One day in Cinque Terre - suggested itinerary

How To See The Best of Cinque Terre in One Day

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Cinque Terre in Italy has been on our list of places to visit for many years. But when we finally decided to make a last minute trip to the Italian Riviera, we had no idea how much time you actually need to visit all five little villages of Cinque Terre. Is one day enough for Cinque Terre?

After a lot of research we decided to spend two days in Cinque Terre area: one day visiting and hiking Cinque Terre itself and the second day exploring the nearby hidden gem, a beautiful little town Portovenere. In my previous posts I talked about visiting Portovenere and shared practical tips for visiting Cinque Terre. Today I want to share our itinerary for the best of Cinque Terre in a day.

If you are wondering if one day is enough for Cinque Terre, the answer of course depends on what you are looking for. If you want to quickly see all the five villages and hike the Cinque Terre trail, then yes, one day is enough. Of course, you can stay longer and explore deeper, but if you are short on time you can definitely see the best of Cinque Terre in one full day.

There are three ways to see Cinque Terre: by boat, by train, or a combination of boat and/or train and hiking. The train is the fastest way to get around with lots of trains connecting the five villages at regular intervals throughout the day. The boat takes much longer, but gives you a different perspective. However, some of the best views of Cinque Terre are found on land and not from the water.

We only had limited time as the days were really short at the end of October/beginning of November when we visited, so we chose to explore Cinque Terre by train in combination with hiking. Find out!

Cinque Terre 1 day itinerary

For your convenience, I created a custom map of Cinque Terre, so you have a better idea where each place is located.

Take a train to Monterosso al Mare

We started our day at around 8AM with a short (20min) train ride from La Spezia where we were staying to the furthest village of Cinque Terre – Monterosso.

You can, of course, also opt to stay at one of the Cinque Terre villages or at the nearby town Levanto which is also on the same train route. You can find the Cinque Terre train schedule here.

Visit Monterosso al Mare and hike to Vernazza

Monterosso al Mare, the most Northern of Cinque Terre villages, is the most visited in Cinque Terre, mainly due to its sand beach. Monterosso has the only somewhat noteworthy sand beach in Cinque Terre, so it attracts many tourists in summer.

The beach was completely deserted on a late-October morning. After a short stop at the tourist information centre to enquire which sections of the Cinque Terre hike were open we set towards Vernazza.

Monterosso al Mare beach

Monterosso al Mare beach end October

 

Before you reach the start of the hiking trail, you pass the old town centre of Monterosso. The small town square has that typical laid back feel of the villages along the Mediterranean. An obligatory statue (in this case of Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi) in the middle surrounded by trees offering some very welcome shadow (yes, even in October!) with a couple of benches where locals were catching up on the latest gossip and doing some tourist-watching. There are some restaurants and little shops here, as well as a little playground. A very cozy place!

Monterosso al Mare town square

Monterosso al Mare town square

 

The Monterosso – Vernazza hike starts here, just behind the communal building. If you look well you will see a tiny arrow ‘Vernazza’ pointing in the direction of a narrow path going up the hill. Once on the trail, you cannot really go wrong – there is just one path.

The hike from Monterosso to Vernazza took us 2 hours. We were hiking together with our three kids age 7-9 and they did just fine. However, some parts of the trail are quite steep and also a bit narrow, so you have to keep an eye on the children.

Vineyards along the Cinque Terre trail

Monterosso al Mare as seen from the hiking trail

 

Visit Vernazza

Vernazza is one of the most picturesque villages of Cinque Terre.  There are several stunning viewpoints from the Cinque Terre trail, some 5-10 minutes before you reach the village coming from Monterosso. Even if you are not hiking the whole trail, you could walk to these viewpoints from Vernazza.

Practical guide to visiting Cinque Terre in Italy - all your questions answered

Vernazza from one of the viewpoints along the hike from Monterosso

 

Vernazza itself is a colourful little village bustling with life. I can’t imagine how busy it must be in summer! By the time we reached the village it was around 11AM and really hot. Time for a gelato! There are several gelaterias, as well as many restaurants and shops in Vernazza. You can rent a kayak, go swimming, or just hang around and soak in the atmosphere.

Vernazza harbour in Cinque Terre

The tiny beach of Vernazza

 

TIP: refill your water bottles in Vernazza and buy some local food to take with you for a picnic along the trail. This will save you lots of time (and money).

Hike from Vernazza to Corniglia

After refilling our water bottles in Vernazza we continued further on the Cinque Terre trail to Corniglia. The hike between Monterosso and Vernazza leads mainly through the vineyards and the forest and has more shadow. This section of the hike – Vernazza to Corniglia – is probably even more impressive, as the trail is more open and you can enjoy incredible views over Vernazza (at first) and the Ligurian coast almost all the way! Vineyards are replaced by olive trees, and then vineyards again… It’s a beautiful hike! But oh so warm in the middle of the day!

Hiking Cinque Terre Trail at Vernazza

Vernazza as seen from the hike to Corniglia

 

There aren’t many places to stop for a picnic, but there are a few nice spots overlooking the sea about half way through the hike. You can of course continue further and have lunch in Corniglia. We did both – a small picnic along the way followed by pizza in Corniglia. Kids just couldn’t resist it when they saw the pizzas!

The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia takes about 90 minutes.

Family hiking Cinque Terre trail from Vernazza to Corniglia

Hiking towards Corniglia

 

Visit Corniglia

Corniglia is probably the quietest village of Cinque Terre because it’s the most difficult one to access. Located high on the hill it is the only Cinque Terre village that cannot be reached by boat. There is a train station, however, but it’s located down by the sea. So if you are coming by train, you will need to go up a couple of hundred stairs to get to the village. I think there is also a bus connecting the train station to the village, but we didn’t see it.

Cinque Terre coast - Corniglia and Manarola as seen from the hiking trail

Corniglia and Manarola (in the distance)

 

Since we came to Corniglia on foot, we didn’t have to mount the stairs. And time-wise you don’t waste much either, so if you want to visit Corniglia and you are moderately fit (and have walking shoes), you better hike there from Vernazza.

After our pizza lunch in Corniglia we walked down the stairs to catch the train to Riomaggiore. I’m sure glad we didn’t do this trip in the other direction!

Staircase to Corniglia train station

Staircase to Corniglia train station

 

In the past you could hike the whole Cinque Terre trail between Monterosso and Riomaggiore. But due to some mud slides a few years ago the paths between Corniglia and Manarolla and between Manarola and Riomaggiore have been closed, so now you can only walk the two sections that I described here. It seems that there are no immediate plans to reopen the rest of the trail…

Take a train to Riomaggiore

After a long wait (due to two cancelled trains), we finally got on the train and in just a few minutes we arrived in Riomaggiore. If you look at the map, you will see that we skipped one of the most beautiful villages – Manarola – at this point. But there is a good reason for it. We wanted to go to Manarola at sunset, so we decided to head to Riomaggiore first.

Riomaggiore is a rather big village, but we didn’t have much time to explore it properly. We wasted an hour waiting for the train in Corniglia and it was also going to get dark at around 5PM in the period when we visited. So upon arrival we went straight to the most beautiful place – the tiny waterfront area of Riomaggiore with the famous postcard-view that you have probably seen in the travel brochures.

Riomaggiore is one of the most colorful towns of Cinque Terre #Italy

Riomaggiore

If you have more time, you can explore the old town with the busy shopping streets. Also, make sure to walk a part of the famous Via dell’Amore coastal trail. Only a very small section is open to the public, but it’s really beautiful! A friend who knows Cinque Terre really well also recommended to have a drink at the local bar A Pie’ di Ma’ in Riomaggiore.

Via dell'Amore in Riomaggiore Italy

Via dell’Amore in Riomaggiore

Go to Manarola for sunset and dinner

We arrived in Manarola about half an hour before sunset. Just enough time to walk through the village and get to the scenic viewpoint – the best place to be at sunset in Cinque Terre.

Best towns you have to visit in the Italian Riviera - Liguria, Italy

Manarola at sunset

 

Afterwards we had dinner at Nessun Dorma – a very good simple restaurant with some the best views in Manarola. They don’t take reservations and there was a queue waiting to be seated, but we only had to wait a few minutes. It was the perfect end to a beautiful day in Cinque Terre.

After dinner we took a train back to La Spezia. And one train was cancelled again (low season? not enough tourists?), so by the time we reached La Spezia it was after 9PM. A long, but a beautiful day.

Manarola at night

Manarola at night

 

So, this is our sample one day Cinque Terre itinerary. As I said, there are many ways to explore this beautiful coastal area. But if you are planning a visit and don’t know where to start, then I am sure that this post will give you a good idea of what you can see and do in a day and help you plan your trip. And remember, we visited late October, when it gets dark at around 5PM. If you come in spring or in summer you will have much more time, so you can certainly make this exact same trip in one day.

TIP: Try to avoid visiting Cinque Terre in summer as the tiny villages are swamped with millions of tourists.

***For all the practical tips in regards to visiting Cinque Terre please refer to our complete guide to visiting Cinque Terre. It contains a lot of information and should answer any questions you may have. Check it out!***

***If you are looking for a guided tour for a day trip to Cinque Terre, you can find some of the best-rated options here: from Florence, from Milan, or from Pisa.***

***If you are traveling to the area and looking for more ideas on where to go, check these posts: Most Beautiful small towns of the Italian Riviera and the Best towns of Tuscany.***

If you found this post useful, please bookmark it for future reference and share with your friends. Are you on Pinterest? Pin this image!

One day itinerary for Cinque Terre in Italy

See the best of Italy's Cinque Terre with this one day itinerary #italy
How to see the best of Cinque Terre in one day #italy
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Comments

  1. How did you get from Riomaggiore to Manarola? That part was left out.

    1. Author

      Hi Victor, we took a train from Riomaggiore to Manarola. It’s just a short trip, less than 5 minutes if the train comes on time :).

  2. Hi Jurga ..
    I read your post and it seems quite Helpful to me . As i am going to cinque terre on 12th of november and I probably be having 2 days in cinque terre . I have decided to take my accommodation in “ Riomaggiore “ . I don’t know whether it will be okay or not . Will you please help me with the route like if i will take my hotel in Riomaggiore so what will be the sequence of villages i have to follow . I will be alone and traveling alone for the first time . I’ll be very thankful to you if you give a proper guide .
    Thanks alot in advance

    1. Author

      Hi Siya, I really have no time to suggest individual itineraries for our readers – I’d be doing nothing else. I’m sure you’ll understand.
      This post contains so many suggestions, including the time that it took us to hike between the villages, so I’m sure you can make your own perfect Cinque Terre itinerary. A lot depends on your interests, whether you hike, and how the weather will be.
      I honestly think that 2 days is a bit much for Cinque Terre in November, so maybe try to visit something else nearby as well. Portovenere is a great option, but in November you won’t be able to easily get there I think as, normally, the boats don’t run anymore. So you’d probably need to take a bus from La Spezia.
      Anyway, here are practical tips for visiting Cinque Terre, and here you can read more about Portovenere. Hope this helps.

  3. Hi,

    Just a question, so the total itinerary spans from about 8am to ~6pm or so? (That being the total time in CT, excluding travel into and out of La Spezia?)

    1. Author

      Yes, that’s about right, Nick. Not counting the dinner. Also, we visited Cinque Terre with 3 kids, so hiked slower than most people do AND we had several cancelled trains which made the whole trip longer, otherwise we would have had at least an hour extra in Riomaggiore.

  4. Loved this as my daughter and I are travelling to Italy for 10 days in Mid Sept and will be going to CT for a day and 2 nights. We will be coming from Venice. Not sure where to stay.

    1. Author

      Hi Fauzia, I think that La Spezia might be the best option. Whether you come by train, or by car, you can easily get there. It’s also much cheaper to stay there (and there are many more options, also for restaurants) than in Cinque Terre.
      Then either take a boat or a train to explore Cinque Terre the next day.
      If you rather stay in 5terre itself, then I recommend Manarola. Portovenere is also very nice, but a bit more tricky to get to, unless you have a car and book a hotel with a parking (here you can read more about visiting Porto Venere).
      Here you can find all the practical information for visiting Cinque Terre.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Thank you so much Jurga,
        You are amazing.
        This is our first visit to Italy, and I am already certain, I will return and stay longer and visit other parts of Italy. We will be visiting family in Turin and fly back to Toronto Sunday 30th September.
        Will keep coming back to this forum during our trip to find nuggets.

  5. Hello Jurga! Super thank you for this absolutely helpful article!! we are planning to go to CT this weekend for my birthday and didn’t had any clue until we saw this article. Thank you for sharing! Really!

    And by the way, congrats for the stunning pictures!!! i love them all!! you are truly blessed with talents in writing and photography! keep it up!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for your kind feedback. Enjoy your trip to Cinque Terre and if you have a few hours to spare I really recommend to visit Portovenere as well.

  6. Hi! This was so helpful as I am planning a trip to CT next weekend. Just one question… did you pay for a CT rail pass for the day or pay as you went? / if you did buy the pass is it included in the hiking ticket since some of the trail is not open?

    1. Author

      Hi Mallory, hope I’m not too late with my answer. You can buy the Cinque Terre day ticket at a railway station. It includes all the train rides for the entire day (so you can hop-on and off at any village) and also the hiking fee is included. It’s by far the best option if you plan to take a train and also hike.
      You can find more information and answers to many other questions in our practical guide to visiting Cinque Terre.
      Enjoy your trip!

  7. Very informative. Going to CT in Oct 1st week. This article of yours will help a lot. shall update you once am back

    1. Author

      Great, please let us know how it went. I’m sure our readers will appreciate to hear any tips you may have after your trip.
      Enjoy it!

  8. Hello Juga,
    My husband and I are visiting Cinque Terre in early September. and are staying in Santa Margarita. We will have one day to explore Cinque Terre. Should we take the train all the way down to Rioggiomare and start there? If so, I think you are suggesting that hiking in that direction is more difficult so we probably will not hike. What villages would you recommend that we take the boat to? Should we hire a guide or explore ourselves? Thank you.

    1. Author

      Hi Ann, I think you can follow our itinerary from this post or do it in the other direction – it doesn’t really matter. The distances between the villages are really small and only takes a few minutes by train. If I were to do it again, I’d do it exactly the same way as we did. We left Manarola for the very end of the day because it’s a really beautiful place to be at sunset. Just keep in mind that the trains sometimes get cancelled, so your planned 5 minute ride between the two villages can turn into an hour waiting for the next train…
      You can also take a boat, but then again – keep in mind the schedule.
      If there is one village that is really nice to see from the water it’s probably Riomaggiore; the rest are actually more impressive from land. But then of course from the boat you also see the beautiful coastline…
      Here is my idea of an itinerary you could do (just a suggestion). You could take a train to Monterosso, explore the village. Then take a train or hike to Vernazza, explore it. From there hop on a boat to Riomaggiore (skip Corniglia if you don’t want to walk up the steep stairs – you’ll see it from the boat). Then take a train to Manarola in time for sunset. After dinner, take a train back to Santa Margarita.
      There is no need to take a guide, unless you really don’t like to have to deal with any practical aspects of your trip. For more practical information, train tickets, etc. please check our practical guide to visiting Cinque Terre.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

  9. Thank you! I was desperately looking for a post like this. We are planning on being in Florence in the first week of October but have a day to do CT and did not know how and yes we are open to a hike but only if it is worth it. Your plan gives us everything we were looking for.

    Question: Our plan is that after Florence/CT we go to Venice. So once we do our 2 days in Florence should we move to another town (La Spezia?) do our day trip to CT from there and stay the night in this town and then next morning take the train to Venice or after our day in CT go back to Florence an from there go to Venice?

    We are hoping to spend only a day in Venice. Stay the night and the next morning head to Rome.. So where do we spend the night? In Venice or some nearby town?

    Thank you

    1. Author

      Hi Shahid, glad this post helped you with the planning. I’m not sure how you are planning to travel from Venice to Rome, but your itinerary looks very rushed to me with lots of time traveling and little time for sightseeing. Which I understand; many first-time visitors want to see the highlights in a short time. If I were you, I’d look into options for the flights between Venice and Rome… Even Florence to Venice is already a long trip.
      In Venice it’s nice to stay right in the heart of the city. However, the best option for you would probably be an area close to the train station – at least you don’t have to carry your suitcases through half the town that way, and it’s easy enough to walk to the main landmarks from there. Try the area around Hotel Adriatico – you can see all the available accommodations on the man when you use booking.com
      Now back to Cinque Terre. If you had more time there, I’d recommend to stay nearby, but based on your plans, I think you better base yourself in Florence (again, close to the train station, area around C-hotels Joy) – it will save you lots of hassle with the luggage, looking for separate hotels, and then also traveling to Venice from Florence will be easier than going from La Spezia.
      There are organised day tours from Florence to 5terre and they take about 12hrs (7AM-7PM), so it’s possible to do it as a day trip, just plan well if you plan to do it individually. TIP: check the train schedule and don’t count on the last train – quite some trains got cancelled when we were in Cinque Terre leaving us and many passengers waiting for an hour for the next train…
      Enjoy your trip!

  10. What a great post!! I am visiting Rome in Aug and hadn’t even considered going to Cinque Terre until I came across this post. I am definitely adding this on to my trip and you certainly mapped it out for other travelers. This will be my first time “across the pond”, I live in MIA and never been to Europe. I want to get the most out of my 10 day vacation.
    Being from Florida, I am pretty accustomed to HEAT… so how hot is it in August? Does it compare to Miami or would you say its worse (temps are usually 92-95 degrees during August).
    Thanks for the post!!

    1. Author

      Hi Yoe, good to hear you found inspiration for your Italian trip. Cinque Terre is certainly worth a visit, but expect it to be really busy too… As for the weather, you never know, but in general it’s really hot in Italy in August. Too hot for us Belgians to go and explore towns and cities, but if you are used to Florida and the humid heat you have, then I think you’ll find the dry heat of Italy quite bearable. Temperature-wise it will probably be anywhere between 30-40°C (86-104F) – in Rome and other towns it will be really hot. Cinque Terre, on the other hand, is by the sea, so it shouldn’t feel half as bad with the wind there.
      Enjoy your first overseas adventure! I’m sure it will leave you wanting for more.

  11. Great article. Beautiful photos. Is there a train from Vernazza to Corniglia? Since we will be there in August, we may want to complete the first hike and skip the second due to the afternoon heat. Thanks so much for your help.

    1. Author

      Hi Michelle, yes, the train stops in each of the 5 villages (the boat only does 4 – all but Corniglia). Just note that the train station in Corniglia is at the bottom, by the sea, whereas the village itself is high on the hill. There is a nice wide staircase going up, but it’s a tough climb. I think the hike is easier. 🙂 Alternatively, I think you can also take a bus from the station to the village, but I’m not sure how it works or how often it runs. Most people seem to be walking up, so it’s definitely doable. All the other villages are by the sea and don’t require any climbing.
      If you haven’t seen yet, please also check this post for more practical information for visiting Cinque Terre.

  12. Thanks for the information. We are planning to come over to the Cinque Terre in the first week of August. We will drive to La Spezia and take the train to visit the places. Most probably we will not be doing the walking trails due to the hot weather. So do you still think we should buy the Cinque Terre Treno card to go from one place to another. Also is it possible to use the ferry boat as well with the card or do we have to pay extra.?

    1. Author

      Hi Moira, the train card is separate from the boat. If you don’t plan to do any hiking, taking a boat and hopping off at 4 villages might be a really nice way to spend your day. Or take a train to the furthest village and then buy a one way boat ticket. But I think it’s only the full day boat ticket that gives you an option to leave the boat and join the next one during the day, so it might be better to just do that. Or just the train. Combination of both will be the most expensive, but it’s not like it’s overly expensive. So I would say plan the day the best way it suits you; after all you probably want to get the most of your short visit rather than save a few euros and miss something.

  13. Thank you thank you thank you for all of these tips!!! We just arrive in Cinque Terre today and only have 2 full days to explore. This hike itinerary helped so much! Much love and happy travels!

    1. Author

      Good to hear than, Nichole. Hope you had a great time in Cinque Terre. Now that you visited it, do you have any (additional) tips for our readers? Much appreciated.
      Happy travels, Jurga

  14. Great article! This will serve our guide. My husband and I will be going on a day trip to Cinque Terre on a Saturday in May. We may not do it all and I wish we have more time. Can’t wait.

    1. Author

      Hi Lilibeth, glad to hear this helped you plan your trip to Cinque Terre. You can do a lot in one day, more than you think, just start early to avoid the biggest crowds and the heat.
      Make sure to also check this post if you are looking for more practical information about visiting Cinque Terre. And enjoy your trip!

  15. I perhaps go there this year , then it is very interresting. Nice pictures. Thank you.

  16. Beautiful Pics. I was wondering if one day was enough time or not, as I plan on stopping through there in the summer so this was very helpful!

    1. Author

      Good to hear that, Gina. Enjoy your trip!

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