The Cinque Terre most likely needs no introduction. It’s a National Park that consists of five former fishing villages connected by hiking trails along Italy’s stunning Mediterranean coastline. The pastel colored buildings with dark green shutters that open out to the infinite blue sea and terraced vineyards that climb up the hills of the Cinque Terre are like a siren call to visitors around the world.
Because of its popularity, the Cinque Terre may be fiat-free, but crowds can be elbow to elbow, especially at the train stations during midday when the day-trippers arrive. It is entirely possible to visit the Cinque Terre as a day trip from Florence or even Rome , but why in the world would you want to travel that far from home only to limit your time there to a fleeting blink of an eye? It’s definitely worth staying in one of the five Cinque Terre villages, or at least in one of the neighboring towns.
Choosing the Best Cinque Terre Accommodations
This guide about where to stay in the Cinque Terre will cover all of your burning questions:
- Location: Is it better to stay in one of the five villages or in a neighboring town?
- Accommodations: Is it better to stay in a hotel or an AirBnB?
In this guide, I will cover the pros and cons of all of your options so that you can make the best choice for your budget and desired experience.
A little background about my Cinque Terre experience:
I have visited the Cinque Terre, in the region of Liguria, land of my heart, on four separate occasions in a variety of locations. I have stayed in both hotels & AirBnBs, and in the neighboring villages of La Spezia & Lerici, the little town of Volastra above Manarola, as well as the Cinque Terre villages of Manarola & Monterosso. Because of this, I have a good insight into the type of experience each type of accommodation and location provides. My goal is to compile all of the information I wish I had known before my trips to help you plan your dream trip.
If Your Dream is to Experience the Magic of Cinque Terre Without Crowds…
Your best option:
Stay the night in one of the five villages. You’ll actually get to experience the magic of the Cinque Terre of the at dawn and dusk before and after the deluge of tourists.
I have visited all 5 villages, but have only stayed in Monterosso & Manarola (which happen to also be my favorites – Monterosso for the beach & the freshest calamari you’ll ever find at Il Bocconcino and Manarola for the dining, views, and quaint charm).
- The largest of the five villages
- More flat; less stairs and inclines to walk up
- The only village with a large beach
My hotel recommendation: Hotel Marina
I stayed at Hotel Marina and it was an incredible experience. Not only are the rooms beautiful and cozy, but they also serve breakfast in a lemon garden! They also have The receptionists are all so personable & helpful, and they have a complimentary pesto and wine tasting. I even overheard a family saying it was their second time coming back. I would stay there again in a heartbeat!
- Perched on the cliffside, Manarola has lots of steep stairs
- There are many panoramic views of the sea as well as the village (from Nessun Dorma)
My AirBnB recommendation:
I stayed at Franco’s AirBnB called “Non Solo Il Mare.” I recommend this apartment for two people who don’t mind walking up a hill – but will be rewarded with incredible views of terraced vineyards, the town of Manarola, and a glimpse of the sea. It’s right next to Cappun Magru for breakfast, wine tasting for aperitivo, and Trattoria da Billy for dinner. Franco was kind enough to leave us a bottle of his homemade wine mad the same way his grandfather did, and also gave me a tour of his wine cellar!
Photos by Melissa Schollaert
If You Would Like A Less “Touristy” & *Slightly* Less Expensive Accommodations
Your best option: Base yourself near, but not in the Cinque Terre.
Now, let’s compare the pros and cons of two options: staying in a neighboring town vs. one of the Cinque Terre Villages.
- Nearby coastal towns are also worth visiting – the Cinque Terre may be the most well-known, but other Ligurian villages are just as charming, if not more so
- If you prefer a more “authentic” and slightly less touristy vibe
- Accommodations may be less expensive
- There are more dining and hotel options in larger towns
- The terrain is not as steep, if accessibility is a concern
- Not all towns are connected by rail – you may have to take the bus or boat (the boat can be cancelled during inclement weather)
- You’ll have to spend more time commuting into the Cinque Terre if that is your main destination – and that means dealing with massive crowds at the train stations
- Commuting into the Cinque Terre by train, bus, or boat adds on extra expenses, so potentially may not be cheaper
Towns to consider:
- La Spezia
- Lerici (bus or ferry required)
- Volastra (above Manarola – bus required)
In order to minimize the time & distance that you’ll commute, I’d consider Levanto in the north, and Lerici in the south as your outer limits of where to stay outside of the Cinque Terre.
La Spezia is the closest big city to the Cinque Terre. It is a large port city and also an Italian naval base. It is the major transportation hub in the area, so you will have your pick of trains, buses, and ferries to get around.
La Spezia has a slightly grittier charm and a more authentic, “lived in,” local vibe. It has a thriving downtown with lots of shops and restaurants, especially if you want more variety of cuisine, such as panigacci or non-seafood options.
My cousin and I were on a budget and found the cutest little gem in La Spezia, B&B Marèe. The rooms are so cozy and lovingly decorated with adorable details. The very sweet owner, Samantha, can give you lots of advice about what to do and how to get around the area. It’s a 10 minute walk from the train station, and across from a giant outdoor market on Corso Cavour. My cousin and I picked up some fresh fruit before heading to the beach! It was absolutely wonderful and I would stay there again.
Lerici is home to an idyllic castle and port. It feels like such a fairytale that it is a worthy destination in and of itself.
To get to the Cinque Terre from Lerici:
- Option #1: Take the ferry (2019 Cinque Terre ferry schedule)
- Option #2: Take the bus to La Spezia and then hop on the train
Note: the boat may be canceled due to inclement weather, and doesn’t run during the winter months.
My family and I stayed in an AirBnB in Lerici in 2015 with plans to hike the Cinque Terre, but we loved Lerici and the nearby village of Tellaro so much that we ended up spending most of our time there instead!
What Type of Accomodation? AirBnB vs. Hotel
Now that you know the general area that you would like to stay, in one of the five villages or nearby, let’s compare the type of accommodations.
- More spacious – better for large groups
- May have amenities like a washing machine if you are traveling for a longer period of time
- Feel more like a “local”
- May have a negative effect on the local housing market
- No reception or other services & amenities
- Reception & room service
- May include other amenities like a pool, gym or restaurant
- Support a local business
- Potentially more expensive – may need multiple rooms if traveling with a group
- Less space
I have had wonderful experiences in both hotels and AirBnBs in Italy. When I travel alone, I prefer to stay in hotels because it makes me feel more comfortable having someone available at the reception desk and other guests in close proximity. When I travel with multiple people and stay in a location for several days, I like to have an AirBnB as a temporary home. It all depends on the availability, cost, location and intentions for my trip.
Ready to find your perfect accommodations in the Cinque Terre?
My favorite accommodations:
I love using booking.com to search for hotels, and you can even use the Italian at Heart affiliate search bar below to find your perfect Cinque Terre accommodations! If you found this information helpful, your support is appreciated.
Wherever you choose to stay in the Cinque Terre, I wish you bon viaggio!
If you have any other questions about visiting the Cinque Terre, feel free to leave a comment! If you have visited the Cinque Terre before, please share your experience and recommendations in the comments as well!