Cinque Terre Itinerary: Everything You Need to Plan Your Trip

Cinque Terre, a string of five towns on the Italian Riviera, is known for its colorful seaside houses and rewarding hikes. As if that alone is not enough, it is also the birthplace of pesto and the seafood is as fresh as can be. 

For as long as I could remember, it was the number one place I had wanted to visit so a few summers ago I made sure to check it off my bucket list.  Needless to say, it did not disappoint.

If you've decided on visiting and need help working out a Cinque Terre itinerary (and more), you've come to the right place! Here is everything you need to know:

 

Cinque Terre itinerary:

About Each of the Cinque Terre Towns:

The five Cinque Terre villages, from north to south, include:

Monterosso

The largest village and although it was not my favorite, it is surprisingly where I took most of my photos. It is home to the best beach in Cinque Terre, one that you can without a doubt get a spot at (unlike the others which have small harbor beaches)

Vernazza

My favorite and the best Cinque Terre town. Not too big, not too small - just right!
Stay here (more info on that below)

Corniglia

The middle village and the only one not at all accessible by sea! Nothing to write home about (sorry)

Manarola

The most beautiful village of the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. There is no sand beach here but there is a gorgeous harbor and a tall rock that crazy people jump off of!

Riomaggiore

The southern-most Cinque Terre village. Beautiful and photogenic

While visiting I strongly suggest you stop by each of the Cinque Terre cities as they are all unique and have their own charm.

 

How to get to Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is located in the northern part of the Italy, situated between many different airports including Milan, Genoa, Pisa, and Florence.  If you are flying into Italy to visit Cinque Terre, you can fly into any of the above mentioned airports and then take a train to Cinque Terre.  If you are coming from somewhere else in Italy, you will take the train.

 

Map Cinque Terre

Getting to Cinque Terre:

TRAIN FROM MILAN TO CINQUE TERRE: Before visiting Cinque Terre I was in Lake Como, so I arrived via train from Milan. This route is very popular so it runs 22 times per day and will take you around three hours.  Not all options from here are direct so make sure to get the one that is if that is a necessity.  Pricing varies but starts at $17.  Click here to see the latest options and prices.

TRAIN FROM FLORENCE TO CINQUE TERRE: From Florence there are no directs so you will need to transfer, but no worries, I did this route on my way out and it was a piece of cake.  Travel time varies as there are both high-speed and local options, and pricing starts at $19.  Click here to book your ticket (search Florence to Monterosso).

TRAIN FROM PISA TO CINQUE TERRE: From Pisa there are also direct trains which run a few times per day.  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 GENOA TO CINQUE TERRE: From Genoa there are many options, some of which are much faster than others (<1 hour up to >2 hours).  Pricing starts at $8.  Click here to see the latest options and prices.

TRAIN FROM ROME TO CINQUE TERRE: From Rome there are not direct trains but you will only need to stop once. The journey takes a little over 4 and a half ours. Click here to book your ticket (search Rome to Monterosso).

Looking for a Cinque Terre airport or flights to Cinque Terre? There is none! Train is your only option :)

 

Cinque Terre day trip

You can also visit Cinque Terre as part of a day trip if you aren’t able to make it an actual itinerary stop. For a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence, click here to see the latest prices. For a Milan to Cinque Terre day trip, click here to see the latest prices. From Pisa, click here to see the latest prices.

 

HOW TO GET AROUND IN CINQUE TERRE

Getting from town to town is very easy and there are three ways to do it:

  • BY FOOT - my transportation method of choice! 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 you will need to purchase a Cinque Terre Card, available for purchase at each train station. Pricing starts at €4.50. Do note that the trails are not always open, so sometimes you’ll be forced to take another method

  • BY TRAIN - the Cinque Terre train stops in each Cinque Terre town, runs 1-2 times per hour, and is the quickest way to get between towns (4-6 minutes). 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! Corniglia is not accessible by ferry.

 

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

Vernazza is the best place to stay in Cinque Terre. It was my favorite of the five towns, is the best village in Cinque Terre, is mid-sized (smaller than Monterosso but busier and more lively than the other three), and is somewhat centrally located (second from the north).

Regardless of which village you decide to stay in, I recommend that you stay in an Airbnb! They are incredibly inexpensive and Airbnb is the best site for b&b rentals which is what the majority of accommodation options are in Cinque Terre. I’ve rounded up the best Airbnb options in each village in a separate dedicated post. Click here for the best Airbnbs in Cinque Terre!

PS. there’s a $40 off coupon there too.

 

Cinque Terre Hiking Trails

Again, Cinque Terre is famous for its hiking trails which is likely one of the reasons you have decided to visit.  Each of the five villages is connected by a Cinque Terre trail which differ in length and difficulty. Before you hike Cinque Terre National Park you will need to purchase a Cinque Terre hiking pass, the Cinque Terre Card, available for purchase at each train station.  There are regular check points along the trails so do not go without this!

Durations will vary depending on fitness level but here is how long each trail took us:

  • Monterosso - Vernazza: 1.5 hours

  • Vernazza - Corniglia: 1.5 hours

  • Corniglia - Manarola: 1 hour

  • Manarola - Riomaggiore (“Lover’s lane”): 30 minutes. The easiest Cinque Terre walk

If needed, you could hike all of the trails in one day, but if you have the time I would recommend splitting them up so that you have time to explore the towns between trails.

 

Where to Eat in Cinque Terre

The food in Cinque Terre is often said to be some of the best in Italy! Do not miss the pesto, focaccia, minestrone, and whatever lemony things you can get your hands on during your Cinque Terre visit.

  • Gelateria Vernazza for gelato. The best gelato I think I’ve ever had! Try the mint and the dark chocolate

  • Al Castello for dinner is a MUST. It was to die for. It's located inside the castle in Vernazza and at sunset there is no better place to be. Plus the staff is the sweetest and the food was great. Make reservations

  • Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre for breakfast if you need something quick. They are a bit crazy though just to warn you

  • Tutti Fritti for take-away deep fried calamari or other seafood

 

Cinque Terre Itinerary:

If you plan on spending 3 days in Cinque Terre, great! I found it to be the perfect amount of time.  Anything less would have felt way too rushed, and anything more would’ve likely felt like too much.  Here’s what I did (and what you should, too!):

DAY ONE

  • Arrive in Vernazza

  • Check into MaDa Charm Apartment Jacuzzi. Click here to see the latest prices.

  • Explore Vernazza for the day - walk up to the top of the castle for a beautiful photo opp, swim in the water, lay on the beach, drink wine in the piazza for happy hour

  • Eat dinner at Al Castello and make absolute sure you are there for sunset

  • Get some rest because tomorrow you will be hiking :)

DAY TWO

  • Wake up early to beat the rush and get the most out of your day

  • Grab breakfast at Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre which is near the trail head

  • Hike to Corniglia (1.5 hours)

  • Stop in Corniglia for fresh lemonade and walk around town quickly. Don’t plan for much time in Corniglia

  • Hike to Manarola (1 hour)

  • Explore Manarola - swim in the beautiful harbor, lay in the sun to rest for a bit, take a million photos

  • Eat pesto for lunch

  • Hike to Riomaggiore (30 minutes)

  • Explore Riomaggiore - same as above :)

  • Take the ferry back to Vernazza from Riomaggiore by way of Manarola. Do this instead of hiking back because then you get to see the beautiful towns from the sea (new photo opps!)

  • Get gelato at Gelateria Vernazza to reward yourself upon arrival back ;)

  • Grab dinner somewhere in Vernazza

DAY THREE

  • Again, wake up early to beat the rush and get the most out of your day

  • Hike to Monterosso (1.5 hours)

  • Stop at the top of the hill in Vernazza to get that famous Vernazza shot!

  • When you arrive in Monterosso, don’t stop at the first beach (old town). Keep walking until you get to the second beach (Fegina) which is on the other side of the bend

  • Relax in Monterosso - pay for a beach chair (plus umbrella, if needed) and enjoy your day in the sun!

  • Hike back or take the train

 

Other Things to do in Cinque Terre:

 

What to Pack for Cinque Terre

COMFORTABLE SHOES. You will likely (hopefully) be doing a lot of walking so this is very important! My very favorite are M. Gemi’s white leather sneakers. I literally never travel anywhere without them. Click here to see latest prices and click here to get $50 off!

More details: click here for why they're the most comfortable and stylish walking shoes for travel!

SUNDRESSES. If there is one thing that screams Positano to me, it is sundresses! (Click here for my favorite sundresses for Italy. I also shop for them here, here, and here.

SUNGLASSES. Of course! Three timeless styles I’ve been wearing non-stop: click here for my favorite Quay aviators (I have numerous pairs), click here for my round Ray-Bans, and click here for my all time favorite black on black Ray-Bans that are often hard to track down because they sell out consistently.

BRIGHT LIPSTICK. Because you won’t want to spend time on makeup, and you’ll probably have a bit tan depending on when you go, so a bright lip is the perfect way to spice up your nighttime look! Click here for the one I've been loving from Sephora (especially because it’s called “First Class” and it seems like good upgrade karma, haha).

CONVERTER ADAPTER. This one is universal and works no matter where you’re going so it’s a must. When going to the EU I also bring along this very inexpensive 6 pack so that I have extras. So much to charge these days! Need other recommendations? Click here to see my list of 20 must have travel products from Amazon Prime.

STYLISH CAMERA BAG… if you are bringing a camera! You can’t go to Italy with anything that isn’t chic ;) I usually bring GATTA’s Christie camera backpack (named after me) because it’s hands free, has a zipper AND a buttoned flap, and fully protects my camera yet is so cute no one will ever know it’s a camera bag. Click here to see the latest prices. Want to see more options? Click here for the most stylish camera bags for women!

BLACK PASHMINA. A total lifesaver! It folds up small so you are able to easily throw it in any bag and it weighs basically nothing. However, because of the material it is capable of keeping you surprisingly warm in situations where you have mistakenly underestimated the weather. You can wear it as a scarf, wrap it around your body like a shawl, use it as a blanket on cold planes or trains, etc. - it serves so many purposes. I recommend a black one because black goes with everything and if it gets dirty along the way it will be way less noticeable. Pro tip: if you’re only bringing a small cross body bag with room for your wallet, tie it to the strap! Click here for J. Crew’s best selling version.

LEATHER TOTE. I never, ever, ever travel without my Cuyana Leather Zipper Tote. It holds so much yet never feels as heavy as other bags! Click here to check it out. Wanna know my organizational tricks? Click here for how to organize your carry-on.

REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE. I always pack this but it's especially handy in Italy because there are so many fountains you can fill up in. Hydro Flask is the best because it keeps your drink cold (or warm). So worth the investment. Click here to see the latest prices.

Want more recommendations? Click here for more of my recommended travel essentials!

 
 

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