Cinque Terre. Or: When colourful, crammed houses on steep slopes meet turquoise water and conjure up the perfect postcard motifs. The Cinque Terre, i.e. those five magical villages along the Ligurian coast of Italy, are simply breathtakingly beautiful.
However: This beauty has its price and it’s called mass tourism. How many people crowd through the narrow streets of the villages during the day is really unbelievable and we would like to warn you in advance: YES, they Cinque Terre are really crowded.
Nevertheless, we loved it in the Cinque Terre. So if you’re thinking of visiting the Cinque Terre: Go for it! In this blog article we tell you everything you need to know for the perfect day trip. 1. Cinque Terre: Information, things worth knowing & FAQs at a glance What are the Cinque Terre? Five villages. Twelve kilometers of coast. UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Cinque Terre (meaning “five countries” or “five towns” in English) stretch along the west coast of northern Italy, about halfway between Genoa and Pisa.
The Cinque Terre are ranked from north to south:
Monterosso al MareVernazzaCornigliaManarolaRiomaggiore What makes the villages so special? They are tiny, picturesque and, last but not least, simply indescribably photogenic thanks to their colorful house facades. The villages nestle almost perfectly against the rugged cliffs and their location alone is breathtaking.
Mass tourism: Are the Cinque Terre overcrowded? Let’s get to the less pleasant information, namely the question of whether the Cinque Terre are actually as crowded as you read everywhere. And unfortunately we have to disappoint you. Clear answer: YES!
Millions of tourists visit the Cinque Terre every year. The small villages are like a open-air museum, through which thousands of people crowd. During our visit we couldn’t shake the feeling that we were in the Hallstatt of Italy – and it has to be said that we were there in mid-October and therefore actually in the off-season.
More than the fact that it felt really crowded for us, we were concerned with the question of how it would be for the locals must be that her home has developed into such a hotspot in recent years. Because let’s be honest: what’s a day trip compared to the idea when your home town becomes a victim of overtourism.
What is the best time to travel to the Cinque Terre? Continuing to the previous point: we would definitely recommend you to visit the villages in the Low season to visit. We ourselves were in the Cinque Terre in mid-October and even then there was still a lot going on. If at all, it will probably only become noticeably quieter later in autumn or winter.
Second tip: If possible, visit the Cinque Terre during the week. Especially when the weather is nice, there is a lot going on at the weekend many locals in the Cinque Terre.
Is a day trip enough to see all the villages? Theoretically it is definitely doable to visit all five villages in one day. This is because the villages are really tiny and the travel time between each village is only a few minutes by train. (More tips on transportation to come.)
So if you expect it to take you about two hours each location (sometimes more, sometimes less) then you can do it as part of a day trip definitely visit all five villages.
The question is rather whether you want to do that to yourself. Or whether it is not more pleasant to visit selected villages in a more relaxed manner and perhaps to hike one or the other stage. (The villages are connected by a hiking trail, we’ll get to that.)
What would we personally recommend to our friends? Concentrate on about 3 villages and let them affect you – that’s enough. We recommend: Vernazza, Riomaggiore and at the end of the day trip Manarola. The next chapter contains our specific recommendations. 2. The five villages from north to south Monterosso al Mare The northernmost village of the Cinque Terre is the one with the most important sandy beach in the region. Therefore, sun worshipers in particular are drawn to Monterosso al Mare. In summer, colorful parasols are lined up here and provide a colorful photo motif.
Monterosso al Mare is divided in two, so to speak: On the one hand there is the mentioned beach area (this is also where the train station is located) and on the other hand the historic town center, that you roughly 10 minutes walk reachable from the train station.
If you don’t have a lot of time anyway and don’t plan to sunbathe on the beach, then we would personally advise skipping Monterosso. (Not that it isn’t nice, but the other villages are even nicer.)
Vernazza Vernazza is considered one of the most beautiful villages of the Cinque Terre – if not the most beautiful. And we have to admit: Rightly so! We really liked Vernazza and would rate it as our number two.
You’ll notice pretty quickly that Vernazza is popular when you and your fellow train passengers head from the train station towards the port move. (The right way there is practically impossible to miss.) We also strongly recommend that you make a detour into the small side streets. Unexpectedly, we were all alone there.
Once you arrive at the promenade at the port, a great view of Vernazza awaits you. Be sure to walk forward to the end of the headland for the best panorama.
The famous photo spot from a bird’s eye view is located on the hiking trail towards Monterosso, just a stone’s throw from the center. (Attention: During our visit in October 2021 the hiking trail was closed. You could only go as far as the first one – not yet quite so spectacular – go to the vantage point.)
Two more culinary tips: Please try the pistachio ice cream in the centrally located Gelateria Vernazza . We still dream about it today! If you get hungry, we can recommend the tiny restaurant Pippo a Vernazza. This small fast food shop has pasta, among other things, which you can enjoy on the spot or, alternatively, as a take-away at the harbour. Corniglia The nearest Cinque Terre village to the south is this one , which most people ignore. There is also a reason for this: The center of Corniglia is the only one not directly on the sea and thus at the train station, but high up on a cliff.
To reach the center you have to 377 Steps climb up the stairs called Scalinata Lardarina. Alternatively, a bus will take you to the center.
Compared to many other villages in the Cinque Terre, Corniglia is definitely a little less spectacular. Of course, this also has its advantages, because that’s why the alleys aren’t that crowded. If you want to focus on the highlights of the Cinque Terre, then personally we would rather skip Corniglia.
Manarola Curtain up for our favourites: Manarola. We actually liked it best here and that was also due to the fact that we experienced a fantastic sunset here. Hence our first tip: save Manarola for the sunset – you won’t regret it.
The alleys of Manarola are really pretty, but the most spectacular thing is definitely the panoramic view of Manarola from afar. Unbelievable how the houses are built on the cliffs here. The finest postcard motif!
The sunset and photo point par excellence cannot be missed. It’s right by the legendary eatery Nessun Dorma on the northern promontory, just a few minutes’ walk from the center. At the latest when you see the many photographers with their tripods, you know that you are in the right place.
Our tip: Pick a beer or an Aperol Spritz from a shop in the center and then enjoy it with a view of Manarola. Watching the brightly colored houses bathed in a rich sunset light with a cool drink in hand was definitely our favorite moment of the day.
We also loved the lesser known view of Manarola from the vineyards above. We have marked the photo spot for you on the map further down in this blog article.
Riomaggiore The southernmost village of the Cinque Terre is also quite photogenic. But to be honest, we personally weren’t as impressed by Riomaggiore as we expected. The spark didn’t really fly, but the village is definitely worth seeing.
Coming from the train station, you walk through a tunnel and a few minutes later you are in the middle of the old town. There are several known vantage points, first and foremost those in front of the Café La Conchiglia. From there, stairs lead down to the water, where you also have a great view of the colorful house facades.
Our tip: We also found the view from the end of Via di Loca (after the cemetery) very pretty. Significantly fewer people stray here.
3 . Arrival & local transport in the Cinque Terre Arrival to the Cinque Terre Our master plan for the day trip to the Cinque Terre: Drive to the nearest major city La Spezia, park there and then explore the region by train . And that’s exactly what we would recommend to you.
We were lucky and have one in the parking garage at the train station in La Spezia got a place. The price for a good 8 hours was approximately Euro. Not exactly cheap, but you can get on the train there directly – and boom, a few minutes later you’re already in the first village.
It’s theoretically possible to visit selected villages in the Cinque To reach Terre by car. However, the winding roads take much longer than the train. And we don’t even want to imagine the stress of looking for a parking space. In this respect: Thumbs up for the train!
Transport on site from A to B By train (Cinque Terre Card) All five villages are connected by train. The travel time between the villages is only few minutes and the intervals are about 15 minutes (high season) or approximately 30 minutes (low season or towards evening) very regularly.
The train station is in almost every one of the five villages, just a stone’s throw from the center. So when you take the train, you are always right in the middle of the action.
In order to be able to use the train indefinitely, you need the so-called Cinque Terre Card. (There is also the option of single journeys to buy, but it’s hardly worth it.) You can get the card at any local train station and now also online.
In our opinion, the train is definitely the best, least complicated and, above all, fastest way to get from one village to the next. Clear recommendation!
Price: 29 Euro (1 day), 29 Euro (2 days)Includes: Unlimited travel on trains and buses, use of toilets, access to all footpaths Buy online: Cinque Terre Card (official website)
With the boat From the water you get a whole new perspective of the coast. Between the end of March and the beginning of November you have the opportunity to reach the villages of the Cinque Terre by boat. Only Corniglia does not have a port.
You need a different ticket for the boats than for the trains. Because the journey takes a little longer and the intervals are not that regular, we would rather use the train for a day trip.
On foot Last but not least: A popular variant for exploring the Cinque Terre is a combination of train and hiking trail. All five villages are connected to each other by various hiking trails.
While some paths are more leisurely, there are also more challenging routes. If you want to hike one or more stages, then we definitely recommend suitable footwear.
Important note: Due to mudslides and the associated clean-up and renovation work, almost all stages of the hiking trail were closed during our visit ( October 2021) blocked.
You can find more information about closed sections and suggested routes on the national park’s official website: Hiking in the Cinque Terre National Park
4. Interactive map: All photo spots & tips at a glance Don’t worry if you are overwhelmed by the many villages and different photo spots in the course of your travel planning. We felt the same way. Believe us: Orientation on site is really easy, because the villages are tiny and you will find your way around immediately.
Nevertheless, we have marked all the highlights and photo spots for your day trip on this interactive map. Our tip: Simply click on the rectangle at the top right to open the map on your smartphone in the Google Maps app.
5. Stay in the Cinque Terre The name of our article already reveals that we “only” went to the Cinque Terre for a day trip – more precisely with Lucca as the starting point. We thought that was perfect and we would do it again at any time.
Of course it is also possible to stay overnight in one of the five villages. If you plan to do so, you should – especially in the high season – look for accommodation in good time .
What you should also know: The price level for accommodation in the five villages is high. So be prepared that you will pay more for the standard than elsewhere in Italy.
Option 1: For luxury seekers
If you are looking for a really great boutique hotel in the heart of Manarola (which we think is the most beautiful village), we recommend La Torretta. Everything is just right here, from the service to the view.
Here you can book the hotel: La Torretta
Option 2: Cheaper & comfortable You want central and cosy stay without spending a fortune? Then La Piramide could be something for you. This very nice hotel is also located in the heart of Manarola.
You can book accommodation here: La Piramide
Option 3: Just outside in La Spezia The cheapest you are your turn if you stay just outside the Cinque Terre. La Spezia is ideal here, because from there you can reach the villages of the Cinque Terre in a few minutes by train. The highly recommended La Casa dei Treni is conveniently located around the corner from the train station.
You can book accommodation here: La Casa dei Treni
Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
And now we’re curious: Have you ever gone on a trip taken to the Cinque Terre? Maybe you even spent several days there and have more tips? We look forward to hearing about your experiences!32912