The Essential Cinque Terre Travel Guide

Cinque Terre, translated Five Villages. Five small villages along the northwest coast of Italy, located between Genoa and Pisa. The fishing villages of National Park Cinque Terre are recognized for it’s colourful houses situated on the hillsides along the Mediterranean Sea. Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers great hiking routes between the villages. However, there are other ways to explore Cinque Terre as well. This Cinque Terre Travel Guide shares all the essential information for planning a trip to Cinque Terre, such as best time to visit, how to visit, where to stay and what to do in Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre Travel Guide

Best time to visit Cinque Terre

The best time to visit Cinque Terre is either in April, May, June or September, October. During these months the weather is often sunny but not too hot, making it the perfect conditions to explore Cinque Terre. In addition, it is not as crowded as compared to the Summer months in July and August.

Riomaggiore view
Late October sunshine in Riomaggiore

Furthermore, most tourists visit Cinque Terre on a day trip. The first tourists arrive just after 09.00 in the morning and most leave after 16.30 in the afternoon. Hence, it is recommend to spend the night in one of the five villages or stay in nearby La Spezia. This enables you to experience the villages without the majority of other tourists. In October, we shared the villages with mostly locals in the early morning and evening.

How to visit Cinque Terre

If you plan to visit Cinque Terre straight from the airport, then the airports of Pisa and Genoa are closest. From both airports, it is about a one hour train ride to Cinque Terre.

It is not recommended to visit Cinque Terre by car as it is difficult to reach and the villages are closed to car traffic. If you do have a car and want to visit Cinque Terre, park your car near the train station in La Spezia or Levante and take a short train ride to the first village of Cinque Terre instead.

Cinque Terre Travel Guide
Main street Vernazza

By train

The easiest way to get from one village to another in Cinque Terre is by train. The trains run very regularly and you never have to wait too long to hop on the train again. The train rides take about 5 minutes to get from one village to another and the price for a train ticket is €4 EUR per person. The price is the same, no matter if the villages are next to each other or if you go from the first to the last village. One ticket is valid for 75 minutes and you can not make any intermediate stops with the same ticket.

If you already know that you will make more than four stops in a day, you will be better off buying a Cinque Terre Train Card. A day pass costs €16 EUR per person, and €29 EUR for two days. You can buy the train cards at every Cinque Terre station, including La Spezia and Levante.

By boat

Another option for exploring Cinque Terre is by boat. Hop from one village to another for €27 per person for unlimited one day use. Besides the spectacular views this can also be a great option for people who have difficulties walking a lot of stairs as most train stations are uphill and require walking some steep stairs up and down.

Cinque Terre Travel Guide
Secret alleys leading to the hiking trail from Vernazza to Monterosso

By foot

Cinque Terre also offers some of the best hiking trails along the coast of Italy. Buy a Cinque Terre Card for €7,50 per person to have access to all hiking trails between the villages. Be aware that not all hiking trails are open, depending on the conditions of the trails. Inform which trails are open when you buy a Cinque Terre Card at the start of each of the trails.

Things to do in Cinque Terre

Riogmaggiore

Riomaggiore is the first village coming from the La Spezia and is the second largest of the five villages. The main street with shops and restaurants is going uphill and is a steep walk up. There are plenty of benches to have a break and enjoy the authentic views of this beautiful village.

Fruit stalls in Riomaggiore

If you go the other way you will reach the harbour of Riomaggiore, famous for its colorful houses built on the rocks. Walk towards the left side of the harbour for the beste photo spots and to enjoy the views of the harbour. Riomaggiore is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. Bring your own drinks and pizza to watch the sunset on the rocks in the harbour or have sunset drinks at Bar Conchiglia.

Riomaggiore sunset, Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore harbour views
Sunset drinks at Bar Conchiglia in Riomaggiore

Manarola

Manarola is next to Riomaggiore and is relatively small. This village is the ultimate place to have lunch with a view at Nessun Dorma. The food is delicious and the views are the best you will get in Manarola. Walk to the right when you reach the harbour to reach the restaurant but also to take a dip into the sea.

Lunch view at Nessun Dorma
Lunch view at Nessun Dorma

Corniglia

Corniglia is a little different compared to the other villages as it is not connected to the sea and built on top of the hills. The train station does not stop in the village but instead you will have to climb 382 stairs to reach Corniglia. As an alternative they offer shuttle busses that take you to the center of the village within 5 minutes. The shuttle is for free if you have a train card and €1,50 per person without a train card. This is the least visited village and often more quiet compared to the other four villages.

Vernazza

Vernazza is another beautiful fishing village with a lively main street and authentic square at the harbour filled with restaurants. This is my personal favourite because it has it all: cosy streets, secret alleys, beautiful viewpoints and a lovely square at the harbour with lots of restaurants. Additionally, Vernazza has a small beach where you can take a swim.

Make sure to visit at least one viewpoint in Vernazza, either the one on the hiking trail to Monterosso or the one leading to the hiking trail to Corniglia.

Vernazza viewpoint
Vernazza viewpoint located on the hiking trail from Vernazza to Monterosso
Vernazza viewpoint
Vernazza viewpoint located near the hiking trail from Vernazza to Corniglia

Monterosso

Monterosso is the last village coming from La Spezia or the first one coming from Levante. It is the largest village of Cinque Terre and the only village that has a large beach. Hence, if you are looking for a beach day in Cinque Terre this is the place to be. In this village you will find great restaurants and there is generally more to do at night. However, it is often recalled as the least beautiful village of Cinque Terre.

If you spend more days in Cinque Terre during the Summer, then it is recommended to spend some time at the beach in Monterosso. However, if you either have limited time and/or it is not beach weather then you could consider skipping Monterosso.

Where to stay?

There are not many hotels in Cinque Terre and availability is scarce. Hence, accommodations in Cinque Terre are often booked far in advance and relatively expensive. Besides hotels you can also book an AirBnB in one of the villages. These Airbnb’s are generally quite basic and authentic but also more affordable. If you want to stay in Cinque Terre, make sure to book your accommodation at least 4-6 months in advance. Hotels and Airbnb’s in Cinque Terre start at €100 per night.

The Essential Cinque Terre Travel Guide
Entrance and view from our Airbnb
The Essential Cinque Terre Travel Guide
View from our Airbnb

Another more affordable option to stay near Cinque Terre is La Spezia, where hotels and Airbnb’s start at €40 per night.

Receive €34 discount on your first Airbnb booking by clicking here.

It is very personal to choose which village to stay in, as each of the five villages has something different to offer. My personal favourite was Vernazza as it has the best views and is not the busiest of the five. Monterosso is a good option is you want to spend time at the beach and Riomaggiore is a good option too as it has lots of small shops and secret alleys to get lost in.

Are you planning to combine Cinque Terre with other places in Italy? Check out The Perfect 4-day Itinerary for Florence and Cinque Terre.


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