Cinque Terre (Italy) Travel Guide
Cinque Terre (translates to "Five Lands") comprises five small towns on the western coast of Italy in the region of Liguria, just above Tuscany. Situated within a national park, it is one of the most popular tourist spots from the Mediterranean Sea.
How long to stay?
While many people visit Cinque Terre from Florence as a day trip, I think these charming towns deserve a longer and slower visit. If you really really fully absorb this area, so I would suggest staying for three nights.
Best time to go?
The busiest time starts after Easter and lasts all the way to October. The peak is from May to August, as it is dry and sunny. Be warned, it does get very crowded in those months. So book your accommodation early (about three months in advance) and get up early if you want to avoid seeing the other tourists.
How to get there?
Arriving from abroad, the closest large airport is Pisa International Airport (PSA). After you landed in Pisa, there will be a Train Information Office window near the Arrivals Hall of the airport. From there, you can purchase your tickets to La Spezia. You can also buy it online on Trenitalia.com. Use the English version site to see specific train schedule, prices, and departure/arrival times.
Arriving from Pisa Airport: From Pisa Airport, go to Pisa Centrale station and take a train to La Spezia Centrale. This train may be “regionale,” (no reserved seating), or “Intercity” or “Frecciabianca” (with reserved seating). Transfer at La Spezia station for the Cinque Terre Express.
There are many cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean, dock at La Spezia on their routes. So you can either join an excursion tour or get off the ship, take a taxi to La Spezia's train station, then get on the Cinque Terre Express.
• Once in Italy, the train is the best way to reach Cinque Terre. There’s a local train, the Cinque Terre Express, which runs along the coast between the stations of La Spezia Centrale and Levanto. It stops at all five towns (Monterosso, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore), and you’ll need to take it to move between them once you’re in the area.
Arriving from Florence or Rome: There are a few direct trains per day from Firenze Santa Maria Novella station to La Spezia Centrale; others require you to change trains in Pisa. At La Spezia, change for the Cinque Terre Express.
• Cars are discouraged in the Cinque Terre, so if you are driving, park in La Spezia or Levanto, and then take the Cinque Terre Express train into the park area. There are small and expensive parking lots at the top of each village. Some hotels have parking available, so be sure to ask before arriving at your accommodation.
• In the summer (March through October), there are daily ferry connectionstoCinque Terre from La Spezia, Lerici, Levanto, and Portovenere, though they’re suspended in bad weather.
How to get around?
• Take the Cinque Terre Express, described above.
• A new mini-bus service called Explora5Terre offers service between all the towns. This is a hop-on, hop-off formula with panoramic views, air conditioning, and an audio-guide aimed at individual travelers. Two tickets available (tickets can be purchased at Cinque Terre National Park Visitor Centers): “Explora Daily” at a price of 22,00€ and “Explora plus” at a price of 26,00€ (in combination with the Cinque Terre Trekking Card). Both tickets allow an unlimited number of rides all over the network. The “plus formula” could have another discount for tourists staying in accommodations located in the municipalities of Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso.
• There are tourist ferries with a hop-on, hop-off services. Day passes cost €30, with discounts for children.
• The traditional way to move between towns is by foot. I recommend hiking the Cinque Terre in April, May, September or October. That’s when temperatures are milder, so it’s much more comfortable. These months also attract fewer tourists; at the peak of summer, the narrower sections of trail #2, in particular, can get extremely crowded.
The most famous network of hiking trails in the Cinque Terre: Trail #2, or Sentiero Azzurro or “Blue Trail”, which is made up of four individual paths along the coast. The admission to Trail #2 usually requires the purchase of the Cinque Terre card (5-7 euro/day for trail and museum access, or 10 euro/day for trail, museum and unlimited train access). You can walk the entire route in about six hours, if you take short breaks—although many hikers prefer to spread the route out over a few days at a strolling pace, stopping to enjoy the towns along the way.
You can start from either direction (Monterosso, heading south, or Riomaggiore, heading north). But here’s a tip: Start from Riomaggiore, where the paths are easier and paved, and work your way up to the more challenging trails. That way, you can stop at any time… and head to the nearest train station when you get tired.
Where to stay?
Since the five villages are very close to each other, so there’s no need to stay in a different one every night. Just choose one town as the base, and visit the others by train or foot. Most lodging options in Cinque Terre are privately run B&Bs or apartment/room rentals, and few hotels. If you do decide to stay, make sure you start your search early and check for availability.
Porto Roca: one of the only in Cinque Terre with a pool and room service.
La Cabana: located above the village, is one of the most scenic locations in the entire area which has rooms that are elegant down to the last detail.
La Malà’: It has bright, breezy rooms are fresh and modern, and the service is impeccable. If L’Eremo sul Mare, or the Hermitage Over the Sea: You need a bit a hike to get there. It is a perfect retreat away from the crowds and has a huge terrace with sea view.
Corte del Gallo: a charming little B&B far from the hubbub of the high season.
L’Agave: like having a little villa all to yourself, as it’s tucked away amid narrow laneways and offers a private rooftop terrace.
La Torretta Lodge: one of Manarola’s classiest acts—take advantage of their happy hour if you want to meet other guests.
B&B Da Baranin: a cozy inn run by two sisters who bend over backward to make your stay memorable.
I Limoni di Thule: has a spectacular sea view through a garden of fruit trees and flowers.
What to Eat
The best spot for seafood in Riomaggiore is Il Pescato Cucinato (via Colombo, 199). The owner Edo was the area’s fishmonger, peddling his morning catch on via Colombo every Monday, so his stuff is the freshest.
Trattoria Da Billy in Manarola is one of those places you can only find if you know where to look. Way up at the top of town and hidden on a little laneway, it’s considered one of the best restaurants in the Cinque Terre. The view there is breathtaking.
Nessun Dorma, Manarola for the most stunning views, cheese plates, and the best bruschetta,
Alberto Gelateria (via Fieschi, 74) in Corniglia’s has the best gelato in Cinque Terre.
The best breakfast spot in Vernazza is Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, hidden at the back way past the train station. They serve it up Italian-style, meaning delicious fresh pastries and coffee. And you must try their famous cannoli.
Da Eraldo, Monterosso for the best antipasti.
Trattoria Da Oscar (via Vittorio Emanuele, 67), is where the locals go when they want to eat anchovies.
Lunch Box, Vernazza has a great selection of vegetarian dishes and huge fresh smoothies.
What to do?
Hiking: See above.
Water Sports: Scuba diving and snorkeling in Riomaggiore, paragliding in Monterosso, and kayaking in Vernazza.
Boat Tour: Cinqueterre Boat Tour takes you to the best secret spots for a swim( lunch and drinks provided).