There aren’t many people who haven’t heard of the Cinque Terre, Italy’s most beautiful jewel in a very impressive crown. Over the years, countless travellers from all over the world have fallen for the considerable charms of this wonderful place. They come (and many of them come back multiple times) for the staggeringly beautiful coastal views, the authentic character of the five villages that make up the region, the history, the culture, the hiking and, yes indeed, they come for the food! It is Italy, after all.
Discover the Fabulous Food and Wine of Cinque Terre
The truth is that for many people, the food and wine are a major drawcard for a holiday to the region and, in some cases, one of the main reasons they’re so keen to spend time in this picturesque location. The scenery is one thing (and it really is something), but what could be more enticing than a generous helping of authentic cuisine and a bottle of local wine to imprint the memories of one of the most famous destinations in Italy?
At Walkabout Florence we’re proud of our excellent, fun filled tours, but none more so than our day trip to the Cinque Terre. Our tour is the very best way to explore the area, because we take all the guesswork and stress out of getting there and then take care of all the details! What could be better?
There are some fantastic restaurants spread over the five villages. It doesn’t matter whether you’re hiking (which sees you walking along the famous Via dell’Amore) or travelling from village to village by train, however you arrive, there’ll be plenty of places waiting to tempt you with delicious food and wine!
To give you a headstart on what will undoubtedly be a very difficult choice, we’ve compiled our 2021 Restaurant Guide by answering some very important questions. We’ve included everything from budget to high priced restaurants to cater to everyone’s tastes.
What are the Most Popular Restaurants in Cinque Terre?
Come the busy summer season here, there are not many restaurants that aren’t popular, to be honest. But it definitely pays to do a little research and keep an eye on where the locals eat because, just like anywhere, there are places where it’s still possible to get a sub-standard meal. Steer clear of the very ‘touristy’ venues and try the more authentic family-run places that might be a little off the beaten track. These are a few of the most popular restaurants, but remember, that doesn’t mean there aren’t many more you should try – as attested to by the rest of our guide!
Trattoria Dal Billy: This fabulous little trattoria in Manarola is a true mecca for seafood lovers. The menu is packed with fishy dishes like salted fried anchovies, squid ink pasta, lobster, stuffed mussels and more, all served up with a generous helping of magical sea views. It’s the quintessential local food experience and it’s no surprise it’s so popular with residents and visitors.
Da Aristide: Also in Manarola, Da Aristide is a family-run place that’s been going for almost sixty years. Located very close to the Via dell’Amore, the ambience here is almost as appealing as the food. The menu is full of authentic and traditional dishes, with lots of seafood and pasta dishes. It can get quite busy, but the service is fast and friendly. It’s the perfect place to stop for lunch and then get back out on the trail.
Rio Bistrot: Overlooking the harbour at Riomaggiore, with picture perfect views over the ocean, Rio Bistrot’s fantastic seafood-heavy menu takes the traditional and bestows a contemporary twist. Manuel Germani, the owner, knows what his customers want and serves up elegant dishes with daily selections changing depending on the fresh catch. It’s relatively pricey, but well worth the investment if you’re a real foodie. Book a table outdoors on a fine day and you’ll be entranced by the views as well as the food.
Ristorante Ciak: The popularity of this place in Monterosso is, in part, due to its charming chef, Ciak, who has personality plus. But the delicious, very reasonably priced food also ticks all the boxes. Hearty pasta dishes made in the traditional Ligurian way abound on the menu, including the house specialty Spaghetti Ciak (seafood spaghetti) and gnocchi with fresh pesto.
Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre with a View
Considering its location, you’d imagine quite a lot of restaurants would take advantage of the spectacular ocean views from all five of the villages. And you’d be absolutely correct. While we’ve chosen just a few for the purposes of our list, there are many, many more.
De Cecio: This is where you can stop for lunch in Corniglia, and after you’ve climbed the 380 steps from the station to this clifftop village you can expect a stunning view from your table! If you’re visiting Cinque Terre on our tour we can arrange for you to enjoy an authentic 2-course meal at this family run restaurant for only 15 euros.
Nessun Dorma: The sunset views from Nessun Dorma in Manarola are absolutely iconic, but the restaurant’s menu is a worthy match. Specialising in the use of local and regional produce, the food is typically Mediterranean, with lots of fish, cold cuts, cheeses and a huge range of complementary wines and beers. Wedged right into the cliffs overlooking the gorgeous turquoise ocean, it feels like you could almost reach out and touch the horizon.
Bar La Terza Terra: While this tiny place in Corniglia may be small in size, it’s certainly big on views. You’ll have to be lucky to nab a table, so arrive early if you don’t want to be disappointed! Perch at one of the few tables on the small patio and take in the stunning views over the ocean and up the coast to Manarola. The excellent value menu includes small plates, bruschetta and appetizers as well as more substantial meals. Cocktails, local wines and a good selection of beers are also available.
L’ancora della Tortuga: This iconic restaurant in Monterosso is set into the cliffside in an old WWII bunker. Naturally, with a location like that the views are to die for, but don’t let that distract you from the food. Serving up traditional Ligurian cuisine with fish and meat specialties, you can choose from an a la carte menu or a seven course tasting menu, which is ideal if you want to try as much as possible. You may find it difficult to concentrate on your plate, however, with views like this at your fingertips.
Best Restaurants in Vernazza
Beautiful Vernazza is a popular favourite of the five villages (if you want to find out why, this blog post will go some way to explaining) and there are some excellent places to grab a quick bite or linger a while over a more substantial meal.
Ristorante Belforte: Dating back around fifty years, this superb restaurant offers magnificent ocean views from its home in an historic fortress. With a menu offering simple yet elegant traditional dishes, made from fresh local produce and, of course, heavy on the seafood, Ristorante Belforte offers a la carte and five-course mixed cold and warm fish samplers.
Ristorante Vulnetia: This family restaurant is proud of their long tradition of using high quality produce to serve up a wonderful range of authentic Ligurian dishes that maintain and promote the local culture. With everything from delicate seafood appetizers to pizzas, pastas and whole baked fish served with fresh seasonal vegetables, there’s pretty much something for everyone on the extensive menu. They also have a great selection of accompanying local wines, as well as wine from other Italian regions.
Lunchbox: In the quick bite category, Lunch Box is a fantastic place to grab a sandwich or light lunch. While it’s definitely not fancy, it deserves its place on our guide for the range of fillings from which to choose. You can select one of the house specialties or build your own from the extensive list. Along with their famous paninis, you can get tasty pasta dishes and a huge selection of fresh juices and smoothies. This place is great to stop off and grab something to take on the hiking trail with you, or sit in the sun and eat before heading on your way.
Best Restaurants in Monterosso
As the largest of all the five villages, it’s natural to assume you’ll find plenty of choice here. As with all the villages, the emphasis is on fabulous fresh seafood, but there’s plenty more to choose from if that doesn’t appeal.
Ristorante Miki: This is not only a favourite with visitors but also locals, and it’s been serving up delicious food since 1980. Renowned for its magnificent seafood-focused menu, this wonderful family restaurant delivers the fresher than fresh catch of the day in a range of traditional dishes, including whole salt-baked fish and the specialty, L’Acciugata alla Monterossina (anchovy spaghetti) cooked by chef Miky De Fina.
Cantina Miki: As the name suggests, this is the sister restaurant of the above, but it has a personality all its own. It’s run by Mika’s son, who’s created a menu full of classics infused with his own unique take on seafood and heavy on the flavour. Along with tasters and sampler plates, the restaurant specialises in quirky and highly delicious cocktails, including some made with local botanical gin and lemons.
Causa Persa: Located in Piazza Garibaldi in the Old Town, Causa Persa is the very opposite to its name, which translates to ‘lost cause’. It’s a fairly new establishment that blends traditional and contemporary methods to create some truly innovative cuisine. Their Mussels alla Pizzaiola is already a legend on the menu.
Top Local Dishes and Wine to Try
The best advice we can give you would be to try everything! But unfortunately that’s not usually possible on a day trip. We can, however, give you some tips on some local specialities to look out for.
Pesto pasta: This familiar dish originated in Liguria, so where better to try it? Comprising a sauce made from basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan cheese, this is an absolute staple of the region and comes highly recommended.
Fritto Misto: Served in an authentic little paper cone, Fritto Misto is a party on your palate, made up of lightly fried shellfish, seafood and vegetables. You can pick it up at cafes and fast food eateries. Delicious!
Farinata di Ceci: This is a mouthwatering little salty pancake made from chickpea flour and usually topped with zucchini and onions. Unusual but very tasty!
Lemons: Don’t be fooled into thinking a lemon is just a lemon, because the fragrant and juicy lemons of this area are definitely something special. They’re grown prolifically here and used in cooking, jams, sorbets and, of course, the famous local liqueur, Limoncello.
Polpo con Patate: Polpo is the word for octopus and this popular local dish is a cold salad made with polpo and boiled potatoes. It sounds simple, but because the seafood is so tasty it’s extremely flavoursome and refreshing.
Sciacchetra: The famous local wine is made with grapes grown right here in the terraced coastal vineyards. It’s sweet, almost like a dessert wine, and has a really unique taste that pairs perfectly with sweets.
Best Seafood in Cinque Terre
It would be a very hard ask to choose the best seafood restaurants of the area because, in fact, most of them would fall into all the categories already mentioned above. Instead we’re going to tell you the best seafood itself that you shouldn’t miss trying while in the region. In every one of the five villages you’ll be able to find seafood dishes on the menus of a host of restaurants, making good use of the fresh catch the fishermen bring in every day to the harbour. As well as fish, this includes:
Mussels: Fat, juicy mussels are in plentiful supply here and available in many incarnations on most menus of local restaurants. One of the lesser-known specialties that’s well worth seeking out is the traditional Muscoli Ripieni all’Antica (old fashioned stuffed mussels). It’s a very labour intensive process that involves painstaking preparation and slow cooking, but if you can find them, you’re in for a treat.
Anchovies: Absolutely nothing like the ones you’re used to out of a tin, the local anchovies are a must try and a real mainstay of the local cuisine. Known locally as acciughe, they can be served fried, baked, marinated, casseroled or just simply stirred through a pasta sauce. These tasty and readily-available little fish are always fresh, flavoursome and completely more-ish.
Antipasti ai frutti: For those who don’t want to miss a thing, if you order this dish, which you’ll see on the menu everywhere, you won’t have to. Translating to ‘fruits of the sea’ it is a common way to start a meal and offers a bit of everything, including prawns, crab, octopus, anchovies, fish and mussels. Every restaurant will have a different take on it, depending on their catch of the day and this is a great dish to share.
If all this talk about food has whet your appetite for the Cinque Terre you’ll be looking for the best way to get there, right? Being such a popular destination, there’s more than one way to travel, but some are easier than others.
We don’t like to blow our own trumpet (yes, we do!) but the most fun and stress free way to visit this gorgeous region is on our day trip from Florence, with an optional hiking tour. You’ll travel in a comfortable coach and be accompanied by a passionate local guide, who’ll take care of all the details. You’ll just have to concentrate on having fun, taking in those magnificent views and deciding on which restaurant you’ll choose for lunch… It’s a tough life.
If you’re based in Florence, it’s possible to take a train or a bus to La Spezia, from where you need to jump on the local train that links the five coastal villages. The obvious thing to point out is that you’ll need to adhere to schedules and timetables, which might mean wasting a fair bit of valuable time waiting around and co-ordinating transport.
You could also rent a car and drive yourself if you feel confident enough to navigate some pretty hairy roads. The other downside of this is that, because private cars are actually discouraged in the area, parking is scarce and you’ll pay a premium. Not recommended.
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We are Walkabout Florence, one of the most trusted and renowned operators in the business. We provide a fantastic range of authentic, fun-filled tours from Florence that are guaranteed to introduce you to the wonderful art, history, culture and food of this fantastic region. Whether you choose one of our cultural tours, wine and food safaris or fabulous Fiat 500 and Vespa tours, our passionate and friendly guides will ensure you have the time of your life, with memories that will last forever.