What to see, eat, drink, and do in Italy’s beloved Riviera towns…
We can’t get enough of these five towns, and we make an effort to visit them every chance we get. We’re not claiming to be experts – we just want to share with you some of our favorite things and must-do’s, along with some tips we’ve picked up along the way. Ready? Andiamo!
Where to Stay
Each town has something uniquely characteristic that makes it hard to compare it to others. You might be a Vernazza-person, for example; or maybe Riomaggiore is more your fancy. We’ve learned that we’re Monterosso-people. For us, this town has it all – a pristine beach (the only town to boast one); the Riviera allure of more glamorous neighbors like Vernazza; and, just a few steps inland, a maze of adorable streets filled with inviting shop windows and aroma-filled bakeries, giving you that sense of small-town coastal Italy.
Every time we’ve come here, we’ve stayed at Casa di Zuecca. It’s a few steps in from the sea, just off the main square of the town. The rooms in this B&B are modern and pristinely maintained. Stefano, the owner, is the best host. Each morning he sets out a spread of fresh focaccia, cheeses, hams, and pastries for breakfast, which you can bring upstairs to the property’s rooftop terrace (along with your coffee, of course.) The terrace is also a great place to kick back in the afternoon for an aperitivo. Rooms are very fairly priced, but book ahead, as it’s often filled up for weeks or months in advance.
Where to Drink
If you have the time, there’s one place you must absolutely stop during your Cinque Terre holiday. Hop on the Cinque Terre Express Train over to charming Manarola and prepare yourself for the best aperitivo with a view at Nessun Dorma.
This hip but casual bar boasts one of the best views of the coast, as well as of Manarola itself. Their cocktails are fabulous (Leo usually goes for their strawberry daiquiri). I usually stick with wine, ordering a local Cinque Terre vino bianco. Get your cameras ready – your Instagram and Snapchat friends are about to get very jealous.
In Monterosso, we like to start our beach days off with a piña colada from Nuovo Eden bar. It sits right above the beach, so if you can bare to leave your towel, you can enjoy a cold Moretti with minimal effort. (Oh, apparently this is also a gelateria too. In case your first concern isn’t alcohol, unlike us.)
In the main square, and right down the street from the Casa di Zuecca, you can order a glass of prosecco for as low as €3. Now, if that isn’t the life…
These are just our usual pit stops, but in each town you’re sure to find no shortage of places that will quench your thirst. Just check out the menu, and if you like the spot, stick around and relax. As for non-alcoholic beverages, these towns have some of the best lemonades that you can find in virtually every bar of cafe. Get ready to make that sour pucker…
Where to Eat
It’s not hard to find great food here – on almost every corner you can munch on heavenly focaccia, and it’s an option that’s as economical as it is delicious. There’s a great spot right outside the train station in Monterosso al Mare – it’s usually our first item of business when we arrive.
Looking for an unforgettable romantic dinner with your travel partner? Try L’Ancora della Tortuga in Monterosso. Leo brought me here for my birthday last year and it was divine. The sunset we witnessed from our table was literally the realization of so many dreams (that vision board I made a few years back sure was useful…) But, while the view and romantic atmosphere is unmatched, the seafood dishes here are equally enchanting. The pasta with vongole and the spaghetti ai frutti di mare were wonderful. And, again, everything here is photogenic – hope your social media accounts can handle it.
In the old town of Monterosso, another of our favorite options is Ciak – great value for great food. Try their gnocchi al pesto, a dish this region is famous for (and, as you’ll see, for good reason.)
How to Get Around
If you’re into being healthy and active and sweaty and all that (in other words, not us) – you can follow the famous hiking trails and see the five towns (and breathtaking views) on foot. If you happen to be more like us and just want to make it to the beach or plate of pesto as quickly and comfortably as possible, the Cinque Terre Express Train will be your best friend.
Trains leave every few minutes, and cost €4 per person each way. If you plan on taking more than four trains in a day, you might consider the Cinque Terre Card (€16 for one day, €29 for two days.) Tickets can be purchased directly at the station.
There is also a ferry, which transports you between towns for €5 per person per way. You can also book tickets to see the nearby towns of Portovenere or Portofino.
We hope you found this info helpful. Please let us know if you have any tips for seeing the Cinque Terre, or if you have a favorite place/memory you’d like to share! We’d love to hear your insight.