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

First Timer’s Guide to Cinque Terre (All Your Questions Answered)

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Are you planning your first trip to Cinque Terre and are not sure where to start? You came to the right place! This practical guide to Cinque Terre should answer all your questions.

When we first visited Cinque Terre, we had so many questions before our trip. How to get to Cinque Terre? Can we visit Cinque Terre with a car? How much time you need in Cinque Terre? How to get from one town to another? What’s the best Cinque Terre town to stay? How to visit Cinque Terre – by train, by car, by bus, or walking the famous Cinque Terre hiking trail?…

But I never found all the answers to my Cinque Terre questions in one place…

So in order to help you plan your trip to Cinque Terre and make the most of your visit, we are sharing all the practical aspects of visiting Cinque Terre. This is the most complete guide that answers all the questions you may have. Find out!

Practical information for visiting Cinque Terre villages in Italy

 

 

Visiting Cinque Terre for the first time – practical information tips for your trip

What is Cinque Terre and why visit it

Cinque Terre is a small but very picturesque coastal area in Italy. If translated literally it means five lands. Cinque Terre comprises of five picturesque villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. 5terre is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts over 2,5 million tourists every year.

Where is Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is located on Ligurian coast in Western Italy – you can zoom out on the map below to see its exact location. The closest big cities are Genoa and Pisa, each about 70-80km (50 miles), 1 hour by car. Information below will give you a better idea of how far Cinque Terre is from Rome, Florence, and Milan. It is also possible to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip from some of these cities – see below.

  • Rome to Cinque Terre: +-400km (250 miles), 4,5 h by car and about 4h by train.
  • Milan to Cinque Terre: +-200km (125 miles), 2,5 h by car and about 3-4 h by train.
  • Florence to Cinque Terre: +-150km (95 miles), 1h45 by car and about 2,5 h by train.

Due to its proximity, a visit to Cinque Terre can easily be combined with that of Tuscany. Here you can read more about the most beautiful towns of Tuscany. In one of my previous posts I also shared a sample Tuscany itinerary for one week.

 

What is the nearest airport to Cinque Terre

The nearest airports for Cinque Terre are in Pisa and Genoa. Also Milan and Florence can be good options, especially if you consider renting a car and discovering the other areas as well.

How to get to Cinque Terre

Below you can find detailed explanation about the best way to get to Cinque Terre and how to get around.

Visiting Cinque Terre by train

The best and the fastest way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. Every 5terre village has a train station and it has good connections to the big cities like Genoa, Milan, Florence or Pisa. The nearest big train station where you will have to change the train if coming from most other towns is in La Spezia. From La Spezia it is just 8 minutes by train to the first Cinque Terre village – Riomaggiore.

The distances between the five villages are very small and the train ride only takes a few minutes. Trains run at regular intervals, starting from around 4AM till after midnight. However, on the day when we visited, two out of four trains we took had a delay of more than half an hour. They just cancelled every second train; probably because it was low season.

 

Exploring Cinque Terre by boat

Many tourists choose to visit Cinque Terre by boat. You can book a day ticket that allows you to visit four villages. Why only four and not all five? Corniglia is the only village that is located high on the hill and has no water access. The most popular town to start a Cinque Terre boat tour is La Spezia, but there are other connections as well. Note that boats only run in high season (the boats stop beginning of November).

Note that it takes much longer to get from one village to another by boat than it does by train (unless they cancel the trains of course ;)). It is still possible to visit Cinque Terre in one day, also by boat. But there would probably not be enough time left for hiking (this may depend on the boat schedule; in October it was definitely too short).

In high season, there are many companies organizing boat tours to Cinque Terre and the nearby towns. Normally you don’t need to book Cinque Terre boat tours in advance. I didn’t even find an option to book a boat tour in advance for our trip; most companies only sell tickets at the harbor. In La Spezia the boats leave from the main harbor – see the map.

 

Can you visit Cinque Terre by car?

The simple answer is yes, technically it is possible to get to Cinque Terre by car. However, I really wouldn’t advise visiting the villages of Cinque Terre by car. Cinque Terre roads are narrow, parking – nearly impossible, and driving between the villages would take you forever and would leave you frustrated. On top of that, many Italian towns now have restricted traffic zones (ZTL) and entering one of those will result in a 80 EUR fine. If you are looking for a parking spot and pass the camera several times, you will be fined accordingly.

If you are planning to stay in one of the Cinque Terre villages and your accommodation has parking facilities, then you could drive up to there by car. Park it and don’t touch it till you leave.

One of the best places to stay in Cinque Terre with a car is Monterosso al Mare.

A better option is to park your car in one of the bigger towns and take the train from there. There is a big parking garage at La Spezia train station, so it is probably one of the best options if you are traveling to Cinque Terre by car. (Secret tip: there is free parking space at the Piazza D’Armi – 10min walking from La Spezia railway station).

 

What is Cinque Terre card and where to buy it

Cinque Terre card gives you unlimited access to Cinque Terre trains, hiking paths, guided visits, local busses, Wi-Fi and even public restrooms, etc. You can buy separate train tickets or a hiking card, but usually it’s much cheaper and more convenient to just get a card for a day. Cinque Terre card costs 16 EUR for adults and 10 EUR for kids. Family ticket (2 adults and 2 kids) costs 42 EUR.

You can only buy the Cinque Terre card at the train stations, not at the machines. In order to avoid the crowds in the morning, consider buying the card the evening before. Don’t forget to write your name on the card and validate it before the first use. The Cinque Terre card is valid till midnight on the day that it was first validated.

Cinque Terre card and train ticket validating machine

Cinque Terre card has to be validated using one of these machines at the train stations

 

What to see and do in Cinque Terre

As already mentioned, Cinque Terre is famous for its five picturesque villages. The main reason people come here is to visit the villages, hike the Cinque Terre trail, or just enjoy the scenery and the beach. 

However, there is more to see and do in Cinque Terre. You could join one of the local vineyard tours, e.g. this food and wine tasting tour from Riomaggiore or a similar wine and snack tour from Manarola. Some places even organize pesto making classes. In summer you can go kayaking, sailing, diving, fishing, or even paragliding over the Cinque Terre.

 

Hiking in Cinque Terre

It used to be possible to hike between all five villages of Cinque Terre. The total hike would take 5-6 hours. However, due to land slides, several Cinque Terre trails have been closed without any indication when/if they will reopen. At this moment (Feb 2019) you can only hike between Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, and Corniglia.

The hike between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza takes about 2 hours (experienced hikers can do it much faster). The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia takes 1,5 hrs. Both these hikes require quite some climbing. I would classify them as moderate in normal conditions and difficult if wet or hot. The hiking paths between Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia, including the famous Via dell’Amore are now closed.

We hiked Cinque Terre on the last day of October and it was really hot. If you are traveling in high season, consider hiking early in the morning or towards the evening. Make sure you have sun protection and carry plenty of water. You can refill your water bottles in every village – just keep an eye for the water taps.

Hiking the Cinque Terre trail with kids

Hiking in Cinque Terre

 

 

You can hike Cinque Terre trail with kids, but as I said it’s not an easy hike. I would say, the minimum age for kids walking by themselves would be about 5-6 years, especially if it’s really warm.

And yes, you do need sturdy footwear to hike in Cinque Terre. Hiking boots are advised, but are not absolutely necessary. Light hiking shoes are probably better in warm temperatures.

You have to buy a ticket for walking on the Cinque Terre hiking trails. It costs 8 EUR for a day. If I remember well, it costs 5 EUR for children. Anyway, it’s better to just buy the Cinque Terre card. If you don’t take a train and do need a separate hiking ticket, you can buy it at the tourist information centers in the villages or on the hiking trails. You will pass a little cabin on your way where they check and also sell tickets.

 

Which Cinque Terre town is best

Opinions are somewhat divided on which town is the best, but everyone agrees that Manarola and Vernazza are the most picturesque villages of Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is really nice too. Monterosso and Corniglia are the least special in my opinion.

Read also: Most Beautiful Small Coastal Towns of the Italian Riviera

What is the best place to watch sunset in Cinque Terre

Judging by the crowds, Manarola is the best place to be at sunset. Take a look at the picture below and judge for yourselves.

Manarola in Cinque Terre at sunset

Manarola is spectacular at sunset

 

 

Which Cinque Terre town has the best beach

Most beaches at Cinque Terre are really tiny. The biggest and the best beach is in Monterosso al Mare.

How many days do you need in Cinque Terre

Many people wonder how much time they need in Cinque Terre and can it be visited in one day? Yes, you can see the best of Cinque Terre in one (full) day. The fastest way to get around between the villages is by train.

Unless you are planning to spend lots of time on the beach, you really don’t need more than one or two days in Cinque Terre itself. However, there are so many other incredibly beautiful places nearby that you should consider staying longer.

One town you definitely shouldn’t miss is Portovenere – the hidden gem nearby. It’s less busy than the 5terre villages, but very picturesque and there is more to see and do there. If you decide to visit Portovenere as well, count at least two days/ three nights for Cinque Terre.

 

How to spend a day in Cinque Terre

There are many ways to spend a day in Cinque Terre. It depends on which way you travel (by boat, by train), whether you are planning to hike, etc.

This is how our 1 day in Cinque Terre looked like: in the morning we took a train from La Spezia to Monterosso al Mare. We then hiked to Vernazza and Corniglia. From there we took a train to Riomaggiore. Then a train back to Manarola where we stayed for sunset and dinner. After dinner we took a train back to La Spezia. Here you can find our complete guide to one day in Cinque Terre.

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

Riomaggiore is not to be missed

 

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

If you want to spend a bit more time in Cinque Terre, it can be a very special experience to stay in one of the villages. Probably the best towns to stay in Cinque Terre are Manarola or Vernazza. On the other hand, there are much more quality accommodation options in Monterosso al Mare.

Please note that getting to most Cinque Terre accommodations will require at least some uphill walking, so only take the luggage you really need.

If you are visiting Cinque Terre on a lower budget or are coming for just a day, consider staying in a nearby town La Spezia. Accommodation and food prices are much lower in La Spezia and it’s just a short train ride away from Cinque Terre. Here you can find the best deals for La Spezia accommodation.

Update: I got this question so often that I now created a complete guide to Cinque Terre hotels and accommodations. So if you are wondering where to stay in Cinque Terre, please check it out! And remember – the earlier you book, the more choice you have. Quality accommodation choices are limited and hotel prices in Cinque Terre are quite steep.

 

Where to eat in Cinque Terre

There are many restaurants, cafes, gelaterias, and little shops in all five villages of Cinque Terre. So finding where to eat in Cinque Terre should not be a problem.

If you are looking for a table with the best view and really good simple food, try Nessun Dorma in Manarola. They don’t take reservations and there is always a queue waiting to be seated, but it’s really worth it. A friend who has been to the area many times also recommended the bar A Pie’ di Ma’ in Riomaggiore.

When to visit Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre can be visited all year round, but try to avoid rainy and stormy days. The busiest season is May to September, but unless you are there for the beach, try to avoid the summer months. It’s too hot, too crowded, and too expensive.

The best months to visit Cinque Terre are probably March-April and September-October. We visited Cinque Terre in the last week of October and were surprised how busy it still was.

Actually, we didn’t dare to book our trip long in advance as many reviews said that the weather could be really miserable in Cinque Terre in November and end of October. If it rains, there is really not much you can do there. However, a week before our trip we checked the weather forecast and it looked very promising, so last minute we decided to give it a go. We were lucky to have sunny weather the whole week (30 October – 4 November) and daytime temperatures of up to 20°C (68F) and much less crowds. My mom visited in May and they had rain, so you really never know.

Note, however, that the days are really short in autumn and in winter. We arrived in Italy the day when EU changed to winter time, and the sun goes down at around 5PM in that period.

 

Can you visit Cinque Terre with young kids in a stroller

Even if you are traveling with very young kids, you can visit Cinque Terre. Getting around with a stroller might be a bit of a challenge though. The village streets are steep and there are quite some places that can only be accessed by stairs. We saw people carrying strollers on the stairs even at a train station, so it’s not always easy. But it is possible. When we travelled in Italy with our toddlers years ago we always packed a bicycle lock. So every time we would encounter long stairs and wanted to do some sightseeing anyway, we would just lock the stroller up and leave it behind. Our kids loved doing the stairs!

If you are in Cinque Terre with a stroller, skip Corniglia as it is located high on the hill. You have to climb some 300-400 stairs in order to get to town from the train station.

What’s the best time of the day for photography

If you are hiking in Cinque Terre during the day, it’s really difficult to get good pictures as the sun is always in front of you when looking towards the best viewpoints. The best time for pictures would be very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon.

If you are traveling by boat, then you might be able to take good pictures in the direction of the villages during the day as well, since the sun will usually be behind you. However, the best viewpoints seem to be in the wrong direction sun-wise pretty much an entire day.

 

What to pack for Cinque Terre

  • Reusable water bottle is a must. You can fill it up in every village. Bottled water was quite expensive in Cinque Terre.
  • Pack hiking shoes for the Cinque Terre trail
  • Swimwear and quick-drying towels for the beach
  • Sun hats, sun glasses, and sunscreen lotion are a must
  • A light day backpack might be very useful, certainly if hiking or traveling with kids
  • Take a sweater or a light jacket for the evenings in spring and autumn

I hope that this post covered most of the frequently asked questions about visiting Cinque Terre. However, if you don’t find an answer to your question, please leave a comment below and I will try to help.

 

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Ultimate travel guide to visiting Cinque Terre in Italy. Answers to all FAQ

Comments

  1. Hello! Thank you so much for your detailed information on the 5terre.
    We are heading there very soon,, 27th May in fact and as we are travelling for a year I wanted to ask you about storing luggage. We are bookending our trip with winters so have loads of winter gear we will not be needing when we arrive there next week.So, wondering if you know whether the train station at Monterosso has storage facilities we can leave our case and just take our day packs as it’s our intention to hike the trails (noting your comments about closures). We will have 5 nights, so plenty of time.
    Thanks again on your great blog.
    Kirsten

  2. Do you recommend or have information regarding scooter rental to get around Cinque Terre?

    1. Author

      Cinque Terre is really not a place that you can explore with a scooter. It’s best to take a train, a boat, hike, or a combination of all of the above.
      You could rent a scooter for the other places nearby maybe, but I really wouldn’t advise that for Cinque Terre itself.

  3. Thank you for this itinerary for Cinque Terre. We did the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza. So many steps! Very worth it! We used your suggestion and stayed in La Spezia. We watched the sunset in Manarola and had dinner in Nessum Dorum it was fantastic! Thank you for the information.

    1. Author

      So nice for you to come back to our blog and share your experience, Deb. Glad to hear that our blog helped you have a great time in Cinque Terre.
      Happy travels!

  4. Hi Jurga,

    Just wanted to say kudos for your effort in keeping this site very much alive with your sincere replies to each question any travelers may have.

    I will be visiting Cinque Terre next year and will be taking a page off this page for sure.

    Thank you!

    YY from Singapore

    1. Author

      Thank you! Glad to hear you found useful information for your trip. Enjoy Cinque Terre!

  5. Hi Jurga,
    Great post! We will be visiting Cinque Terre Aug 2019. I had a question about the card. We are looking to take the train from La Spezia (parking car there) on 26th. Staying in Vernazza. We will be there till the morning of the 29th. So, looks like I will need to buy TWO 2-day passes per person, correct? I want to avoid the lines so figured I could get them online right now. Our plan is as follows:

    26th Aug: Arrive in CT (Vernazza) in the evening – Train ride from La Spezia. Walk around Vernazza
    27th Aug: Take the train to Monterosso al Mare and hike back to Vernazza. Also hike from Vernazza to Corniglia. Take train back to Vernazza.
    28th Aug: Train to Manarola. Train to Riomaggiore. Train back to Vernazza
    29th Aug: Train back to La Spezia

    Thanks!
    Noopur

    1. Author

      Hi Noopur, Cinque Terre card says it’s valid 24 hours, but it’s actually valid till midnight of the day when you validate it. So you could get a card for 2-days on 27-28/8 and then just get regular train tickets for the arrival and departure dates. You’d have to see how much it costs and maybe they have a multi-day card that you could just get for the whole stay. Here you should be able to find all the info regarding the Cinque Terre card.

  6. Hi Jurga. What a wonderful guide. My wife and I are contemplating visiting Cinque Terre for my 60th birthday. My question is this: We would also want to go sightseeing outside Cinque Terre three of our seven days. Is this possible is is it too inconvenient? My guess is we would need to leave the car outside Cinque Terre and take the train to it the days we would want to see other parts of the region. Your thoughts? Thanks in advance.

    1. Author

      Hi Chris, Cinque Terre is indeed not the best place to visit by car. If you stay in Cinque Terre itself, I suggest that you either stay in Monterosso and look for a hotel with parking (here you can find more information on where to stay in Cinque Terre) or leave your car in La Spezia.
      I wouldn’t stay there longer than necessary as it’s quite expensive and the commute isn’t easy. So if you are planning to visit other places, better stay somewhere closer to the main roads. Also, some bigger towns are easy to visit by train as well, so it really depends on what you are planning to do.
      PS here you can find some inspiration for beautiful towns of the Italian Riviera.

  7. HI Jurga,
    Wow how lucky am I to have found your post , I was researching about Cinque Terre and it is all there ! Thank you .
    We are planing for a week in Italy , Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Piza possibly Livorno and definitely Cinque Terre . My question is when … I have two option a week in August (around beginning) or last week of October .(I know you got super lucky with weather .
    We don’t know if we will ? I don’t want to visit Tuscany under the rain but also chances are it will be around 90F or more in August , days will be longer but also much more people ….gosh !!! I don’t know anymore, maybe I should keep Scotland for August and Italy for fall like originally planed …thanks for any advice

    1. Author

      Hi Chrystel, I’m afraid I can’t help you with this. Statistically speaking, there is much more chance to have ok weather in Italy end of October than in Scotland, of course. But you never know how the weather will be and Italy is also nicer in the beautiful weather, of course. But indeed, August is normally very busy and can get extremely warm too…
      Good luck with the choice! I can imagine it’s not an easy one…

  8. We are two “mature”, but fun loving ladies in our late 60’s traveling to Italy late April/Early May. Have one day we originally planned to use to visit Pisa from Florence, but now are thinking about including Cinque Terre on that day, as well. What is your advice on whether that is a feasible day trip for us? We are in good shape for our age, but would probably prefer to go between villages by train rather than by hiking. Any guidance you can give us?

    1. Author

      Hi Linda, there are a lot of possibilities and you can definitely visit the main villages of Cinque Terre by train. There is a train station in each village and trains run quite regularly. Just maybe skip Corniglia – it’s high on the hill and requires quite some walking to get to. You can also take the boat that stops in all towns except Corniglia – it’s kind of hop-on hop-off principle, but costs much more than a train and takes longer too.
      I just checked for you and I see that there are also quite some organized tours available from Florence and there is even one that covers both – Pisa and three nicest villages of Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Vernazza) in one day. So you could potentially see both places.
      If you rather just spend the whole day in Cinque Terre, but still don’t feel like organizing it all yourselves, there are other day trips available. Here is the cheapest Cinque Terre tour from Florence with the best reviews. It combines train rides and also does a part by boat. This tour is more expensive but covers Portovenere in addition to Cinque Terre as well.
      PS you don’t have to do organized tours and can also opt to visit Cinque Terre on your own by taking a train to La Spezia and from there a train or a boat to Cinque Terre. But if you feel overwhelmed with the planning, taking a tour is an easy way to see the best places and get some explanation from a local guide.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

  9. Thanks Jurga

    As far as guides go, this was fantastic! Any idea if the day-trip from La Spezia to appennino tosco-emiliano national park is worth it, or is too much hastle to get to?

    Thanks again, Jack

    1. Author

      Hi Jack, I really don’t know since we haven’t visited this National Park. But at least at first view, I think that there are nicer places that you can visit nearby – I’m thinking of Portovenere and the nearby islands like Palmaria, also Lerici and the tiny village of Terralo. If you like nature, there are quite some hiking possibilities to/between these villages.
      Enjoy your trip!

  10. We are going to Vernazza in late April and plan to hike extensively. Are we likely to encounter large predators on the trails and should we bring a shotgun or riffle (and do we need a permit in Italy for that). Reason we ask is that we are from Canada and usually run into Grizzlie/black bears, Cougars, Wolves and Wolverines when we hike and want to know if need to have weapons to be able to defend ourselves as we have had a number of very dangerous encounters on the trails here in Canada. If Guns are not legally allowed in Italy, can we bring bear spray and knives to protect ourselves from the wildlife?

    1. Author

      Your comment made my day, Mr. Marshall! (and once you visited Europe, you’ll quickly realize why). Hiking in Cinque Terre is nothing like hiking in Canada and no, there are no predators there. You may run into an occasional cat or a dog, but that’s pretty much it. I really don’t know of any place in Europe where you could easily run into any bears or wolfs. Maybe somewhere deep in the Romanian forests, but you’d have to look very well…
      As for the guns, unless you want to spend your vacation getting acquainted with European prisons, I’d leave any kind of guns (including knives) at home. Believe me, you won’t need them and it can get you into some very serious trouble.
      Europe is not about wildlife, it’s all about quaint little villages, historic towns, good food, and some beautiful nature. Unfortunately, there is hardly any wildlife left here. You’re lucky to still have that in Canada – keep it that way!
      Enjoy your trip!

  11. Thank you. I found your blog very helpful.. My wife and I will be spending two nights in Levanto which has easy access to Cinque Terre by train.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Sheldon, and enjoy your trip!

  12. Excellent thanks for the detailed explanation. I need some advice I will be coming to CT from Milan & probably I will reach around 3 pm to CT. Its like April 22 I start from Milan to CT and April 23rd I should see pisa and reach florence by midnight.

    I am so confused on where to stay and how to start in CT? The rest of my trip is very good can you please help me out.

    1. Author

      If I understand it right, you have just one afternoon in Cinque Terre before you go to Pisa the next morning?
      If you have lots of luggage, you may want to stay close to a train station – whether it’s in La Spezia or in one of the Cinque Terre towns, so that you can drop off your bags at the hotel first (please check our Cinque Terre accommodation guide for some suggestions). I think that if your other trains arrive/depart from La Spezia, it’s also the best town to sleep. Hotel Firenze e Continentale is one of the nicest hotels next to the station, but there are also plenty of apartments and cheaper rooms nearby – you can find it using the map function on booking.com – see places close to the hotel I indicated.
      Then, after you leave your luggage, take the train to Cinque Terre. You can start by going to Monterosso (the furthest one) and work your way back. I would skip Corniglia because you’re short on time because it requires a steep climb up from the station to the village. I think that if the trains ride on time, you should be able to quickly visit the four villages in one afternoon. On the other hand, you might enjoy it more if you just concentrate on the three most picturesque places – Riomaggiore, Vernazza, and Manarola. You could start with Riomaggiore, then go to Vernazza, and come back to Manarola for sunset. There are trains late in the evening, so you can have dinner in Cinque Terre before going back to your hotel in La Spezia.
      Please also refer to our One day in Cinque Terre guide for more information.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Thanks Jurga for the quick reply. I reach CT in the afternoon of April 22 and I have half day on April 23 ( its more than half a day, I just need to go Pisa & reach Florence by the mid night)

        So what do you suggest to me on April 22nd 3pm ??? I did not find 24 hours pass unfortunately the pass which I saw ends on the night. So what’s the best way for me to start with?

        1. Author

          I think that you need more time to go to Pisa, visit it, and go to Florence than you think…
          Anyway, if you want to stay in Cinque Terre the following morning as well, then you could better base yourself in one of the CT towns and then visit 3 of them one day and 2 the next day, before going to Pisa. I think that one of the best towns to stay in your case is either Manarola or Riomaggiore, keeping in mind that you’ll need to come back there for your luggage before going to Pisa.
          Cinque Terre card is indeed valid till midnight, but you can get a 2-day card. It’s not that expensive, so not a reason to let that influence your schedule.

          1. Thanks again 🙂 I will check for Manarola and Riomaggiore? If I am taking the 2-day card I think staying in LA Spezia also sounds easy to me, Isn’t it? Because I am getting a cheaper hotel and I can leave the luggage there and go to LS the next day before going, Pisa?

            Thanks for mentioning about Corniglia it may be I will skip that. May I know how much time it will take to reach Corniglia from train station ?

          2. Author

            I think that La Spezia might indeed be the best choice for you and it’s definitely more budget-friendly.
            As for Corniglia, it depends on how fast you walk I suppose – it’s A LOT of stairs to go up from the station to the village. I think it would take at least 20 minutes climbing, but I’m not sure since we only walked down (we hiked to Corniglia from Vernazza).

  13. Hello Jurga,
    well done on your informative and well-researched article, great stuff. We first heard about the Cinque Terre from an elderly friend (in her 90’s) who happened upon them in the 1950’s. Her stories about them were amazing and we resolved that the next time we had an opportunity for a trip away it would be to one of the 5 villages. So we have booked an Airbnb apartment, in Manarola, for the Easter week. We plan to take the train from Pisa to La Spezia, then boat to Portovenere and spend a few hours there and then take a final boat trip to Manarola late afternoon.

    Our initial reasoning for choosing the Cinque Terre, as opposed to say Venice, Barcelona or Amsterdam was a sense of getting away from it all and not feeling obliged to follow a busy itinerary each day as we did in Rome in April 2017. Plenty of coastal walks, home cooking and trips to lovely restaurants, plus a few cultural excursions, but plenty of downtime.
    However, as I nail down the research for our trip I am getting an anxious feeling that even in April Cinque Terre will be extremely crowded. For example, we are used to visiting the South of France where you can just turn up to an almost deserted vineyard and the owner will take time out from their busy schedule to give a free wine tasting session (we always purchase after the tasting!!) Do you know if this type of thing happens in Cinque Terre or does everything have to be booked in advance?

    I am desperately sorry if I sound negative, we are extremely excited about our trip, but I am a little concerned that perhaps, despite its undoubted beauty and wonderful charm, the popularity of the area will count against the type of trip we are after. I wonder if you or any of your readers could advise. Our hearts are set on CT and I trust it will be a wonderful trip, but we do have a little worry, so I hope this comment makes sense.

    Many thanks for your excellent work on travel..

    1. Author

      Hi John, I haven’t been to Cinque Terre at Easter, but I think it will be busy. On the other hand, it’s still not the highest season, so I think you can make it more enjoyable and avoid the crowds somewhat.
      I’m not sure if you realize though that it’s an extremely hilly area, there’s hardly any beach and so definitely no coastal walks in most villages. The only place with a big sandy beach is Monterosso al Mare (just a few minutes by train from Manarola). Alternatively, you can also take the train to Levanto that also has a nice beach.
      As for vineyards, there are vineyards, all up in the hills, and I haven’t seen any that you could just pop-in to (but then we haven’t been there that long to properly explore everything). I think your best bet is to join a tour like this wine tour from Manarola.
      I think that you should go for it as it’s been your long-time dream. It’s hard to find any places that are completely tourist-free these days anyway and it’s not a reason not to do something. If you are there for a week, you can definitely find ways to escape the crowds. I also suggest you visit Portovenere and maybe some little islands nearby (more info here: visiting Portovonere).
      I also suggest that you book accommodation with a nice terrace and sea views – your whole vacation will be so much more special if you can enjoy long breakfast and an occasional dinner on your own private terrace with a view. We recently published a post with the best Cinque Terre hotels and accommodation options – check it out if your current accommodation choice doesn’t have that.
      I wish you a wonderful trip! Remember that it’s not about other people, but what you make of it. Enjoy it!

      1. Hello Jurga,
        Sincere thanks for taking the time out to reply. Thank you for your insights. As you point out Cinque Terre is hilly, but our intrepid traveller from the 1950s had forewarned us about that!! Not too worried about the beach, not having a swim wouldn’t really bother us and I’m not sure the sea temperature would have warmed up enough in April!!. I had a look at your Portovenere info, which is chock full of the essential info for a short trip, so that;s brilliant Jurga, thanks. We intend to pause there for a few hours as we make our way by boat to Manarola on our first day. Also, thank you very much for the wine tasting link, it looks really interesting.

        Our accommodation is booked and your advice is very sound, We do have a balcony with a sea view so as you say plenty of relaxing on the balcony after sunrise and at sunset on the Ligurian Sea. Well, thanks for putting my mind to rest. Jurga and good luck with your travel blog,
        Cheers, John

  14. Hello Jurga
    Thank you soooo much for this wonderful blog..I have been researching Cinque Terre for days and now I have come across your blog and it is so very informative, thank you.

    We are visiting a Cinque Terre in early September.domyou think it is possible to hike all the trails in one day? We are trail runners, but we just want to hike. And where do you think the best town to use as a base.
    We are travelling from Australia so will probably have a medium sized suitcase each. Do you think Vernazza would be an option to stay for a couple of nights?

    Thank you in advance
    Susie

    1. Author

      Hi Susie, here you can find our one day itinerary for Cinque Terre. We hiked the stretch between Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza and on to Corniglia and (shortly) visited all five towns in a day. All the other hiking trails were closed at that time and from what I see it’s still the case today – there have been landslides there a few years ago and several parts of the popular Cinque Terre trail have been closed ever since.
      As for accommodations, if you like to be in the centre of the action, then Vernazza might be nice. Manarola will probably have more accommodations with nice views. Monterosso has the biggest beach and isn’t that steep, Riomaggiore also has some amazing accommodations with nice views.. Here you can find our recently published Cinque Terre accommodation guide with hand-picked selections for each town. It also has more information with advantages and disadvantages of each town. Make sure to book well in advance – accommodations are very limited and book-up months in advance.
      Hope this helps.

      1. Hi again Jurga
        That’s a shame that some of the trails are closed, but at least some are still open and we can find other things to do.

        Thank you for your reply and more valuable information. I have since given your details to a few of my travel friends so I am sure they will be in touch with you soon lol

        Kindest regards
        Susie

  15. Hi Jurga,
    My husband and I will be traveling to Italy this May and would like to plan staying in Cinque Terra for 4 days. We will be traveling for a few weeks so we will have a large rolling suitcase and a small rolling “carry-on” as well. We will plan on the train from Florence. Do you have recommendations on where to stay? And do you think it’s too difficult to get from train to where we may stay with this much luggage? Thank you in advance for your input!

    1. Author

      Hi Monica, what a coincidence, I’m just writing a new blog post about Cinque Terre accommodation (to be published in a few days).
      There are some places that are close enough to the station and especially in Monterosso al Mare (which is flat) there should be no problem. Here are some hotels that are close enough to the station:
      Hotel Villa Adriana in Monterosso al Mare or Hotel La Villa Degli Argentieri also in Monterosso. In fact, if you click on the map function on Booking.com you’ll see where these hotels are located and you’ll see plenty of other options nearby.
      If you rather stay in a more typical Cinque Terre village, I think Manarola is the easiest for you. Guest reviews say that Hotel Marina Piccola is quite ok to navigate with your luggage. People are also very happy with Da Paulin (also in Manarola), which is not far from the station, but requires just a bit of uphill walking (you do get incredible views in return, so for 4 days I think it might be worth it).
      These are just a couple of options, but if you want to stay in Cinque Terre itself, I think these two towns are probably the easiest in your case.
      Hope this helps.
      UPDATE: Here you can now find our complete guide to Cinque Terre hotels.

  16. Hi Jurga. My family of 5 are stayin Monterosso for 6 nights. In July. We plan to hike the trails, relax on beach & I really would like to take 2 day trips, and I’ve been looking at. Bonassola, Levanto and Portovenere. Although Portovenere looks great, I’m concerned about the ferry (and not being able to take the train). What are your suggestions for day trips and best way to spend our time? Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Toni, Portovenere is really nice. If you don’t like being on the boat for too long, you could first take the train to La Spezia and from there it’s just a very short boat ride to Portovenere. There is also a bus, which might even be easier as I think it departs from the train station. You should ask where the stop is exactly once you get to La Spezia (the is tourist info centre at the station).
      I am not sure about Bonassola and I have heard great things about Levanto. Honestly it’s hard to find a place that would not be worth to visit in Italy – every town, every village – it’s all so charming and beautiful. I’m sure you’ll have a great time there!

  17. Hi Jurga ,
    Perfect written post which covered all the points possible. I didn’t know much about this region but your will help me lot to plan.
    I would really like to know the best spots where we can take beautiful pictures of these town. Your picture of towns are beautiful if you could share the places from where i can take good shots ?

    1. Author

      Hi Somi, good to hear you found this Cinque Terre guide useful. As for the photo spots, your question inspired me to write a post about this, but that might take me a couple of weeks… In Riomaggiore, the best place for pictures is at the waterfront, from the left side. In Manarola – waterfront, on the right side. In Vernazza – from the hiking trail in the direction of Monterosso, some 5-10 minutes walking from town centre. Another nice spot of Vernazza is from the hike to Corniglia – also some 10 minutes walking from town.
      Hope this helps. For more information, please also check our guide to one day in Cinque Terre. I indicated under most pictures from where they are taken.

      1. Thanks Jurga, this will help me .

    2. Thank you so much Jurga for your reply, I really appreciate it!

      Toni

  18. Thank for your reply, Jurga.

  19. Hi, Jurga. We will be driving from Montecatini to La Spezia to park late next April.. We would like to take the ferry one direction and the train in the opposite direction. Would you recommend taking the ferry north from La Spezia to Monterossa and training back or training to Monterossa and taking the ferry south to Riomaggiore? Much thanks for your help.

    1. Author

      Hi Stacy, I think that either would work well, so it’s really your preference. Please note that the train (La Spezia – Monterosso) only takes 20-30min, whereas the boat – around 2 hours if I’m not mistaken.
      Also, boats stop running earlier in the evening, definitely in lower season, so in that case it might be more relaxing to first take the boat and then take a train and/or hike between the towns. Advantage by going by boat to Montreosso is that on the way you also see the whole coastline from the water and then afterwards you also see it from land.

  20. Hi Jurga,
    Very good post about Cinque Terrre, thanks! Do you know if its possible to rent a baby carrier in one of the Cinque Terre towns or Levanto (we will be staying there)? We want to do hiking with 2 years old son, but without a good carrier we wont make it. I was searching a lot but havent found anyhing. Thanks

    1. Author

      Hi Erika, I really wouldn’t know. My honest guess is that it’s very difficult unless you find a local willing to lend it to you for a day. Why not just get one yourself? It might come in very handy everywhere in Italy – so many cobbled streets and stairs – not easy to explore with a stroller. Believe me, we’ve tried :).

      1. Thanks for advice Jurga! 🙂 Do you think its possible to make the hiking with Ergobaby Adapt? Have you seen parents with such carriers or its more for backpack baby carriers? I will definitely take the Ergobaby, at least for visiting the 5 towns.

        1. Author

          I really don’t know, Erika. Everything is possible, but it depends on what you’re used to. Carrying a baby is very different than carrying a 2-year old. I know, I couldn’t do it. We had our kids walking since they were 2 years old, but on easier and shorter hikes than this one.
          There are some very steep sections on the Cinque Terre hiking trail, it’s not an easy walk in the park. I haven’t seen anyone with a baby carrier when we were there, only a few people with children to start with, and all the kids were walking themselves.
          If you are used to carrying your child in Ergobaby, then I think you’ll be ok. But I wouldn’t attempt it if you haven’t done it before.
          PS you can just visit the villages without doing much hiking – take a train or a boat. Alternatively, maybe you could hike just a smaller piece? For example, if you walk from Vernazza in the direction of Monterosso, there is a beautiful viewpoint just 5-10min walking from the village. If you walk in the direction of Corniglia, there is also a really good view backwards towards Vernazza; again, no longer than 10-15 min walking.
          Enjoy your trip!

          1. Thanks again Jurga for tips, it is very helpfull!

  21. Hi Jurga
    Thanks so much for this detailed account of the 5 villages.
    My husband and I will be arriving in Livorno on 21 March 2019 on a cruise ship that is docked overnight. My plan (depending on weather) is to forego the cruise lines’ tours to Pisa & Florence (we will be visiting them on another tour) and travel by train to La Spezia then on to some of the villages by train.
    I initially thought this may not be possible but your article has inspired me to “just do it”.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Author

      Hi Sandra, I hope it works out for you! Cinque Terre is really beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Just make sure to check train schedule a few weeks before you go (I don’t think it’s available now), to make sure you can make it in time.
      Maybe, just in case the weather is less favourable, try to have an alternative. Pisa and Florence are both places that you can enjoy even if it rains, especially Florence.
      Have a great trip!

  22. Hi there – wow, I really enjoyed reading all the information you provided. Very very exciting. We will be in the area, staying over in Genoa the beginning of January 2019. I know it is winter etc, but do you know how accessible it would be to visit Cinque Terre. I think it’s a must, and don’t mind the cold or weather, we are geared for it. Can we still visit this beautiful part of Italy?
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Author

      Hi Catherina, January is of course not the most popular time to visit Cinque Terre, but I think it can be really charming to see it in low season as well. As for how to get there, I’d assume there are trains going there in winter as well, probably not as often as in summer though. I mean, people live in those villages, so they also have to be able to travel to work and back home. But I’m not sure, because everything I find at this moment only shows train schedule till November 4. Maybe try to call the tourism information in Cinque Terre and ask them. Maybe there are busses… If everything else fails, you could drive to one or two villages, I think it’s safe to say that parking will not be a huge issue that time of the year…
      Just one tip – try to pick the day with the best possible weather to visit Cinque Terre. You really don’t want to be there in the pouring rain…
      PS if you do go there, and think of our website at that time, it would be great if you could come back to this page and tell your experience visiting Cinque Terre in winter. I’m sure it would be very useful to many people in similar situation.
      Have a nice trip!

      1. Hi there Jurga
        Thank you for your swift reply and being so helpful and friendly 🙂
        I have requested Italy rail to inform me when the winter train schedules become available. Hoping and praying for good weather – or at least a ” NO RAIN ” day to visit this area. Unfortunately, we are only there in the area for 2 days, flying out of Milan on the 6th January. We are those kind of people that will just make the best of what we have, at that time. Weather is one of those things we cannot control and is unpredictable hey 🙂

        Anyways, we are looking forward to our holiday, starting in London then Brussels, through Germany, Austria and Switzerland and finishing it with 5 days in Italy – Verona ( day visit to Venice by train ) and then off to La Spanzia for two nights. altogether 34 days in Europe, a magical white Christmas is the initial driving force behind this time of year. I will most definitely leave some feedback of our experience, as we have hired a car and are making use of public transport too. Would love to share our experiences with you on your Blog.

        Take care, chat soon 🙂

        1. Author

          Thank you, Karen. Sounds like an amazing trip you’ve planned. Enjoy it!

  23. Hello and THANK YOU for so many wonderful tips. We will be in Florence the 2nd week of October and are planning a day trip to Cinque Terre. We were hoping for a tour but it seems we will spend most of our time on a bus then I found your post!
    We would take the train from Florence Campo Di Matre Station to La Spezie Centrale however I am puzzled as to how to get from there to the villages. You wrote about the Cinque Terre Card.. Is this what we will need from La Spezie to the villages? And if so where and when can we buy this card. We are 2 adults and children ages 8 each…

    1. Author

      Hi Martha, you can indeed take organised day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre, they bring you to the villages, arrange all the transport, and make planning easy. Reviews are generally good, so I think it’s a well planned tour, but of course it will be a busy day, no matter how you choose to do it. And of course you can do it on your own, which is often more relaxed when traveling with kids, as you don’t have to adjust to other people and their interests.
      Once you arrive in La Spezia you can buy a Cinque Terre card at the railway station; there is even a separate info stand where there are people from the tourism office who can answer your questions. If I remember well, we bought a family ticket that is a bit cheaper than 4 separate tickets, so ask for that. The ticket needs to be validated before stepping on the train. It is valid the whole day for all the trains on that line, so you can hop-on and off at any village. It also covers Cinque Terre hiking fee if you decide to hike a part of the trail.
      There are many trains going from La Spezia to Cinque Terre, they run regularly throughout the day. Just make sure you come back in time for the last train to Florence in the evening. And maybe don’t count on the last one, as sometimes they just cancel the trains in Cinque Terre (happened twice on the day we were there).
      If you are not sure how to plan your day, here you can find our itinerary for one day in Cinque Terre.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

  24. Thanks for the great info. We’re looking at traveling mid Oct with a 1 year old, so slightly terrifying. Do you get any view from the train as it goes between towns? Do you think the hikes could be doable with a baby carrier? Cheers

    1. Author

      Hi Mel, no need to be terrified 🙂 You can easily visit Cinque Terre with a baby, just maybe leave the stroller in the hotel and use a baby carrier instead.
      As for the train, no, there isn’t much view in between the villages. It mostly rides in the tunnels and the ride between each village takes just a few minutes. You really need to see it from land or from the water.
      I think you can do the hikes with a baby carrier if you are used to carrying it. Beware that some parts of the hike are quite steep, so it’s not easy to carry a big extra weight if you aren’t used to that.
      If you decide not to hike, you can just hop on and off the train or boat and visit the villages separately. Here you can find our suggestions on how to spend one day in Cinque Terre; you can visit all the same places without hiking. The only village that is hard to get to is Corniglia, because it’s on top of the hill, so you need to walk up the steep stairs from the railway station (and the boat doesn’t go there at all). But if you miss it, don’t worry too much – the other four villages are actually more impressive anyway.
      Enjoy your trip!

  25. Hi Jurga

    We are visiting Cinque Terre at the end of September. I am looking at accommodation on the waterfront at Santa Margherita for 4 nights. We are hoping to base ourselves there and do day trips – what do you think?

    Dayle

    1. Author

      Hi Dayle, I think it should be feasible, definitely if you have a car. Santa Margherita is a nice town and you can easily visit Portofino and Camogli from there. Don’t miss the Abbazia di San Fruttuoso as well! If you haven’t seen it yet, please check our post about the most beautiful towns of Liguria for more inspiration.
      As for Cinque Terre itself, it’s a bit further away and I’m not sure about the public transportation options at the end of September, but if you have a car, you can drive to La Spezia or Levanto and take a train from there. If I see it well, there is a train line from Rapallo towards Cinque Terre as well, so I guess it’s also possible to get there by train. Or maybe there are still boats running there as well – I guess it’s easiest to check with the Santa Margherita tourism office – they’ll know the best way to get there.
      Another option would be to split your stay and spend 2 nights close to Cinque Terre and 2 in Santa Margherita Ligure, but then you have to change hotels, etc. So it’s really your preference. We stayed 3 nights in each area if I remember well, but it’s definitely possible to visit both regions from just one location.

  26. Thank you for your information filled article. We are heading to Cinque Terre in the next two weeks and are very excited! Picked up lots of hints so thank you! Dint suppose you know anything about the MotoGP at Mugello do you? That’s the reason for our trip and we were going to wing it in our hired camper that weekend…. But believe the traffic and places to stay in the area are completely hectic. We await with interest as to what will transpire haha

    Thanks again

    1. Author

      Hi Gayl & Rob, glad you fund some useful information and tips for your trip to Cinque Terre. I am afraid I can’t help you with the MotoGP in Mugello. I see that it’s in the area North of Florence, so not really near Cinque Terre. We never found driving in Tuscany hectic, apart from the towns. It looks like quite a rural area, so I think you’ll be fine getting there. Of course, with an event like that there will be more traffic, so make sure you foresee some extra time for that.
      If you want to come to Cinque Terre by camper, leave it in La Spezia. There is a big (free at the time when we stayed) less known outdoor parking area at Piazza d’Armi within a walking distance from the La Spezia train station where you could leave your camper for a day or even a few and explore Cinque Terre by train. I now indicated the location of the parking in the map – see at the top of the post.
      Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip!

  27. Hi Jurga, do you know if it’s easy to get to Cinque Terre from Levanto? Thanks.

    1. Author

      Hi Mary, I think you can take the train from there too. And I am almost certain that there will be boat connections in high season as well. We didn’t go to Levanto, but a friend who knows the area very well said that it was a really nice place and despite being so close to Cinque Terre it’s much less overrun with tourists. She even recommended Levanto as a good base for a longer vacation in that area.

  28. Great post Jurga – very useful. Definitely one to pin for later reference. The closest i have been is to Pisa about 15 years ago. To be honest I have only heard about cinque terre in the last few years and now everyone wants to go! Was it busy when you went?

    1. Author

      I first read about Cinque Terre many many years ago, long before millions of people started going there. Maybe we should have gone then, but despite it being popular, it’s still a place that is definitely worth visiting.
      It is busy no matter when you go I think, but of course April-October are the most popular months. We visited the very last week of October and it was busy without being overly annoying, but I honestly didn’t expect to see so many people on the hiking trail in that period. Cannot imagine how it is in summer!

  29. I can’t believe I havent been to Italy yet. It is still my dream country considering it has so many places to see. I heard a lot of Cinque Terre and by your pictures I think I would love it. This was by far the most detailed post I have read on the place and I hope I’ll utilize it some day!!

    1. Author

      Thanks for your feedback, Shibani. I hope this list will help many people who are planning a trip to Cinque Terre, but are a bit confused about the practical side of getting there , etc.

  30. Thank you so much; Cinque Terre is most definitely on my list! I’m saving this for later, and I’ll definitely be using it – such an informative guide!!

    1. Author

      Good to hear it, Nicky. Thanks for stopping by

  31. what an awesome & exhaustive guide – wish I’d had it before my trip in october!

    1. Author

      We were there at almost the same time then. Thanks for your feedback, Sarah. Good to know I haven’t forgotten to cover something important.

  32. Yes definitely want to go there, who doesn’t ;)? It always looks so pretty on pictures. Thank you for sharing this. We will definitely use it when we go!

    1. Author

      Cinque Terre looks really good in reality too! 😉

  33. What a fabulous post! We loved exploring Italy, however only had the opportunity of visiting the main cities. Next time we would love to see more places similar to this. Thank you for sharing this great guide.

    1. Author

      Every place in Italy is amazing and I know how difficult it is to choose where to go if you only have limited time in the country, Sharee. We have been to Italy so many times and I still feel like we just scratched the surface.

  34. Thank you sooooo much Jurga for writing all this down, Cinque Terre is definitely on our bucket list and you answered all my questions!! I’m so please you did all the hard work so I don’t have to 😉 you’ll have to tell me what La Spezia was like too as a base.

    1. Author

      🙂 That’s what I like to do, Alex. Thus the slogan – help people make the best of every trip. So it’s always good to hear that it’s appreciated.
      As for La Spezia. It’s not our favourite town in the area, not at all. But it’s rather big, very easy to access, has the best transport connections for visiting Cinque Terre, and there are many nice accommodation options at a price that is several times lower than in one of the Cinque Terre villages. On top of that, there are some really good local and not tourist restaurants where you can have a nice tasty meal for 5 EUR. There are lots of bakeries, shops, etc. And since we were sightseeing the whole day, it didn’t really matter to us that the city itself is not as nice. How do I put it, it’s more a city for locals than a vacation place.
      If I were to stay in the area longer, I would probably consider staying in Portovenere. Such a beautiful place and gives you a nice vacation feel. Lerici is also very nice. I hear good things of Levanto too. These are all more places to spend a holiday, bigger and not as busy as Cinque Terre itself, but smaller and much more picturesque than La Spezia. So it’s really about what your expectations are. Purely as a base for sightseeing, La Spezia is hands-down the best option in the area.

      1. “it’s more a city for locals than a vacation place”
        It’s a scary phrase for a local especially if he is not involved in tourism activities!
        For example in La Spezia there is still a considerable number of people who do not work in tourism activities.
        I realize that it seems impossible but there was a time when Cinque Terre were a place for locals …

        1. Author

          This was meant as a compliment to La Spezia that it manages to keep that local feel. As I’m sure Cinque Terre also still does in the winter as well…

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