Where to stay in Cinque Terre?

We are visiting Italy next May/June and will be driving from Venice to Cinque Terre. We have not been in that area, so I am interested in advice as to where to stay for two nights. It will be me, my husband, daughter, and son-in-law.
Thanks so much!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3349 posts

How is your driving in narrow spaces? Any of the five towns will do, since they are connected by numerous trains in both directions and therefore you can easily visit any town from any of the others (from East to West: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso). Riomaggiore is the easiest to get to by car. It's a shorter trek from the main big roads. Once you get there you'll have to park the car at the parking structure just past the barrier. Cars aren't allowed beyond that point. The town is nice, the beach is so so (rocky). I used to drive to Riomaggiore often in youth exactly because of the ease of reach with a car or motorbike from my vacation home (near Carrara). Then I would take a train to whichever village I wanted to go that day. On the opposite (west) end is Monterosso. It's the biggest town and more car friendly (more parking and maybe you can even drive to your accommodations). It has the best beach. However harder to get to than Riomaggiore because of the long road from the freeway to the town. From the Carrodano exit you have to climb up the mountain and then come back down on the coast side on a narrow curvy road. Don't be tempted to do that from the Borghetto di Vara exit. I did it once thinking it was easier and shorter. I was wrong. If you are taking the car with you, I wouldn't go to the other towns, unless you feel very comfortable driving on a two way road large enough for one car with a cliff on one side and a 300 ft ravine on the other. But if you feel comfortable driving in narrow spaces, you can go to any where you find the accommodations that suit you. Consider however that Corniglia has a station a little distance from the town (lots of stairs).

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

We are very partial to Vernazza, but have not stayed in any other village. Not sure if Vernazza will have the same appeal after the cleanup following the flood.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

You need to heed the advice of someone who has experience driving there. Mthe car should drive your choice of village, or you may run into unanticipated trouble with parking. Confirm the parking with any place you decide on before making a firm reservation. When we were kin Manarola ( without a car,thankfully) we took a walk above town and saw the parking situation. The paid lot was completely full and no one was allowed to park along the street. Two cars were just sitting there at the gate with their drivers, waiting for something to open up. Mone had been there for over an hour. Mwhat a waste of good time in Cinque Terre! We also saw a car with several young men who were lost. They were trying to get to Vernazza and the GPS led them astray. Me were of course unable to help when they asked us for directions. Me saw them transit the same intersection on a curve several times, looking for the route. MIT was not a pretty sight.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3349 posts

I think with a car you are better off in Monterosso. Longer to get to from where you are coming from, but the roads are a few extra inches wider. Also more parking. They used to have a huge parking lot right at the beach (pay parking lot). Don't know if it's still there but it should, in case your hotel has no ability to accommodate your car. As I said Riomaggiore is quicker to get to from the East, however the last half a mile is narrow also. I've never had problems finding parking at the parking garage. Wasn't cheap though (but for 2 days it's not a big deal). Roads are really narrow, especially once you get off the provincial highway. The last stretch to town is a road that connects the provincial highway to the towns. It's as narrow as one narrow lane, but it's a two way road. If you happen to get a car or delivery truck going the opposite direction, the car going uphill has the right of way. If you are going downhill you have to find a spot that is not as narrow and go as close as possible to the wall (or the guardrail on the ravine side) so that the car going uphill can pass. Sometimes you have to back up until you find a suitable spot. If you go to Monterosso, I don't think it's bad at all. So if you don't feel comfortable driving in very narrow spaces, go there. But the most important issue is parking. Of the other towns only Riomaggiore had a nice parking situation because of the Carpark structure.

Posted by Bob
Minneapolis
589 posts

Hi Patrice. You may want to get the Rick Steves Italy book at bookstore or library. It has a great info on all of the CT towns as well as a wealth of info about other areas in Italy. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Patrice, The Cinque Terre is not an ideal location to visit by car, for the reasons that Roberto mentioned. I agree that Monterosso would probably be the best choice of the five towns for those with a car, as it's the largest and at least some of the accommodations offer parking. I'd suggest staying in the "new town" (Fegina), as you'll be more likely to find a place that offers parking. Traffic is no longer allowed on Via Roma in the old town since the streets were repaired following the floods of Oct. 2011. There are apparently exceptions for emergency vehicles and the small Piaggio Ape vehicles, but other vehicles are not permitted. For accommodations in the new town, you could try Villa Adriana, while in the old town you could try Villa Steno. Both have limited parking available AFAIK. Villa Steno is at the top of town, so it's above the part of the street that's closed (check their website for details). I was there in September, but can't recall if there's still parking in the beach area. A large new concrete car park was being constructed at the top of the "old town", but that seems to have ground to halt, apparently mired in some kind of bureaucracy at the moment. I doubt that it will be possible to get into Vernazza with a car, as repairs are still ongoing from the flood damage. AFAIK, only local vehicles are allowed at the present time. The easiest solution might be to leave the car in the new car park near the station in La Spezia, and use the local trains or boats to get around. It's not likely you'll be using the car too much during the time you're in that area. Happy travels!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7211 posts

When we visited, we parked near the naval base in La Spezia. It was free and safe, neither applied to parking near the train station, but about a mile walk. Of the five towns, we thought Vernazza was the pretiest but it depends on what you prefer. If you want to park there, Monterosso is going to be your best bet. The drive from Venice to La Spezia is a long one, we stopped for a night about halfway between. Part of the issue was getting our car from parking in Venice. We parked in Rick's suggested private lot - which kept the car safe while visiting Venice - but was expensive and time consuming both dropping off and picking up (probably 1 1/2 hours each). If I had to do it over, I'd park in Mestre and train into Venice. The other issue we had was not carrying a GPS. We had driven in Europe many times and never felt we needed a GPS. After driving in Italy, I immediately bought a good GPS with European maps and haven't traveled without one since. The signage in Italy, both in cities and on the autostradas, is horrible. We lost lots of time missing an exit and trying to get turned around. Because exits on the toll roads are few and far between, one missed or wrong turn will cost you at least 20 minutes.

Posted by Patrice
Madison, AL
20 posts

Thanks for all the advice! Three years ago, we drove from Venice to Siena and into Rome (quite an experience) and my husband is German and used to driving on narrow roads. However, trying to find a hotel in the Cinque Terre seems to be difficult. Any suggestions? Is it worth it for two nights? Thanks!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Patrice, Yes, a visit to the Cinque Terre is definitely "worth it" (IMHO, of course). Once you arrive there, you may wish you had booked more time. Two nights will only allow about a day and a bit for touring. As someone else noted, the drive from Venice will be a full travel day, which will only really leave one day for touring. "However, trying to find a hotel in the Cinque Terre seems to be difficult." Could you elaborate on that? Are you trying to book a Hotel now? The greater majority of the tourist businesses in the Cinque Terre are now closed for the season, so they may not even have anyone checking E-mails or taking reservations. I'd suggest first trying the Hotels listed in the Italy 2013 Guidebook (available now, both in print and E-book format). You could also have a look at the Hotels listed on the Monterosso or Vernazza websites. If you find a Hotel that does reply, I'd recommend booking EARLY as May / June (spring shoulder season) can be BUSY in that area. Good luck!