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

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

Thinking of visiting Italy’s Cinque Terre and wondering if one day is enough and how to best plan your time if you only have 1 day in Cinque Terre? This guide will help you plan an unforgettable day trip. Find out!

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 visit 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. Below, you can find our detailed itinerary for one day in Cinque Terre and a map indicating all the places. Find out!

TIP: If you don’t want to plan anything yourself, here is an organized day tour from La Spezia that has a similar itinerary to what we did. It visits all the best villages and includes some hiking as well. Alternatively, this day tour from Florence is another great choice. It visits all the villages, foresees time to hike between two villages for those who want to, and also includes a boat ride and lunch at a local restaurant.

TIP for cruise ship passengers: If you are visiting Cinque Terre as a shore excursion, then this highly-rated tour from the cruise terminal in La Spezia is by far the best option for you.

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 our recommended 1-day Cinque Terre itinerary:

Take a train to Monterosso al Mare

In the morning, 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. It’s a great place to go swimming, sunbathing, or kayaking, so if you are visiting in summer and have more time in Cinque Terre than just a day, you could definitely plan a day at the beach here.

When we visited, on a late-October morning, the beach was completely deserted. 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.

TIP: If you want to see the beautiful Cinque Terre villages at sunset from the water, you can also opt for this nice sunset boat tour. It starts in Monterosso and sails past all the Cinque Terre towns offering great sunset views. If you’re lucky, you may even see dolphins.

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
 

One Day in Cinque Terre – overview

Here’s an overview of our suggested itinerary for your day trip to Cinque Terre:

  • In the morning, take a train to Monterosso al Mare
  • Visit Monterosso and hike to Vernazza (count about 2 hours for the hike)
  • Visit Vernazza (in summer, go for a swim and get some ice cream)
  • Hike from Vernazza to Corniglia (count about 1.5 hours for the hike)
  • Visit Corniglia and have lunch
  • Take a train to Riomaggiore
  • Visit Riomaggiore
  • Take a train to Manarola
  • Sunset and dinner in Manarola

Best Tours for a Day Trip to Cinque Terre

If you only have a day in Cinque Terre, one of the best ways to see a lot in the shortest time possible is to go with a local guide. They know just the right places and the best way to see it all, and – especially in the high season when it’s very busy – going with a local might save you a lot of frustrations.

Here are some of the very best day tours for visiting Cinque Terre:

  • Best tour for those visiting by cruise ship – this is the best way to visit Cinque Terre in a day if you are arriving in La Spezia on a cruise ship and are looking to do a shore excursion without having to pay premium prices or having to arrange anything yourself. You get to see all the main villages, taste limoncino, and even have some free time to go for a swim if the weather is nice.
  • Best tour from Florence – this is one of the most complete Cinque Terre day tours with a great itinerary and very good value. You visit all the villages and have time for a beautiful hike between two towns if you choose to. If you’re not interested in hiking, but want to have more time in the villages, this is a good alternative option and already includes lunch in the price.
  • Best tour from Milan – this is a great option for those who want to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip from Milan. It’s a 3-hours drive one way, so going with a tour is definitely the best option if you only have a day.
  • Best hiking tour – this is the best tour for those who want to do a longer hike between several villages of Cinque Terre, but rather go with a local guide. It starts in La Spezia.
 

So, this is our suggestion for a one-day Cinque Terre itinerary. As I said, there are many ways to explore this beautiful coastal area. But if you are planning a day trip 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 (and have some time left for a swim).

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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One day itinerary for Cinque Terre in Italy #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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Andrei

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

Hello, we are planning to visit Cinque Terre next week, we're staying in La Spezia. We plan to get the 16 EUR pass for Cinque Terre, visit Genoa/Pisa/Lucca by train, so we're good there, my only question is about the transfer.

Considering we arrive at Bologna airport, what's the best way to get from there to La Spezia?

I considered renting a car just for Bologna - La Spezia and then back again when we finish the holiday.

I also looked at the trains from Bologna - La Spezia but I'm not sure about the many changes, in some cases there are 2-3 changes with 6.-7 minutes to switch trains, not to mention it takes much longer compared to a car.

I looked for airport transfer too but to be honest it's (much!) cheaper to just rent a car and pay the highway tax.

What do you think? What's the most headache free way to get from Bologna to La Spezia and back again?

Many thanks (and for the awesome guide!).

Jurga

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

Hi Andrei, we usually visit Italy by car (unless we go to major cities), so I don't have much experience with inter-city trains. Driving on the highway is easy, the toll isn't too expensive, and indeed, car rental is very cheap usually (check this website for the best deals). So yes, often, it's easier to just rent a car, but it's not always easy to drive/park in the small coastal towns. Many places around the Ligurian coast have strict restrictions on who can drive into towns and where you can park. But if it's just something you'd use to get from the airport to La Spezia, it's definitely the easiest way to do it. Have a great trip!

Parnia

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

Thanks so much for your great blog post. Could you also tell me how is the best way to see CT and Portofino in one day? We are road-tripping from Florence, going to Pisa, CT, and Portofino, and sleep in Genova to save time and money for the rest of the trip. We are not into hiking that much so I am wondering is it doable to see both CT and Portofino in one day. What is your suggestion in terms of where to see and what to do? Thank you!

Jurga

Tuesday 13th of July 2021

Hi Parnia, do I understand it right that you want to see all these places in a day? So starting in Florence, then Pisa, then Cinque Terre, then Portofino, and end in Genoa? I really think it's way too much. Perhaps you could do Pisa and Cinque Terre, and it will be rushed already. But adding Portofino to it would just leave you running from one place to another without seeing much... Cinque Terre can't be visited in a hurry, you need to leave your car at La Spezia or on the other side, then take a train or a boat, and there are 5 villages to see. As a minimum, you should see 3 of them: Riomagiore, Manarola, and Vernazza. But even if you take the train, and do it all very efficiently, you'll likely spend at least 5-6hrs even if the trains ride on schedule... Then comes the drive to Portofino which is also not easy to reach by car. We went in the low season and drove all the way to it, but parking was crowded and the road - narrow and busy. Once you've taken that road, you can't decide to turn around anymore... In summer, you will likely have to take a boat to get there or drive part of the road, hope to find a parking spot, then walk further. I really don't see how you could do it all in just a day and still keep it enjoyable... I know the urge to see it all, but from experience, I can tell you that it's often better to see fewer places but really enjoy them rather than just tick the boxes and take pictures to be able to say that you've done it all... If you decide to do all this then start very early and try to switch your accommodation and stay in Santa Margherita Ligure (instead ofGenoa). This town is the gateway to Portofino and easier to reach, park, and find somewhat affordable accommodation. Maybe then it would still somehow be doable, depending on the boat schedule... Good luck!

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!

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