good, inexpensive dishes on plastic plates (€6 pastas, €10 secondi, Tue-Sun 12:00-15:00 & 18:00-22:00, closed Mon, next to recommended L’Antica Terrazza hotel at Vicolo San Martino 2, mobile 346-109-7338).

In the New Town

Miky is my Cinque Terre favorite, with well-dressed locals packed into a classy environment. Their elegantly presented, subtly flavored food celebrates local ingredients and traditions. All their pasta is “pizza pasta”—cooked normally but finished in a bowl that’s encased in a thin pizza crust (€13-21 fun-to-share antipasti, €17-18 pastas, €18-30 secondi, €8 sweets, Wed-Mon 12:00-15:00 & 19:00-23:00, closed Tue, reservations wise in summer, in the new town 100 yards from train station at Via Fegina 104, tel. 0187-817-608,

La Cantina di Miky, a few doors down (toward the station), is more youthful and informal than Miky, but serves Ligurian specialties in Miky’s family tradition. Sit downstairs, in the garden, or overlooking the sea. They have creative desserts and large selection of Italian microbrews (€10-13 pastas, €14-18 secondi, Thu-Tue 12:00-24:00, closed Wed, Via Fegina 90, tel. 0187-802-525).

Light Meals, Takeout Food, and Breakfast

In the old town, shops and bakeries sell pizza and focaccia for an easy picnic. Pizzeria la Smorfia is the local favorite (€6-8 small pizzas, €14-19 large pizzas, Fri-Wed 11:00-24:00, Via Vittorio Emanuele 73, tel. 0187-818-395). Other options are Il Frantoio (Fri-Wed 9:00-13:45 & 16:30-19:30, closed Thu, just off Via Roma at Via Gioberti 1) and Emy’s Way Pizzeria Friggitoria, which also serves up deep-fried seafood to-go (€5-9 pizza, €3-7 fritti, daily 11:00-20:00, later in summer, along the skinny street next to the church).

Il Massimo della Focaccia, right at the train station, is a good bet for a €3-4 light meal with a sea view (Thu-Tue 9:00-19:00, closed Wed except June-Aug, Via Fegina 50 at the entry to the station). La Bottega SMA is a smart minimart with deli items and sandwiches; pay by weight (daily 8:00-13:00 & 16:30-19:30 except Wed and Sun until 13:00, near Lavarapido at Vittoria Gianni 21).

For breakfast, try Bar Gio, near the train station on the waterfront (continental breakfasts). In the old town, look for Wine & Food (€10 “American Breakfast,” Via Vittorio Emanuele 26) and Bar Davi (American option, daily 7:00 until late, may close Wed).


Rooms in Monterosso are a better value than similar rooms in crowded Vernazza. The TI Proloco just outside the train station can give you a list of €70-80 double rooms.

In the Old Town

$$$ Hotel Villa Steno features great view balconies, panoramic gardens, and a roof terrace. It’s a 15-minute hike (or €8 taxi ride) from the train station to the top of the old town. Ask for a free Cinque Terre info packet and a glass of local wine when you check in (Sb-€120, Db-€190, Tb-€230, Qb-€265, includes breakfast, laundry, parking-€10—reserve in advance, Via Roma 109, tel. 0187-817-028 or 0187-818-336,,

$$$ Albergo Pasquale is modern and comfortable, with 15 seaview rooms, located just a few steps from the beach, boat dock, tunnel entrance to the new town, and train tracks. While there is some train noise, the soundtrack is mostly a lullaby of waves. It has an elevator and offers easier access than most (same prices and welcome drink as Villa Steno; air-con, laundry service, Via Fegina 8, tel. 0187-817-550 or 0187-817-477,,

$$$ Locanda il Maestrale rents six small, stylish rooms in a sophisticated, peaceful inn. Despite its modern comforts, it retains centuries-old character under frescoed ceilings (small Db-€115, Db-€150, superior Db-€180, prices lower off-season, 10 percent Rick Steves discount if you book directly with hotel and pay cash, air-con, Via Roma 37, tel. 0187-817-013, mobile 338-4530-531,,

$$$ Il Giardino Incantato (“The Enchanted Garden”) is a charming, comfortable four-room B&B in a tasteful 16th-century Ligurian home in the heart of the old town. Sip their homemade limoncino upon check-in and have breakfast under lemon trees in a hidden garden (Db-€150-170, Db suite-€180-200, air-con, free minibar and tea and coffee service, laundry service-€15/load, Via Mazzini 18, tel. 0187-818-315, mobile 333-264-9252,,

$$$ L’Antica Terrazza rents four classy rooms right in town. With minimal stairs and a pretty terrace overlooking the pedestrian street, it’s a good deal (D-€85, Db-€115, air-con, Vicolo San Martino 1, mobile 380-138-0082 or 347-132-6213,,

$$$ Albergo Marina offers 23 decent rooms, a free buffet featuring local specialties from 14:00 to 17:00 daily, and a garden with lemon trees (Db-€150, Tb-€175, Qb-€200, elevator, air-con, free use of kayak and snorkel equipment, Via Buranco 40, tel. 0187-817-613,,

$$$ Hotel la Colonnina has 21 big rooms, generous if dated public spaces, and leafy terraces. It’s buried in the town’s sleepy back streets (Db-€158, Tb-€198, Qb-€248, cash only, air-con, fridges, elevator, in the old town a block inland from the main square at Via Zuecca 6, tel. 0187-817-439,,, Cristina).

$$$ Manuel’s Guesthouse, perched high above the town, is a garden getaway with six big, bright rooms. After climbing the killer stairs from the town center, their killer terrace is hard to leave. Ask them to carry your bags up the hill (Db-€130, big Db with grand-view balcony-€140, cash only, air-con, up about 100 steps behind church—Via San Martino 39, mobile 333-439-0809,,

$$$ Buranco Agriturismo, a 10-minute hike above the old town, has wonderful gardens and views over the vine-covered valley. It’s a rare opportunity to stay in a farmhouse but still be able to get to town on foot (2-6 people-€60/person including breakfast, €30/child under 10, air-con, €10 taxi from station, tel. 0187-817-677, mobile 349-434-8046,,

$$ Albergo al Carugio, simple and practical, has nine rooms in an apartment-style building at the top of the old town (Db-€85, no breakfast, air-con, Via Roma 100, tel. 0187-817-453,,, Andrea and Simona).

$$ The Net Room Service is run by Enzo, who owns the Internet point in town (and speaks perfect English). He manages a dozen or so apartments—most in the old town and a few in the new town, away from the train noise. Enzo’s office functions as your reception (Db-€60-80, Qb-€120-150, prices based on size and view, 2- or 3-night minimum stay, Via Vittorio Emanuele 55, tel. 0187-817-288, mobile 335-778-5085,,

In the New Town

$$$ A Cà du Gigante is a tiny yet stylish and comfortable refuge with nine rooms about 100 yards from the beach (Db-€160, Db seaview suite-€180, 10 percent discount with 3-night stay and this book, air-con, free parking, Via IV Novembre 11, tel. 0187-817-401,,

$$$ Hotel Villa Adriana is a big, contemporary, bright hotel set in a peaceful garden with a pool, free parking, and a no-stress style. They rent 54 rooms—some with terraces and/or sea views (Sb-€95, Db-€175, all with showers, air-con, elevator, free loaner bikes, Via IV Novembre 23, tel. 0187-818-109,,

$$$ Hotel la Spiaggia is a venerable, old, 19-room place facing the beach. Half of the rooms come with sea views (Db-€170, view Db-€180, extra bed-€30, free parking, cash only, air-con, elevator, Via Lungomare 96, tel. 0187-817-567,,

$$$ Hotel Punta Mesco is a tidy haven renting 17 quiet, casual rooms. While none have views, 10 rooms have small terraces (Db-€153, Tb-€185, €10 discount with cash, air-con, parking, Via Molinelli 35, tel. 0187-817-495,,

$$ Affittacamere Ristorante il Gabbiano is a touristy restaurant right on the beach, renting five quiet, air-conditioned rooms upstairs. Three rooms face the sea with small balconies, while two are at the back, facing a garden. The Gabbiano family restaurant serves as your reception (seaview rooms: Db-€110, Tb-€130, Qb-€160; garden-view rooms: Db-€100; cash only, air-con, Via Fegina 84, tel. 0187-817-578,,

$ Le Sirene/Raggi di Sole, with nine simple rooms in two humble buildings, is about the cheapest place in town, run from a hole-in-the-wall reception desk a block from the station. Request the Le Sirene building, which doesn’t have train noise and is more spacious and airy than Raggi di Sole (Sb-€70, Db-€90, third person-€30, fans, Via Molinelli 10, mobile 331-788-1088,,


Getting Around the Cinque Terre

The five towns are connected by trains, boats, and trails (for hiking, see here). Little shuttle buses provide local transport per town.

By Train

By train, the five towns are just a few minutes apart. Along the coast here, trains go in only two directions: “per [to] Genova” (the Italian spelling of Genoa), northbound; or “per La Spezia,” southbound.

Tickets (about €2) are good for 75 minutes in one direction, so you can conceivably use one for a brief stopover. A 40-kilometer ticket (€4) is good for six hours in one direction. Buy tickets at the train station, at the ticket window, Cinque Terre park desk, or from machines on the platform. Validate your ticket before you board by stamping it in the green-and-white machines. Conductors levy stiff fines for riding with a good but unstamped ticket. You can buy several tickets at once and use them as you like, validating as you go.

Rick’s Tip: If you have a Eurail Pass, don’t spend one of your valuable travel days on the cheap Cinque Terre.

Trains run about hourly in each direction, connecting all five towns. Shops, hotels, and restaurants often post the current schedule, and may also hand out copies. Check the key on the printed schedules carefully: certain departures listed are for only weekdays, only Sundays, etc.

In the station, real-time monitors are the best, most current source of information. They show the departure times and directions of the next trains (and, if they’re late—in ritardo). Northbound trains are marked for Genova, Levanto, or Sestri Levante; southbound trains are marked for La Spezia or Sarzana. (Most northbound trains that stop at all Cinque Terre towns will list Sestri Levante as the destinazione.) To be sure you get on the right train, know your train’s number and final destination. Important: Any train stopping at Vernazza, Corniglia, or Manarola is going to all the towns. Trains from Monterosso, Riomaggiore, or La Spezia sometimes skip lesser stations, so confirm that the train will stop at the town you need.

Accept the unpredictability of Cinque Terre trains—they’re often late. Relax while you wait—buy an ice cream or cup of coffee at a station bar. Scout the platform you need in advance, and then, when the train comes, hop on.

Know your stop. The train stations are small and the trains are long, so (especially in Vernazza) you might have to get off deep in a tunnel. The door won’t open automatically—twist the black handle, or lift up the red one. If a door isn’t working, go quickly to the next car to try another.

By Boat

From Easter through October, daily boat service connects Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore hourly through the summer (between 10:00 and 15:00—especially on weekends). In peaceful weather, boats can be more reliable than trains, but if seas are rough, they don’t run at all.

Boats depart Monterosso about hourly (10:30-18:00), stopping at the Cinque Terre towns (except at Corniglia) and ending up an hour later in nearby Portovenere. (Portovenere-Monterosso boats run 8:50-18:00.) The ticket price depends on the length of the boat ride (ranging from €4 for a short ride between towns, to €15 for a five-town, one-way ticket with stops; a five-town all-day pass is €20). Round-trip tickets are cheaper than two one-way trips.

Buy tickets at stands at each town’s harbor (tel. 0187-732-987 and 0187-818-440). Boats are not covered by Cinque Terre park cards. Schedules are posted at docks, harbor bars, Cinque Terre park offices, and hotels (

Rick’s Tip: In calm weather, boats connect the towns about as frequently as the trains, though at different times; if you’re in a rush, take whichever form of transport is leaving first. In the unpredictable Cinque Terre, a departure now is worth two a little later.

By Shuttle Bus

ATC shuttle buses (which locals call pulmino) connect each town with its closest parking lot and various points in the hills—but do not connect the towns with each other. The one you’re most likely to use runs between Corniglia’s sea-level train station and its hilltop town center. Most rides cost €1.50 one-way (€2.50 from driver, free with Cinque Terre park card). Ask about tickets and bus schedules at park info offices or TIs, or note the times posted at bus stops. Shuttle service is unreliable; confirm the details carefully. Shuttles may not run from 12:30 to 15:00, when they break for lunch. As you board, tell the driver where you want to go. Departures often coordinate with train arrival times. Some (but not all) departures from Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore go beyond the parking lots and high into the hills. To soak in the scenery, ride up and hike down, or pay €3 for a 30-45-minute round-trip (€5 on board).

Arriving and Departing

By Train

Most big, fast trains from elsewhere in Italy speed right past the Cinque Terre, though some stop in Monterosso. Unless you’re coming from a nearby town, you’ll usually have to change trains at least once to reach Vernazza, Corniglia, or Manarola.

Generally, if you’re coming from the north, you’ll change trains in Sestri Levante or Genoa (specifically, Genoa’s Piazza Principe station). If you’re coming from the south or east, you’ll probably switch trains in La Spezia (change at La Spezia Centrale station—don’t make the mistake of getting off at La Spezia Migliarina). Check your full schedule and route options in the train station before you leave (use the kiosks or ask at a ticket window).


While a few local trains go to more distant points (Milan or Pisa), it’s generally much faster to catch a major train from Monterosso, La Spezia, or Sestri Levante (local train info tel. 0187-817-458,

From Monterosso by Train to: Venice (5/day, 6 hours, change in Milan), Milan (8/day direct, otherwise hourly with change in Genoa, 3-4 hours), Genoa (hourly, 1.5 hours), Pisa (hourly, 1-2 hours), Sestri Levante (hourly, 30 minutes, most trains to Genoa stop here), La Spezia (2-3/hour, 15-30 minutes), Levanto (2-3/hour, 4 minutes), Rome (hourly, 4.5 hours, change in La Spezia).

From La Spezia Centrale by Train to: Rome (8/day direct, more with transfers in Pisa, 3-4.5 hours), Pisa (about hourly, 1-1.5 hours), Florence (5/day direct, 2.5 hours, otherwise nearly hourly with change in Pisa), Milan (about hourly, 3 hours direct or with change in Genoa), Venice (about hourly, 5-6 hours, 1-3 changes).

By Taxi

Cinqueterre Taxi covers all five towns, providing transport to the nearest port or airport (mobile 334-776-1946 or 347-652-0837,

By Car

The five towns are close together and have good public transportation connections by train and boat. Given the narrow roads and lack of parking, bringing a car to the Cinque Terre is a bad idea. If your plan requires it, however, here are some basic tips: Stay in a hotel that includes parking, or park at Monterosso (€18/day), Riomaggiore (€23/day), or Manarola (€2/hour). They each have parking lots and a shuttle bus to get you into town. Don’t drive to Vernazza—the roads are in poor condition and a flood blew out its main parking lot.

Parking anywhere on the Cinque Terre is a mess in July and August. If you must find parking, try to arrive between 9:00 and 11:00, when overnight visitors are usually departing. Or you could park your car at a guarded lot or garage in Levanto or La Spezia, then take the train into the Cinque Terre town of your choice.