Cinque Terre is the collection of five charming villages built into the hills of the Italian Riviera. Walking through it is like walking in the middle of a postcard. The region is known for its colorful buildings and beautiful beaches, and is even protected as a national park. It’s not difficult to see why Cinque Terre has become one of the most popular destinations in Italy. But how do you experience Cinque Terre, especially if you only have one day to visit?
Here’s your guide to seeing Cinque Terre in one day.
When to Visit
In the warmer months, you’ll be able to swim, enjoy the beaches, and the activity on the coast. Whereas in colder months, you’ll avoid crowds, have lots of room to hike the trails, and enjoy local life in the villages.
The first time I went to Cinque Terre, it was a rainy day in February.
- Pros: I loved being able to walk around at leisure, and experience the villages outside of their tourist season. The hiking trails along the coast were still beautiful.
- Cons: However, being the dead of winter, not very many places were open.
The second time in Cinque Terre was early April.
- Pros: The weather was beautiful; people were swimming and lounging on the beaches. All of the restaurants and shops are also open.
- Cons: But the crowds were no joke. The hiking trails were just starting to get busy, and the tiny villages started feeling pretty congested.
So…when should you go?
If you’re interested in swimming, visit from May-September when the weather is warmer. But if you’re more interested in hiking, I recommend going in either early spring or mid-fall, to avoid most of the summertime crowds.
How to Get There
The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. Take a train to Levanto or La Spezia. (From Milan, the trip will be around 2.5 hours. From Florence, closer to 3 hours). Then, transfer onto the Cinque Terre regional train. This second train trip will take about 15 minutes to reach the first village.
Cinque Terre contains five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The best ways to travel between the villages is to hike or take the train.
You can’t miss going on at least one hike while you’re in Cinque Terre. There are trails all around the region, but the most famous are the “blue trails” that run between each village. To go on the blue trails, you’ll need to purchase a Cinque Terre card at any of the train stations (unless you go off-season like I did!)
Note the trails that are open before you go. Due to severe weather damage, some of the blue trails have been closed indefinitely. Currently, the only blue trails that are open are between Monterosso and Vernazza, and the long trail from Manarola to Corniglia.
The train is the easiest and fastest way to travel between villages. It’s the same train that you took to get from La Spezia or Levanto to the five villages. You can buy a Cinque Terre train card to give you unlimited access all day, or just buy individual tickets as you go.
Note: Even though the trips between villages only take about 5 minutes, don’t try to get away with hopping on without a ticket. The train staff are vigilant and you will get fined if you’re caught without a valid ticket.
Eating in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre does not lack good restaurants. Plus, everything tastes better in a place as beautiful as this. Check out this list of some of the best restaurants in all five villages.
Like every region of Italy, Liguria has its own local cuisine and specialties. Here are some things you need to try:
- Torta di verdure
- Sciachetrà or other local wines
One Day Itinerary
- Take an early train to La Spezia. Hop on a train to Monterosso, the northernmost village.
- Start your morning in Monterosso with a walk up into the hills to the Church of San Francesco, or into the village center.
- Hike about 1.5 hours from Monterosso to Vernazza. Get your first “postcard” view of Cinque Terre, then continue through the town and up to Bar la Torre for a great lunch with incredible coastal views.
- Take a train from Vernazza to Corniglia, which is nestled higher into the hills. This village is the smallest and the most quaint. Have an espresso or glass of local wine at KMO café on Via N. Fieschi before heading on.
- If you want beach time in Cinque Terre, now I would hop on the train again and go past Manarola to Riomaggiore. From the railway station in Riomaggiore, follow the signs pointing to “marina” which will lead you to the rocky, clear water beach.
- When you’re done in Riomaggiore, circle back by train to Manarola for dinner. Some of the most popular restaurants here are Nessun Dorma, Trattoria dal Billy, and Ristorante Il Porticciolo.
- Board the train in Manarola, get back to La Spezia or Levanto, then take the next train to your home base.
Have questions about this post, or suggestions from your own trip? Leave a comment below!
While you’re planning your trip to Cinque Terre, here’s what you need to know about Italy.
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