The Italian Riviera — the lowbrow, underappreciated alternative to the French Riviera — has a breezy beauty all its own. The Cinque Terre are tops: five idyllic hamlets along a rugged coastline, connected by scenic hiking trails and dotted with beaches. But nearby towns to the north (Levanto, Sestri Levante, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Portofino) have more beaches; towns to the south offer a mix of marble (Carrara), train connections (La Spezia), and yachts (Porto Venere).
At a Glance
▲▲ Vernazza The region's gem — the most touristy and dramatic — crowned with a ruined castle above and a lively waterfront cradling a natural harbor below.
▲▲ Monterosso al Mare Resorty, flat, and spread out, with a charming old town, a modern new town, and the Cinque Terre's best beaches, swimming, and nightlife.
▲▲ Manarola Mellow, hiking-focused waterfront village wrapped in vineyards and dotted with a picturesque mix of shops and cliff-climbing houses.
▲▲ Santa Margherita Ligure Easygoing old-school resort town with an enjoyable urban bustle, a handful of sights, and close proximity to Portofino.
▲▲ Porto Venere Enchanting seafront village perfect for a scenic day trip (by boat or bus).
▲ Riomaggiore The most workaday of the Cinque Terre villages, with nightlife, too.
▲ Corniglia Quiet hilltop village known for its cooler temperatures (it's the only one of the Cinque Terre villages set above the water), fewer tourists, and tradition of fine wines.
▲ Sestri Levante Charming town on a peninsula flanked by two crescent beaches.
▲ Portofino Yacht-harbor resort with grand scenery and easy connections (by boat, bus, or on foot) from Santa Margherita Ligure.
Levanto Town popular with surfers and families for its long beach; has speedy trains to the Cinque Terre.
La Spezia Beachless transportation hub, with trains and boats to the Cinque Terre and buses and boats to Porto Venere.