How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre

Wondering how to spend one day in Cinque Terre? You are in the right place because I have prepared a detailed Cinque Terre itinerary for one day with a lot of useful travel tips.

Cinque Terre, a string of five charming villages along Italy’s rugged Ligurian coast, is known for its pastel-colored houses perched on cliffs, terraced vineyards, and breathtaking coastal views.

Each village – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare – has its character and charm, offering an insight into the traditional Italian way of life. 

Visiting Cinque Terre in one day can be a challenge. However, with careful planning, it is possible to enjoy the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage site and get a taste of what makes Cinque Terre so special.

This itinerary will help you make the most of one day in Cinque Terre and see the best of Cinque Terre. And you will find additional tips that will help you save some precious time when visiting Cinque Terre.

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Quick tips to see the best of Cinque Terre in one day

Skip the hiking trails

How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre
Monterosso – Vernazza hiking trail

Unless you are an experienced hiker, you will want to skip the hiking trails in Cinque Terre. These hikes will exhaust you and steal precious time from your one-day Cinque Terre itinerary. Other hiking trails in Liguria offer fantastic views without crowds pushing you forward.

If you absolutely must hike during your one day in Cinque Terre, I recommend picking only one trail. Vernazza – Corniglia is a relatively easy hike that takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

In this one-day Cinque Terre itinerary you will find an amazing viewpoint that is located right before the official hiking trail, which means that you can visit it for free and still see postcard views from the top with less effort.

At the end of the article, you will find an alternative itinerary that includes a hike from Vernazza to Corniglia if you decide to hike after all.

Focus on 3-4 villages

How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre

Can you visit all 5 villages of Cinque Terre in one day? Absolutely! Will enjoy it? I doubt it. The truth is, it is better to focus on 3 or a maximum of 4 villages to make it an unforgettable day rather than running around.

Now, you might be wondering how to narrow it down. Let me start by saying that Monterosso al Mare is known for its iconic beach, however, during one day in Cinque Terre, you won’t have the time to leisurely lay by the beach, so you can easily skip it.

I have to say that Corniglia is one of the least popular villages because there is no train station located in the village. This means that you have to get off the train and take another bus or stairs that lead up to Corniglia.

And while I absolutely adore Corniglia, I would keep it for another time only because it takes such a long time to get there. Keep in mind that during the high season bus is packed and you might be waiting in line for hours.

I would say that Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are a must. If you still have time and energy, I would recommend hiking from Vernazza to Corniglia, but you can easily skip Monterosso al Mare and explore better beaches in Liguria.

My experience in Cinque Terre

When I first visited Cinque Terre, I managed to visit all the villages, but it was an exhausting day and I wouldn’t do it again. My day was filled with beautiful postcard views but I can’t say that I had a great time. 

This was also back in 2016 during shoulder season when overtourism was not a big issue. Nowadays, it is much harder to navigate Cinque Terre when there are so many people visiting villages every day.

Use Cinque Terre ferry boat to move between towns

How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre

While the towns are small and located within a small distance from each other, you will lose a lot of time in commute, especially if you are visiting during peak season.

Most people use the train to move between villages and visiting Cinque Terre by car is not the most convenient way to explore the towns. This means that trains are always packed and you can barely jump on.

On top of that, organization at the Cinque Terre stations is horrible and most trains end up delayed. It gets even worse later in the afternoon and it sucks a lot of your energy as you try to navigate through it.

So my recommendation is to use a ferry boat instead. Ferry boats run from the end of March until the beginning of November and it is a great way to enjoy fantastic views from the water. You can find all the information about ferry boats here.

Stay in Cinque Terre for a night

How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre

Even if you can only squeeze one day in Cinque Terre in your Italy itinerary, please try to spend a night in Cinque Terre. And not even La Spezia or other nearby towns, but actually in Cinque Terre. I am sure you will thank me later for this.

There is nothing better than seeing the sunset in Cinque Terre or waking up early to explore it before all the day trippers arrive. When I first spent a night in Cinque Terre, I saw a completely different side of it and completely fell in love.

Need a place to stay in Cinque Terre? Here are my top picks: 

One day Cinque Terre itinerary

  • Arrive in Riomaggiore
  • Take the photo of Riomaggiore from the rocks
  • Take a boat or train to Manarola
  • Pesto-making class and lunch in Manarola
  • Take a boat or train to Vernazza
  • Afternoon stroll and gelato in Vernazza
  • Dinner: Ristorante La Torre

Arrive in Riomaggiore

One day Cinque Terre itinerary

Most tourists arrive in Cinque Terre around 9-10 am. If you wake up early and you are staying in Cinque Terre or La Spezia, you have an opportunity to see at least one of the towns without crowds before 9 am.

Click here to read everything about train tickets and prices. Also, make sure you always validate your ticket at the train station before you jump on the train. This is the most common tourist mistake in Cinque Terre.

Take the photo of Riomaggiore from the rocks

One day Cinque Terre itinerary
One day Cinque Terre itinerary

Riomaggiore is the southernmost village in Cinque Terre. Its dramatic coastal cliffs and colorful, stacked houses make it a stunning sight.

The main street, Via Colombo, runs through the village and is lined with restaurants, cafes, and shops. It leads down to the small beach and a marina, where you can see old fishing boats.

I recommend heading to Via San Giacomo as a first thing. You can use La Conchiglia as your final destination. Once you take the stairs from the marina, you will find the most popular viewpoints with fantastic picturesque views of Riomaggiore.

But don’t just end there! Pass the viewpoint until you reach little stairs that take you to the rocks of Riomaggiore. You don’t need to walk all the way until the end and you get a fantastic sight on your right side from the stairs.

Once you soak up all the views and enjoy the waterfront of Riomaggiore, head back to the train stations or boat harbor and head to your next destination.

—> If you love photography, make sure you save the best photo spots in Cinque Terre.

Pesto-making class and lunch in Manarola

One Day in Cinque Terre
One day Cinque Terre itinerary

Manarola, one of the oldest and most picturesque villages in the Cinque Terre region, is a true gem on the Italian Riviera. Just like Riomaggiore, Manarola hosts a small marina with a few boats and a picturesque waterfront.

Unless you are visiting Cinque Terre on a Tuesday, I highly recommend a pesto-making class with lunch at Nessun Dorma. This is the most popular bar in Cinque Terre and it attracts thousands of visitors every day.

This cooking class gives you access to Nessun Dorma before opening time, which is a great bonus. The price per person is 80 euros, but it includes lunch (burrata, parma ham, our bruschetta) or vegetarian/vegan options), white wine from Cinque Terre, and more.

In case you don’t want to join the class, I still recommend visiting Nessun Dorma for food and drinks. Or use it as your final point in Manarola, because the path offers the most fantastic views.

Affordable lunch alternative: Poke Manarola.

If you are looking for a little escape from the crowds, head to Chiesa di San Lorenzo and Torre Campanaria. Nearby you will find La Regina di Manarola, which is one of the prettiest restaurants in the area and they serve amazing pizza, but prices are pretty steep.

Afternoon stroll in Vernazza

One day Cinque Terre itinerary
One day Cinque Terre itinerary

The fishermen’s town of Vernazza is characterized by its medieval castle and tower, which the Republic of Genova built to protect the villages from the pirates. Another important sight in the town is the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia with its iconic yellow bell tower.

Once in Vernazza, walk the central Via Roma to get to the port and the small beach. I am sure you will enjoy the fantastic views of Port of Vernazza and the Church of St. Margaret of Antioch.

Next, I recommend you visit Castello Doria and for 2 euros (cash only) you get to access Doria Tower which offers beautiful sea views.

I am pretty sure you will enjoy Via Ettore Vernazza, which leads to the hiking trail. This street features typical Ligurian houses with pastel tones and green wood shutters.

Dinner: Ristorante La Torre

How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre
View from the trail to Ristorante La Torre
One day Cinque Terre itinerary
One day Cinque Terre itinerary

After a little time to relax, it’s time to enjoy dinner and a sunset with an incredible view of Ristorante La Torre. To get to the restaurant, you will need to climb for around 15 minutes. The climb will give you a privileged and unique view of the Castle and the sea.

The restaurant is located on the hiking trail from Vernazza to Corniglia, however, it is accessible for free and the ticket booth is located a few steps after La Torre.

We already discussed that pesto is the Ligurian green gold and La Torre restaurant in Vernazza is high on my favorites. However, if you are fine with pesto, you will simply love their seafood. I recommend in particular to try the anchovies, another pride for Ligurian cuisine.

When I first visited Ristorante La Torre, there were not many tourists around and the owner was there to make sure everyone was satisfied. In the past years, the restaurant has gained a lot of popularity and it requires a reservation if you want a table with a view.

But that is just another proof that they know how to keep their customers happy.

Alternative one-day Cinque Terre itinerary if you want to hike

  • Arrive in Vernazza early in the morning and explore the town
  • Take the hiking trail from Vernazza to Corniglia
  • Lunch in Corniglia: Terza Terra, Marina di Corniglia Bar or Andrea’s Corniglia
  • Walk down to the train station and board the train to Manarola
  • Explore Manarola (optional gelato stop)
  • Take the train to Riomaggiore
  • See the sunset from the rocks of Riomaggiore
  • Dinner: Osteria La Torpedine
  • Or takeaway: Il Pescato Cucinato (fried seafood), BRITTA (vegan), Rio Pizza Point (pizza al taglio).

In conclusion…

How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre

This is the end of your one-day Cinque Terre itinerary and I am sure these tips will help you have a fantastic time in Cinque Terre.

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.

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How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre
How to Make the Most of One Day in Cinque Terre

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