Cinque Terre Itinerary: A Travel Planning Guide

A photo of Riomaggiore, which is the first town in Cinque Terre.
Riomaggiore is one of the five charming towns in Cinque Terre.

Five Lands. The literal translation of Cinque Terre, an area comprised of five fishing villages sitting along the Ligurian Coast in Northwest Italy. Cinque Terre was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 – the same year as its in-country rival, the Amalfi Coast.

Although much more compact than the southern Amalfi Coast, the towns of Cinque Terre have their own unique charm. This Cinque Terre itinerary will help you plan a trip – ensuring you don’t miss the enchanting blue ocean, hillside vineyards and impeccable Italian cuisine. It will also prepare you for the rugged coastline and intense hikes – whether you day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence or spend an entire week.

How Long to Stay in Cinque Terre

It’s common for travelers to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip — similar to Ravello in the Amalfi Coast of Italy. But this area deserves more. I recommend two full days, as it gives you enough time to fully explore all five villages. Cinque Terre is the place where you want to relax, do a bit of hiking, eat plenty of seafood, marvel at magnificent sunsets, taste yummy wines and best of all — swim in the sea! You will thank yourself for spending at least two full days.

Cinque Terre in One Day

Many people experience Cinque Terre in one day from nearby cities, like Florence, Lucca or Pisa. While it’s not ideal, it’s doable! Since each village is less than five minutes apart from its neighbor, you could visit each of the villages (although I highly discourage it). Instead, choose two villages to explore — I recommend the picturesque Vernazza and charming Manarola. Dedicating time to only a couple of villages allows you to experience it fully without feeling rushed.

The coastline of Cinque Terre.
The rugged coastline of Cinque Terre.

2 Days in Cinque Terre

With two full days in Cinque Terre, you can easily take the ferry (or train) to each of the five villages. Spend the first day exploring Riomaggiore and Manarola. Check out Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso on the second day. You can hike between the villages or take the ferry/train.

3 Days in Cinque Terre

Follow the two days in Cinque Terre itinerary above. On the third day, return to your favorite village. If the weather is nice, spend the morning hiking to a nearby village before heading to one of the Cinque Terre beaches in the afternoon. Or you can simply wander the village, hang out in a cafe, drink wine, eat pizza or drink more wine. A three day itinerary in Cinque Terre (or longer) can be extremely relaxing, especially if you’re visiting after a few days in bigger Italian cities or it’s part of a long-term multi-international trip. This is because Cinque Terre doesn’t have any must-see attractions (like visiting the famous David in Florence or touring the historic sites of Rome).

Towns of Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore

The furthest south and east, Riomaggiore is considered the first town in Cinque Terre. Charming and stunningly beautiful, this vibrant village has a hustle-and-bustle feel. Stop by the market for cheese/meat/olives/wine before heading down to the water to watch the sunset. No massage in the world can match that feeling of tranquility.

While in town, pop into Tutti Fritti for its delicious fried seafood in a paper cone and Mama Mia for its focaccia bread – both Cinque Terre staples.

A photo of the cliffs and buildings in Manarola, one of the towns in Cinque Terre.
Manarola is the perfect spot to relax by the waterfront. Although there isn’t a sandy beach, you can lay on one of the large, smooth stone rocks. Be sure to bring a towel!

Manarola

There are plenty of cafes, trattorias and boutiques in town. There isn’t a sand beach, but that doesn’t stop visitors from laying out on the large stones (and cliff jumping into the ocean below). There are plenty of gelaterias in town. Every Cinque Terre itinerary should include eating gelato by the water!

Corniglia

Like the town of Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, Corniglia is a quiet town that sits high above its coastal neighbors. How high you may ask? Just under 400 brick steps. If you brave them, you are rewarded with fantastic views of the coastline and nearby vineyards. The Cinque Terre bus also runs from the Corniglia train station to the center of town should the steps be a concern.

A photo of the town of Vernazza. The photo is taken from the harbour and you can see the waterfront, boats and colorful buildings.
Vernazza is considered to be one of the most picturesque towns in Cinque Terre.

Vernazza

Wander around the town’s picturesque harbor and pop into the quaint Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church. Then, sip an espresso in the town’s bustling piazza. Before relaxing on Vernazza’s tiny sand beach, climb up to Doria Castle for fantastic views of the coast.

Monterosso al Mare

The village furthest north and west is known for its large sandy beach. And for that, Monterosso al Mare is much more crowded than the other villages. Stroll past the shops, restaurants and gelaterias on the oceanfront promenade. Many more cars, restaurants and hotels can be found here.

Things to do in Cinque Terre

Hike

Cinque Terre is well known for its hiking trails, which offer some of the most spectacular views of the Italian coastline. Before hiking, you must purchase a Cinque Terre card from any train station. The most popular route is to hike the entire Cinque Terre – from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore (or visa versa), which takes approximately five hours (not including the time you spend in each village, of course!). You can also hike segments of the full route – such as the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola.

Always check for the latest trail information before embarking on a hike. Read this post from Walks of Italy for more detailed hiking info. And prepare yourself – many parts of the trails are very steep!

A sign that says "Do Not Touch The Grapes, This Is My Only Income." This sign is posted along a hiking trail.
This sign was spotted on the hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola. I see it as a reminder to always be respectful of the locals when traveling.

Swim

Spend an afternoon at one of the Cinque Terre beaches. Apart from Corniglia, each village has a “beach-like” area. Be sure to pack a quick-drying towel!

  • Riomaggiore: Pebble beach
  • Manarola: Stone beach
  • Corniglia: No beach
  • Vernazza: Small sand beach
  • Monterosso: Large sandy beach. And there are plenty of umbrellas to rent here!
A photo of two people swimming in the water in Manarola. There is a small boat in the background.
Take a plunge into the soothing sea in Manarola, known for its cliff jumping!

Eat and Drink

Fresh, fried seafood served in a paper cone can be found in every village in Cinque Terre. Nothing fancy here! Just deliciousness. It makes the perfect take-away snack. You’ll also discover that focaccia bread, olive oil, pesto and lemons are popular throughout the region. And of course, you’re in Italy after all – gelato shops are all over, as well!

Support the local economy by drinking the local wine in Cinque Terre, too. And the area is well known for its white wine and dessert wine (called Sciaccetra).

Spend at least one dinner at a restaurant or trattoria with a sunset view. I personally think the best Cinque Terre sunset is from Riomaggiore, but hey, you can’t go wrong with any village!

A photo of a cheese and meat tray on the beach. The ocean and sky are in the background.
Pick up snacks from the local market and watch the sunset from the water in Riomaggiore (or any of the Cinque Terre towns).

Where to Stay in Cinque Terre

If you’re OK with steep stairs, I think Manarola and Riomaggiore are among the best places to stay in Cinque Terre. The views in both towns (and Vernazza, too) are simply incredible. There are also plenty of cafes, trattorias and shops in each village, plus a small market for groceries.

Monterosso al Mare lacks the hills and stairs that its neighbors have, so this village is certainly the best Cinque Terre town for travelers with limited mobility and those traveling with small children.

Corniglia is the steepest and most inconvenient to reach. However, the views of the coastline are incredible! It makes for a peaceful and relaxing place to stay. Keep in mind that each village is only a three-to-five-minute train ride to its neighbor, so don’t worry so much about which town you stay in.

Another option is to stay in the much bigger town of La Spezia. The train from La Spezia to Cinque Terre is only 10 minutes (and the first stop is in Riomaggiore).

A painted sign that says "Welcome to Riomaggiore"
Riomaggiore is full of energy and life. A must-visit in Cinque Terre!

Budget-friendly Accommodation

If you’re are seeking a budget-friendly accommodation, check out a bed and breakfast called Ciao Bella. It is a no-frills basic accommodation in Riomaggiore. And it was an ideal location for me —  a three-minute walk to the Riomaggiore train station, one-minute walk to the main street in town and less than a five-minute walk to the water. I wouldn’t recommend Ciao Bella for a romantic getaway, but I would certainly recommend it if you simply need a place to crash in the evenings and don’t mind not having much privacy!

How to get to Cinque Terre

Arriving in Cinque Terre by Train

Most travelers arrive to Cinque Terre by train, as there is not an airport in Cinque Terre. Each town has its own small station name, so when researching train travel, you will not find a destination listed as the Cinque Terre Train Station. Instead, enter the name of the town you are staying in. OMIO and RailEurope are my go-to travel booking sites.

If you are arriving from a larger city, such as Florence, Milan, Lucca or Rome, you will switch trains in either Levanto or La Spezia. The La Spezia to Cinque Terre journey is only 10 minutes, as the first stop is Riomaggiore. From there, each town is approximately five minutes apart.

The Levanto to Cinque Terre journey is only five minutes, and the first stop is Monterosso al Mare.

A photo of the beach in Monterossa with the cliffs in the distance.
Monterosso al Mare is thought to be one of the best Cinque Terre beaches as it’s large and sandy. You can rent umbrellas, too!

How to get around Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre Train

The Cinque Terre train system is simple to navigate (unless the employees are on strike like they were for one of the days we visited). You can be in the neighboring town within three-to-five minutes by train. Buy the “Cinque Terre card” at the train station — no need to buy tickets in advance. This card allows for unlimited travel within a specific timeframe.

Cinque Terre Bus

You can also get around Cinque Terre via bus. The bus travels to all the villages except Monterosso. The bus certainly is helpful should you want to avoid the 400 steps in Corniglia.

Cinque Terre Ferry

Be sure to take the ferry at least once during your stay. The view from the sea is simply spectacular! The public ferry visits all Cinque Terre towns except Corniglia. The ferry runs during the “tourist season,” which is late March to early April.

This photo looks down into the colorful town of Manarola. In the background, there is a ferry on the ocean departing the town harbor.
If you have more than one day in Cinque Terre, spend an afternoon hiking from village to village. Hiking offers some of the best views in Cinque Terre.

Packing essentials

These items can be very useful in Cinque Terre (or any town with a beach and hiking trails): hiking day pack, quick-dry beach towel, roll-up water bottle, international travel adapter, waterproof phone carrier and passport /document holder.

 

 

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Pin this to Pinterest by clicking the photo below. That way, other travelers can learn how to plan a trip to Cinque Terre!

This comprehensive Cinque Terre travel planning guide will ensure you discover the best of what to do in Cinque Terre. This guide recommends one, two and three day itineraries. Spend a few days though, as it gives you enough time to fully explore all five villages. Cinque Terre is the place where you want to relax, do a bit of hiking, eat plenty of seafood, marvel at magnificent sunsets, taste yummy wines and best of all — swim in the sea!

#cinqueterre #italy #travel #europe #manarola
This comprehensive travel planning guide will ensure you discover the best of what to do in Cinque Terre. Simply click this photo to pin it!

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20 Comments Add yours

  1. Amazing travel guide. You have also mentioned how to go visiting Cinque Terre depending upon the number of days. This is very helpful. This guide is as comprehensive as you can get.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hello,

    Great post! This information is very helpful as I’m planning a trip for a client to different areas in Europe. Nice work 😊

    1. Oh fantastic! Your client will have an incredible time. Let me know if you have any questions – feel free to send me a message if you want more detailed planning info!

  3. The.Holidaymaker says:

    I loved this area, brought back some memories for when we visited a few years ago. We stayed 2 nights, giving us plenty of time to see all 5 villages. It’s a great recommendation for those that want a great beach, hiking or photography type trip.

    1. I agree! It has so much to do – hike, relax, drink wine, lay in the sun. Which village did you stay in?

  4. Danik says:

    I am doing a road trip around Italy next month and this will be my last stop off point, so fantastic guide and kept this for tips. So excited to be going there.

    1. Awesome! So glad it was helpful. I have a few other guides to Italy – hopefully, those are of value, as well! Have so much fun on your trip.

  5. Evan Petzer says:

    I love the whole Italy vibe, I love Italian Food and those pictures are amazing. My favorite Italian saying is; “Dolce Far Nente” -the sweetness of doing nothing-.

    1. Yesss! And that’s my favorite part of Italy. Sipping wine in a piazza and pretty much doing nothing!

  6. Wendy says:

    This place looks beautiful. I love to hike and 5 hours sounds great. I would probably take me longer since I would stop in every town. It’s good to know that you have to buy a Cinque Terre Card at the train station first. Thank for all the wonderful tips.

  7. Marya says:

    Even though I’ve never been to Italy, I gotta say that the pictures of Cinque Terre that I’ve seen throughout the internet are indeed very tempting to make me want to go there. However, I’ve heard some mixed review about the place, since some people I know that have been there told me that it’s quite overrated. Like very touristy and all. For someone who have never been, I still want to go there to see it for myself though. And I think instead of having it as a day trip, I’d definitely would stay for 2-3 days to see the rest of the villages. Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  8. josypheen says:

    This looks like such a fun area to explore, I would be soooo happy to take a holiday walking along that coastline, eating the amazing food and seeing such pretty views!!

  9. I am glad you wrote a very detailed things to do here we’ve been planning to go in Italy and hope in two years from now we can finally go! This country is worth a visit and know the culture and history of the people!

  10. This looks absolutely beautiful! I would love to go some day!

    1. You will have to visit! It’s so picturesque. Have you been to any other cities or towns in Italy?

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