The Cinque Terre are a collection of five villages perched on cliffs by the sea. Though they are in Liguria, (the region just North of Tuscany) you can easily reach them from Florence and thus they are perfect for a day trip. But how to tell which is the best cinque terre town?

Choosing the best town in Cinque Terre

Choosing the right Cinque Terre town depends on what you like and how much climbing you are willing to do! Each town has something worth seeing and offers its visitors a different experience.

Keep in mind that the five villages are teaming with people during the high season. If you are interested in hiking from one town to the next or would just like to see less tourists, consider going in May or September.

A tour to the Cinque Terre, with departure from Florence, takes one day and might include a stop in Pisa. There’s no such thing as the Best Cinque Terre town. Your best bet is to go see for yourself and make up your own mind.

Here are a few highlights about each town to get you started:

Manarola

Manarola is the second smallest Cinque Terre town. It is surrounded by vineyards that produce the local wine called Sciacchetrà, a sweet wine that goes well with cheese or dessert. There is a little harbour carved into the cliffs. Fisher boats and swimmers alike use it. For the best views, head up the coastal trail until you can the whole town ahead and wait until sunset. The colorful houses will take on a warm shimmering glow.

Manarola | Best cinque terre town
Manarola, perched on a cliff

Monterosso al Mare

Monterosso is bigger and flatter than any of the other towns, and has the only sandy beach. If you visit in summer you may very much need to cool down and want to enjoy the Riviera feel of the place. However, the beach is in front of the rather ordinary and newer part of town. Don’t worry though, the old town is only a short walk away. Monterosso being the biggest town, offers the most restaurants, shops and hotels of the Cinque Terre.

Crowded beach of Monterosso al Mare | Best cinque terre town
The crowded beach of Monterosso al Mare

Vernazza

The main square opens up to the only natural harbour of the Cinque Terre. It’s the best place to see the colorful fishing boats and do some people watching. The town is rather small and perfect to get a feel of the quiet Italian lifestyle of little communities. The peace and quiet is scarce in the summer though when tourists flood the town. Find any staircase leading up and you’ll be sure to reach the best views of and around Vernazza. Terraced cultivations surround the town and all the green makes the town a beautiful pop of colour.

The harbour of Monterosso al Mare
The harbour of Vernazza

Corniglia

Corniglia is fairly difficult to get to with luggage. The train station is almost at sea level but the town is perched high. The only access way is a very long flight of more than 300 stairs! The fact that it is not easily reached makes for less tourists and amazing views. Corniglia, the only Cinque Terre without a harbour, can sometimes feel more like a mountain village than a fishing one.

The small village of Corniglia | Best Cinque Terre Town
Corniglia, between sky and sea

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the southern most village of the Cinque Terre. It is one of the less touristy towns and has a very narrow harbour. In the low season, small fishing boats are stacked on one another up the harbour’s ramp. In the summer, bathers use it to get in the water. The town is built vertically against a rock face, with tall buildings typical of the Ligurian style and narrow lanes. For the best view of town, head up Via dell’Amore (or Love street) coastal trail.

Night view of Rio Maggiore
Night view of Rio Maggiore

Visiting all the Cinque Terre

Can’t make up your mind? Why not go to all of them? All Cinque Terre can be seen in one day. If you don’t want the hassle of figuring out how to get from place to place and in which order, book a tour. There are both private or shared tours that will take you from Florence to the Cinque Terre.

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