Visiting Cinque Terre Italy: Everything You Need to Know

Cinque Terre Italy is a string of seaside villages located on the Italian Riveria coastline. When visiting Italy we strongly believe a trip to one (or all) of the five Cinque Terre towns should be on everyone’s itinerary. From the centuries old towns and rugged coastline, the views are absolutely stunning from any of the five towns. Keep reading for everything you need to know to start planning a trip to this stunning Italian coastline.

How to Get to La Spezia

Cinque Terre is located 2.5-3 hours North of Florence, Italy. La Spezia is the main city that will provide access to the Cinque Terre towns. Additionally, La Spezia is a great town to stay in for cost effective lodging and easy access to Cinque Terre.

By Car

As we said, you can drive to La Spezia and stay here as your main base. Driving to La Spezia is relatively straight forward, however once in town it can get hectic. Additionally, the hills around La Spezia are difficult to drive around, so we recommend driving here and parking your car for a few days.

By Train

Accessing La Spezia by train, from Florence, is very quick and easy. La Spezia Centrale is the train station you’ll arrive at, from here there are taxi lines to take you to your lodging. If you’re looking for a more budget friendly option, riding the bus is another option.

How to get to Cinque Terre Italy

Now that you’re in La Spezia, how do you get to the actual towns of Cinque Terre? The answer is by train or ferry.

By Train

Getting to Cinque Terre is easy and quick from La Spezia using the Cinque Terre Express. The Cinque Terre Express will take you from La Spezia Centrale and stop in all five of the Cinque Terre towns. The train is quick with the first town taking 15 mins to get to from La Spezia. The train does run on a schedule, so pay attention to this. If you buy the Cinque Terre Card, you will have unlimited access to the train and be able to hike any of the trails between the Cinque Terre towns. For details on train schedules and pricing, visit their website directly.

By Ferry

The other option to get to the Cinque Terre towns is by ferry. The ferry is more costly and a lot slower than using the train, however it’s a great experience. Getting the views of these coastline villages from the water is stunning and we recommend using the ferry at least once if you aren’t crunched for time.

The ferry leaves from a port in La Spezia, usually leaving every hour. The ferry stops in all the Cinque Terre towns except for Corneglia as this town doesn’t have water access. It’s important to remember that this is a seasonal ferry so it runs from end of March to November 1st,  if you visit during the peak season take advantage of this option! For further details, prices and a timetable visit the Cinque Terre website.

It’s important to note that these towns are located along the coastline and are older towns, they are best enjoyed when you’re not driving to each town. So, if you drove into La Spezia we still highly recommend taking the train or ferry out to the Cinque Terre towns.

Scenic view of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre Italy

A women looking out on Manarola, a town in Cinque Terre ItalyA view of small boats in the harbor of Cinque Terre Italy

The 5 Towns of Cinque Terre Italy

Cinque Terre translates to ‘five lands’, which is very appropriate as Cinque Terre is made up of five seaside towns. The towns from North to South are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. Corniglia is the only town without water access, the town is located 100m above sea level on a cliff.

If you are visiting for a day seeing all five towns is unrealistic and you’ll be too rushed to actually enjoy each town. While we recommend spending 2-4 days in the region Cinque Terre can be done as a day trip. If you are visiting for a day trip, we recommend visiting the towns of Manarola and Vernazza. These two towns will offer the best combination of stunning coastal views, great food and cliff jumping.

For the complete breakdown of the five Cinque Terre towns and what to do in each, head over our to guide on the Cinque Terre towns.

A harbor view of Vernazza in Cinque Terre ItalyA women standing in front of a coastline view of Monterosso a town in Cinque Terre Italy

Hiking the Towns of Cinque Terre Italy

A very unique and fun thing about Cinque Terre is that you can hike between each town. With over 120km of hiking trails, there is something for all hiking capabilities. For many of these hike there is a fee of 7.50 euros, we recommend getting the Cinque Terre Card as it will include unlimited hiking and the train all in one.

Riomaggiore to Manarola

Distance: 1.5 km | Hiking level: easy | Hiking fee: yes

Riomaggiore to Manarola is the easiest and shortest of the hiking trails. The hike is called Via dell’Amore or Lover’s Lane. ***this trail is currently closed until July 2024 due to landslide damage**

There is an alternative trail you can hike between these towns. The hike is called ‘Beccara’, it’s 1.5 km and more difficult. This hike is rated as average, however it is steep. We would classify this closer to difficult than average, so be prepared to sweat if you take this hike on!

Manarola to Corniglia

Distance: 3.5 km | Hiking level: moderate | Hiking fee: no

The main hike between Manarola and Corniglia is moderately challenging, largely due to the steep incline. To make the hike less challenging, hike away from Corniglia as there’s less incline. Despite the challenge, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the coastline, the towns and the ancient terraced vineyards.

Corniglia to Vernazza

Distance: 4 km | Hiking level: easy | Hiking fee: yes

This is currently one of the easiest trails between the Cinque Terre towns, with the trail leading you right into the town of Vernazza. As you hike along this trail you will be rewarded with stunning cliffside views and a bar halfway along the hike. Hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza will be the easier route when hiking.

Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare

Distance: 3.5 km | Hiking level: moderate | Hiking fee: yes

The last hike between towns is going between Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. This hike is arguably one of the most popular of the hikes, albeit one of the hardest of the hikes. The trail is called Sentiero Azzurro and is filled with steep inclines, stairs and stunning coastal views. One of the best views of Vernazza is on this trail, just ensure you stay on the trail to get your pictures.

Lastly, you can hike from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare in one day. The trail is called the Blue Trail. To complete the Blue Trail in it’s entirety we recommend making a day of it, the trail is 11km and takes about 5 hours.

A birds eye view of Vernazza a town in Cinque Terre Italy

A overlooking view of Monterosso coastline in Cinque Terre Italy

Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre Italy

  • As with all current travel, these towns are bustling with tourists. I would recommend getting to a town early (before 9am) to best enjoy the views crowd-free.
  • Bring sunscreen and a hat. The sun will be unrelenting when visiting Cinque Terre during the summer. Furthermore, there are minimal shady spots when exploring and eating, so be prepared with adequate sun protection.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle. Throughout the towns of Cinque Terre there are outdoor fountains with drinking water, we found these the best option for water.
  • If you are doing any of the hikes between the Cinque Terre towns we recommend getting an early start. These trails are busy and hot, so the early start will help to combat this. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water!
  • Bring your bathing suit. Every town, with the exception of Corniglia, has water access. The best way to beat the afternoon heat and crowds is to head to the water.

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