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How to See The Best of Cinque Terre in One Day (+Map & Tips)

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How to See The Best of Cinque Terre in One Day (+Map & Tips)

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!

TIP: If you don’t want to plan anything yourself, here is an organized day tour that has a similar itinerary as what we did. It visits all the best villages and includes some hiking as well.

Cinque Terre 1 day itinerary
 

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

How to Use This Map: Use your computer mouse (or fingers) to zoom in or out. Click on the icons to get more information about each place. Click the arrow on the left top corner for the index. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu button, and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’.

 

Here’s how our 1-day Cinque Terre itinerary looked like:

Take a train to Monterosso al Mare

We started our day at around 8 AM 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 center 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 center 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 as seen from one of the viewpoints along the hike from Monterosso
 

Vernazza itself is a colorful 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 11 AM 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.

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).

Vernazza harbour in Cinque Terre
The tiny beach of Vernazza
 

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 than the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza.

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, 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
 

Good to know: In the past, you could hike the whole Cinque Terre trail between Monterosso and Riomaggiore. But due to some mudslides a few years ago, the paths between Corniglia and Manarola 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…

There are some other trails connecting the villages, but they are higher up the hill and more strenuous. If you want to do that, make sure to ask for the up-to-date information at a local tourist information center.

Take a train to Riomaggiore

After a long wait (due to two canceled 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 5 PM in the period when we visited. So upon arrival, we went straight to the most beautiful place – the tiny waterfront area of Riomaggiore. It’s here that you can find 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 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 having a drink at the local bar A Pie’ di Ma’ in Riomaggiore.

After visiting Riomaggiore, we took a train to Manarola.

Via dell'Amore in Riomaggiore Italy
Via dell’Amore in Riomaggiore
 

Go to Manarola for sunset and dinner

Our last stop of the day in Cinque Terre was Manarola. One of the most beautiful villages in the world!

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 canceled again (low season? not enough tourists?). So by the time we reached La Spezia, it was after 9 PM. A long, but a very beautiful day in 5terre.

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 Cinque Terre in late October – the beginning of November, when it gets dark at around 5 PM (for more info, please check our guide to Italy in November). 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.

More Info & Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre

  • 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 decide to stay at least a few nights in Cinque Terre area, please check our guide to where to stay in Cinque Terre (and book ASAP – accommodations here sell out really quickly).

READ ALSO: Best Places to Visit in Italy

 

More tips for your trip to Italy:

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snhea

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Hi, Your information is really useful. I just have a ques..since I am not a hiking person I plan to go on trail and walk as long as I can see some views and return. I think vern to monte trail suits my requirement. So since you know this trail well I wanted to know which side should we start to see the views early as well as easily..:D..if there is any option. Also thank you for your suggestions for my Switzerland trip planning. It was really helpful. Thanks a lot.

Jurga

Thursday 10th of September 2020

Hi Snhea, happy to hear about Switzerland. :) As for Italy, some of the very best views in Cinque Terre are not along the hiking trails but simply in towns or just outside of them. In Manarola and in Riomaggiore, you can just walk to the harbor and you'll find the best viewpoints. Also Vernazza harbor is very picturesque. In Vernazza, take the hiking trail in the direction of Monterosso (it's quite well-indicated, alternatively just ask). And soon after you leave the buildings of the town behind you, look back and you'll have an amazing view of Vernazza. If you walk just a bit further uphill and when the path turns left, you'll soon have another nice view of the village below. If you want to see the views of Vernazza from the other side, take the hiking path in the direction of Corniglia and walk for a few minutes (uphill). The nicest views aren't that far away from town. The views above Monterosso require a bit more hiking and are perhaps the least special, so you can easily skip that part if you don't want to walk.

Ike

Wednesday 8th of April 2020

Hi Jurga, thank you so much for this article. We are planning a trip to Cinque Terre at the end of October and I wasn't sure what to expect. Now I feel more confident that it was a good choice to go in that period.

Jurga

Friday 10th of April 2020

Hi Ike, I hope that you can make this trip happen, under the current circumstances. But October is still far away, so let's hope the world is back to normal by then. In terms of the weather, you never know how it will be and October can be a bit tricky, but in general, I think it's a great month to go to Italy - it's not as hot and it's much less busy than during the summer months. I'm sure you'll love it!

Sue Merton

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Hi Jurga,

My husband and I spent 4 days in CT in July 2019, staying in the heart of Vernazza. Probably the best 4 days of my life, just magical. I enjoyed reliving my memories whilst reading your blog. In so many blogs about CT people talk about the trails being closed between Riomaggiore to Manarola to Corniglia, and yes the coastal trails most certainly are. I don't understand though why there is very little mention of the fact that it is still entirely possible to hike between these villages by using alternative trails. Sure they are steep, you have to go high up into the hills and drop down into the villages, but this is also true of the Monterosso to Vernazza, and Vernazza to Corniglia trails. As the alternative trails are not part of the classic National Park trails they have the added advantage of being free. I would love to see more information about all the possibilities, and less about closed trails, as many have been closed for a long time and seem to be unlikely to be open any time soon. What do you think?

I also see the CT card recommended a lot, but in my experience it is often more economical to pay for each hike and train ride one at a time (depending of course on how many train rides a day you actually take at 4 euros each). I think people assume a day pass will be cheaper without realistically figuring out how much they will use it in a day.

We ended up walking all the way from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, up to Punta and on to Levanto,over 3 days. it was steep, it was very very hot (yay for those wonderful fountains that are everywhere) but it was awesome, and we took at least one strategic train trip a day from our base in Vernazza so didn't repeat any trails twice. It was July but we did not experience any of the crowding on the trails I have read so much about. I come from New Zealand where a crowded hike can mean seeing 2 other people, so we were very pleasantly surprised how peaceful the trails were. The villages are crowded during the day but they empty out beautifully in the evenings when the day trippers go home.

I certainly hope I get back to Italy one day, your blog inspires me with many more places to be seen.

Jurga

Sunday 8th of March 2020

Hi Sue, thank you so much for sharing your experience, also about hiking the upper trails between Riomaggiore and Manarola and Corniglia. I'm sure this will be very helpful for our readers who are looking for such information. The reason why most people don't talk about it is simply that most people don't have that much time in Cinque Terre. Also, many people find those hikes too challenging and just come there for the villages. And even from those upper trails, last time I saw an update, some of those were also closed. So there is very little quality information that shows the up-to-date situation of Cinque Terre hiking trails. Their tourism board isn't doing a very good job and this might be intentional - they seem to be rather concerned with overtourism instead of trying to attract even more people to the region. As for the Cinque Terre card - for us and many others who just visit for a day, this card saves a lot of money. If you have to take a train so many times and hike at least one part of the trail, this card is simply much cheaper. When you stay there for a longer period and maybe just take one train ride in the morning and one in the evening, it's of course very different. It's wonderful if you can spend several days in these areas as it's the best way to explore them and also find some quiet moments when the day tourists leave or before they arrive. But the very vast majority of visitors only come to Cinque Terre for a day, maybe two. Many people have limited holiday and try to see as much as they can in that time... But that's one of the things we try to do more and more now - stay at least a night or two at the busiest destinations, so that we can explore them early morning and late evening, without the crowds. This and traveling in the lower season is the only way to truly enjoy the most popular places. Anyway, happy to hear that you found more travel inspiration on our blog. If you ever go back to Italy, I highly recommend a short stay in San Marino - it's so beautiful. Happy travels!

Alisha

Wednesday 4th of March 2020

Hi Jurga, thank you so much for this itinerary! I am going to CT in a few months for a day & a half. We will first arrive around 2pm from Pisa and have a car, I would appreciate it if you could give me an idea on an itinerary please! My dilemma is we only have from 2pm on our first day so I was thinking of visiting Porto venere first but not sure what to do with my car. Should we park in La spezia and get the return boat? Although I was thinking of staying in Monterosso so we could be closer in CT. What would be most time effective? Then the next day when we have a full day we would do your itinerary for CT.

Jurga

Thursday 5th of March 2020

Hi Alisha, I think your plan is good. Half a day is perfect for Portovenere. On the second (full) day, I suggest you follow our itinerary and visit the villages of Cinque Terre. You could park your car in La Spezia and take a bus to Portovenere from there. You need a bus 11/P. I'm not sure exactly where the bus starts, but it seems to pass Porta Nord . There are some parking possibilities in that area. From what I see, the bus drives very often - every 15-30 minutes, depending on the season. It's the fastest and the cheapest way to get from La Spezia to Portovenere (cost 2-3 EUR). Alternatively, you can take a boat from the La Spezia ferry terminal, but there aren't that many boats (again, depends on the season) and it takes longer and costs much more. This is nice to do, but it's the least flexible way. Or you can also just take a taxi, which is the fastest way, but it'll probably cost you 20-30 EUR one way. You can also combine the modes of transport - get there by boat and take a bus back or so. Hope this helps.

Priya

Tuesday 11th of February 2020

Wow, this is so precise and exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for describing everything in detail. I had read that Manarola is best for sunset and was wondering how we can skip ahead and then come back in time for sunset and your blog was most helpful. Thanks for sharing your experience, I am travelling there next week and hope to enjoy the beautiful place.

Jurga

Thursday 13th of February 2020

Glad to help and hope that you have nice weather and can experience the magic of Cinque Terre without the crowds. I assume it will not be too busy in February... Enjoy your trip!

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