The Complete Guide to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful areas in all of Italy. Translated from Italian, Cinque Terre means Five Lands. It is comprised of five colorful cliffside villages on Italy’s gorgeous Ligurian Coast.
When you visit Cinque Terre, you’ll find breathtaking, postcard-perfect views, a slow and relaxed pace of life, and charming villages that remain untouched for hundreds of years.
This beautiful gem of a destination is worth more than just a day trip and deserves a spot on any Italian itinerary.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Cinque Terre:
How to Get to Cinque Terre
There are a few different ways to get to Cinque Terre.
By train: If you’re already in Italy, you can get to Cinque Terre by train. Just buy a ticket to La Spezia or Levanto. From these two towns, you will be able to buy a Cinque Terre Train Card and go between all five Cinque Terre villages. (More on that in a minute.)
By plane: The closet airports to Cinque Terre are Pisa and Genoa, although you will find the closest big international airports at Milan and Florence. From the airport you can take a train or drive.
By car: I don’t recommend visiting Cinque Terre by car because you can’t actually drive through the villages. If you must arrive by car, you can park in La Spezia or Levanto and use the Cinque Terre Train Card to get around the five villages.
Getting Around Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is made up of five small villages. From north to south, they are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
Once you are in La Spezia or Levanto, you will need to purchase a Cinque Terre Train Card to get around the villages.
This card entitles you to:
- Unlimited train travel on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia route
- Unlimited use of the Cinque Terre buses
- Access to all of the Cinque Terre hiking paths
- WiFi connection in all the stations
You can check prices for the Cinque Terre Train Card and get more details here. The most expensive option, a three-day pass, will cost you €41 during the high season.
The easiest way to get between the villages is the train. It’s only a five-minute ride between each village and the trains run frequently throughout the day.
I didn’t take the bus or hike while I was there, but these are other options you can try.
Bear in mind that some of the more popular hiking trails may be closed when you visit, and the routes that are open can be strenuous hikes that take a few hours.
When to Visit Cinque Terre
You might be wondering the best time of year to visit Cinque Terre.
Like many places in Italy and Europe, I would prefer to visit Cinque Terre during the low season to avoid crowds. I visited in late May, and it was already extremely crowded (which you may be able to notice from my pictures.) It was also pretty hot, with temperatures hitting 80° F some days.
Cinque Terre’s high season runs from May to September, so for the best combination of low crowds and mild weather, I would visit in March, April, or October.
Even if you visit during the high season, you can still have an enjoyable, crowd-free experience before and after the day trippers and cruise tourists leave each day.
How Long to Stay
While many people just come to Cinque Terre for one day, I really recommend staying for longer unless you just absolutely don’t have the time in your itinerary.
I stayed for three days and two nights and found this to be the perfect amount. It gives you enough time to visit all five villages in a leisurely manner and go back to your favorites.
Where to Stay
I stayed in a B&B in Manarola, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the villages, except maybe Corniglia. I say this because it’s the hardest village to reach (you have to climb 400 stairs from the train station to reach the town) and it’s the only village without a waterfront.
There aren’t any chain hotels in Cinque Terre, but there are many small hotels and cute Airbnbs. You can get $40 off your first Airbnb booking by using this link.
What to Do in Cinque Terre
There isn’t much to “do” in Cinque Terre in terms of museums, churches, ruins, etc. (which can make it a nice break from the rest of Italy!)
Some of the best moments you can have in Cinque Terre are just walking around, relaxing on the beach, or snapping photos of the incredible views around you.
Here are some of the best things to do while in Cinque Terre:
Go hiking. There are dozens of hiking trails around Cinque Terre. I’m not a big hiker, but I did enjoy walking around the trail above Manarola early in the morning.
Go to the beach. Monterosso is the only village that has a true beach, the rest just have harbors. If you want a beach day in Cinque Terre, head to Monterosso and grab a spot under one of the orange and green striped umbrellas on the sand.
Swim in the harbors. Swimming in the clear blue harbors of Vernazza and Manarola is also really popular. If you’re feeling really brave, you can jump off the big rocks around the harbor.
Enjoy a meal with a view. My favorite place to eat in Cinque Terre was Nessun Dorma in Manarola. This scenic spot serves delicious desserts and Ligurian favorites like pesto with an incredible view.
Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre
- Bring a refillable water bottle and fill it up in the water fountains in each village. The water in Italy is extremely clean and safe to drink!
- Be mindful of how much waste you produce and always clean up after yourself. Cinque Terre suffers from overtourism and a negative impact of this is a lot of trash everywhere.
- Visit during the off season to avoid crowds and hot summer temperatures.
- Try to eat at places away from the main touristy road in each village. You won’t pay as high of prices and the food will probably taste better too!
- Wake up early to enjoy the villages before the crowds of day trippers and cruise tourists arrive.
I hope you found this guide to Cinque Terre helpful. Enjoy your trip!
For more Italy travel tips, be sure to read the following:
- What Not to Do in Italy: 10 Common Tourist Mistakes
- The Perfect One Week Italy Itinerary
- The Perfect Two Week Italy Itinerary
- 6 Best Destinations in Italy You Must Visit
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