Understanding the 5 Towns of Cinque Terre, Italy with Kids 

When travelers think of visiting Italy, the big cities like Florence, Venice and Rome usually come to mind first. But the boot-shaped country is practically surrounded by water with stretches of picturesque seaside villages overlooking the Mediterranean, Ionian and Adriatic Seas.  

In the northwestern Liguria region, the Italian Riviera has one of the most scenic coastlines, offering breathtaking views, terraced cliffs and vibrantly colored houses. One of the most stunning areas of the Riviera is Cinque Terre, which means “Five Lands” in Italian.  

Riomaggiore- credit Raul Taciu
View of Riomaggiore from the water. Photo by Raul Taciu

Why Visit Italy’s Cinque Terre with Kids

The Cinque Terre consists of five distinct villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. The location of these villages along the sea, braced by a mountainous landscape, can make it tricky to visit some of them, and cars are often restricted, which makes the region even more charming and sought-after by tourists. 

That said, each village is rather small, featuring narrow, winding streets and lots of stairs (not entirely conducive to strollers), with limited accommodations. During the summer months, the influx of visitors can make the area a bit stifling; even the hiking trails are heavily traversed.  

A visit during the off-season, including spring break, can provide a more authentic experience. Although it may mean skipping a dip in the sea, it’s the best way to truly enjoy the region. 

Beaches of Monterosso al Mare- credit Pedro Pereira
The beaches of Monterosso al Mare. Photo by Pedro Pereira

Exploring the 5 Cinque Terre Towns

Monterosso al Mare

Begin your journey in Monterosso al Mare, the largest and most accessible town in Cinque Terre, and a great base for exploring the Italian Riviera and its natural surroundings. It’s also the only village of the five with a large sandy beach, where you can lounge, swim and rent paddleboards. Because of its accessibility, it’s the most visited of the villages and its beach, complete with loungers and umbrellas rentals, can get crowded. 

The town is divided into the old town and the new town, or Fegina. The old town is filled with medieval streets and charming squares while new town is home to the train station and beach hotels.  

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Visit the striped Church of San Giovanni Battista to see an example of Ligurian Gothic architecture with a white and black marble facade, and the black-and-white-striped marble Church of San Francesco, which houses artwork by Anthony van Dyck. 

You’ll also want to stop by the Monterosso Giant, known as the Neptune Statue, which was carved directly into a rock cliff overlooking the sea in 1910. Heavily damaged by erosion and world wars, the statue stands 46 feet high and is still imposing. It’s visible from the beach and some hiking trails. 

Vernazza in Cinque Terre Italy- credit Sam Van Busse
Vernazza. Photo by Sam Van Busse


Arguably the most beautiful of the five towns and home to a lively piazza, Vernazza’s roots trace back to 1000 AD, when its location made it a vital part of maritime culture. 

While here, visit the beautiful Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia, which features an octagonal bell tower. As with other village attractions, you’ll need to embark on a steep climb to reach Doria Castle, which was built to protect the village from pirates and offers fantastic views. Near the castle ruins is a longtime staple of Vernazza, Belforte, which offers delicious seafood and some of the best views of the village and sea from cliffside tables. Or head indoors to its cave-like interior seating. 

After your lunch, you can also enjoy kayak rentals and tours from Cinque Terre Adventure. 

Corniglia Cinque Terre Italy- credit Julien di Majo
Corniglia. Photo by Julien di Majo


Positioned atop a 100-meter cliff, Corniglia is the most challenging of the villages to visit. To reach it, visitors must climb up the Lardarina, composed of 33 flights of brick steps (383 steps in all) — it’s a tough spot to stay for anyone taking the train in, as the climb can be arduous with luggage and kids. However, the elevated position away from the sea also makes it quieter and provides panoramic views. 

There are great hiking trails in Corniglia, including one that will take you down to the secluded Guvano Beach if you’re up for the challenge. Be forewarned that this was once a nudist beach and there could still be swimmers who prefer to go in the buff. Plus, the steep hike can be a bit treacherous, and with no facilities on this beach, you should skip this spot if you’re traveling with young kids. 

Manarola- credit Nicholas Beel
Manarola. Photo by Nicholas Beel


Manarola’s scenic viewpoint is a must-visit for one of the most iconic views of Cinque Terre. Located just above the village, it’s accessible via a short and well-maintained, albeit somewhat steep, walk along Belvedere.  

Meanwhile, in the heart of town, take a moment to visit the Gothic San Lorenza Church, which dates back to the early 1300s. Dedicated to Saint Lawrence, the church celebrates his feast day, August 10, every year with special events and a local festival that includes a procession in the village to bless the sea. 

Moms and dads should sample the sweet Sciacchetra dessert wine that is made here, especially paired with traditional Ligurian dishes like trofie al pesto pasta, anchovies with lemon, focaccia and brandacujun, a dish made with dried cod, potatoes, pine nuts and olives. 

The village is connected to Riomaggiore by the Via dell’Amore, or Path of Love, and families can enjoy the easy half-mile paved trail that follows the cliffs to Riomaggiore. (In the heat of summer, this pathway can become extremely crowded!)  

Manarola homes are also drenched in color and the tight roads along the hillside play into the village’s charm. 

Riomaggiore Italy
Riomaggiore. Photo by Jayakody Anthanas


One of the easier villages to access is Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five. Visitors can arrive via train and then follow a short walk into the main part of the village to the picturesque harbor and bustling main street, Via Colombo, filled with restaurants and grand hotels. You’ll see buildings brightly painted, one of the characteristics of Cinque Terre, done so fishermen could recognize their homes from the sea. 

Spend the day walking through the historic center and hiking the trails that ascend into the terraced hillsides and afford the most amazing views of the Mediterranean. Complete it with an afternoon visit to the 13th-century Castello di Riomaggiore. Once used as a lookout for pirates, the castle provides wonderful views and hosts local exhibits and events. 

The village does not offer a sandy beach, but rather a rock-filled beach similar to those found in Cannes, France. Be sure to wear water shoes if you’d like to go for a dip. Or visit Cinque Terre dal Mare and take a boat tour, offered in the mornings, afternoons and at sunset. You can also rent kayaks for private excursions or join a kayak tour through Cinque Terre Adventure. 

Stairs in Cinque Terre village
Stairs in Cinque Terre village. Photo by Karsten-Winegeart

How to Get to the Cinque Terre

 The best way to visit Cinque Terre is by train, with stops in each town just mere minutes apart. Avoid driving in, if possible, as the towns are extremely small with many pedestrian-only zones. Designated parking areas are typically found on the outskirts of town but are small and fill up quickly. Plus, parking can be quite costly. 

Purchase a Cinque Terre Card for unlimited travel with Wi-Fi and a chance to skip the lines during the busy season. 

Where to Stay in the Cinque Terre

Hotel La Spiagggia in Monterosso 

Situated in Monterosso, Hotel La Spiaggia is directly on the beach, offering easy access to the sea and stunning views from many rooms. The hotel is an excellent base for exploring all of Cinque Terre and is in close proximity to the train station, making travel between the villages effortless.  

Hotel La Spiaggia, like many hotels in Cinque Terre, is a bit small, with just 23 rooms. You may need to book two rooms and separate yourself from the kids, or cram into a more deluxe space that will still be pretty tight.  

Excelsior Palace in Rapallo 

With the small size and rugged terrain of Cinque Terre, considering making Rapallo a home base. Located an hour from the five villages, the lively waterfront town is easier to maneuver with small kids and is located on the train route to Cinque Terre. Enjoy its cultural scene, energetic palm tree-lined promenade, and lidos and beach clubs, which provide loungers, umbrellas, changing rooms and small restaurants to enjoy while relaxing on the sandy or rocky beaches. When you’re ready to explore the Cinque Terre villages, hop on the train for a scenic ride.  

Stay at the 5-star Excelsior Palace, which overlooks the sea from its cliffside vantage point. The resort features suites with separate living and sleeping areas, as well as bathtubs for little ones. From June to September, the property operates a beach club with two outdoor infinity pools, cabana rentals, and lunch and dinner service.

Relevant Links:

Browse all accommodations and activities in Italy with kids

52 things to know before traveling to Italy with kids

10 tips for visiting Cinque Terre with kids

3 ideas for a perfect day in Italy’s Cinque Terre with kids









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