Your definite Cinque Terre travel guide. Everything you need to know about Cinque Terre in Italy, such as top things to do, which village to stay in, and where to eat.
Hi girls, how are you today?
I can’t believe it has been a year since my travel to Cinque Terre in Italy with my mother. It is such a special little place on Earth that everyone should aim to visit at least once in a lifetime.
Being that there is a huge travel limitation this summer 2020, I thought it would be great opportunity to republish my favorite summer travel posts, so it at least inspires us to look forward to happier days.
Cinque Terre Travel Guide – All You Need to Know
I absolutely LOVE Cinque Terre. It is a special little place, filled with yellow lemons and delicious seafood in the coast of Italy. I’ve been to Cinque Terre 3x in my life, and I would honestly return every year. In 2019 I took my mother there for her first visit and needless to say she was in awe.
In this Cinque Terre travel guide, I hope to share with you a helpful introduction to Cinque Terre so that you can decide which island to stay, where to eat and how to best explore the wonderful Italian villages of Cinque Terre.
A Quick Introduction to Cinque Terre , Italy
Picture crystal clear waters, laid-back seaside towns, colorful coastlines lined up in picturesque hills, amazing hikes, and delicious Italian food.
Much like its “counterpart”, located in the south of Italy (the infamous Amalfi Coast), Cinque Terre is high up on many travelers’ bucket lists of places to visit (and definitely a cheaper alternative than going to the Amalfi Coast).
With its name literally translating into Five Lands, the five towns (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso) that make up Cinque Terre in the region of Liguria are so popular that officials will start limiting the number of tourists that are permitted to visit.
These five little towns that make up Cinque Terre are incredibly enchanting, offering a visual explosion of rainbow-colored houses perched high up on a charming rugged Italian coastline.
Its glittering aquamarine water lines the shore, where wooden fishing boats lay calmly perched.
Surrounded by vineyards and luscious green trees that are sometimes filled with lemons, it is no wonder that the area was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Cinque Terre Travel Guide – let’s dive deeper now
THE FIVE ‘’TERRES’’
Find below a quick overview of each of the five towns so you can make the most of your time exploring this fantastic region.
Probably the most famous around your Instagram feed, Riomaggiore is perhaps best known for its colorful marina and stacks of brightly painted houses. There are various accommodation options and the main street is very close to the train station, making Riomaggiore a comfortable option to stay.
Nevertheless, be mindful that many people think the same, so it is also probably the busiest of all 5 villages.
Manarola is my favorite of all five (and probably why I also recommend staying there). It is the oldest of the five towns and was my favorite spot to swim. The marina has a rocky coastline with crystal clear water (but no sand!!).
Ah, and some people were snorkeling there as well, so bring your gear along! You can also find the famous Church of San Lorenzo in the upper part of the town.
Corniglia is to
You can buy the bus tickets at the train station upon arrival.
As soon as you reach the village, you will understand how different it is. Mostly made up of shops and ice cream parlors, you will actually need to go out of your way if you want a refreshing swim (this means going down a meaningful amount of stairs. But the swim is 100% worth it, I promise you).
For those looking for a refreshing beverage and an unbeatable view, head to Bar Terza Terra.
If I can be honest, Vernazza is my least favorite of all 5 villages. I just don’t think it has the unique charm the others have (and it seems so small and crowded).
Surrounded by lush vineyards and olive oil trees, two important industries for the region in addition to fishing, Vernazza is actually known for how beautiful it looks during the night (according to my boyfriend). Therefore, if you are staying in another of the 4 villages and want to have dinner at a different one, or even to just enjoy a nice sunset, Vernazza would be your option.
#5 MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Monterosso is the largest of all five towns and is divided into two sections: the old (historical center) and the new, where you can find the train station, several beach clubs and a large stretch of public beach.
For all these reasons, Monterosso is also significantly busier and livelier than the other towns but offers the classic beach umbrella shot that are very similar to the Amalfi Coast ones.
However, a word to the wise: Most of the beach clubs rent out umbrellas and deckchairs for half-day, or a whole day (and you will probably not be surprised that they are usually fully booked by the time you arrive).
I believe prices for the whole day under the sun umbrellas are around €25 (we paid €10 for 4h). However, there are also free options, if you manage to find an empty spot on the public beach sand.
As a fun activity for the day, you can also rent a kayak and paddle around the coast of Monterosso.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN CINQUE TERRE?
As previously mentioned in this Cinque Terre travel guide, each town itself is quite small (most of them only have one main street). Furthermore, it is also extremely easy to travel between them, be it by train, foot or boat. This means that you can easily explore each of the towns in a few hours.
Because of that, I would recommend staying in Cinque Terre a minimum of 3 nights, and no more than 5. Last time I visited, we had booked to stay 5 nights because we wanted to have a relaxing vacation. Needless to say that by day 3 we had already done most of the things that there were to do in Cinque Terre.
However, we were not tooooo bummed, as this actually allowed us some flexibility to take a day trip to Pisa, (and neither my mother nor I had ever visited Pisa before, so that was fun!).
Is it worth it going to Pisa? I wrote all about our day-trip here. – coming soon
HOW TO GET TO CINQUE TERRE?
Depending on where you are in Italy, there are various options to get to Cinque Terre by train.
Basically, the most popular routes are from either Genoa, Milan, Pisa or Florence.
You will have to take a train from any of these places to either La Spezia or Levanto. From these two destinations, you will find a smaller train that goes exclusively to all 5 of Cinque Terre villages.
So, as an example, I flew into Genoa airport from Barcelona. From there, we went to Genoa’s train station by taxi and bought the train ticket on the spot. We took a train to Levanto, where we had to get out and switch for the Cinque Terre train to Manarola (the village where we had decided that we would stay).
In shorter words:
Barcelona to Genoa (flight) > Genoa to Levanto (train) > Levanto to Manarola (train)
Cinque Terre Travel Guide for Summer: Find below more information regarding each of the four popular train routes to Cinque Terre:
TRAIN FROM GENOVA TO CINQUE TERRE: As aforementioned, before visiting Cinque Terre I was in Barcelona, where I live. This meant taking a plane to Genoa, and from Genoa’s train station, we took a quick 1h train to Levanto, where we made the switch for the Cinque Terre regional train to Manarola. Click here to see the latest options and prices.
FROM MILAN TO CINQUE TERRE – This route is very popular so it runs around 22 times per day and the journey from Milan to Levanto will take you around three hours. Not all options from here are direct, so be wise and try to get the one that takes you directly (I like to travel smart). Pricing varies but starts at around $17. Click here to see the latest options and prices.
TRAIN FROM FLORENCE TO CINQUE TERRE: Unfortunately, there are no direct trains from Florence, so you will need to transfer, but no worries, I did this route on my first time to Cinque Terre and it was a piece of cake. Being as there are both high-speed and regional options, the time to get there may vastly vary. Pricing starts at around $19. Click here to book your ticket (search Florence to Monterosso).
TRAIN FROM PISA TO CINQUE TERRE: Good news is that from Pisa the route is fast, direct, cheap, and as easy as it can get. Furthermore, there are enough options to choose from where you can literally spend a day there and go back (I actually did this – meaning, we decided to take a day trip to Pisa when It trained in Cinque Terre and I write all about it here). This trip takes a little over one hour. Pricing varies but starts at $12. Click here to see the latest options and prices.
TRAIN FROM ROME TO CINQUE TERRE: There are also no direct trains from Rome, but you will only need to stop once. The journey takes a little over 4 and a half hours.
PS – Are you in Rome and would like to see something different? Read this post about Ponza, a little piece of Italian haven that you simply HAVE to know about. You won’t regret it (it actually became my most popular post).
Ah, and by the way, if you’re looking for a Cinque Terre airport, or any sort of flights to Cinque Terre, you won’t be very lucky. There is none, and the train is your only option of getting there 🙂
WHERE TO STAY IN CINQUE TERRE?
The first time I visited Cinque Terre was around 10 years ago and it was a backpacking trip. Back then, I stayed at a hostel with my friends, but don’t ask me which one, as I can’t remember.
Deciding which Island to stay is completely up to you. I’ve read a blogger recommending Vernazza, which to me is the least impressive village and right there and then I realized how biased it is to tell people where to stay.
To that point, as I had such an amazing experience during my last visit, I’d strongly recommend taking some of my suggestions from this Cinque Terre travel guide.
First, I’d start by recommending you to stay in Manarola. I just LOVE the vibe in that little village. It is lively, yet not overcrowded, and has plenty of delicious restaurant options to indulge from.
Furthermore, I cannot advise you enough to stay at Rio Groppo. I had the best time staying in this cute hotel, not only by the property itself but also by the owners, who are this adorable Italian couple that will do anything in their hands to help.
As an example, one day before my arrival I realized I had booked the wrong dates within the website and I started to panic because there was a € 130 fee to pay for cancelation, which was more than an extra room night.
We called them to explain what happened and they immediately understood and accepted us to change the dates without the extra fee. Not only that, they kindly offered me a discount upon arrival, altogether with a welcome bottle of their regional wine. Who would’ve known!
Furthermore, and adding the cherry on top of the cake, they not only gave us delicious recommendations of places to eat, but they would also help us in making the call in Italian to reserve it (AND we would
Moreover, the hotel is extremely clean and well kept. It has both AC and wifi included, and its rooms are very charming. I can’t recommend this place enough!!!
BY FOOT – My favorite transportation method! Cinque Terre is famous for its hiking trails and this is the only way to see many of the famous views you see all over the web. If you do plan on hiking though, be aware that most of the trails have a maintenance cost to access them and you can either by a one time access or a Cinque Terre card that gives you unlimited hikes and train rides per day.
Pricing for a hike starts at €4.50, and for each train ride €4, while the Cinque Terre day card costs € 16 a day (so make your calculations to how many times you’d be walking and taking the train to be sure if it will be worth your money).
PS – Do keep in mind however that the trails are not always open, so sometimes you’ll be forced to take another method, even if you want to walk the walk.
BY TRAIN – the Cinque Terre train stops in each of the 5 Cinque Terre town, running 1-2 times per hour, and is the quickest way to get between towns (4-6 minutes). If you love getting a break from the heat, like myself, you’ll be happy to know they are all equipped with AC. Again. if you plan on both hiking AND taking the train, purchase the Cinque Terre Card Train which is the same as above except it also allows for unlimited train travel within Cinque Terre.
BY FERRY – if you visit between the end of March and the beginning of November, another option is to take the ferry, which offers amazing coastal views of the towns! Also, please note that Corniglia is not accessible by ferry.
WHAT TO PACK FOR SUMMER IN ITALY:
- Hiking shoes
- Comfortable sandals
- Flowy cotton dresses (evening wear)
- Everything Linen (shirts, dresses, skirts)
- Sunglasses and a hat
- Sheet mask (for relaxing in the room after a day under the sun)
PS – Leave the high heels at home. I’ve written a post on rookie mistakes people do when going to Cinque Terre here. (and you’ve guessed right: Taking high heels with you is indeed part of the rookie list).
Don’t forget that by using my link for Booking.com you can get 15 euros off. Use this money you’ll save to have a nicer dinner, or to buy something for yourself on your next trip! Find the link here!
Have you ever been to Cinque Terre? Let me know in the comments below: Which one was your favorite out of all 5? Share some tips you think are helpful.
Did you like this Cinque Terre Travel Guide? Find more posts from the Cinque Terre Series:
- Where to Eat in Cinque Terre (recommended by a local)
- Common Cinque Terre Travel Mistakes to Look Out For
- 11 Amazing Things to do in Cinque Terre
- Summer Outfit Inspiration – Look Chic This Summer
- Ponza Island – Italy’s Hidden Gem (popular post)