Planning to visit Cinque Terre? Make sure you read everything that you need to know before visiting Cinque Terre and follow this Cinque Terre travel guide to make this process easy and fun!
Cinque Terre consists of five wonderful towns located on the coastline of Italy. Together with Genoa and Portofino, Cinque Terre is one of the best places to visit in Liguria and trust me, you don’t want to miss it.
These charming towns are filled with colorful houses, cute streets, and some epic sea views. But to discover Cinque Terre, you need to be prepared.
In this article, you will find everything you need to know before visiting Cinque Terre. When is the best time to visit, how to reach it, how to move around, where to stay, and the best things to do in Cinque Terre? Keep on reading and let’s unlock Cinque Terre together!
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But before we dive in…
The most popular tours in Cinque Terre:
- 🚢 Watch the sunset over Cinque Terre with this small-group boat tour
- 🚌 Explore one of the most charming stretches of coastline in Italy, the Cinque Terre, on this tour
- 🐴 This tour for those who love nature and horses, you will ride admiring the sea and colors of the Cinque Terre
- 🍲 This cooking class will take place in a vineyard overlooking the sea, where participants will learn the history of pesto and will make it using traditional methods
- 🚶 Explore ancient seaside villages along the Italian Riviera’s rugged coastline on this private Cinque Terre trekking tour
What are the 5 towns of Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre translated from Italian means five lands and as you can imagine, it consists of 5 cute and colorful villages. The names of these 5 towns are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
While Monterosso is the best town for families with kids and beach lovers, Corniglia is perfect for those who want to disconnect and do some hiking. Vernazza probably is the most lively town with a lot of local shops and restaurants. Manarola is considered the most picturesque town in Cinque Terre and, if you ask me, Riomaggiore is the most romantic one so perfect for couples.
When is the best time to visit Cinque Terre?
Since I live near Cinque Terre, I have seen it every season, and I can guarantee that you can visit Cinque Terre all year round. However, there are some things to consider and certain advantages & disadvantages in every season.
Summer might seem like a perfect idea, but it gets extremely crowded (and hot!). If you want to hang out by the beach, swim, and don’t mind the crowds, you will love summertime in Cinque Terre. Hiking on the other hand could be a very hard task.
Winter can be chilly and you certainly won’t be able to swim. But if you are flexible with your time, I’m sure you can find a sunny day and enjoy wonderful hikes, see the beautiful towns, and eat the local food. Actually, you might be the only tourist around, so that’s the perfect time to connect with the locals.
I personally think the best time to visit Cinque Terre is late spring or early autumn. That’s when the weather is warm, not so many tourists around and you can still enjoy both of the best worlds – hiking and swimming. But it is up to you to choose the most suitable time for your interests and needs!
How to get to Cinque Terre?
First of all, you have to remember that cars are not allowed in Cinque Terre, so you should forget about car rental.
In case you must arrive in a car, you will have the option to park in Monterosso (quite pricey!) or park in La Spezia and take the train from La Spezia to Cinque Terre. There are multiple trains from many different locations that will take you to Cinque Terre, like Genova or La Spezia.
The closest airport is in Genoa, however, there are not many destinations. Another option is Pisa airport with more international flights, but still very limited. The most common option is one of the Milan airports.
From the airport, you will need to take the bus, the train, or the taxi to Milano Centrale and hop on another train to Cinque Terre. You should check trains to Livorno or La Spezia or make a connection in Genoa.
To find the cheapest flight options from your city, you can use this search form below:
How to move around Cinque Terre?
Now, let’s figure out how to move around! You can’t just walk from one village to another and you can’t use your car rental either, so here are some things to consider.
The easiest way is to use a train. One ride will cost you 5 euros (2023 updated!) and you can buy it directly at the bus station or on the Trenitalia website. Trains are frequent and quick, so it’s certainly a comfortable way to move around.
Another option is to hike. I highly suggest you do the hike, but keep in mind that you will need appropriate shoes! You will need to pay for a hike, but the views that you get from the top are priceless. I highly suggest purchasing Cinque Terre Card if you are planning to hike. Read more about it here.
If you want to splurge, you can rent a boat and use it for moving around. I don’t advise this option. It’s better to rent a boat and spend the entire time on the water, but we will talk about it later.
How many days do you need in Cinque Terre?
I bet you are thinking a day trip is enough, right? Well, I have done a day trip to Cinque Terre and yes, I did see all 5 villages in one day, but I was exhausted and missed out on a lot of fun things to do in Cinque Terre.
It is true that each village is very small and can be walked in a couple of hours, but what about a nice Italian aperitivo? Hike with spectacular views? Sitting down for a glass of local wine? Spending the morning at the beach or catching the sunset from a boat?
It will take you 3-4 days to do it all. Also from my experience, I noticed that tourists start to arrive around 11 am, so wake up a couple of hours before and enjoy some private time in your favorite spots.
Where to find the best photo spots in Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre is famous for its picturesque vibes, colorful streets, and wonderful postcard views. If you are a photographer and you want to find the best places to capture the beauty of Cinque Terre, make sure you read this photo guide and discover the best photo spots in Cinque Terre.
Is it better to stay in Cinque Terre or La Spezia?
I see so many resources suggesting staying in La Spezia in order to save money, but I strongly believe that you should stay in one of the five villages of Cinque Terre instead. And here is why.
First of all, the price difference is not so big between Cinque Terre and La Spezia. Especially if you book in advance and still have options.
Second, you will end up wasting a lot of time inside the train, lines, and commuting between your hotel and the train station. Keep in mind, that hotels near the train station of La Spezia are not affordable either and don’t forget to count the money that you will spend on the train tickets.
Third, there is not much to see in La Spezia. Yes, it is a more livable place compared to Cinque Terre, but it is not a famous destination in Italy.
Last, but not least – there is nothing better than waking up and seeing the sunrise from your apartment in Cinque Terre. Or hanging out after the sunset once all the day trippers leave. Trust me on this one.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre?
I must admit that it is hard to find good accommodation in Cinque Terre as most of the options are outdated and still pricey. I strongly recommend booking your hotel as soon as possible, because last-minute options are very limited. Especially during the peak season. Here is the list of the best hotels in Cinque Terre for any kind of traveler.
Best-rated hotel in Cinque Terre: Stellio Affittacamere – Guest House
Located in the heart of Riomaggiore, this guest house has the best reviews, and for a good reason. It offers nice rooms and modern bathrooms, and the owner is there to help you with any request. Some rooms have a balcony and it is a perfect accommodation for couples.
Best hotel in Cinque Terre with a view and terrace: La Vista di Marina by The First
If you are looking for accommodation with a terrace and fantastic view in Cinque Terre, this has to be your number one choice. It takes some time to climb all the way up, but that is part of the deal when in Cinque Terre. And the view is right there to reward you.
Best hotel in Cinque Terre for families: Locanda Il Maestrale
Monterosso is a great place to base yourself if you are traveling with family and this hotel is the best option available. The rooms are well-maintained and offer some fantastic ceiling decorations. Guests loved their breakfast options as well!
Best affordable hotel in Cinque Terre: B&B Da Beppe
And if you are on a budget, you can’t miss B&B Da Beppe. Tucked away in the least popular village Corniglia, it is a perfect stop to relax after a long day in Cinque Terre. The price doesn’t get better than this and you still get great value for your money.
Best things to do in Cinque Terre
Wake up for sunrise in Cinque Terre and see the town before the crowds arrive
Cinque Terre can get very busy, especially during summer. Considering how small it is, it is hard to enjoy it when you see lines and crowds everywhere.
My advice to you? Make sure you spend at least one night in one of the villages. Riomaggiore was my personal preference, but it is up to you to decide where to stay in Cinque Terre. Most of the visitors come for a day trip so before they arrive, you will find the real magic of Cinque Terre.
Plus, if you get an apartment or hotel room with a balcony, you can enjoy a nice lunch at home.
Taste the Trofie al Pesto at La Torre with the best view of Vernazza
Did you know that real pesto comes from Liguria? Region of Cinque Terre? This means that you can’t leave without tasting it. Pesto is commonly used on pasta, traditionally with trofie or trenette. Potatoes and string beans are also traditionally added to the dish, boiled in the same pot in which the pasta has been cooked. It is a dish that you can find anywhere in the world, but after you try the Ligurian version, you won’t be able to eat it anywhere else.
I have tried pesto all around Liguria and La Torre restaurant in Cinque Terre is high on my favorites. It is hands down one of the best Cinque Terre restaurants with a view.
While back in the time I found it completely empty and had the best table all to myself, in 2023 it has gained a lot of popularity and it requires a reservation. Just another proof that they know how to keep the customers happy.
To arrive at the restaurant, you need to take a little hike from Vernazza. It takes around 15 minutes of steep stairs from the old town, but the views are very rewarding all the way to the top. And this means that you can have an extra starter or a dessert after your meal, right?
Climb up to Corniglia and discover the old and tiny streets of the least popular town
Corniglia is located on the sea, however, on the top of the cliff. So once you arrive by train, you still need to climb all the way up to see Corniglia. The alternative is to take a minibus. But trust me, this is going to be very rewarding.
On top of that, it is a very easy hike and it is completely free (unlike other hikes in Cinque Terre). Then on the way back, you can take a minibus from the main square of Corniglia if you are feeling tired. It is a must do in Cinque Terre and yet so many day-trippers miss it.
Enjoy the aperitivo at Nessun Dorma
Nessun Dorma is another great Cinque Terre restaurant with a view that you should add to your Cinque Terre itinerary. If you want to go out for drinks and enjoy some of the best aperitivo, you don’t want to miss it.
It is a hot spot for travelers, so get ready for a crowd. But to save time, they have created the Nessun Dorma app that you need to download and join the virtual waiting queue. Once you see less than 10 people in front of you, head to the entrance and wait for them to call your name.
I have to say that I didn’t have the chance to try it myself, but I noticed that they offer pesto-making classes before opening at midday. I was nearby around that time and it looked like a lot of fun. Click here for more information.
Swim in the Mediterranean sea at Monterosso al Mare
Unlike other places in Liguria, Monterosso al Mare offers a long white stone beach, so this is a perfect place if you want to relax on the beach and get a tan. You can choose a spot with an umbrella or just bring your own towel and use the public part of the beach.
I must admit, it is hard to find a spot in summer, especially if you want to stay comfortable under the umbrella, so come early or book in advance. Since you are there, you can enjoy local restaurants and see some boutiques.
If you are wondering where to swim in Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare is the place to be.Get the Sunset Boat Tour from Monterosso al Mare here
Hike between villages and soak up the views
I know that a lot of people visit Cinque Terre to hike and maybe you are one of them. If not, you should be. I am not an experienced hiker, but this is one of the best things to do in Cinque Terre and I didn’t want to miss it.
The entire trail is 11 kilometers long and takes around 6 hours. If you are looking for the shortest hike, take the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola (closed until 2024!).
Corniglia to Vernazza should be your number one choice if you want to challenge yourself. But my personal favorite is the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso because Vernazza from the top is absolutely fantastic.
These hiking trails require a ticket, but there are so many options that I suggest you check this website for detailed information.
Try local goodies – street food, pastries, wine, and gelato
Liguria is famous for focaccia, farinata, and fried seafood. Luckily, Cinque Terre is not an expectation and you can find it in every village. Taste it right outside the pastry shop or make your own lunch on your private balcony.
You will find local wine in every restaurant and shop. Locals are very proud of their products, so support their businesses and give them a try.
You can also find pretty bottles of paintings of Cinque Terre that can be a great souvenir to bring back home. Or if you are someone like me and you are very passionate about wine, don’t miss this wine tasting experience in Cinque Terre.
When it comes to Gelato, there is a place in Vernazza that has been open since 1968. In Italy, this is a sign of good products when a place is open for so long; this time, it did not disappoint. Approved by Italians if you don’t trust my judgment! It is called Stalin.
Rent a boat and see the sunset over Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is beautiful and there is no doubt about that, but have you seen it from the boat? Because it gets even better from there. You can find many boat rentals on the bay of Vernazza or Riomaggiore or you can just look it up on Airbnb.
I personally had a wonderful experience with Jennifer and her partner. Our captain was raised in Cinque Terre, so he knows it inside out and gave us a lot of cool recommendations. Sunset is a perfect time to take a boat trip and end your day in Cinque Terre with an epic view. You won’t regret it!
Further reading for Liguria
Or read about other popular regions of Italy
Cinque Terre is a truly magical place but you need to be prepared in order to enjoy it to the maximum and really explore the place. I believe this Cinque Terre travel guide will help you with planning and make your trip unforgettable.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.