How to Visit Cinque Terre in Italy
Wondering how to visit Cinque Terre? Here’s all of what to expect and what you’ll see.
The colorful villages of Cinque Terre are Dreamy with a capital D. If you have no idea what I am talking about, I will explain it here as briefly and concisely as possible.
Imagine a hilly strip of coast, where in every bay there is a cute rainbow village, full of winding streets, fresh gelato and cheerfully striped parasols. That’s Cinque Terre, one of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Visiting Cinque Terre was very high on my wish list when I was in the Italy this year. I visited between my trips to Milan, Trento, and Verona. But I was a bit worried, was it really as busy as I had heard? And how exactly did that work with traveling between the villages?
I had many questions in advance. Don’t worry, in this Cinque Terre travel guide, I’ll share all the tips I learned during my two-day visit, so that you are fully prepared for your trip!
Map of Cinque Terre
What is Cinque Terre?
The name Cinque Terre literally means: five villages. The villages in question are called: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The villages have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1997, and are part of the larger “Cinque Terre National Park.” This includes the overgrown interior, the hiking trails, and part of the sea.
Cinque Terre is located on the coast in the Liguria region of Italy, about an hour and a half northwest of the nearest major city: Pisa.
How to Visit Cinque Terre: Tips
How to Get to Cinque Terre
The closest international airports at Cinque Terre are the airports of Pisa (south) and Genoa (north).
Pisa is the cheapest option to fly to from the Netherlands. You can fly there from Eindhoven for cheap. Rotterdam and Amsterdam also offer cheap flights to Pisa.
Genoa is a lot more expensive since you can only fly there directly from Amsterdam. Your flight could easily cost hundreds of euros.
Getting to Cinque Terre
The easiest way to visit Cinque Terre is by train, as the villages themselves are car-free. Direct trains run from Pisa and Genoa to Monterosso, both taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
If Cinque Terre is part of a tour by car, it is best to park your car in La Spezia or Levanto, two nice towns just outside of the villages. From there you can easily take the train to visit the villages.
How Long to Stay in Cinque Terre
While planning my trip, I wondered how many days I would need to be able to visit Cinque Terre in peace. I didn’t want to have to rush, but again I didn’t want to travel so slowly that I would get bored.
Following my visit, I would recommend that you visit Cinque Terre in two days. That gives you enough time to explore the villages at your leisure, have a quiet lunch, maybe spend an hour or two on the beach or take a boat trip. Two days is just enough time to see everything.
You can certainly see all the villages in one day, if you want. They are not that big, and you can reach the next village by train in a few minutes. But I would personally recommend that you spend two days and get some rest. After all, it’s vacation!
Do you only have one day? Try these day trips to Cinque Terre:
- From Florence: With this all-inclusive tour you take the bus there and back from Florence, and you can visit the villages on the spot. Lunch is included. In the summer months you also go by boat along the villages. Check the prices and availability here.
- From Florence: This is only a transfer that will take you from Florence to Cinque Terre and back. Check the prices and availability here.
- From Milan: With this bus trip you visit Cinque Terre in one day, and you also take a boat trip. You have free time in Monterosso and Manarola. Check the prices & availability here.
Cinque Terre Weather
The Cinque Terre always has mild weather. Because of the Mediterranean Sea there is always a nice breeze in the summer, and in the winter the region is protected against cold air by the mountains behind it. It can sometimes rain a lot in the spring and fall. So make sure you are well prepared for changeable weather.
How to Travel the Cinque Terre Villages
The five villages of Cinque Terre are car-free. That means that you have to move between the villages in a different way. There are various options for this.
Cinque Terre by Train
The most convenient way to travel between the five Cinque Terre villages is by train. The train stops in or near all five villages (all of which have a train station). The travel time between the villages by train is often no more than a minute or two / three, and the trains run very regularly.
You can either purchase individual train tickets or a Cinque Terre Card (explanation below). Single train tickets cost €4 each between La Spezia and Levanto, so it is important to calculate how often you go back and forth, and which option is the cheapest for you.
Cinque Terre by Boat
Because all villages (except Corniglia) are on the water, you can also visit the villages by boat in the summer months. If the sea is not too rough (when we were there, there were no boats sailing for that reason).
You can board in the four coastal villages, but also in La Spezia, Levanto, or Portovenere. You can find the boat schedule for 2019 here. Tickets can be purchased on site, ranging from €6 (the shortest one-way ticket) to €35 (unlimited full-day journeys between Levanto and La Spezia).
Cinque Terre by Foot
Many people choose to walk between the villages. There is a 12-kilometer hiking trail that connects all five villages. This one is called Sentiero Azzurro (the Blue Path).
However, at this moment the whole trail is not open. You can only walk between Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza and Corniglia. The rest of the path is closed after heavy rainfall has affected the trails.
To be able to use the official hiking trail you will need either a Cinque Terre Trekking Card (€ 7.50 per day) or a Cinque Terre Card (€ 16 per day). You can also use the trains for the latter. There are also unofficial free hiking trails.
Put on good shoes of course, there are many accidents in Cinque Terre because people slip on their slippers. You can even get a fine if you wear slippers, pumps, or sandals on the hiking trails.
Cinque Terre by Car
Are you coming by car? Then you will have to park your car and continue to the villages by train. Most villages do have a parking space, but it is often a good deal outside the village, so it is actually most convenient if you just park your car at the train station of La Spezia or Levanto. From there catch the train to the villages. Find all parking places here in Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Card Info
There are two types of admission tickets to visit Cinque Terre. Both tickets give you unlimited access to the hiking trails, public toilets, and free WiFi. You also have access to any shuttle vans and free entry to a number of sights in the five villages.
- Cinque Terre Trekking Card: You will need this if you only want to walk between the villages. This costs € 7.50 per day.
- Cinque Terre Card: You will need this if you also want to be able to use the train unlimited. This is the best option for most travelers. This costs €16 a day.
Of course everyone has to do their own calculation based on how much you want to visit, but I would recommend you to buy a Cinque Terre Card. I found this the easiest option to visit Cinque Terre.
- 1 day Cinque Terre Card: €16
- 2-day Cinque Terre Card: €29
You can buy the card both online and on the spot. It both has its advantages: if you buy the card online, you don’t have to queue. But with an online ticket you are not flexible with regard to the date, so if you are not exactly sure when you visit Cinque Terre, it is better to buy a ticket on the day itself.
This can be done at the information centers or at the train stations of La Spezia, Levanto or in all five villages of Cinque Terre. The card is equally expensive everywhere.
We bought a two-day card so that we could visit all the villages at leisure and take our time to visit everything, have an extensive lunch and lie on the beach.
How to Avoid the Crowds in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is unfortunately very busy with tourists. But there are a number of tips that you can follow to avoid the crowds as much as possible. And that is to visit the cities as early or as late as possible.
The villages are particularly busy with tourists between 12:00 and 18:00. These are mostly day trippers who come from Pisa or Florence with an excursion. Around that time the cruise ships also spit out huge loads of people in the villages, which of course go back on board in the evening.
I found the nicest moment to discover the villages in the morning, or only after about six or seven in the evening. Then the streets are suddenly completely deserted.
Also a good tip: deviate from the main roads. Dive into the side streets. Get lost in the maze of alleys and paths in the center of a village and you suddenly encounter fewer tourists.
I also believe that it may be less crowded in the winter months as I was there mid-June. I did not expect that it would already be in high season, but I was wrong.
The 5 Cinque Terre Villages
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost of the five villages and with more than 1500 inhabitants also the largest village. This was the village that most felt to me as a holiday destination.
If you come out of the train station and face the sea, you have the new part on your right (with a large beach!), And on the left you can walk through a tunnel to reach the old city center.
And surprise! There is also a beach there. So if you want to enjoy the beach in Cinque Terre, then Monterosso is your best option. And I did a nice job, rented a beach chair, and lay down for a few hours on the lovely beach.
Don’t forget to stroll through the old center with its squares and streets. It is a nice place to have a bite to eat or to score a souvenir in one of the cuddly souvenir shops.
Where to Eat in Monterosso
- On the main street you score a surprisingly tasty pizza at L’Alta Marea.
- For a delicious lunch, I recommend Ca du Sciensa, where you just eat what the chef happens to have at home.
Where to stay in Monterosso al Mare
- Piccolo Principe Affittacamere: The air-conditioned rooms have views of the city, located in the heart of the village.
- Villa Accini: A beautiful old mansion with a great garden, just 100 meters from the sea.
One village to the south is the most beautiful village (if you ask me): Vernazza. This village looks the most lovely of them all. I thought this village had such a charming little bay, with a 13th-century church, colorful houses, and blue boats that floated quietly in the water. You can immediately imagine how the fishing boats moored here with their fresh catch of the day. Fantastic!
Even better is the view of Vernazza, but for that you have to train your leg muscles. If you follow the signs for the hiking trail to Monterroso, you will arrive after a steep but short climb at a beautiful viewpoint where you can marvel at the postcard view. Impossible not to fall in love with this.
Where to stay in Vernazza:
- Pension La Marinarooms: Rooms with balcony have a view over the garden behind the hotel, but from the terrace you have a view over the charming bay of Vernazza.
- DonnaBarbara: Is an apartment right on the beach in Vernazza. What else do you want? Your own kitchen, free breakfast buffet, and free WiFi and air conditioning? Well, that’s all there too!
Corniglia is without a doubt the most unique of all five villages. And that is only because it is the only village that is not on the water, but higher in the hills. This immediately yields a completely different experience. From the train station you can either walk or take a shuttle bus to the center.
I found Corgnigla a relief because it was much less crowded than in the other villages. The streets are narrow and nice and cool, and from behind the church you have a great view of the surroundings.
Recommended: Score an ice cream at Alberto Gelateria, and eat it while strolling through the streets, or stroll down on one of the terraces with a view and have a tasty aperitivo.
Where to Stay in Corniglia
- Pension Daa Maduneta: Known for its friendly owner. You have a sea view from the hotel room. Breakfast is at the restaurant away.
- Il Taragio: Wake up to the sound of the church bells of Corniglia, and look out over the hills and the sea. What a dream.
If you know a picture of Cinque Terre where you see a cheerfully colored village with a bay glued to a mountainside, then chances are that this is about photogenic Manarola.
This photo point is called Monarola Scenic Viewpoint, and you will probably stumble over the other tourists. But yes, it is beautiful.
I didn’t think Manarola was that special. I found it really incredibly busy, I didn’t like the main street very much, and I actually just liked the other villages more!
Where to stay in Manarola:
- Guest house 5 TERRE PELAGOS: Simple and comfortable rooms on the outskirts of Manarola. Located in a quiet area with beautiful views over the valley.
- Pension Olimpo Affittacamere: From the sun loungers on the luxurious terrace you look out over the town and the sea behind it. The rooms are fully equipped.
The southernmost village, and the very first village that I visited was Riomaggiore. The village that still looks like a real fishing village. It is also the most unpolished of them all. With large steep paths, tall narrow houses and dark alleys, and a small bay with fishing boats. It even smells of fish!
Expect fewer cute streets with souvenir shops here, but more traditional life. Go to the higher viewpoint, especially in the bay. And if you settle down for a fresh lunch, I can recommend Rio Majora, where I had a delicious traditional pasta with pesto.
Where to stay in Riomaggiore:
- Pension Lucy’s: You won’t find a better view than from the balcony. This accommodation is super new.
- Pension Alla Marina Affittacamere: Right in the harbor of Riomaggiore, this guest house is set in a building from the 13th century. Fall asleep to the sound of the sea in the background.
My Favorite Cinque Terre Villages
If I had to choose my favorite villages in Cinque Terre, I would choose Vernazza and Monterosso Al Mare. I found Vernazza to be just as magical as it is, exactly what you expect from the colorful villages and idyllic bays of this area.
And I found Monterosso al Mare very relaxed. Less crowded, with nice restaurants, shops and a wonderful beach to enjoy.
Where to Stay Near Cinque Terre
You can of course stay in Cinque Terre itself. I have already given you a number of suggestions for this, above. But the disadvantage is that it is busy and pricey in the villages themselves, and it is not always handy with your luggage since you cannot park in front of the door.
That means that you have to drag your bags along all kinds of stairs, through corridors and along hiking trails. I have seen a couple on a steep, unpaved mountain trail dragging their trunks, haha!
That is why we chose to stay outside of Cinque Terre. If you want to do that, there are two popular choices: La Spezia in the south, or Levanto in the north. We chose Levanto and stayed three wonderful nights there.
La Spezia is located south of Cinque Terre. This is the largest place in the area, and also has a more urban character. You have a port here and quite a few stores where you can shop. You can easily take the train here to visit the villages of Cinque Terre.
Hotels in La Spezia
- Bed & Breakfast Casa Celsi: This B&B is located near both the train station and the shopping street. The hostess serves breakfast every morning that you can eat on your balcony. Delicious!
- Elegant Apartments 5 terre la spezia: Prefer your own apartment with kitchen? This apartment is full in the center and is very suitable for families due to its bunk bed and double bed.
Levanto is located north of Cinque Terre. A town with a real holiday vibe. Including elongated beach, and a city center full of fish restaurants. We chose to stay here, and took the train here in the morning to the villages of Cinque Terre.
Hotels in Levanto
- Pension La Vignana – 5 Terre: Enjoy beautiful views of the hills and the sea from the balcony of this guest house. An excellent breakfast is served in the morning.
- Al Molino delle Ghiare: We stayed here, in an apartment just outside Levanto (car is necessary!). The apartment is basic but comfortable, and the location between the hills is great. Full of nature. In the evening the fireflies dance around your apartment. Magic!
And there you have it, all my tips on how to visit Cinque Terre and everything you really need to know! I hope you benefit from my travel guide if you want to plan your own visit. And if you have any nice tips, please share them with us in the comments!
How do you plan to visit Cinque Terre?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe and Tiqets for specific attraction deals.