Once deciding to visit the Cinque Terre, travellers often find themselves wondering where to stay during their trip. While you can do a day trip to the national park from Florence or Milan, you'll enjoy your visit more if you have the time to soak up your surroundings in beautiful Liguria.
If you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the Cinque Terre, you can stay in one of the five villages. This way you won't have to travel in each day and you can enjoy the villages in the evenings, when they are relatively quiet. As the Cinque Terre towns are close together, you only really need one base for your trip - it's not worth trying to split your time between a couple of the villages.
However, the five villages are extremely popular and can be very crowded in the peak season. Prices are also very high, due to their popularity, with accommodation and food more expensive than elsewhere in the region. Many of the villages are also set on the hillside and streets can be quite steep. For these reasons, many travellers choose to stay outside of the Cinque Terre and visit the villages during the day.
Whether you decide to stay within the Cinque Terre National Park or to use another town nearby as a base (my personal preference), you'll find enough to do and see nearby to keep you busy for at least a few days. Here are some of our favourite places to stay in the Cinque Terre.
As the central village, Corniglia makes a great base for exploring the other Cinque Terre towns and the national park. You can also take the beautiful hike through the vineyards to the villages of Volastra and Manarola. It's a bit more challenging than the Blue Trail, but the views are astounding and it was the highlight of our trip to the Cinque Terre. The views from Corniglia are stunning and you can wander through the terraced vineyards on the outskirts of the village.
The town itself is nestled in the cliffs and it's the quietest of the five towns - you need to walk up a steep flight of stairs to get to the village from the train station. The town is at its busiest in the afternoons, and evenings are generally pleasant with few day visitors still around.
While there aren't any hotels in the village, there are a number of good guesthouses, many with spectacular views. It's also a good place to stay if you have a car, as many guesthouses offer parking.
Tucked into the vineyards high above the sea, Manarola is one of the Cinque Terre that frequently appear on postcards and in paintings. The colourful buildings and narrow streets are very picturesque and the views from above of spectacular.
The hillside location means there are a number of steps and steep streets in the village, but the views more than make up for the inconvenience. There are some lovely beautiful hikes through the vineyards nearby, otherwise spend your days exploring the town, people-watching in the town square and snorkelling in the sea. While beautiful, Manarola can also get quite busy during the day, so enjoy the quieter evenings.
With a long, sandy beach, a wide range of restaurants and cafes and many hotels to choose from, Monterosso al Mare is a great option for a family trip to the Cinque Terre. The last of the Cinque Terre towns (when leaving from La Spezia), Monterosso is where many people finish their hikes and the town is very lively as a result.
The town is also easily accessible - you can drive to the town and there are several car parks. It's also more of a beach resort town than a hillside village, meaning streets are less steep and easier for younger family members to navigate.
When you're tired of swimming and sunbathing, head out to the other villages or rent a boat and see the Cinque Terre from the water. Monterosso's old town is also well worth exploring with some parts dating from the 11th Century.
For a completely different experience, you can stay in the tiny village of Volastra above Manarola. While this isn't one of the five villages, it's still situated in the Cinque Terre National Park. Despite it's stunning location, most tourists don't make it as far as Volastra (it's off the well-travelled Blue Path), meaning it has a fraction of the visitors of the other towns in the national park.
Volastra makes the perfect spot if you want to explore some of the trails at your leisure, soak in the beautiful views and escape from the world. There are a handful of pretty hotels and guesthouses in the village, and they tend to have sea views. It's a somewhat isolated spot surrounded by vineyards and hiking trails and it is further from the sea. Saying that, the bus from Manarola doesn't take long and the surroundings are incredibly peaceful.
Staying outside of the Cinque Terre is also a good option as long as you pick somewhere on the train line - in fact, I prefer it as I find the villages a bit busy and touristy. La Spezia and Levanto are both lovely coastal destinations which are very close to the Cinque Terre and have more affordable accommodation options.
La Spezia is very convenient and makes a great base for exploring both the Cinque Terre and Tuscany, just be aware that it is a city not a small resort town. Saying that, there's a lot to see and do there with a tree-lined waterfront, historical buildings and good restaurants and nightlife.
Levanto, however, is a small coastal town on the edge of the Cinque Terre National Park. The train is takes only a few minutes from Levanto to Monterosso or you can walk there along a footpath. Levanto has a pretty town with colourful buildings (although not quite as charming as the Cinque Terre villages), a nice beach and a more local feel. It's also an excellent option for families.
If you don't mind being a bit further from the Cinque Terre, the seaside towns of Deiva Marina, Moneglia and Sestri Levante also make great bases for exploring the region and are my preferred places to stay.
We stayed in Deiva Marina on our first visit to the Cinque Terre and found it a very convenient and comfortable place to stay. It's the least charming of the three towns mentioned above, but is close enough to the Cinque Terre that you could visit the national park multiple times during your visit. Sestri Levante and Moneglia (pictured above) are situated further north, but are lovely resort towns in their own right.
All three towns have beaches and colourful buildings and are on the main train line. They are also well positioned for day trips up the coast to Santa Margherita, Portofino and Genoa.
Hotel Eva La Romantica, a beachside hotel in Moneglia surrounded by lemon and olive groves
Albergo la Marina for comfortable, clean rooms near the beach and train station in Deiva Marina
1919, a self-contained, 2-bedroom apartment near the beach in Sestri Levante
Grand Hotel dei Castelli for a beachfront hotel near Sestri Levante, best for travellers with a car
Thinking of visiting the Cinque Terre yourself? Read our guide to the Cinque Terre National Park.