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. In this article, 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 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.
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 top left corner for the index. Click the star next to the map’s title to add it to your Google Maps account. To view the saved map on your smartphone or PC, open Google Maps, click the menu and go to ‘Your Places’/’Maps’. If you want to print the map or see it in a bigger window, click on ‘View larger map’ in the top right corner.
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.
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) stands in the middle of the square. It’s surrounded by trees offering some very welcome shadow (yes, even in October!). There were also a couple of benches where locals were catching up on the latest gossip and doing some tourist-watching.
You’ll find some restaurants and little shops here, as well as a little playground. A very cozy place! But – with just a day in Cinque Terre and a hike ahead, don’t linger here for too long.
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.
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.
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).
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!
There aren’t many places to stop for a picnic, but there are a few nice spots overlooking the sea about halfway 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.
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 during our visit.
Since we came to Corniglia on foot, we didn’t have to mount the stairs. And time-wise you don’t waste much time by hiking here 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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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 very beautiful day in 5terre.
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).
- If you are traveling to this part of Italy and looking for more ideas on what to see and where to go, please also check these articles for more inspiration: Most Beautiful small towns of the Italian Riviera and the Best towns of Tuscany.
- Be sure to also check our guides to Florence: the VERY BEST things to do in Florence, a 1-day Florence itinerary, and also a guide to the best rooftop bars in Florence.
- If you aren’t yet sure whether this region is worth a visit and/or are considering southern Italy as well, you may want to check our comparison guide to Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast.
READ ALSO: Best Places to Visit in Italy & Italy Itinerary
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More tips for your trip to Italy:
- Where to go: Best Cities in Italy
- Rome: Tips for Visiting Rome & Top Places to See in Rome & Where to Stay in Rome
- Secret Rome: Rome Hidden Gems & Best Views in Rome & Rome Underground & Ancient Rome
- Venice: Top Things to Do in Venice & Venice in 1 Day & Tips for a Gondola Ride in Venice
- Tuscany: Best Towns in Tuscany & Tuscany Itinerary & Siena & Montepulciano
- Florence: Best Things to Do in Florence & Florence 1 Day Itinerary
- Amalfi Coast: Amalfi Coast Itinerary & How to Get to Amalfi Coast from Naples & Where to Stay on Amalfi Coast
- Capri: Capri Island & Things to Do in Anacapri & How to Visit Capri from Sorrento & Where to Stay in Capri
- Naples: Best Things to Do in Naples & Best Day Trips from Naples & 1-day Naples Itinerary
- Milan: One Day Itinerary for the Best of Milan
- Off the beaten path: Emilia Romagna & Trentino
- Bucket list: San Marino & Best Places in the Dolomites
- Hiking: Best Hikes in the Dolomites & Val di Fumo
- … For many more destinations all over the country, check our Italy travel guide.
Saturday 27th of May 2023
We will be staying in Porto Venere in July. I’m sure you’ve covered this before. We have one day to see and enjoy the CT area. You’ve mentioned the 3 towns to see Riomaggiorre, Manarola, and Vernazza. What do you recommend seeing/doing there and best itinerary. Do you recommend any other sites? We might have a little time afternoon we get there also.
Tuesday 30th of May 2023
Hi Leslie, our recommended itinerary is already covered in this guide. If you don't want to hike at all, simply take a train or a boat instead and visit all the villages that way. There is not one particular thing to see or do - just walk around, enjoy the views, have some delicious food. With just one day in Cinque Terre, it will be over before you know it. If you have some extra time on the day when you arrive, you could consider a sunset boat tour, or simply find a nice place for dinner and enjoy a relaxing evening. Have a great trip!
Wednesday 29th of March 2023
Hi, I can’t see this mentioned elsewhere but does the Cinque Terre train pass include using the trail too? The wording of the online payment seems to suggest so but then there’s the separate trekking card. If I want to travel by train AND use the trail, do I need to buy the train pass AND the trekking pass?
Thursday 30th of March 2023
Hi Juliet, if I recall well, there are different options - only train tickets, only hiking cards, and the Cinque Terre card which covers both. You can find a bit more info in this article and you can just ask what the best option is when you get there.
Wednesday 15th of March 2023
Great info! We will be taking a day trip to CT with a private driver from Florence middle of April. We can visit the CT villages as we wish with our own transportation (no trains needed). We hope to stop in all 5 villages, so because of time, we will most likely take the hike from Vernazza and Corniglia. Is the hike better/less strenous from Vernazza to Corniglia or visa versa? Also when we visit Riomaggiore...how far can we hike on the Via Deli'amore Trail? Not all the way to Manarola? Thanks for all your expertise help! Mary Ann
Friday 17th of March 2023
Hi Mary Ann, I'm not sure what your plans are exactly, but as far as hiking is concerned, if you start in Corniglia village (so at the top of the hill) and hike to Vernazza, then I think that it's a bit easier that way. If you have some extra time, walk a small section of the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso. When you climb the first hill and look back, you have a wonderful view of the village. The nicest view is very close to Vernazza, so you don't have to do the entire hike. As far as Via dell'Amore is concerned, that hike has been closed due to landslides for years already. They keep on postponing the opening date, and now say it might reopen in the summer of 2024. There is just a small section in Riomaggiore where you can walk next to the coast, but I wouldn't even call it a hike - it's just a few minutes, really. Have a great trip!
Saturday 4th of March 2023
Hello Jurga, I really love your blog, super informative! We will visit CT on June 8 from Florence as a day trip, and I would like to know if is better to plan our own tour and enjoy more quality time in each village and avoiding the rush tours or do you recommend booking a tour?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Monday 6th of March 2023
Hi Lorena, both options are good depending on how you like to travel. If you don't mind doing your own research for every step of the journey (trains, what to see, where to get tickets, etc.), then sure, you can easily visit Cinque Terre from Florence on your own. If you start early and stay longer, you will also have more time than if you would come with a tour. Plus, you can decide to do the things that you like and not have to take into account the fixed schedule. So yes, there are many advantages. Tours are great for people who have no time or desire to do research, don't feel comfortable going on their own for whatever reason, want to cover all the 'musts', or want to learn a bit more background info from a local guide. So it's really your own personal preference. Have a great trip!
Saturday 4th of February 2023
We're planning to visit Cinque Terre in June. Also planning to stay somewhere near La Spezia. Your one-day trip description is very useful !
One question though. Is there a reason you start your trip by taking the train to the furthest town Monterosso and not to the closest town Riomaggiore and hike from there to Monterosso ? Taking the train to the furthest point would mean you would already see the villages you would pass when hiking back from Monterosso isn't it ? Is the main reason you did it like perhaps because the hiking trails between Riomaggiore, Manarolo and Corniglia are closed ? Kind regards
Monday 6th of February 2023
Hi Edwin, there were several reasons why we started in Monterosso. One, it's nice to start with the furthest point and end up closer to where you have to be in the evening. Second, we wanted to be at Manarola for sunset, and it just worked out better this way. And third, I seem to recall that the hike is a bit easier in that direction (less uphill hiking). Also, we only hiked between Monterosso - Vernazza - Corniglia and it's definitely easier to get to the train station from the village rather than do all those stairs in the other direction. One more thing - there is hardly any view from the train since you are in tunnels most of the time. So you don't see much. Also, the nicest scenery is not near the railway stations either. If you are looking for a nice scenery, you would have to take a boat instead of a train. Hope this helps.