Last Updated on June 1, 2022 by Nellie Huang

Visiting Cinque Terre for the first time? Here’s my detailed guide about Cinque Terre travel to help you plan your visit to all five Cinque Terre towns. 

Cinque Terre is the Italy that many dream of: a rugged coast topped with pastel colored houses and lined with green terraced vineyards. Possibly my favorite part of Italy, Cinque Terre is chocked full of dramatic cliffs, charming seafront villages and a timeless ambiance. 

Because of the picturesque setting, Cinque Terre is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site which draws in a crazy 2.4 million visitors a year. While the Cinque Terre towns are no longer sleepy fishing villages, the Cinque Terre towns have retained their historical architecture and a network of stunning hiking trails.

If you are visiting Cinque Terre for the first time, it can be overwhelming to decide how you want to get there, how many days to stay, and where to stay in Cinque Terre. I’ve compiled a complete guide to help answer all these questions.

Visiting Cinque Terre: My Complete Cinque Terre Travel Guide

Visting Cinque Terre

Where in Italy is Cinque Terre?

Translated to mean “5 lands”, Cinque Terre is in fact made up of five villages poised along the Ligurian coast of northwestern Italy. The region makes an excellent addition to any Italy road trip.

The closest cities are Genoa and Pisa (both around 1.5 hours by train). A train line that runs along Italy’s west coast connects all five Cinque Terre villages with Genoa, Pisa and Rome. I will explain below how to get to Cinque Terre. 

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visiting cinque terre - vernazza from above   riomaggiore, one of the five cinque terre towns


What are the Cinque Terre Towns?

The five towns that make up Cinque Terre are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. 

What makes them so appealing is their isolated geographic location.  The villages were literally built at the foot of mountains that separated the coastline from the interior. Today the villages’ exquisite ruggedness still presents a few challenges for accessibility.

Each town in Cinque Terre has a unique flavor and flair (Skip to the details on each town). If you want to visit all five of them, I recommend picking one town as your home base and visiting the other towns on day trips. They are so close it only takes 5-10 minutes to get from one to another.

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most romantic of the cinque terre towns: riomaggiore


How to Travel to Cinque Terre

Travel to Cinque Terre is not as straightforward as you would imagine, considering how popular it is. First fly to Genoa or Pisa — there are cheap flights to Genoa or Pisa from major cities in Europe for as low as $50 return. 

If you’re already in Italy, the easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. You can get to Cinque Terre from Rome Italy in 4-5 hours and from Milan in 4 hours. The trains are comfortable and affordable, though crowded in summer. It’s easy to add Cinque Terre to any Italy itinerary as it is not far from the main cities like Rome and Florence.

We spent a few days in Florence before driving to Cinque Terre and it took us 2 hours. We usually rent a car when we travel with our 4.5-year-old daughter as that’s the easiest way. Our car rental in Florence only cost us $180 for 5 days. Driving to Cinque Terre is scenic and easy enough, but be sure to arrange for parking at your hotel/apartment. (Skip to this section to find out why.) 

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  Distance Duration on Train Duration by Car
Rome 270 miles (430km) 4 -5 hours 5 hours
Milan 147 miles (236km) 4 – 4.5 hours 3 hours
Florence 103 miles (166km) 2.5 – 3 hours 2 hours
Genoa 58 miles (93km) 1.5 – 2 hours 1.5 hours
Pisa 57 miles (92km) 1.5 – 2 hours 1.5 hours


Best Time to Travel Cinque Terre

I recommend visiting Cinque Terre in early spring (April) or late autumn (November). That’s when it is the least crowded and prices are not too high. The weather can be unpredictable though, with some rains and dull skies if you’re unlucky.

We visited Cinque Terre at the end of May and it was already pretty crowded. There were long lines at the train stations and restaurants. Even the hiking trails were packed with throngs of tourists.

It is best to avoid summer in Cinque Terre as it gets extremely crowded. It is also really hot (temperatures rising to 86°F or 30°C) and not ideal for hiking if you intend to do that. Winter is cool and uncrowded but heavy rainfall can cause landslides and unsafe hiking conditions. Restaurants and hiking trails close around end of November and open on 1st April.

cinque terre towns - vernazza


How Many Days in Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is extremely popular with day trippers — there are many day tours to Cinque Terre from Florence, Pisa and La Spezia. Check out this itinerary if you only have one day in Cinque Terre. However, we definitely don’t recommend doing a day trip here as it’s too much of a rush and Cinque Terre definitely merits more time than that.

We had 4 days in Cinque Terre and still wished we had more time. If you are visiting Cinque Terre with kids (like we did), then I suggest spending a week here as kids need to travel at a slower pace.

Staying in one of Cinque Terre villages means you don’t have to travel in each day. Plus, you get to experience the villages at their most authentic. In the evenings after the daytrippers leave, the atmosphere completely changes and it becomes so much so laidback.

cafes in corniglia, one of the five cinque terre villages  side street in corniglia, one of the five cinque terre towns


My Cinque Terre Itinerary

Most of the Cinque Terre towns (except Monterosso) are tiny, so you can see each of them in 1 day. This is an overview of our Cinque Terre itinerary. Read my detailed Cinque Terre itinerary for more details on what to do each day.

Your starting point depends on where you’re staying. This Cinque Terre itinerary is designed for those staying in Riomaggiore or La Spezia (outside of Cinque Terre).

  • Day 1: Riomaggiore
  • Day 2: Manarola
  • Day 3: Corniglia and Vernazza
  • Day 4: Monterosso al Mare

If you are staying in Monterosso or Levanto (outside of Cinque Terre), you can just reverse the Cinque Terre itinerary.

manarola waterfront - highlight of this cinque terre guide   most people travel to cinque terre for views like this - riomaggiore waterfront


Cinque Terre Day Tours

If I still haven’t convinced you to spend a few days in Cinque Terre, you might like to check out these days tours to Cinque Terre. 

Because of the popularity of Cinque Terre, it’s best to book the day tour in advance. The day tours usually bring you on both train and boats, some include hiking while others include wine tasting. Prices range from $60 for a 3-hour experience to $110 for a full day boat trip.

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How to Get Around Cinque Terre

There are a few ways to get around Cinque Terre. Here’s an overview, comparing the amount of time to get from one village to another via different transport modes. I will elaborate on each transport mode below.

  Distance By Train By Car By Boat By Foot
Riomaggiore – Manarola 1.2 miles (2km) 2 min 11 min 5 min 40 min
Manarola – Corniglia 3.6 miles (5.7km) 5 min 27 min –  1 h 15 min
Corniglia – Vernazza 2 miles (4km) 7 min 17 min 20 min 1 h 45 min
Vernazza – Monterosso 1.8 miles (3km) 4 min 39 min 15 min 2 hrs

By Foot

A network of hiking trails weave their way along the coast and up the hills overlooking the Cinque Terre villages. For centuries, they were the only way to get between the Cinque Terre villages. They still are the best way to get around, though they’re often packed with tourists these days.

To walk the trails, you will need to buy the Cinque Terre Trekking Card. It costs €7.50 for one day or €14.50 for two days. But it does not include unlimited train rides. You can get it in the villages and from huts at the start of each section of the path.

hiking in cinque terre - cinque terre card

By Car

I would not recommend driving around Cinque Terre due to the lack of parking space and proper roads. The Cinque Terre villages are built at the foot of mountains and are mostly pedestrianized with very few roads.

We wanted to have a car as it was the easiest way to get around with our kids. So we hired a car in Florence and drove to Cinque Terre. But once we got there, we parked our car at a garage and explored the villages by train. The car rental only cost $180 for 5 days. 

If you want to drive, be sure to book a hotel with a garage. Our parking garage was quite far from the apartment and cost $18/day. An alternative is to park your car near the train station in La Spezia or Levanto (closest towns to Cinque Terre).

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driving in cinque terre - cinque terre travel by car

By Train

Visiting Cinque Terre by train is the best way to visit the five villages. The Cinque Terre Express train is regular, fast and efficient, taking only minutes to get from one village to another.

The train runs daily every few minutes and it’s easy to navigate. A single ticket costs € 4 per adult and € 2 for kids below 12 years old. You can get the ticket at the train station or on the Trenitalia app.

But if you plan to take more than four trains in a day or go hiking, the best option is the Cinque Terre train card. You can buy it at the stations. It includes unlimited train rides and access to the hiking trails. It lasts one day (16 €) or two days (29 €).

cinque terre travel by train

By Boat

Visiting Cinque Terre by boat is another option, especially for those who want to get away from the crowds. But the boats only operate from April 1 to November 1, 2020.

The boats depart from La Spezia and visit Portovenere, Levanto and the five Cinque Terre towns. An unlimited ticket for 1 day in the Cinque Terre costs 27 €. Tickets are sold only on the spot and only for the current day. Check the boat schedule here.

cinque terre travel by boat


Best Things to Do in Cinque Terre

Most people who travel to Cinque Terre want to spend their time outdoors, either hiking its trails or dipping in the Ligurian Sea. For those who want to take to the water, you can rent a SUP, book a kayaking trip from Monterosso or a sunset sailing cruise along Cinque Terre. Or simply go for a swim at Monterosso’s beach and the small beach in Vernazza.

There are a few churches and monuments you can visit in each Cinque Terre village. Some of the most prominent ones are Church of San Giovanni Battista at the top of Riomaggiore, Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church by the beach in Vernazza, and the famous Church of San Francesco in Monterosso al Mare.

The hills that form the backdrop of the Cinque Terre villages are covered in vineyard terraces. They actually produce their own wine, and you can even do a tasting at some of the wineries. Sign up for this wine tasting tour to sample wine made in Manarola. For more details on things to do in Cinque Terre, check out my Cinque Terre itinerary.

swimming by the harbor in manarola - one of the best things to do in cinque terre   beautiful beach at monterosso al mar - the only cinque terre village with a beach

Book Your Cinque Terre Activities

 

Hiking Cinque Terre: What You Need to Know

Hiking in Cinque Terre doesn’t require a high level of fitness, but you do need to have comfortable hiking shoes. In fact, there are signs prohibiting hikers to wear slippers/flip flops on the trails. Also don’t forget to bring a backpack with at least 1L of water, hat and swim suit.

The trails involve lots of ups and downs and some parts require you to clamber. There are also narrow stretches where you’ll need to wait for other hikers to pass. Refer to this page for details on hiking trails in Cinque Terre.

The most popular (and busiest) hiking trail in Cinque Terre is Trail #2: the Sentiero Azzurro, or “Blue Trail”. It is made up of 4 individual paths along the coast that brings you to all 5 villages. You can walk the entire route in about 6 hours —although many prefer to spread the route out over a few days. Most people recommend starting from Riomaggiore, where the paths are easier and paved.

hiking in cinque terre - hiking trails above corniglia

Trail #2 Hikes and Distances

  • Riomaggiore – Manarola: h: 1.2 miles (2km); 40 minutes to walk
  • Manarola – Corniglia: 1.2 miles (2km); 1 hour 15 minutes to walk 
  • Corniglia – Vernazza: 2 miles (4km); 1 hour 45 minutes to walk
  • Vernazza – Monterosso: 1.8 miles (3km); 2 hours to walk (most difficult!)

Cinque Terre Hiking Map

There are many other trails that are less crowded, especially the inland trails. Trails #1, 4, 6, 9 and 10 are perhaps the least busy and most rugged. Note that these trails are for experienced hikers only and are quite challenging. For more info on the national park, this is the official website.

cinque terre hiking map - cinqueterre.itCredit: cinqueterre.it

Visiting Cinque Terre with Kids

Visiting Cinque Terre with kids who need a stroller can be challenging, just because most of the Cinque Terre villages are built on slopes/hills. That means lots of stairs and steep slopes everywhere. But if you are traveling with a baby or a kid who can walk, you’ll do just fine.

Most Cinque Terre villages are small and easy to explore on foot. We had a blast visiting Cinque Terre with our 4-year-old daughter, who actually enjoys climbing stairs! 

I would recommend bringing a baby carrier if your kid still fits in one. You can even go hiking in Cinque Terre if you have a hiking carrier (which usually fits kids up to 18kg). We used to carry our daughter on the KELTY hiking carrier before she got too big for it. It worked very well and we highly recommend it.

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visiting cinque terre with kids  nellie with her daughter


Where to Stay in Cinque Terre

Accommodation is very limited here as the Cinque Terre villages are usually tiny. Plus Cinque Terre is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, so no new construction is allowed.

Because it’s so popular, Cinque Terre hotels are overpriced, even for simple guesthouses. You’ll need to book your accommodation as early as possible as they get booked up very fast, especially in summer.

Also there are no big hotels here, just intimate boutique hotels, apartments and guesthouses. We splurged on a luxury apartment in Manarola ($250/night), steps from the water, in the yellow building pictured below. It was incredible being able to wake up at 830am and stroll down to the waterfront and have the village to myself.

best cinque terre town to stay at: manarola


Which is the Best Cinque Terre Town to Stay?

I recommend staying in just one Cinque Terre village — there’s no point moving around as they are so near each other (3-5 mins by train). But how do you decide which is the best Cinque Terre town for you? 

It really depends on your travel style and budget. Read my detailed guide on where to stay in Cinque Terre.

  • Manarola — We chose to stay at Manarola, mainly because of the views (pictured below). It has the most stunning backdrop right at the waterfront, on an easily walkable loop along the coast (which is important since we’re traveling with a toddler).
  • Monterosso — This is the biggest town, with a beautiful beach right within easy reach. It also has the widest range of accommodation from big chain hotels to small guesthouses. It’s suitable for those with mobility issues as the town is mostly flat.
  • Corniglia — The only town perched on a hilltop, Corniglia is the least popular of the Cinque Terre towns mainly due to its location. But it is perfect for those looking for the most authentic experience, at the best prices.

best sunset in cinque terre - manarola


Best Hotels in Cinque Terre

Refer to my post on where to stay in Cinque Terre for detailed descriptions of each Cinque Terre town and what to do in each village. Here is a rough list of the best hotels in Cinque Terre:

Best Hotels in Riomaggiore 

The first stop on most Cinque Terre itinerary is Riomaggiore, the closest town to the gateway La Spezia. In my opinion, it has the most romantic setting. It is also the starting point of hikers who are here to trek the 75 miles (120 km) of trails along the coast. 

riomaggiore, one of the best cinque terre towns   pastel colored houses of riomaggiore

Best Hotels in Manarola

For me, this is hands down the most beautiful town in Cinque Terre. The colorful historical buildings slide down all the way to the rocky harbor, which can be admired from an easily walkable loop along the coast. We are very glad to have chosen to stay in Manarola. Wake up before the daytrippers arrive and you’ll have it all to yourself!

visiting cinque terre - manarola

Best Hotels in Corniglia

Corniglia is the only village that lacks direct access to the sea. You’ll need to climb 382 steps to get there from the train station (along the coast). For that reason, Corniglia lacks the coastal appeal that draws so many to Cinque Terre. But that also means it is the most authentic and least crowded of them all.

corniglia, the only cinque terre town perched on a hill

Best Hotels in Vernazza

I recommend hikers who intend to hike the Cinque Terre trails to stay here, as it is the most convenient starting point. It is a medium-sized town with a central location in Cinque Terre, but I found this town to be the most crowded. The town has a marina and a small beach where you can catch a boat or take a dip in.

another picturesque cinque terre town - vernazza

Best Hotels in Monterosso

Monterosso al Mare (commonly shortened to Monterosso) is the best Cinque Terre town for beach bums and families. It is the only village that has a proper strip of beach, and the village with the least steps and slopes. It also has the widest range of accommodation choices.

monterosso al mare - only cinque terre village with a proper beach


Alternatives Outside of Cinque Terre

If you are looking for more budget-friendly places to stay, I recommend staying at one of the towns nearby and visiting Cinque Terre on day trips.

The closest towns are La Spezia and Levanto, on the southern and northern ends of Cinque Terre. Both are just a 10-minute train ride from Cinque Terre, on the same train line that passes through the five towns. You can easily travel to Cinque Terre by train or on foot.

Yes, it’s not the same staying in these towns as in Cinque Terre. You won’t have panoramas of pastel-colored houses backdropped by the blue sea. But if you are only interested in exploring and accommodation isn’t important, then check out these best hotels in Cinque Terre.

Best Hotels in La Spezia

La Spezia is the best place to stay near Cinque Terre for the budget conscious. It’s only a 7-minute train ride from Riomaggiore, the closest town in Cinque Terre. It is a big city and a destination on its own: with a big port, a charming old town and no shortage of trattorias serving the finest Ligurian cuisine.

big city of la spezia - best place to stay near cinque terre

Best Hotels in Levanto

Levanto is a popular beach town with a long sandy beach, and a charming old town. This town is perfect for those who want to stay in the countryside, in a Ligurian mansion surrounded by pine forests, olive groves, and vineyards. Levanto is a 5-minute train ride from Monterosso al Mare, the closest town in Cinque Terre.

levanto town near cinque terre


Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre

In Cinque Terre, we had the best Italian food I’ve ever had. I’m a big sucker for seafood and Cinque Terre really does it well. The towns are, after all, fishing villages! I also found that there was no shortage of scenic restaurants with fabulous views. Here are our favorite restaurants in Cinque Terre:

  • Riomaggiore: A Pie’ de Ma’  — Simple and traditional, this rustic restaurant has a romantic ambiance. You can also enjoy aperitifs and wine while you watch the sunset behind the cliffs.
  • Manarola: Il Porticciolo — A hot favorite in Cinque Terre, this seafood restaurant has a great selection of pasta dishes and to-die-for desserts. Highly recommend the tagliatelle frutti di mare!
  • Manarola: Ristorante Marina Piccola — This is my favorite restaurant on this list, with perfect views of the sunset and flavorful wine wine mussels.
  • Manarola: Nessun Dorma  — Perched on the waterfront hills above Manarola, this cafe is probably the most famous in Cinque Terre. It has an open terrace with literally the best views in Manarola. Sadly they don’t take reservations and lines to dine here are long.
  • Corniglia: Il Pirun — This is a small, slightly hidden enoteca that serves delicious, local fare with dishes such as fried anchovies, gnocchi con pestopaccherri pasta with shrimp and zucchini, spaghetti and mussels.
  • Vernazza: Il Pirata — A local fixture, Il Pirata is run by two Sicilian brothers. Food is authentic and delicious: think bruschetta with pesto, baked calzoni, sausage rolls, arancini, panini and many other baked specialties.
  • Monterosso: L’Osteria — One of the most famous restaurants in Cinque Terre, this place has huge portions of fresh pasta and seafood. Don’t miss the walnut ravioli pansotti!
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delicious seafood in cinque terre - best restaurants in cinque terre


What to Pack for Cinque Terre

I’m a strong believer in ‘less is more’. The less you travel with, the more convenient it will be to move around. This is especially true in Cinque Terre, where there are lots of steps and slopes everywhere. Bring a light jacket or cardigan if you’re traveling in spring or autumn, and a proper winter jacket for winter.

If you are planning to hike in Cinque Terre, be sure to bring a sturdy pair of hiking shoes that you’ve broken into. Don’t forget a hiking daypack along with a water bottle or hydration bag, snacks, and hat. Swimming gear is also important, and don’t forget dresses and sandals for evenings.

Packing List for Cinque Terre


Language in Cinque Terre

Italian is of course the main language of Cinque Terre, but many people speak English too as Cinque Terre villages are tourist towns. Don’t worry about not being to speak any Italian here.

You’ll also notice many people who work in the tourism industry here are not Italians. Many foreigners work in Cinque Terre during the high season and leave when the tourist numbers go down.

italian language in cinque terre -cinque terre guide


Safety in Cinque Terre

Like other parts of Italy, Cinque Terre is very safe. The only thing you need to be careful of are pickpockets. They usually work in very crowded areas, so always keep your valuables within sight.

Also if you’re visiting Cinque Terre during winter, be aware that landslides have occurred on the hills overlooking various Cinque Terre villages. These are results of heavy rainfall, so be sure to check the weather forecast before visiting.

with my family in cinque terre


Cost of Travel to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre travel is not cheap in comparison to the rest of Italy, especially in high season. However, it is still affordable for many and that’s why the crowds keep pouring in.

Expect to pay around $150-250/night for a midrange hotel or apartment in Cinque Terre. Food is affordable in simple taverns and cafes, with meals around $8-15. But seafood restaurants are of course more expensive, with a  fried seafood platter for around $20-30.

Day tours in Cinque Terre are reasonable priced. A 3-hour wine tasting tour costs around $60, a kayak trip is around $90 and a full day boat tour costs around US$110. 

TIP: Note that USD ($) and Euros (€) are about the same rate now. Check XE.com for the latest currency exchange rate.

old town of monterosso al mare - best restaurants in cinque terre  drinks at al castello vernazza - best restaurants in cinque terre


Practical Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre

  • As mentioned, there are lots of stairs and steep slopes everywhere in the Cinque Terre towns. For families with young children, prepare to do a lot of weight lifting (of the stroller!).
  • Wheelchair-bound travelers might have difficulty getting around most of the Cinque Terre towns. The best village to visit is Monterosso al Mare, which is located by the sea and with easy access to trains and cars.
  • It is not advisable to drive around Cinque Terre, but if you have to, there is a big open-air carpark in Monterosso, right beside the train station. You can also leave your car in La Spezia next to the train station.
  • Some hotels also have dedicated parking garage, so keep this in mind when booking your Cinque Terre hotels. I usually use booking.com: there’s an option to choose ‘parking’ in one of the search filters.
  •  
  • If you are on a tight budget, I recommend staying in nearby Levanto or La Spezia – both are on the Cinque Terre train line.  Accommodation is cheaper and more authentic. You can easily travel to Cinque Terre everyday as the Cinque Terre towns are just 5 to 10-min away. 

gelato in cinque terre - an essential thing to do in cinque terre  gelato in cinque terre - an essential thing to do in cinque terre

Enjoy Your Cinque Terre Travel!

I hope this Cinque Terre travel guide has helped you plan your adventure to this beautiful part of the world. Don’t be deterred from visiting Cinque Terre because of the pricey accommodation and crowds — travel during off peak season and book your Cinque Terre hotel early, and you’re sure to have fun when you travel to Cinque Terre. If you’d like to visit other p