Cinque Terre is a series of 5 colourful villages along the rugged Italian Riviera. Dating back to the 11th century, these seaside towns offer an abundance of history and charm. This diverse area boasts everything from cliffside vineyards and scenic hiking trails to bustling harbours and fantastic fresh seafood.
Cinque Terre is one of my all-time favourite places in Italy. Every view looks like a painting and there is so much culture it’s astounding. In this blog post, I will outline an incredible 3-day Cinque Terre itinerary including where to stay, what to eat, and the best things to do in each village.
- Cinque Terre FAQ
- Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 1: Arrive & Explore Monterosso
- Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 2: Vernazza, Manarola, & Corniglia
- Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 3: Corniglia & Riomaggiore
Before we dive into it, let’s go over a few common questions about Cinque Terre to get you off on the right foot.
Cinque Terre FAQ
Is Cinque Terre worth visiting?
Slightly out of the way from major tourist destinations like Rome, Milan, and Florence, many people ask if Cinque Terre is worth the detour. In my opinion, this picturesque stretch of coastline is one of the most magical places in all of Italy. I promise you will not regret visiting this little slice of paradise.
Should I visit all of the towns?
Before arriving, we expected all of the towns to be fairly similar. Although all five do show off bright houses and stunning views, each vibrant seaside village offers its own unique advantages. Translating directly to “Five Lands”, I would highly recommend visiting each one if you can.
How many days do I need in Cinque Terre?
Ideally, 3-4 days is perfect for this Cinque Terre itinerary. This is especially true if you plan to do some hiking, visit the beach, and experience each town thoroughly. If you are tight on time, it is possible to see all 5 towns in one day. It would be long and busy, but if that is all you have, I would still deem it worth the trip.
How do I get to Cinque Terre?
There are two ways to reach Cinque Terre in Italy. The first, and the easiest, is by train. Each village is connected by the Cinque Terre Express. This train runs from Levanto (1 stop north of Cinque Terre) to La Spezia (1 stop south of Cinque Terre).
You can take intercity trains directly from Rome, Florence, Pisa, Milan, and most other places in the country to La Spezia. From there, you can hop on the Cinque Terre Express and make your way to any of the 5 villages.
The second method is by vehicle. This requires much more planning, but it is possible. The issue here is that there is VERY limited parking in all of the villages. Monterosso has a small public lot making it a great home base if you have a car. We rented an Airbnb in Corniglia that included a parking spot which is a wonderful option, as well.
How do I travel between the villages?
Each village in Cinque Terre is connected by both a hiking trail and a train. The Cinque Terre Express is the quickest option with each town being only a few minutes apart. You can either pay 5 Euros (2022) for a one-way ticket between each stop or buy a day pass called the Cinque Terre Train Card.
This is the option we would recommend as it allows unlimited travel. The cost in 2022 was 18.20 euros for a one-day card, 33 euros for a two-day card and 47 euros for a three-day card. Discounts are available for children, families, and seniors.
Alternatively, you can hike between the towns on the Sentiero Azzurro AKA the Blue Path.
What is the Sentiero Azzurro?
Although not for the faint of heart, the Sentiero Azzurro (AKA the Blue Path) is a spectacular way to explore the area. In total, this trail connects all 5 villages over 11 kilometres with almost 600 meters of elevation gain in each direction.
The trail can get hot and crowded, so we would recommend getting an early start. There are a few lemonade shops and restaurants along the way, but bring plenty of water as they are few and far between.
NOTE: Do not attempt this hike in flip-flops. You will want to wear runners as the trail is made up of uneven rocks, steps, and dirt paths.
You can either choose to do the entire hike or just certain sections. It meets up with every town along the way offering you relief via the train if needed. In 2022, the trail from Corniglia to Riomaggiore was closed due to a landslide. Check here for trail updates.
Where should I Stay in Cinque Terre?
While all of these towns offer excellent accommodation, we chose Corniglia and were overjoyed with our decision. Because this is the only town that the train does not take you directly to, Corniglia has all of the charm with a fraction of the crowds.
Don’t let the 10-minute walk scare you off, it is only 1 kilometre and the views are a remarkable distraction. There is also a bus that runs from the train station to Corniglia from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM. This is helpful if you are arriving by train with your luggage. Otherwise, I would opt for the scenic walk. At the top of the steps, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the rugged Italian coastline.
Our second choice would be Monterosso. It is the largest of the 5 towns and the easiest to access. There is a parking lot if you plan on driving and the beach is fantastic.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get into it! Here is the perfect 3-day itinerary in Cinque Terre, Italy.
Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 1: Arrive & Explore Monterosso
First things first, arrive in the morning and drop off your bags. If you can, we would recommend staying in Corniglia. We stayed at this amazing Airbnb that included a free parking stall. NOTE: If you are driving, make sure your accommodation includes a place to park. If it doesn’t, you will likely have a difficult time finding one.
Once you are settled in, your first order of business is to thoroughly enjoy a slice of focaccia pizza at Bistro Margherita 2.0. This pizza shop does not come up on google maps but trust me, you do not want to miss it. Located on this corner near A Cantina da Mananan, we got pizza here for 3 days straight!
Train from Corniglia to Monterosso: 10 minute walk + 7 minute train ride
Next, pack a bag for the beach and take the train (or hike) to Monterosso. The train comes approximately every 15-20 minutes and the ride itself only takes 8 minutes. The hike, on the other hand, is 7.8 kilometres with 450m of elevation gain. It’s ridiculously beautiful, but it’s not for everyone.
Known for being the largest and liveliest of the five towns, Monterosso is home to the widest range of clubs, bars and restaurants. This charming seaside village is made up of an ancient side and a more modern one, connected by a tunnel.
NOTE: This is our second recommended option for accommodation. There is a parking lot in town and it is easy to reach by train.
Monterosso is also home to the only stretch of sandy beach in Cinque Terre. It can get busy, but there is a ton of space to spread out and enjoy the sun. Lay on the beach, go for a swim, shop in the old town, and find a tasty local restaurant for dinner.
Some restaurant recommendations are:
- Gelateria La Scogliera: Located right near the beach, pop in and get a freshly squeezed lemon slush. It is perfect on a hot day.
- Ristorante Emy’s Way: Excellent pizza, pasta, and fried fish.
- Da Eraldo: Incredible local food and great service.
- L’Osteria: Tasty seafood pasta dishes and outdoor seating.
Once you’re finished dinner, make your way back to the beach and watch the sunset. Then, when you’re ready, take the train back to your Airbnb for the night.
Train from Monterosso to Corniglia: 8 minute train ride + 10 minute walk
Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 2: Vernazza, Manarola, & Corniglia
For your full day in Cinque Terre, wake up early and enjoy a coffee and croissant at Caffè Matteo Snc di Galletti Riccardo e Rizzuti Manuela. Once you’ve fuelled up, begin the hike from Corniglia to Vernazza. The earlier the better when it comes to beating the crowds and the heat.
hike from Corniglia to Vernazza: 3.4 km & 175 m elevation gain
This was our favourite section of the Sentiero Azzurro and can be completed in around 1 hour. As you make your way into Vernazza, you will have stunning views of the town and the ocean.
Upon arriving in this picture-perfect fishing village, spend some time at the harbour and peruse the shops. We sat along the rocks and went for a morning swim in the ocean. It was mesmerizing to watch this beautiful little town wake up before our eyes.
If you worked up an appetite on your hike, try the pesto or the seafood at Il Gattaccio. It will most likely be lined up, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
train from vernazza to manarola: 7 minutes
Next, hop on the train and make your way to Manarola. This is known to be one of the most picturesque villages in Cinque Terre. You will arrive when the sun is high in the sky, lighting up the buildings like an oil painting.
Make your way through the busy streets, stopping in at any shops that catch your eye. Eventually, you will end up at the harbour. Here, you can explore a marvellous walking path that offers jaw-dropping views of the village. If it’s hot, there is a great swimming area with ample space to suntan on the surrounding rocks.
Looking for a place to grab a glass of wine with a killer view? Try Nessun Dorma. If you are interested, they also offer a very unique “Pesto Experience” at 10:30 AM and 1:30 PM daily. It is two hours long and includes a pesto-making class, wine tasting, and lunch! You can book it online in advance here.
train from manarola to corniglia: 4 minutes
Once you’ve had your fill of fun in Manarola, take the train back to Corniglia. You will most likely want a shower after your day of hiking and ocean swimming. Around 4 PM, the streets of our favourite town in Cinque Terre will get quiet as all the tourists move on to their next destinations.
This is a great time to explore Corniglia and grab a drink at Bar Terza Terra di Cadario Alison. Here, you can sit on the patio in the sun and take in the peaceful ocean view. If you stay at the same Airbnb we did, you can buy a bottle of local wine and enjoy it on your rooftop patio as the sun sets.
For dinner, there are more fantastic options than you’ll know what to do with. Some of our favourite restaurants include:
- A Cantina da Mananan
- Terra Rossa Food & Wine Bar
- Bar Pan e Vin
- …or you could always go back to Bistro Margherita 2.0!
For dessert, try the basil lemon gelato at Gelateria Corniglia. It’s to die for.
Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 3: Corniglia & Riomaggiore
On your final day in Cinque Terre, wake up early and explore the streets of Corniglia one last time. It’s a ghost town first thing in the morning and we absolutely loved it!
TRAIN FROM CORNIGLIA TO Riomaggiore: 10 MINUTE WALK + 7 MINUTE TRAIN RIDE
Next, take the train to Riomaggiore. This is my second favourite town in Cinque Terre for two reasons. First of all, the harbour is absolutely stunning in the morning. You can walk out onto massive boulders in the ocean and admire the sun rising over the colourful buildings. We spent an hour taking photos and enjoying the view.
Secondly, they have some of the best fried food I have ever eaten. I don’t typically love deep-fried anything, but we came back to CoSteve twice for massive cones of fried fish and cheese-filled jalapeños. Seriously, you’ve got to try it!
TRAIN FROM Riomaggiore to CORNIGLIA: 7 MINUTE TRAIN RIDE + 10 MINUTE WALK
Once you are pleasantly stuffed, take the train back to Corniglia and check out of your Airbnb. From here, take in the views one last time before leaving for your next destination.
We hope you enjoy your time in Italy. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comment below with your thoughts on this Cinque Terre Itinerary. We would love to hear from you!
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