So stunning they’re Unesco-listed, the five villages of Cinque Terre in Italy are photogenic in the extreme. Get among them with a stay at one of the top hotels in the area – bookable on Culture Trip.
In Cinque Terre, centuries-old settlements cling to the vertiginous coast of the Liguria region like slurries of Dolly Mixture candies – a sweet temptation for hikers. Technically, the whole route – between Monterosso and Riomaggiore – can be covered in six or so hours. But that would be to rush the pleasure of this serene corner of Italy. Instead, most people choose to break it up over two nights or more, which is why we’ve compiled our list of the best places to stay while you’re visiting Cinque Terre. So, take a look – and book.
Take a very short train ride from La Spezia to reach Riomaggiore, the easternmost village of Cinque Terre. This quaint rural pile with pastel-painted structures adorning the cliffs is home to Cinque Terre Residence, a series of interconnected hillside buildings overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Light-filled, whitewashed rooms are just the ticket, with private outdoor spaces overlooking the vine-covered hills. Book a suite with a kitchenette so that you can prepare light meals and other snacks.
At the Hotel Villa Argentina, a short walk from the train station in Riomaggiore, book a sea-view room so that you can enjoy beautiful panoramas. Rooms are light and airy affairs, with bright-blue walls. The hotel also has a bar where you can try rossese di colceacqua wine and a terrace that allows you to see all the way to Corsica on clear days.
This 17th-century villa surrounded by olive trees and a lush garden, complete with views across the Gulf of Levanto, is perfect for luxury lovers. It makes for a relaxing rural stay. Public spaces have grand marble fireplaces and sofas to sink into with a fruity glass of local red in hand. The stately junior suite comes with a four-poster bed, and if you’re a family, book the suite that sleeps four. You’ll all love the outdoor pool, where a bar serves refreshing juices and aperitivi. Top marks if you hired an electric car – the hotel has charging points.
Manarola is another Cinque Terre village, and on the main street, right in the heart of all the action, is this bijou family-run hotel – a former fisherman’s house of rugged stone and green shutters. It knows just how to woo its guests, from its spectacular sea views to its well-cooked breakfast of eggs any way you like. For lunch and dinner, try the owners’ waterfront Marina Piccola Restaurant – a charming spot for feasts of fresh seafood – but also make time for the bars, shops and other restaurants in this lively little town.
It’s worth the steep climb for a night or two at this pair of houses close to the castle walls in Vernazza. Inside, you’ll find artfully styled rooms in pastel tones, inspired by the colours of the Cinque Terre villages. It’s a relaxing place where there’s little to do other than sun yourself in the gardens that lie between the Medieval Castello Doria (worth a visit for the views alone) and the rocky seafront below. Once hunger sets in, visit Trattoria Gianni Franzi, in Piazza Marconi, for delicious Ligurian specialities such as lemon anchovies, seafood ravioli and mussels.
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Book a couple of nights at this raspberry-bright, fuss-free little bolthole in the middle of Vernazza’s main square, steps from the sea. Whether you choose a cosy attic room or something larger with sea and harbour views, you can’t go wrong. Some of the rooms also overlook the rugged mountainous terrain, which often attracts hikers. For a relaxing afternoon, you can sit harbourside with a glass of wine in hand as the children paddle in the sea.
The second-smallest Cinque Terre town, Manarola is also perhaps the loveliest, with its bijou harbour. Here, La Torretta keeps things cool and relaxed with boutique-hotel-worthy rooms featuring prettily patterned walls and headboards. There are also impressive suites, with the Limonia and Panoramic options coming with private patios overlooking the sea and lush shrubs cloaking the hillside beyond. The lobby resembles an art gallery, with marble busts, framed paintings and colourful vases. Come sunset, shake a leg and join the other guests over complimentary aperitivi on the terrace while watching that mesmerising tangerine-hued horizon.
Levanto – the gateway to the Cinque Terre – is for beach lovers, with its sandy strip abuzz with cafes and bars. Almost within earshot of the surf is this smartly styled, beautifully restored palazzo – a neoclassical slab of yellow and deep pink on the outside. Once you step inside, discover an impressive blend of modern design and original ceiling frescoes. Its 11 plush rooms include four spacious junior suites with mezzanines.
Dubbed the sixth village of Cinque Terre, Portovenere attracts active types – it’s handy for hiking, sea activities and reaching the nearby island of Palmaria, which has some fantastic walking trails. This relaxing converted Franciscan convent, with wooden floors and soft shades throughout the rooms, is a short walk from the port. The on-site Palmaria Restaurant has a veranda with sea views, all the better for savouring spaghetti with wild garlic and mussels from nearby La Spezia. Board one of the boats for Portofino and Cinque Terre, and return to relax in the Turkish bath.
La Sosta di Ottone III, set in an old stone house in Chiesanuova in the principality of Levanto, is a fine place to rest your aching feet. It has six immaculately styled, beamed rooms that would not look out of place in a magazine; think a wicker rocker here, a free-standing wardrobe there and muted pastels throughout. Set 200m (656ft) above sea level, it looks out over vineyard-covered hills and olive groves. Enjoy a breakfast of home-made bread, salami and cheese on the plant-filled terrace, but leave space for dinner in-house at the La Sosta Kitchen, where the tasting menus feature pasta, cod mousse and the fish of the day.