WHAT TO DO IN 2 DAYS IN CINQUE TERRE
Cinque Terre could not be more photogenic – its beautiful towns are just picture-perfect. Truth be told, this pretty locale in Italy looks as beautiful in real life as it does in the pictures.
So, if are you planning your Cinque Terre itinerary and wondering how to spend 2 days in Cinque Terre? This post hopefully comes to the right time as I am sharing my travel tips. Find out about what to do, where to go, and more travel tips for your 2-day trip to Cinque Terre.
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Travel Tips for Your 2 Days in Cinque Terre Trip
Cinque Terre has surely some of the most beautiful towns in Liguria – the Italian Riviera and well worth a visit.
Here is what I think is worth sharing with you for your 2-day Cinque Terre itinerary.
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 – perched along the Ligurian Coast, in the northwestern part of Italy – is famous for its colorful seaside houses and a great combination of relaxed Italian village life and outdoor activities swimming and hiking.
Many compare it to the Amalfi Coast in South Italy (which I haven’t visited yet) – and many people say though, Cinque Terre is the better choice if you want to hike.
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 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?
Honestly, as pretty as it is, I think Cinque Terre in 2 days is actually enough to see the main places. Actually, 1,5 days is fine, too.
Though I am normally the first to say, “embrace the place and stay an extra day,“ half of the second day of this itinerary is actually for another village near Cinque Terre which I will also talk about.
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 to or 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 trains 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:
- 1) Riomaggiore
- 2) Manarola
- 3) Corniglia
- 4) Vernazza
- 5) Monterossa
Prices: A train ticket is about 4€ – regardless of 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 to continue on your journey.
CINQUE TERRE CARD VS CINQUE TERRE TREKKING CARD
- You can buy the Cinque Terre (Train) Card that includes unlimited train rides (and bus rides, which is an alternative to the train) and some other perks (like using the toilet at the train stations for free and a hiking pass) and you can also use the hiking trails. It is about 16€ for one day, 2 days are 29€.
- Cinque Terre Trekking Card: gives you access to the footpaths only and other services, like using the toilets at the stations for free. You cannot use the trains/buses etc. The 1-day pass costs 7,50€ and the 2-day pass costs 14,50€.
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. Staff will 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. Here is more information on traveling to and within Cinque Terre by train.
- Where to park if coming by car: So, if you arrive by car, you will need to park your car in La Spezia. Unless you stay inland in Cinque Terre, you will not be able to use your car. There is some free parking. I parked near the Museo Navale for two nights and then for two nights 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. From there, you need to take the train to see the villages
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HOW TO GET AROUND CINQUE TERRE
Getting from town to town is very easy, and there are three ways to do it: foot, train, and ferry.
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, three out of the four coastal hiking routes (BLUE PATH) were closed when I visited. Trails can close without advance notice due to weather conditions or maintenance – but some are also under maintenance and supposed to be closed for longer.I hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza – the only open trail. It included scenic views of the ocean and a lot of steps – a lot!
Normally, if two or more trails are open and you want to hike, you will need to buy a Cinque Terre Card. The hiking pass gives you access to the trails for 14.50€. There are checkpoints, so you cannot get around these passes. Ask at the train station and purchase them there (for 29€, you can also use the trains for two days).
The easiest and most popular hiking trail – from Riomaggiore to Manarola- is closed until probably 2024.
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 I also could not be bothered with the less scenic hikes that were more inland.The duration will vary depending on fitness level, but here is what is said:
IF all trails are open from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, the whole Blue Path hike 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.
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. You can check the timetable here.
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 mid-sized (smaller than Monterosso, but busier, and livelier than the other three), and somewhat centrally located (second from the north). I wanted to book a place in Vernazza, but I booked my accommodation two days in advance and all hotels that allowed dogs were fully booked by then (even though it was low season!).
I stayed in Riomaggiore for two nights and was a bit disappointed. Everyone has a different opinion, but it was not my favorite village.
I stayed at this hotel 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 by Italian standards. Coffee, juices, and sweets were free.
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 late June and early 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 late March, April, early May, 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 TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR CINQUE TERRE ITINERARY
- 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: 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 2 DAYS 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. However, I – normally – recommend staying at a place for at least one night so that you can experience a place without the crowds. Especially in Cinque Terre, this is essential as it will be crowded during the day.
Day 1 in Cinque Terre
So, for this 2-day itinerary, I recommend visiting all five towns and then spending most of day 2 in another – even more – gorgeous place near Cinque Terre.
1. Stop: Monterosso al Mare
Start your itinerary with the largest of the villages – Monterosso.
- Elevation: 12 m
- Area: 11.25 km²
- Population: 1,468 (2017)
It is known as the village with the biggest beach, and many come here 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, and the Torre Aurore. 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).
If you have 48 hours in Cinque Terre and it is warm, you can spend a few hours at the beach (which normally is crowded though – at least in the summer months). It is probably a good way to start your itinerary.
If you do not want to hike at all, start your day in Vernazza and completely skip Monterosso.
2. Stop: Vernazza
Vernazza is the second most northern village and approaching Vernazza from Monterosso after about 1.5-2 hours is priceless.
- Elevation: 0
- Area: 12 km²
- Population: 852 (2017)
This traffic-free village is so picturesque and often named the prettiest village and it was probably also my favorite.
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 well, 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).
3. Stop: Corniglia
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 which is located 182 meters above sea level.
- Elevation: 182 meters above sea level
- Population: 150
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. I suggest making the extra effort and climbing the stairs. Just make sure to not leave Corniglia out because it felt the most authentic and special due to fewer visitors.
The village center was actually my favorite. Ah, and don’t forget to enjoy the panorama – there are great views everywhere, such as from the church of San Pietro.
Climb down again and hop on the train to get to Manarola.
From there, you can either hike (the coastal hike is about 1.5 hours, and the alternative path is about 2.5 hours) or take the train to Manarola.
4. Stop: 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.
- Elevation: 0
- Area: 12 km²
- Population: 852 (2017)
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 are hanging out to dry.
This day will be a busy (if you do some hiking) but still not stressful day. Then it is time to prepare for your second day in Cinque Terre.
Day 2 in Cinque Terre
If you stay in Cinque Terre for 2 days, I suggest visiting four villages on the first day. Take your time and stroll aimlessly in each town. One day two you can visit one more village and then do a half-day trip to another gorgeous, gorgeous town.
1. Stop: Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is one of the bigger and most photographed villages – the small, narrow, tall houses are very photogenic. This is a good place for your second day in Cinque Terre. You don’t have to do much hiking but can visit a few sights that the town has and enjoy the views.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!This 2-day Cinque Terre itinerary allows you to enjoy the villages more and take breaks that last more than 20 minutes. 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!
2. Stop: Porto Venere
I recommend not spending 2 days in Cinque Terre itself – and instead, spending some time in this beautiful town as well.
From Riomaggiore, take a trip to Porto Venere – my personal favorite place in the whole area. It will take less than one hour to get there and it is soooo worth it.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) as 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.
- Train and boat tickets are quite cheap. To Porto Venere, a bus return ticket from La Spezia is around 5€. Make sure to buy the tickets at the tobacco shop and not from the bus driver, which will cost more.
- You can also get there by boat – check out the boat schedule.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SPENDING 2 DAYS IN CINQUE TERRE
While I enjoy off-the-beaten-path places and discover 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 2-day Cinque Terre itinerary will hopefully help you plan your own trip properly with tips for the best things to do and see. 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 itinerary and you will have a great time at the Ligurian Coast and enjoy your 2 days in Cinque Terre.
If you want to visit beautiful places near Cinque Terre, get inspired by my post about the best day trips from Cinque Terre.