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Cinque Terre translates to Five Lands in English. These villages nestled along the coastline of the Italian Riviera are probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The colorful homes seem as though they were carved out of the mountainside. While it’s easy to “wing it” and visit the five towns, I think a Cinque Terre itinerary is most helpful to know what to do and what to see in the villages.
Also read: Sample Itinerary For One Week In Italy
The Cinque Terre Villages
The five villages that Cinque Terre is comprised of are listed below. While some may seem similar, I think they all have different things to offer. One may have seaside restaurants and sand beaches while another offers hillside cliffs with amazing views. One may have rocks perfect for jumping into the sea while another doesn’t offer much access to water.
While you can definitely see all of the villages in a day, I recommend spending two or three days in the area, especially if you’re hiking the towns. You’ll need time to rest and explore the towns versus just passing through.
Monterosso al Mare is the westernmost town of Cinque Terre and it may be the first town you enter, depending on the direction you’re coming from. This town is said to be famous for its lemon trees, and rest assured you can find limoncello almost anywhere in the area. It’s wine, grapes, and olives are also worth sampling.
Vernazza officially became a town in 1080 and is a fishing village through and through. There is actually no car traffic through the town, which is always nice if you’re familiar with Italy. If you like wine, I highly recommend trying the local wine in this village as it’s known for it.
As of 2016, Corniglia’s population was a mere 150. That’ll be hard to believe with all of the tourists you’re sure to run into while visiting. This is one of the few towns in the area without direct access to the sea. If it seems like it’s built on a steep cliff, that’s because it is. That just means better views though.
Of all of the towns in Cinque Terre, Manarola is the second smallest. It’s also one of the most photographed, in my opinion, next to Riomaggiore. Like many of the other towns, it’s best known for fishing and wine, so when there, you know what to try.
Ah, beautiful Riomaggiore. No Cinque Terre itinerary is complete without it. If you are traveling from La Spezia then this is the first town you will enter. I guarantee you have seen this town photographed from its small wharf and little beach. Although the beach is one of the tiniest I’ve ever seen, it’s still popular among beachgoers and people looking to get that quintessential shot.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre may not just be a stones throw from whatever Italian city you’re flying into, but it’s still technically easily accessible. I’d recommend catching the train from any major Italian city and it helps to choose one in Northern Italy since that’s where Cinque Terre is located. Check rental car prices here if you do decide to rent a car.
Milan to Cinque Terre
I caught the train from Milan to Cinque Terre. Because I’d been to Milan before, I was fine coming straight from the airport to Milan’s Central Station and then waiting to board my train to Cinque Terre.
The drive from Milan to Cinque Terre can take as little as 3 hours. If you catch the train, and I hope you do, then the train time will take at least 3 hours on a direct train and possibly more if you have to switch trains at any point.
Rome to Cinque Terre
The drive north from Rome to Cinque Terre is about 5 hours minimum. Because of this, I don’t recommend coming straight from Rome to Cinque Terre. Unless that flight to Rome was so cheap you couldn’t pass it up, stop off in another city first and then head to Cinque Terre.
As far as the train goes, the average train time will take 4 to 4.5 hours. To be honest, that isn’t bad considering that it’s just an hour less to come from other cities. It’s all up to you.
Florence to Cinque Terre
Because Florence is one of my absolute favorite Italian cities I hope that you get to see it on your way to or from Cinque Terre. The drive from Florence to Cinque Terre requires you to drive northwest for about 2.5 hours. That’s less than some peoples commute to work. The train is also a minimum of 2.5 hours and that’s with a stop in La Spezia, which is where most people stay when visiting Cinque Terre.
La Spezia to Cinque Terre
As I mentioned above, La Spezia is an area where many people stay instead of staying directly in the five villages. It’s the next door neighbor of Cinque Terre and the closest town to La Spezia is Riomaggiore. To get to Riomaggiore from La Spezia it takes just 7 minutes by train. Again, I don’t recommend driving as the train is so convenient and cheap, but if you do, it’s a 22 minute drive.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
As I mentioned, staying directly in Cinque Terre can be a little pricey. The hotels actually look more like B&B’s, but if you are a hotel person, I’ll list some best affordable hotels below:
Here are some of the best airbnb’s in the area. Don’t forget to get up to $55 off of your first booking with my promo code.
- Double room with sea view terrace
- Monolocale caterina
- Open Heart Apartment sea view
- Cinque terre: vue sur la mer
- Sea view, fresh breakfast, balcony
Things to Do in Cinque Terre
Visit On A Day Trip
Cinque Terre is definitely doable in one day and because there isn’t a long list of things to do, other than actually see the towns, many people spend just a day there.
If you are visiting from Florence then you may want to check out this day trip. It includes train tickets, your bus transfer, and optional lunch. If you’ll be visiting prior to October 31st, then it also includes a boat ride from Riomaggiore to Monterosso.
Those looking to take a day trip from Milan should look into this tour that also takes you to Portovenere. With this particular tour you’ll be riding on an air conditioned coach, have a boat cruise, and even get the option of having a light 45 minute hike.
Kayak at Sunset
If you ask me, Cinque Terre is gorgeous at all times of day, but there’s just something about the view from the water at sunset. This sunset kayak tour includes wine and aperitivo. You’ll have a knowledgable guide every step of the way and even pictures of your experience.
Rent A Boat
If you’ve always wanted to be a skipper for a day, here’s your chance. Rent a boat and see the national park of Cinque Terre by water. It definitely beats driving in traffic or through winding roads.
This tour is perfect for group sizes up to 7. You simply meet a team member from the company, get your map, and they’ll direct you toward Cinque Terre and answer any questions you may have. It lasts up to 7 hours.
Hike The Five Towns
Hiking Cinque Terre is a major reason that so many visit. It can be done in one day as the hike, including breaks, only takes about 6 hours. I’d personally spread it out over 2 days and spend more time in each town. There’s no point in rushing through it unless your on a tight schedule.
There is a route that connects the towns and it’s probably best if your airbnb host or hotel points you in the right direction of the starting point. Helpful maps are also available online. Start at either end of the villages (Monterosso or Riomaggiore) and head toward the other end.
Cinque Terre Beaches
Here is a great list of all of the beaches in Cinque Terre. Because not every town has an actual beach, many people cliff jump or lounge on rocks. While that’s perfectly fine and fun, I wanted to share some of the ones that I actually saw that give beach vibes:
- Levanto Beach – Because I actually stay in Levanto for a couple nights, this was the beach I saw the most. If it weren’t for me being so sick, I would’ve been sunbathing here every day. It’s spacious and there are umbrellas available to rent. I highly recommend adding it to any Cinque Terre itinerary.
- Vernazza Harbor Beach – This beach was quite small but there were still many people out sunbathing and frolicking in the water. I actually ate at a restaurant right in front of it and people watched.
- Monterosso Beach (Fegina) – This will be the most infamous beach you’ll see pictured with its orange and green umbrellas seeming to span the length of the beach. Believe the hype, it’s worth a visit.
- Manarola Beach – This beach gets an honorable mention as there is no actual beach, but rocks that people enjoy hanging out on. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit though. Just be careful jumping and swimming.