Your recommendation for Vernazza or Monterosso al Mare?

Hello---we will be visiting Cinque Terre for the first time on our next trip to Europe (2010). We will have our 2 daughters with us, ages 18 and 22, and will spend 3 or 4 days in CT. This will be their first time in Italy. I want them to be able to experience the best---the great food, the friendliness, the scenery, the history, and a bit of "dolce far niente". We will be doing a lot of hiking while at CT.

I have read everything I can find on Cinque Terre---Rick's books and Helpline, other guidebooks, reviews on Tripadvisor, etc. and still can't choose a place to stay. My son, who has lived in Italy and visited CT many times, and knows my travel style, says we should consider Monterosso, as there will be more to do in the evenings. I would like to consider Vernazza as well.

With four of us, an apartment would work best, but we would also consider 2 double rooms in a hotel. The absolute requirements are a balcony or terrace with a sea view and friendly, reliable owners or management. (I have read too many "bait and switch" stories by people who booked one type of accomodation but arrived to be told they would be given something else).

We are quite independent and an apartment where we get the key and never see the manager again would be fine. But so would a hotel where we got a warm welcome and a nice breakfast with a smile from the staff each morning. We don't need luxury or a lot of space, but do want something nice--meaning clean, nicely furnished, and functional, not "ramshackle" as Rick likes to call some places. We don't mind a lot of steps, especially if that will give us a great view of the coast and the sea.

Any favorites you can recommend, particularly apartments or rooms with kitchen? Or places you would warn us off?

Also, I would be particularly interested in hearing about the quad rooms at Hotel Villa Steno and Hotel Pasquale---are they fairly large? Balcony? Views? Thanks!

Posted by Bobbi
Athens, Georgia
65 posts

We just got back from a 4 night stay at the Hotel Pasquale and we were very happy. The staff is very welcoming, the breakfast is very nice (they make a great croissant that is sitting at every place setting in the morning, plus they will make you an omelet if requested) I don't know anything about the size of their quad rooms since it was just the two of us so we just had a double but we did have a lovely view outside our window and could hear the sea at night. If you're a light sleeper the trains could be a problem at night but they didn't bother us at all. I brought ear plugs along just in case but never used them and we slept with the windows open two of the four nights. The room was clean and the bathroom was a decent size. We would definitely stay there again.

Posted by Ash
Tulsa, Oklahoma, US
290 posts

Your choice of which town to stay in depends in large measure what you want to do. Monterosso is the most touristy of the 5 towns and has traffic; Vernazza is quieter with no cars or scooters. Monterosso does has the best beach of the five and, as you said, more nightlife, so with two young women that may be the determining factor . However, a late dinner on the piazza in Vernazza is quite enjoyable. RS Italy guidebook lists several options as far as accomodations. If you decide on Vernazza, check out www.francamaria.com Nice rooms, several with views of the piazza and harbour, private entrances. I don't think they have any quads, but you can get two doubles that share a common outside entrance. Hope this helps.

Posted by Bob
Gettysburg, PA
1364 posts

Lola, as I recall, it's about 180 steps of uneven stone steps- but the view! Ample light, but the flashlight is always a good idea. If she doesn't have room, her relatives have a nice enough apartment lower down on the same " street".

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Thank you for your comments. Bobbi---did any of the rooms at Pasquale have balconies? It doesn't seem so from photos. Is there a rooftop terrace or csomplace to sit outside in the early evenings to enjoy the view with a glass of wine?

Ash---is the "touristy" aspect of Monterosso because of the cars? Or do you mean "touristy" as in overpriced, overhyped, crowded with T-shirt shops, etc.? I understand that Monterosso does have cars, and that is a negative (I love the car-free villages of Switzerland, for example). But do the cars go in th eold town as well? My impression is that the cars are in the "new town" and run on one street along the waterfront, but the old town is all pedestrian. I would appreciate clarification in this if anyone can tell me.

My son said that of all the 5 villages, Monterosso felt (to him) the most welcoming and the least fatigued by dealing with tourists. Elsewhere they were occasinally met with abruptness and once even downright rudeness (and he speaks good Italian, and is friendly and well-behaved, I assure you). As a result, they were disappointed, particularly with Manarola and Rio Maggiore.

I will check out Francamaria's rooms---if there is a view terrace, that looks like a close fit to what we are looking for.

Any more suggestions?

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

"We love this place" is just what I want to hear! I'll look into it.

A question about the steps---are they lighted at night? If we return from dinner late, will we have any trouble finding our way? I always carry a travel flashlight, but it's nice to have some street lights too.

(Our family loves to joke about the time in Chamonix when our host for the week drove us to a lovely country inn for dinner, then left us there, claiming he had too much to drink to carry passengers (or to drive, for that matter). It was only a mile to walk back home, but it was black as pitch--no lights, no moon, no buildings or other sources of light. Just a trail through the forrest. Fortunately I had the little flashlight, and no no one ever teases me about carrying it wherever I go.)

Posted by Ash
Tulsa, Oklahoma, US
290 posts

Lola, you may be right about cars only in the new part of town; we were there four years ago and the mind wobbles a bit. As far as 'touristy', Monterosso seemed to be the busiest, least laid back of the 5 towns; more people, hotels and not as much charm. We stayed in Vernazza for 3 days and hiked, trained and boated to the others; it was nice to come 'home' in the evening for dinner on the piazza, enjoy the slow pace, stroll among the locals, and savor the quiet. An early morning stroll there is enchanting. Just don't expect to find a coffee at 7 AM !

Posted by Bobbi
Athens, Georgia
65 posts

Lola,
I don't believe that any of the rooms had balconies. We had a nice sized window, but if you've seen a picture of the place you can see what it looks like. The hotel does have several tables right out front where I suppose you could sit with a glass of wine. We actually went to one of the enoteca's a couple of times for our evening after dinner drink. They had outside tables and had classical music and opera playing on the stereo. Plus you get to people watch.
Another thing: I read all the stuff about the different towns before we went and I really don't think that I would describe Monterosso as more touristy. When the other person talked about traffic it's nothing like you would find in say Siena (this is a little town). We were there two weeks ago and found it nice and quiet. We spent one day in Vernazza (a Sunday) and found things a lot more crowded and noisy. Granted it was the weekend and the Italians were out in force. In fact the only town we didn't find busy during the day was Corniglia.

Posted by Rebecca
Vidalia
111 posts

We stayed at the hotel Piccolo in Manorola a few years ago, on the top floor in a room with bedroom and double bed in the other room - and a wonderful rooftop deck overlooking the sea! At that time, it was a Rick-recommended hotel; don't know if it still is or not.

Posted by Janet
Maple Grove, MN
737 posts

We have really enjoyed staying in Vernazza in the past. I have 2 rooms for 5 people booked at Francamaria's for 4 nights this July. If you want to contact me after July 27, I can let you know what I think. If you go to her website www.francamaria.com you can view pictures and see a map of where the rooms are.

She has some rooms with harbor views but none with balcony or terrace. Room #7 is a large apt. and can easily accommodate 4 people and has a sea and harbor view. Room #1 is a large quad with sea and harbor view also. Room #2, for 2 people, has a harbor view. Rooms 3 (quad), 4 (double), and 5 (double) are on the same floor but no sea view but very close to the harbor and square. The reviews at trip advisor were very good for Francamaria's although I would probably avoid rooms 4 and 5. According to trip advisor reviews--Room 4, no view and only window at street level. Room 5 also no view and no window but a transom over the door.

I have booked Rm. #3 for 4 nights and Room #1 was only avail. for 3 nights and then we switch to room #7 for the last night. Rm #7 was not avail. for the other nights.

I would also check out La Marina Rooms at www.lamarinarooms.com Ask about the 2 bedroom apt. (sleeps 6) with stone terrace and sea views. Good reviews at trip advisor. Lots of stairs but amazing views. Was booked when I inquired about it for July.

Good Luck!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17783 posts

Lola,

Given the ages of your group, I have to agree with your Son that Monterosso al Mare would be a better choice. As the others have mentioned this has the nicest beach of the five villages, and is the largest so will have the best selection of accommodations. As there's both a "new town" and "old town" (accessible through an old tunnel) there's lots to explore.

While Vernazza certainly does have it's own "character", it tends to be one of the most popular places for many travellers and also tour groups.

I'm assuming you've checked the accommodation listings in the Italy Guidebook? Rick's listings are usually quite "safe".

It's unfortunate that your Son had negative experiences in Manarola and Riomaggiore, as I certainly haven't been the recipient of any "rude" behaviour from the locals in those towns. I stayed in Riomaggiore on my last visit and had a great time!

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Thank you for your comments. I have loooked at the Francmaria website, but can't get a feel for the views, particularly from # 7. So yes, Janet, I would be interested in hearing what you think after your stay.

At this point I am leaning toward Monterosso and probably the Hotel Villa Steno, since it always comes out tops in the reviews. But I see that Rick has "upgraded" his recco for Albergo Marina (also in Monterosso) since the 2006 edition (I've now ordered the 2009). So I wonder if anyone has stayed there?