The Five Towns of Cinque Terre: A High School Clique Travel Guide
Spoiler Alert: Cinque Terre is not just 1 city in Italy, but rather 5 distinct towns (or villages) along the coastline! Don't be confused by this when people tell you to book your trip to Cinque Terre to see how amazing it is. You will not find a "train to Cinque Terre" or "hotels in Cinque Terre," but rather trains and hotels for each individual town.
If you are visiting for more than just a day trip (which I highly recommend doing), you will need to know which town you want to stay in, visit, etc. After visiting each of the towns this summer, I noticed that each village had it's own distinct personality that was different from the next. Some were steep on the mountain side, some were more photogenic, and some just had more to offer.
It reminded me a lot of the different cliques we used to see in high school: the jocks, the beauty queens, the drama kids, etc. So because of this, I decided to spice up this guide a bit and give you a "High School Clique" travel guide to the five towns of Cinque Terre so you can easily understand each one's personality!
*In order from North to South*
1) Monterosso al Mare: The Class President
Monterosso al Mare, often referred to as simply Monterosso, is the Class President of the five towns. Everyone likes the Class President because she always has a lot to offer in order to please the masses. Here you will find the most "resort" type vibe of all the towns. Monterosso is a combination of old and new with many hotels/B&Bs, restaurants, streets to walk and drive, easy access to sandy beaches, and local shops.
If you want to have a more relaxed experience without all the hiking and climbing, I would suggest Monterosso. You can even take an amazing boat tour from here that will show you all of the five towns by sea. I highly recommend this tour when visiting Cinque Terre, especially if you only have a day or two to see the area.
2) Vernazza: The Homecoming Queen
Vernazza is the girl that all the girls want to be and all the guys want to be with. She is the Homecoming Queen and easily the most picturesque of all the towns (a lot of pictures you may have seen of Cinque Terre are likely from Vernazza). Her beautiful waterfront comes complete with a castle, a tiny beach, and a colorful piazza. Just like the Homecoming Queen, it is impossible not to fall in love with Vernazza.
Come here to explore the exquisite one-street town that is filled with little wine bars, delicious restaurants, shops, and gorgeous views. I honestly recommend Vernazza for everyone because it is easily walkable and it is just too gorgeous to miss. **This is where I stayed when I visited!**
3) Corniglia: The Rebel Punk
Corniglia is the Rebel Punk of the group because she makes her own rules and doesn't care if you don't like it. Located high along the cliffs, Corniglia is the only town that is not directly on the waterfront and has a pretty steep walk to get there (the Lardarina staircase to get there is 33 flights and 337 steps!). However, once you do get to the town, you will find a lovely, quieter village that boasts some amazing views.
If you want a more quiet stay and are willing to brave the trek up (although I have been told that there are shuttles that can take you to the town--not sure if that's true), then Corniglia will be a good place for you. There is even a nude beach named Guvano Beach along the side of the town! Such a rebel, Corniglia...
4) Manarola: The Artist
Manarola is a little rough around the edges (literally with all the rocky exterior), but so creative and colorful under the surface. She is like the Artist of the group. Another extremely photogenic town of Cinque Terre, she boasts a beautiful coastline with areas and coves to swim, rocks to jump off of (I did this! And yes, it hurt like hell), vibrant architecture, and winding paths to walk along. The famous path Via dell'Amore, aka "The Way of Love", connects this town and Riomaggiore. It is historically known as a walking path for lovers (and tourists, hikers, etc.).
I would recommend Manarola for anyone who wants the same picturesque sites as Vernazza but is looking for a quieter option. It is also a nice spot to stop in for the day because there are some great shops and restaurants along the road.
5) Riomaggiore: The Prep
Riomaggiore is the clean-cut, beautiful Prep girl that we all know. She's not necessarily the most stunning or most popular, but everyone still knows her and likes her. Riomaggiore is another one-street town that has a lovely harbor, plenty of restaurants, a pharmacy, a castle, and great wine that is produced by the local vineyards.
The town is a bit more modern than some of the others, but still holds the same charm. It is fairly walkable with a few steep areas that are very manageable. I would recommend Riomaggiore to anyone who wants a nice, modern stay that is not as resort-y as Monterosso. *It is also the town that is closest to the train station that connects to La Spezia.
So there you have it! All of the five towns of Cinque Terre with their different personalities. Each of them are amazing in their own way, so you really can't go wrong when deciding on where to go. What's your favorite town of Cinque Terre? Comment below with feedback!