Cinque Terre – Overview and Our Favorite Local Spots

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, or “five lands” in Italian, is not one city. Rather, it is a collection of five small towns on the Italian Riviera. Each town has its own unique beauty and culture and cannot be missed during a trip to Italy!

Before you go, here’s a summary of each of the towns, what they have to offer, and our favorite local spots at each stop.

Monterosso:

Monterosso is by far the largest town of the five with the widest variety of restaurant and shops. The (very relatively) large coastal town is the choice for those wanting to spend time at the beach or those who are seeking a nightlife (although still not much of a nightlife place). Monterosso’s beautiful winding streets are lined with wonderful restaurants and shops. The famous Cinque Terre hiking path starts here in Moneterosso, and the hike to the next town of Vernazza takes approximately two hours including stops for photo opportunities. If you are looking to stay in one of the five towns during your trip to Cinque Terre, my suggestion would be to find accommodations in Monterosso or Riomaggiore. Monterosso is the furthest of the five towns from the nearest major city of La Spezia.

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Favorite Local Spots:

Il Laboratorio del Pesto (Pesto Lab): Liguria is the region credited with the creation of pesto, and the Pesto Lab in Monterosso cranks out some of the best I’ve ever had. They have multiple variations of classic basil pesto including classic, fresh, and vegan (fresh is the best!). They also have other delicious condiments like truffle cream and nocci sauce – 3 large containers for 20 euros.

Enoteca da Eliseo: This is a great place to grab a glass of wine, some tasty snacks, or even a Limoncello Spritz! There are plenty of local wines to choose from and the atmosphere is laid back.

Da Eraldo: Da Eraldo is immediately across the alley from Enoteca da Eliseo. It is my favorite restaurant in town, bar-none. They have a small menu consisting of incredibly fresh ingredients and well-crafted dishes. Grab a bottle of Italian beer to go along with their freshly made seafood pasta or their pesto caprese salad. The seats are extremely limited, so get there early or make a reservation.

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Ristorante Belvedere: This restaurant is right down by the water and has plenty of space for patrons. With moderate prices and delicious seafood, this place is always full of locals and tourists alike. I recommend the black and white seafood pasta and the grilled seafood platter.

Enoteca Internatzionale: This is my favorite wine shop in the area. They have a wide variety of bottles from around Italy, and I even found a 1997 bottle of my favorite Amarone from Santa Sofia here for a very reasonable price. They also have simple plates, meat platters, and antipasta dishes available to sample with their variety of craft beers and wines.

Vernazza:

Vernazza is next to Monetrosso, getting closer to La Spezia. One of the most famous views of Cinque Terre is of the port in Vernazza, and it is undeniably a gorgeous view. The town is much smaller than Monterosso, but just as lively during the day.

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Favorite Local Spots:

Gelateria da Stalin: About half way between the train station and the water, this gelateria is my favorite in town – especially perfect on a hot day. If you’re up for something different, I recommend trying their unique and fresh basil gelato.

Lunch Box: This little place pumps of simple, fresh, healthy, and delicious paninis, salads, and freshly squeezed juices. They also have a variety of craft beers available. It’s perfect for take away to enjoy a healthy lunch near the water, but they also have a few tables inside if you want to sit down and enjoy your freshly made lunch.

Ristorante II Gambero Rosso: This restaurant is right on the port and is hands down the best choice of the five or six restaurants located on the water. Like many restaurants in Cinque Terre, their prices are a bit steep by Italian standards, but their seafood dishes are to die for!

Corniglia:

Corniglia is debatably the most beautiful of the five towns. It is much smaller and quieter than Monterosso or Vernazza, which only adds to its charm. You can either hike to the town or catch the train. From the train station, there are 365 stairs to climb to get to the heart of the town, one for each day of the year. Alternatively, you can catch a bus that runs into the city center for 1.50 euros in off season or 4 euros in high season – or if you have the Cinque Terre card, the bus is included. Spend time wandering around Corniglia’s one, winding alley, grab a coffee at one of Corniglia’s many cafes, or walk all the way to the end of the alley and grab a glass of local wine while overlooking the water from above.

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Favorite Local Spots:

Alberto Gelateria: This little hole-in-the-wall is so adorable and has great gelato, and everything is made from local ingredients. Try their ice cream or a lemon slushy. So good!

Pan e Vin Bar: I love this place. It’s a perfect place to grab a spritz or a glass of wine. They have great specials on drinks with appetizer plates. You can also order generous (and delicious) sandwiches for takeaway for cheap.

Bar Terza Terra Corniglia: At the very, very end of Corniglia’s winding alley, there is Bar Terza Terra Corniglia. This place is by far the best place to enjoy a beverage with a view. The views are absolutely stunning here. Be warned – during off season or on rainy days, Bar Terza Terra has been known to not open. Even if you hit bad weather, however, the lookout is open to everyone, not just customers!

Manarola:

Manarola is by far the smallest and quietest town of the five. In my opinion, it’s also the most picturesque. If you’re not sitting down for a meal in town, you need all of 30 minutes to see everything and snap some stunning photos. Make sure to walk past the town and up the hill to capture the most beautiful pictures. Even better? There’s a bar at the top of the hill where you can take in the views, relax, and reflect upon the beauty that is Manarola.

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Favorite Local Spots:

Nessun Dorma Cinque Terre: Here’s the bar that overlooks all of Manarola. Worth the five minute hike up the hill – trust me! 🙂

Marina Piccola: If you’re looking for a sit down meal in Manarola, this is your place. I recommend the seafood appetizers. They don’t do just drinks – you must be having a meal to dine here.

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Riomaggiore:

With the exception of Manarola, Riomaggiore (in my opinion) has the liveliest atmosphere of the five towns. The small town, closest to the city of La Spezia, contains one street full of restaurants, mini supermarkets, and shops, and also has a beautiful Marina. The marina is one of the best places in Cinque Terre to have a romantic dinner, and it’s certainly the most beautiful place to watch the sun set.

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Favorite Local Spots:

Bar O’Netto: I stop at Bar O’Netto every time I’m in Cinque Terre. They have craft beer and very inexpensive glasses of wine – 2 euros for a glass or 8 for the bottle. They also have a great selection of teas. This is the most happening spot in the town of Riomaggiore after 8 PM.

Vertical Bar: This cool little bar is near the top of the up-hill road in Riomaggiore. They play loud, awesome, classic music (like Johnny Cash) and serve up drinks in a no frills bar. The outdoor seating is a great place for people watching and reflecting on the fact that you’re in such a beautiful town on the Italian Riviera.

Bar Conchiglia: This place is so great! It’s perfect for grabbing a snack and a glass of wine or a spritz. At the very end of the Marina, Bar Conchiglia offers the best views of Riomaggiore by the water.

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Pescato Cucinato: This is my absolute favorite place for fresh fried fish. I never go to Cinque Terre without a stop here. Cones of fresh-caught seafood like anchovies and calamari are lightly breaded and immediately served in takeaway cones, with a lemon on top. Don’t miss a stop at Pescato Cucinato!

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Giammi Café: If you are in the market for breakfast, go to Giammi café. They have multiple breakfast items including brioche, omeletttes, toasts, and bacon and eggs – this is very rare for Italy. They’ll even serve you a great, big mug of piping hot Americano. It’s the perfect start to your day of hiking or exploring the five towns, and it’s certainly a good taste of the comforts of home.

 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Cinque Terre is an incredibly beautiful place. I’ll never forget the first view… Spent there just half a day, but I have really lovely memories of it. And I so much want to return.

    Liked by 1 person

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