Cinque Terre, a captivating stretch along the Italian Riviera, is home to five uniquely beautiful towns: Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, and Corniglia.
Each offers a distinct blend of scenic beauty, charm, and character.
In this blog, I rank all 5 Cinque Terre towns from best to worst, based on their picturesque landscapes, attractions, culinary offerings, and overall ambiance.
It’s important to note that this ranking is subjective, as each town holds its own unique allure. I have visited all 5 villages and LOVE them. And while I recommend visiting each one, they each have their quirks. I’m giving you the info you need to pick which town(s) to prioritize.
Let’s dive in!
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Cinque Terre Towns Ranked Based on Experience
So, how does one go about ranking the enchanting towns of Cinque Terre? It’s certainly not an easy task, given the unique charm and beauty each town possesses.
However, to provide a useful guide for those planning their visit, I’ve taken into account specific criteria to rank these picturesque Italian destinations.
The criteria used for this ranking include the town’s overall scenic beauty, the charm, and authenticity of its streets and architecture, the variety and quality of dining and accommodation options, accessibility, and the general atmosphere, including how crowded it might get.
Each town was given a score out of 10 for each category, resulting in a total score out of 50.
#1 Vernazza – Cinque Terre’s Picturesque Heart
- Score: 42/50
- Known For: Its stunning natural harbor and the lively Piazza Marconi.
- Best Quality: The perfect blend of scenic beauty and authentic village life.
- Worst Quality: Can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourist season.
Vernazza takes the top spot in our Cinque Terre rankings, celebrated for its stunning natural harbor and lively Piazza Marconi.
The quintessential view of its colorful houses and historic Doria Castle is a photographer’s dream, best captured from the surrounding hiking trails.
Despite its popularity, Vernazza retains an authentic charm, with its narrow streets leading to breathtaking sea views. The town is also a culinary delight, known for its fresh seafood and local wine.
Its perfect blend of beauty, history, and gastronomy makes Vernazza the jewel of Cinque Terre.
It also happens to be one of the most Instagrammable towns in Italy!
#2 Manarola – A Picture-Perfect Postcard
- Score: 41/50
- Known For: Dramatic cliffside views and iconic photo opportunities.
- Best Quality: Breathtaking panoramic views, especially from the Via dell’Amore.
- Worst Quality: Limited dining and accommodation options compared to other towns.
Manarola, ranking second, is famed for its dramatic and scenic setting.
Bust out your travel camera gear!
This town is quintessentially Cinque Terre, with its vibrant houses perched atop craggy cliffs that plunge into the azure Mediterranean.
The view from the famed walking path, Via dell’Amore, offers a breathtaking panorama that encapsulates the essence of this picturesque village.
Manarola is smaller and quieter than Vernazza, offering a more tranquil experience.
The town is also renowned for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine, a delight for those who appreciate local flavors. Its compact size means fewer dining and accommodation options, but what Manarola lacks in variety, it makes up for in charm and photogenic scenes.
The town’s serene atmosphere, combined with its iconic landscape, makes it a must-visit destination in Cinque Terre, especially for those seeking the perfect photograph.
#3 Riomaggiore – The Gateway to Cinque Terre’s Charm
- Score: 40/50
- Known For: Vibrant marina and traditional architecture.
- Best Quality: Dynamic atmosphere with a good mix of dining and shopping options.
- Worst Quality: Can feel a bit more commercial and crowded than quieter towns like Corniglia.
Riomaggiore ranks third with its vibrant marina and distinctive architecture.
As the first stop for many in Cinque Terre, it sets an energetic tone with its colorful houses and lively main street offering diverse dining and shopping.
Known for picturesque sunset views over the marina, Riomaggiore combines traditional charm with a bustling vibe.
While it may not match the tranquility of Manarola or Vernazza’s piazza life, its blend of lively coastal atmosphere and iconic landscapes makes it a favorite for many visitors.
#4 Monterosso al Mare – Cinque Terre’s Beach Retreat
- Score: 39/50
- Known For: Its extensive sandy beaches and resort-like ambiance.
- Best Quality: Offers the most amenities, including larger hotels and beach facilities.
- Worst Quality: Lacks the quaint, cliffside charm of the other towns; can feel less authentic.
Monterosso al Mare, in fourth place, is distinct within Cinque Terre for its expansive sandy beaches and resort-like feel.
This is actually where I stayed on my first visit to Italy — I loved it!
As the largest of the five towns, it offers more in terms of accommodation and is arguably the most accessible for visitors.
The town’s beachfront is a major draw, providing a perfect spot for sunbathing and swimming, a rarity in the mostly rocky coast of Cinque Terre.
While Monterosso lacks the steep cliffside setting of the other towns, it compensates with a lively promenade, good restaurants, and a historical old town area.
It’s the go-to destination for those seeking a more traditional beach holiday experience while still being in the heart of Cinque Terre.
Though it might feel less quaint compared to its neighbors, Monterosso’s unique blend of beachside relaxation and cultural experiences makes it a worthy stop.
#5 Corniglia – A Hidden Gem Atop the Hills
- Score: 37/50
- Known For: Its elevated position atop a hill and quieter, more secluded setting.
- Best Quality: Offers a more authentic Italian village experience with fewer tourists.
- Worst Quality: Accessibility; requires climbing a long flight of stairs (the Lardarina) or a shuttle ride from the train station.
Corniglia, ranking fifth, offers a different perspective of Cinque Terre.
Perched atop a hill, it’s the only town without direct sea access, reached instead by climbing a long flight of stairs known as the Lardarina.
This unique location makes Corniglia quieter and less touristy, offering a more authentic Italian village experience.
The town’s elevated position provides stunning panoramic views of the Mediterranean and the surrounding vineyards.
Corniglia’s charm lies in its narrow streets, small squares, and fewer crowds, allowing for a more intimate exploration.
While its accessibility may deter some visitors, those who make the climb are rewarded with a peaceful atmosphere and a sense of being away from the usual tourist paths.
And unlike the other towns in Cinque Terre, this ranks lower on my list because it’s perched up on a hill, making it more difficult to access the ocean.
Corniglia’s quaintness and seclusion make it a hidden gem within Cinque Terre, perfect for those seeking tranquility and scenic beauty.
So, Which Town Should You Stay In?
Well, it depends on your priorities! While Vernazza seems like the easy choice, it can get so crowded that it starts to become unenjoyable.
My recommendation would be to get a Cinque Terre Card and visit all five towns, but stay wherever will allow you to save money or prioritize something you REALLY want to see.
Make sure you read the most Instagrammable towns in Italy next.