Before visiting the 5 lovely Italian villages, I was in desperate need of a true Cinque Terre travel guide. The truth is, there aren’t that many good ones out there! And, trust me, you need to be prepared before your visit, so you don’t miss any magical sights in this beautiful spot.
Table of Contents
- What Are The Five Towns Of Cinque Terre
- Why You Should Go To Cinque Terre
- When To Go To Cinque Terre
- Before You Go: What to Bring to Cinque Terre – Checklist
- How to Get to Cinque Terre
- How Long To Stay In Cinque Terre
- Get Around Cinque Terre – Driving Or Public Transport
- Cinque Terre – Where To Stay
- Top Things To Do In Cinque Terre
- Walking And Hiking In Cinque Terre
- Tips Before Visiting Cinque Terre
What Are The Five Towns Of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre are 5 little towns on the coastline of the province La Spezia, Italy. From north to south, the villages are:
- Monterosso al Mare;
When exploring these sights, you can purchase a train day pass from the main train station (La Spezia), and then take the local train between the 5 villages. The train day pass is 13 EUR in low season and 16 EUR in high season. Each of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre has a unique beauty that you’ll fall in love with! They’re so similar and so different at the same time. When I visited, Monterosso was definitely one of my favorites, this was where I took the most photos and spent the most time!
Why You Should Go To Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a national park and one of the most gorgeous stops on your Italy bucket list quest. Generally, no cars are allowed within the villages, so you can enjoy your walk without noise from traffic or worrying that a car might bump into you. Italy’s Cinque Terre is famous for its colorful houses – and actually, for the residents, it’s illegal to repaint your house – you might even go to jail! The story behind these colors is actually a funny one – as these are fisherman villages, the fishermen painted their houses a bright specific color, so they could “spy” on their wives while at sea! 😀
Don’t miss these 9 hidden gems in Florence!
When To Go To Cinque Terre
You should always try to avoid the crowds – May and September are best. The high season is during June, July and August, and you’ll see there are tons of tourists all around. Around noon and early afternoon during the high seasons, the trains are so full you might find it hard to find a spot! Thus, follow my Cinque Terre travel guide advice, and choose the less popular and cooler months. If you choose late autumn, winter or early spring, though, you risk stormy weather and rains.
Bear in mind that the Mediterranean sea in this region is very cold, as compared to the South of Italy, Sardinia or the South of Spain. The water in Cinque Terre is about 13°C – 14°C. We saw a few English ladies that classified the water as “refreshing” but it was definitely TOO cold for my taste. I live by the Black Sea, so I am definitely used warm sea during the summer.
Do bring your bathing suit, though, as you can still surely tan at the lovely beach of Monterosso!
Before You Go: What to Bring to Cinque Terre – Checklist
Be prepared before your visit and make sure to bring the following:
For the beach:
- swimming shoes
- flip flops
- a reusable water bottle
- comfy hiking shoes
- T-shirts and shorts
- Mosquito repellent
- Umbrella or raincoat if you’re visiting off-season
How to Get to Cinque Terre
The two nearest airports are Pisa (the closer one) and Florence. If you’re flying from the UK, you may use British Airways, the low-cost EasyJet and Ryanair or Jet2. Some other famous airlines that you can fly to Pisa with are Lufthansa, Vueling, Turkish Airlines, Alitalia and others.
Trains in Italy are a very popular and reliable means of transport – I would suggest they are your best way to get to Cinque Terre. One important tip – don’t forget to validate the ticket you’ve purchased, otherwise you risk being fined 50 EUR on the train itself or 100 EUR if you leave the train with an invalid ticket.
After you’ve arrived at the train station of Pisa or Florence, take a train to La Spezia. This station is also where you should also get your train pass for 1,2 or 3 days. The train goes between the 5 villages every 10-15-20 minutes.
Generally, there are no cars allowed in Cinque Terre. That said, if you’re planning your visit by car, it would be best to leave it at La Spezia station and just use the train to go around. You CAN get around between cities by car, but the parking (at Manarola) would be more expensive. In addition, make sure you have coins with you for the parking machines.
Organized Day Trip
Of course, you can always opt in and do a day trip from Florence, Pisa or other nearby cities. You would not be exploring at your own pace, but you also would not worry about train times and what you shouldn’t miss in all 5 cities. This is one trip I would recommend if you’re planning to visit Italy’s Cinque Terre from Florence.
How Long To Stay In Cinque Terre
1-Day Trip To Cinque Terre
We only managed to do a quick day trip from Florence (you can book yours here!), but for a day trip you can absolutely see all 5 villages, provided you would be using the train to go around. Visiting Cinque Terre for only a day would also mean that you would be in a bit of a rush through the 5 villages, though. What I recommend is:
- starting at Monterosso with a long walk
- moving to Vernazza
- having lunch at Corniglia
- enjoying the view at Manarola
- and finally, finishing up with Riomaggiore’s cute little bay
2-Day Visit To Cinque Terre
A 2-day visit to Cinque Terre would be well worth it, and you definitely wouldn’t regret it! For 2 days, you can add the following activities to your itinerary:
- Hiking between the little towns
- Tanning and swimming at the beach in Monterosso or on the beach rocks of any of the other two towns
3-Day Visit to Cinque Terre
If you have more time on your hands, you should also explore the 5 villages of Cinque Terre by ferry! It’s a wonderful opportunity and you would be in for spectacular views. A 3-day visit would allow you more time for:
- Ferry hopping between the 5 villages of Cinque Terre
- Catching the “golden hour” at sunrise and sunset at a few different locations
- Enjoying a slow-paced exploring of all the different sights within the villages (see below)
- Taste the local food at many different restaurants
Get Around Cinque Terre – Driving Or Public Transport
The best way to get around Italy’s Cinque Terre is by train, as generally, no cars are allowed. Here the official website where you can prepurchase your Cinque Terre Card for 1, 2 or 3 days. The most popular train card is the 1-day one, which costs 13 EUR in low season (November-February) and 16 EUR in high season (March-October). The travel duration between each village in Cinque Terre is about 4-6 minutes. Here is a sample train timetable, but you should really get the most recent one once you arrive.
You can also purchase this card in the very beginning of your visit when you first arrive at La Spezia (or Levanto), but bear in mind that there might be huge lines. The day train card will include:
- Unlimited trips between La Spezia and Levanto (the 5 town stops are in between)
- Free use of the toilets (otherwise you’d need to pay a fee)
- Public Wi-Fi
- Discounts when you visit the Civic Museums within Cinque Terre
Back in 2016, Explora5Terre launched a bus shuttle service between the 5 villages. The daily pass is a bit more expensive – 22 EUR, but you get an audio guide, which is pretty cool! Learn more about their services here and see the bus timetables.
The ferries in Cinque Terre run from April to October (included). The daily tickets are about 20-25 EUR, while point-to-point tickets between the villages are between 7-12 EUR. Here is a bit more information the schedule and detailed listing of the prices.
Cinque Terre – Where To Stay
There are quite a few options to stay in Italy’s Cinque Terre. Bear in mind that some of the streets around the villages are quite steep, so when choosing where to stay in Cinque Terre, consider packing light. It might be a challenge bringing a large suitcase uphill! That said, you wouldn’t need to sleep in a different town each day of your stay, since the towns are so close by (4-6 minutes by train, remember?).
Where To Stay At Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is definitely one of the most popular places to stay with its breathtaking views of the sea and lovely cobbly beach. A wonderful option for your stay there is La Rosa Dei Venti, very cute apartments located right in one of those dreamy colorful houses! It has a spectacular rating of 9.2 with Booking.com and prices are reasonable for the area (60-70 EUR). If you’re looking for an actual hotel, Stella Della Marina is your best bet with a 9.6 rating and prices from 130 EUR per night.
Where To Stay At Vernazza
Ah, Vernaza! Why should you stay there? Well, MaDa Charm Apartment Terrace&Carugio have SPECTACULAR views and are located right at the beach in one of the colorful houses! Just click the link and see the photos, I can’t imagine waking up to this for a few days <3 Prices start at about 110 EUR per night, but the rating of the hotel says it all – 9.4.
Where To Stay At Corniglia
Corniglia is one of the less popular places to stay in Cinque Terre. With impressive interiors and lovely bird’s eye views of Italy’s Cinque Terre, your top pick in Corniglia should be Daa Maduneta. Prices start at about 100 EUR per night and the review score is 9.4 again – no compromise with quality is worth it!
Where To Stay At Manarola
Acla Apartments in Manarola are definitely your best bet – clean, tidy, stylish and, of course, offering a romantic view of the Mediterranean. The rating for these apartments is one of the highest in the area – 9.1, while the price starts at about 80 EUR per night. The hotels in Manarola are quite expensive (two or three times the price of apartments!), so I wouldn’t recommend choosing a hotel for your stay.
Where To Stay At Riomaggiore
One of the best apartments available in Riomaggiore is definitely Monolocale Il Nido – not only does it have a score of 9.5, but the price is about 80 EUR per night, which is quite a bargain for the area.
Top Things To Do In Cinque Terre
Besides hiking and walking around the 5 little villages, there are also different sights you can visit in each one.
Top Things To Do In Monterosso al Mare
- Enjoy the beach – Monterosso, the northernmost village, is the only one that has a beach. It’s very rocky, so bring your swimming shoes, but the little rocks are super cute and colorful. I even got some home with me!
- Take a long walk – this village is one of the flattest of Cinque Terre (and largest, too!), so a long walk around to start your day is a great idea
- Take a photo from the viewpoint – possibly the only small uphill journey you’ll have in this village – the “viewpoint” is right below the castle and you’ll see many people taking photos there 🙂
- Go Kayaking! – here is a great 5-hour kayaking trip you definitely won’t regret!
- Paraglide over the city – Yep! This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the daredevils, here is where you can book it
- Go through the tunnel – the tunnel of Monterosso separates the New town and the Old town
- Pass by the Castle – a semi-ruined castle oversees the city of Monterosso, walking around, you won’t miss it
Top Things To Do In Vernazza
- Climb to the viewpoint – the famous Vernazza view can be seen from hiking the blue trail, but if you don’t feel like hiking, just head up to the trail to Monterosso from Vernazza and after a 15-20-minute uphill climb, you’ll see the gorgeous view!
- Step inside the parish church of S. Margherite Di Antiochia
- See the Fortress
- Visit the Belforte and the towers
Top Things To Do In Corniglia
- Take the bus uphill – it’s included in your Cinque Terre Train Ticket! This is the only village that has no access to the sea, as it is pretty far up. You will even feel a bit chilly!
- Take a photo of the 5 villages – yep, Corniglia offers this view, how awesome is that?
- Have lunch on a budget – compared to the other 4 villages, this one is just a tad cheaper, as it is not visited by as many toursits
- See the Parish church of S. Pietro
- Pass by the Oratory of S. Caterina – another little church you’ll love
- Admire the Fortifications – mostly ruins, but they used to play an important role in protecting the village from pirates
Top Things To Do In Manarola
- Take the iconic Cinque Terre photo – the viewpoint is very easily reachable, it’s uphill but definitely not steep at all!
- Sunbathe on the rocks – you’ll see that many people do that, so if you feel comfy enough lying on the huge boulders – do so!
- See the Parish church of S. Lorenzo
- Enjoy the bell tower
- Pass by the fortress
Top Things To Do In Riomaggiore
- Party at a concert – Riomaggiore, unlike the other 4 villages, is famous for its nightlife, open air parties with guest DJs and concerts
- Scuba dive or snorkel – one of the best villages to do so!
- Taste wine – oh, yum! Here is a great wine tasting tour you might enjoy
- Watch the birds at Torre Guardiola
- See the Church of St Giovanni Battista
- Visit the Castle of Riomaggiore
Walking And Hiking In Cinque Terre
If you truly want to enjoy Italy’s Cinque Terre as people have been for centuries back, hiking is your way to explore it. The best part – you’re in it for spectacular views from above, not just the colorful houses and the Mediterranean, but also the wonderful layered terrace farms and greenery around. Bear in mind you must have a Cinque Terre Card for access to the trails! In addition, you should always ask the Cinque Terre National Park office before you head out, as there are trail closures between some of the cities.
Here are the main two trails:
The Sentiero Azzurro – the blue trail, 12 km total
- Monterosso to Vernazza section – about 3 km (~ 2 hours), low difficulty
- Vernazza to Corniglia section – about 4 km (~1.5 hours), forested path
- Corniglia to Manarola section – currently closed, but there is an alternative route through Volastra – it is ONLY for very experienced hikers, as it is a high difficulty path
- Manarola to Riomagiorre section – currently closed, but there is an alternative path through Beccara, which takes about an hour; no need for hiking experience, but prepare for about 600 steps!
The Sentiero Rosso – the red trail, 35 km total
- Main route: from Porto Venere to Levanto
- Duration – 9-12 hours
- The road is mainly flat with many restaurants and bars on the way, but due to its length, tourists usually prefer the blue trail and skip this one. However, experienced hikers enjoy this one more, as it’s less populated!
Tips Before Visiting Cinque Terre
- Trains are busiest between 10 am and 4 pm, so to avoid the crowds, visit early in the morning or around sunset.
- If you’re planning to hike, visit in May or September in order to avoid the heat
- Book your accommodation well in advance (3+ months if you can) for the best prices
- Try to stay at least 1 night in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre Cuisine
Let’s face it – you’re in Italy, you can’t skip a meal. But Cinque Terre is actually famous for a few delicious things, here is what you shouldn’t miss trying when you visit:
- Pesto – Cinque Terre actually claims to be the home of pesto! You’ll see that local restaurants have this ingredient on many, many things. We tried pesto bruschetti and, trust me, it’s something you should absolutely try as Cinque Terre food!
- Seafood – well, as the villages are indeed fisherman villages, don’t skip on the delicious seafood, especially the fried shrimp in Riomaggiore
- Gelato – you can find some of the best Italian ice cream on top of Corniglia – look for Alberto Gelateria
- Anchovies – try some at Monterosso!
- Friggitori – this authentic snack is yummy seafood packed in a paper cone
- Wine – the wineries in Cinque Terre are famous and after fishing, this is the other main trade in the area. Just ask for the local wine at any restaurant (they mostly make white wines) and enjoy!
Italy’s Cinque Terre is one of the of the loveliest places you can visit in Italy! If one day is all you’ve got, it would be enough to explore a bit of every little village, but if you’d like to truly experience the Cinque Terre atmosphere – stay for a few days. This region in Liguria offers numerous activities – from scuba diving to hiking to eating delicious authentic Mediterranean cuisine, there won’t be a minute you’ll regret spending there. And yes, the breathtaking views and colorful houses definitely don’t hurt <3