Best Things to Do in Cinque Terre – 1 and 2-Day Itinerary
Cinque Terre has taken over Instagram – and truth be told, this pretty locale in Italy looks as beautiful in real life as it does in the pictures.
It is extremely picturesque, of course, but you can do more than just look at pretty houses sitting on a hill here. The good news? In this post, you will find out about the best things to do in Cinque Terre – where to go, what to see, and what to do.
Find out about the best attractions, the most beautiful places to visit, how to plan your Cinque Terre itinerary, and some important travel tips for your first visit to Cinque Terre.
Sounds good? Then keep reading and find out more about this extraordinary, beautiful place.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR CINQUE TERRE
Though Cinque Terre had been on my bucket list forever, it took a while before I finally visited myself. Here is what I have found out and what I think, is worth to share with you.
WHAT OR WHERE IS CINQUE TERRE
Not one, not two, not three, not four, but five different villages make up Cinque Terre – okay, if you speak French or Italian, you could have guessed that from the name.
This string of five towns on the Italian Riviera in Liguria is famous for its colorful seaside houses (people would call it Instagrammable these days) and a great combination of relaxed Italian village life and some outdoor activities, like swimming and hiking.
Many compare it to the Amalfi Coast in Italy (which I haven’t visited yet), and what many people agree on is that Cinque Terre is the better choice if you want to hike.
Each of the five villages is perched along the Ligurian Coast, in the northwestern part of Italy. And thanks to Instagram lately, this area, with its rocky beaches, hiking trails, olive trees, and vineyards, has become extremely popular and is one of Italy´s main tourist destinations.
The Cinque Terre is a National Park and Protected Marine Area that was recognized in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, allowing for some beautiful hikes along the coast and inland.
HOW LONG TO STAY IN CINQUE TERRE
Whether you have one day in Cinque Terre or two, here is your Cinque Terre itinerary. And honestly, as pretty as it is, two days in Cinque Terre is actually enough. Actually, 1,5 days is fine, too. I wanted to stay three full days but left early on my third day.
Though I am normally the first to say, “embrace the place and stay an extra day,“ half of the second day of the itinerary for Cinque Terre is actually a half day trip.
This itinerary will give you tips on what to see in Cinque Terre in 1 or 2 days. You can, of course, adjust it to your own needs, but the info should help you get a better idea of what is actually doable and – to me – especially worth visiting and doing.
HOW TO GET TO CINQUE TERRE
Cinque Terre is easy to reach from cities like Milan, Florence, Turin, Pisa, and Genoa, all of which have international airports.
From there, you can take a train (Italian public transportation is surprisingly good) to La Spezia, a major port in Liguria, which is located just before the first village of Cinque Terre.
You cannot really drive in Cinque Terre (if you see accommodations offering free parking in Cinque Terre, you should know it is quite far from the villages) and need to take a train (or hike).
So, you take the train from La Spezia to Levanto.
Trains run regularly (2-3 an hour), and in less than 10 minutes, you will have reached the first village of Cinque Terre.
Coming from La Spezia, you will reach the most southern village first. You will arrive at them in this order:
Prices: A train ticket is about 4€ – regardless to which of the five villages you travel to. However, you cannot get in and out with one ticket. If you want to get out once, you will need a new ticket if you continue on your journey.
You can buy the Cinque Terre Card that includes unlimited train rides (and bus rides, which is an alternative to the train) and also some other perks (like using the toilet at the train stations for free and a hiking pass).
It is about 16€ for one day, 2 days is 29€.
The Cinque Terre Card for 7,50€ is only for hiking and some other services, like using the toilets at the stations for free.
There are discounts for families, kids, etc.
Where to buy train tickets: You need to buy your tickets at the station or online. However, I would buy them at the station. There is staff there to help you with questions. You can either pay by card or cash at the vending machine (different main languages are available, including English, Arabic, and German) or pay cash when buying tickets at the cashier.
Validate: ALWAYS validate your ticket, even if you have just bought your ticket with a time period from the cashier or the machine. Put your ticket into the machine (even if the slot is bigger than your ticket, just put it in until you hear it being stamped and see it on the ticket).
Getting from La Spezia to Riomaggiore takes just 8 minutes, and to Monterossa, it just takes 20 minutes total. As you can see, the villages are really close to each other.
Where to Park if Coming With a Car: So, if you arrive by car, you will need to park your car somewhere in La Spezia. Unless you stay inland, you will not be able to use your car (and believe me, you don’t want that).
There is some free parking. I parked near the Museo Navale (if you stand in front of it, there is some free parking to the left) for two nights and then for two nights in 500 meters from the train station and it was fine. However, there is also paid parking, so please double-check if there is a parking machine or any signs that tell you to pay).
There are also parking houses, but really, if you can park for free, then do that. Just don’t leave any valuables on display in your car, and your car should be safe.
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HOW TO GET AROUND IN CINQUE TERRE
Getting from town to town is very easy and there are three ways to do it: foot, train, and ferry.
ON FOOT – When I travel, this is my favorite way to get around (except for boats… I love getting around via boats).
So, there are four hikes, from one village to the next.
However, when I visited, three out of the four coastal hiking routes (BLUE PATH) were closed. There are other hiking trails open, but they are less scenic and take (apparently) longer. So, instead of a 5-hour hike, you can expect to hike for 8 or 9 hours (all hikes combined).
I hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza and it was the only trail that was open. It included scenic views of the ocean and a lot of steps – a lot!
Normally, if two or more trails are open, you will need to buy a Cinque Terre Card, which is a hiking pass that gives you access to the trails for 7.50€. There are checkpoints, so you cannot get around these passes. Ask at the train station and purchase them there (for 16€, you can also use the trains for one day).
Also, the easiest and most popular hiking trail (from Riomaggiore to Maranola) is closed for another two or three years according to a staff member, but no one really knows. Trails can close without advance notice due to weather conditions or maintenance.
The trails, which are not along the coast, can be an alternative for those who still want to hike. I was very upset that I could not hike all the way, but also could not be bothered with the less scenic hikes that were more inland.
Duration will vary depending on fitness level, but here is what is said:
The whole Blue Path hike, if all trails are open from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, is about 11km and should take about 5 hours.
- Monterosso – Vernazza: 2 hours (3.6 km)
- Vernazza – Corniglia: 1.5 hours (3.4 km)
- Corniglia – Manarola: 1.25 hours (2.9 km)
- Manarola – Riomaggiore (“Lover’s lane”) – 30 minutes (1.1 km), this easy Cinque Terre walk is closed for longer
If needed, you could hike all of the trails in one day, but if you have the time, I would recommend splitting them up so that you have time to explore the towns between trails.
I have read very different opinions about which one is supposed to be the most beautiful. In the end, it just comes down to your personal taste. Here is some info on all five villages and you can decide for yourself which ones to visit and which one is your favorite.
BY TRAIN – The Cinque Terre train stops in each Cinque Terre town, runs 2-3 times per hour, and is the quickest way to get between towns (4-6 minutes between each one). If you plan on both hiking AND taking the train, purchase the Cinque Terre Train Card, which is the same as above except that it also allows for unlimited train travel within Cinque Terre.
BY FERRY – If you visit between the end of March and the beginning of November, another option is to take the ferry, which offers coastal views of the towns!
Only Corniglia (which is in the middle of all five villages) is not accessible by ferry.
WHERE TO STAY IN CINQUE TERRE
Vernazza is the best place to stay in Cinque Terre, in my humble opinion. It was my favorite of the five towns: it is the best village in Cinque Terre, is mid-sized (smaller than Monterosso, but busier and livelier than the other three), and is somewhat centrally located (second from the north).
I stayed in Riomaggiore for two nights and was a bit disappointed. Everyone has a different opinion, but it was not my favorite village, most likely because it seemed that many areas were closed to visitors (probably due to the time of my visit – more on that below).
I wanted to book a place in Vernazza, but I booked my accommodation two days in advance and all hotels that allowed dogs and were not too expensive were fully booked by then (even though it was low season!).
Here is the hotel I stayed at – check out rates and prices here. The location was okay, it did not come with any great views, but it was easy to reach from the train station and the room was quite big Italian standards. Coffee, juices, and sweets were free.
My hotel in Riomaggiore was fine, however, I would choose differently if visiting Cinque Terre again. So, probably in Vernazza or Maranola.
If you are on a budget, I actually recommend staying in La Spezia. After two nights in Cinque Terre, I booked a hotel in La Spezia for two nights and used it as a base to get around and see other places in Cinque Terre (like Porto Verene).
BEST TIME TO VISIT CINQUE TERRE
I visited at the end of March. It was great on the one hand and not so great on the other. Let me explain that a bit more.
Italy is one of the most popular places for tourists worldwide. It is always busy, but summertime is really crazy.
Never visit Italy between July and August. Ideally, do not visit between June and late September. There will be crowds – crazy crowds, like really crazy crowds. Also, it will be hot and most people complain about the heat.
Plus, it is more expensive.
If you can, visit Cinque Terre in March, April, late September, or October. It is hard to predict the weather, but the climate is mild throughout the year.
March is a little warmer, but it might be too cold to take a dip in the water. Also, keep in mind that March is off-season and there is a lot of construction work going on in the villages and on the trails.
If the preparations don’t bother you and you are not looking for a beach vacation, then March and April would be my tips. Otherwise, May would probably be okay, though it gets busy by then, too. But really, try to avoid June, July, and August.
MORE CINQUE TERRE TRAVEL TIPS
Water: You can drink the tap water in Cinque Terre, so make sure to bring your reusable water bottle to refill while you’re there.
You will also see a few water fountains here and there with drinkable water (if it isn’t drinkable, it says so).
Bring cash: There are ATMs and many shops and restaurants accept cards, but not all, so have some euros with you.
What to Wear: Bring comfortable shoes. Even if you don’t plan to hike, comfortable shoes are essential.
Also, pack light. Carrying luggage in those hilly villages is a pain in the butt, so make your life easy by traveling light.
What to do in 1 Day in Cinque Terre
Okay, Cinque Terre in one day is absolutely doable, and if you have many other places you would like to see, you can do this whirlwind of an itinerary.
You can experience Cinque Terre in 1 day in three different ways:
Relaxed: No hiking, getting around via trains, skipping one village (I will tell you which one).
Busy and active: A bit of hiking, a bit of train usage – a fun and active, but not stressful, day.
Very active and busy: Includes a lot of hiking and a long day full of activities.
Cinque Terre in One Day – What to Do
If you have only one day in Cinque Terre, you can do one of the following itineraries:
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the largest of the villages.
It is known as the village with the biggest beach, and many come here just to spend some time there. However, if you want to have a beach vacation, then Cinque Terre is not the best choice in Italy.
There is also the 14th-century Loggia del Podesta and the San Giovanni Battista church, as well as the Torre Aurore, to see.
Monterosso itself is not very interesting, so you can head from the train station straight to the trail and do an hour‘s hike (ask in advance if the trail is open).
Approaching Vernazza after about 1.5-2 hours is priceless.
If you do not want to hike at all, then start your day in Vernazza and skip Monterosso completely.
Vernazza is the second most northern village.
This traffic-free village is so picturesque and often named the prettiest village. It was also my favorite, but I liked four out of the five villages a lot.
It is snuggled in a cleft between rocky cliffs and looking at it from above made me fall in love with Vernazza.
It is lively, busy (in summertime probably too busy), and, well, colorful, but that is something all of the villages have in common. So, I cannot really pinpoint what intrigued me.
However, the best way to enjoy Vernazza is to view it from above. Even if you don’t hike any trail, take your time to get to one of the viewing points to enjoy the views (I promise, it is worth it!).
You can stroll the streets (though there are not many) and enjoy the piazza or the Doria Castle.
From there, hop on the train and go to the second or third village: Corniglia.
If you want to hike, you can see if the coastal hiking trail is open. The alternative path is, according to hear-say, less scenic and takes longer, but it is at least another option for the hikers among you (the alternative hike takes about 2.5-3 hours).
Often overlooked and left out, this was another of my favorites. It doesn’t have direct beach access, and you will have to climb more than 300 steps to reach the hilltop village that is located 182 meters above sea level.
For those of you who really prefer not to climb stairs, you can take a little shuttle bus that starts directly at the train station.
But I suggest making the extra effort and climbing the stairs. Either way, don’t leave Corniglia out. It felt the most authentic and special.
The center of the village was actually my favorite. Ah, and don’t forget to enjoy the views (there are great views everywhere, such as from the church of San Pietro).
If you have climbed the 300+ stairs, this job will be easy. Climb down again and hop on the train to get to Riomaggiore.
From there, you can either hike (coastal hike is about 1.5 hours, the alternative path is about 2.5 hours) or take the train to Manarola.
Manarola is another very photogenic village that is the favorite of many people I have asked. The rocky cliffs and “beach“ area make it popular among visitors. And let’s not forget the pretty houses, of course.
It is a great place to watch the sunset, but the views of the village are also one of a kind. There are easy and well-marked paths to follow up (with cafes at the top), so you can enjoy the views – and I promise you, the views are always worth it, even if you are tired.
I also enjoyed, strolling the streets and checking out what laundry the locals hanging out to dry :).
Riomaggiore is one of the bigger and most photographed villages – the small, narrow, tall houses are indeed very photogenic and it is a great place to watch the sunset.
However, as I said in the beginning, I was a bit disappointed. It seemed that every place I wanted to see – every angle from which I had seen Instagram images – was closed due to maintenance. Hopefully, this might be different in the busier season and you might not be as disappointed as I was.
Sitting at the Marina and enjoying the colorful houses is priceless though!
Cinque Terre in 2 Days
Okay, you have decided to stay in Cinque Terre for 2 days. Honestly, I think that 1.5 or 2 days is the perfect amount of time.
While you can see everything in one day, as outlined above, it is a very busy and maybe even stressful day – and after all, we don’t want any stress on our vacation, right? So, while hiking is more or less optional when in Cinque Terre for only one day, you should seriously add at least one hike in the two days of your visit.
If you are in Cinque Terre for two days, you should do all of the hikes, especially the coastal hikes (Blue Path).
So, for your two-day itinerary, it is crucial where you stay. I suggest visiting all four villages, except the one you are staying at, on the first day. For the second day, I suggest exploring the village you are staying in, as it will make your itinerary more efficient and logistically smarter.
So, while this itinerary might look a bit messy at first glance, it actually makes perfect sense.
Somehow. No, really it does.
So, for the first day, I suggest starting with a hike from Monterosso to Manarola. The trail should be open – it is a beautiful hike – despite its many steps and being steep. Just wear solid shoes and bring some water.
Then, in Manarola, you will have time to rest at the village promenade and enjoy village life before slowly heading to Corniglia – on foot or by train.
From there, I would go on to Riomaggiore (leaving Vernazza for the last day) and end your day there!
This 2-day Cinque Terre itinerary allows you to enjoy the villages more and take breaks that last more than 20 minutes.
For day 2 in Cinque Terre, I recommend heading to Vernazza, or the village in which you stayed overnight in Cinque Terre.
If you stay in La Spezia, I suggest keeping Riomaggiore for the second day.
Whichever village you visit on the second day, 2-3 hours is enough for any one of the villages. They are all pretty, but also small and easy to navigate, so no place will take “forever to be discovered.“
For the rest of the day, you can head out of Cinque Terre – and to one of the prettiest places in all of Liguria… I mean, in all of Italy!
From Vernazza, either take a boat to Porto Venere – my personal favorite place – or take the train to La Spezia and from there, a boat. It will take less than one hour, but it is soooo worth it.
Train and boat tickets are quite cheap. To Porto Venere, a return ticket from La Spezia is around 5€. Make sure to buy the tickets at the tobacco shop and not from the bus driver, as it will cost more.
Porto Venere is a little port that is less famous, less popular, and not a part of Cinque Terre but believe me, it is as pretty (if not even more so) than its famous neighbors.
Like its neighbors, it is small – you will need no more than 2-4 hours for strolling the village. Add in the travel time and you will find that it is a perfect way to end your second day in Cinque Terre – even if it isn’t in Cinque Terre.
While I enjoy off-the-beaten-path locales and discovering places on a slower path sometimes, I can honestly say that I did not feel the urge to stay in Cinque Terre for more than two days.
I initially planned to stay three full days (two nights), but I left early on my third day and spent that day in Porto Venere instead. Cinque Terre is without a doubt pretty, but its activities and attractions are not overwhelming in number.
So, this Cinque Terre 1-day or 2-day itinerary, with tips for the best things to do and see, will hopefully help you plan your own itinerary properly. It might seem a bit messy at first (as it really depends on where you stay), but after visiting myself, I am pretty confident that this is a good 24 (or 12) or 48-hour itinerary, and you will have a great time at the Ligurian Coast.