Rising from the Mediterranean Sea, in the seductive corner of the Italian Riviera, lie the Cinque Terre, a string of colorful seaside villages at the foot of terraced hills that brim with a remote authenticity, a delicate ruggedness, and an enchanting appeal. Cinque Terre is an iconic tourist destination in Italy, and it’s one of those postcard-perfect towns, with dramatic scenery, seaside villages, candy-colored houses, and cliffs that overlook the Ligurian sea.
No mater the type of traveler you are, the foodie, the backpacker, the adventurer, or the beach lover – Cinque Terre will blow your mind. The image of the multicolored houses nestled into cliffs, the pristine blue waters and the wonderful hikes will leave you a satisfied traveler. If you’re traveling around Italy, or around Europe, you’ll be able to relish the feeling of escaping the hustle and bustle of the cities and alternating that with breathtaking scenery, cheap food, fun activities, and an array of activities like kayaking, boat rides, swimming, and sunbathing.
Spending one day in Cinque Terre is very doable, even though it’s worth staying a lot more there to really take in the beauty, a one-day trip to Cinque Terre will still give you quite a general gist of the villages. There are no traditional museums, churches, palaces or plazas; it’s all about natural attractions, olive groves, vineyards, and exquisite views.
So here’s how to spend one day in Cinque Terre!
One day in Cinque Terre itinerary
How To Get to Cinque Terre
Before planning how you’re going to go to Cinque Terre, it’s important to know that joining a day group tour from any of the cities in Italy would relieve you from the stress of booking plane tickets, changing train stations, or finding the right boats. There are dozens of tour options all over Italy, and they mostly operate by bus, they offer faster transportation, and you’ll be able to get more free time to explore if you’re on a tight schedule.
Here are some popular one day tours to Cinque Terre:
If you are looking for a shore excursion from Livorno:
Getting to Cinque Terre by train is the most convenient of all the different means of transportation. You’ll also get to enjoy unparalleled views of the Ligurian landscape.
The fastest trains are usually Eurostar, Intercity or Direct.
You can buy a local train ticket from Florence to Cinque Terre that will take you to Pisa and then La Spezia (and then you have to switch there to get to one of the five villages) or one that will take you directly to La Spezia. It will take you three hours from Florence.
From Genoa, Rome, and Milan
You can also take the local trains from there directly to La Spezia
From La Spezia to the Cinque Terre Villages
The five Cinque Terre villages are all connected, and the train stops from La Spezia are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso, and Levanto. They’re all 5 to 10 minutes away from each other. It takes about 15 minutes to get from La Spezia to Riomaggiore.
From Milan to Cinque Terre – 3 hours (from Milano Centrale to Monterosso and costs about 30 euros)
From Rome to Cinque Terre – 4.5 hours
From Pisa to Cinque Terre – 2 hours
From Florence to Cinque Terre –3 hours
From Genoa – 1 hour 32 minutes, and costs from 6 to 26 euros.
From La Spezia to Cinque Terre – 15-30 minutes.
You can also get there by plane, and the two nearest airports are the international airport Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa or Galileo Galilei in Pisa and then take a train from there.
For a more dramatic entrance, you can take the train to La Spezia and then take a boat to Cinque Terre.
How to get around the Cinque Terre:
The easiest way to get around Cinque Terre is without a doubt by train, and each station is only 5 to 10 minutes away from each other, making it very convenient and fast.
The trains run in each direction 1 to 2 times per hour.
Purchase the Cinque Terre Train Card, which will cost you about 13 euros, but will offer you unlimited train rides. This is the perfect option if you’re going to spend one day in Cinque Terre.
One-way fares are 4 euros each way.
Be careful of pickpockets inside the trains. They are everywhere.
You can hop on the local ferry and get to see the towns from the ocean while immersing yourself in the beautiful views around you as you watch the mountains and the waves interlock together.
You can get:
An all-day pass: 25 euros.
If you just want a quick boat ride, it will cost you about 5 euros.
The best way to take in all of Cinque Terre’s beauty is through hiking the trails! You can get a €1.80 ticket that will let you pass from village to village or get the Cinque Terre Trekking Pass which costs 12 euros for one day and will allow you unlimited train journeys and access to all walking trails. Some trails are still closed from the floods of 2011.
The villages of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is basically made of five villages that are perched in rocky coves, hidden in dramatic cliffs with terraced vineyards, and plenty of scenic views. You should know by now that going to Cinque Terre will not satisfy you fully if you’re looking for sights or monuments, it’s more of a slow-paced vacations where you get a chance to take in the views, appreciate the beauty, sip on some wine and eat fresh seafood by the sea with the backdrop of cliffs in the distance. You go to Cinque Terre to sunbathe, to swim, rent a kayak, snorkel, cliff-dive, and explore the coast, you can even hike the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso which is considered one of the best hikes in Italy.
If you’re going to spend one day in Cinque Terre, the top three villages you should visit are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, and Riomaggiore. The other two, Manarola and Corniglia, are equally as beautiful but should not be your priority if you’re tight on time.
If you’re arriving by train from La Spezia, this is the first village you’ll stop by. A beautiful village with tightly packed buildings that sit atop the bluest, most vivid waters you will ever see. You’ll also find that Riomaggiore has a livelier nightlife than most of the other villages if you’re in the mood for some partying. Riomaggiore has one street, a harbor, its beach and a few other attractions you should check out.
Walking around Riomaggiore and getting lost in its steeped cliffs is the perfect way to spend your time there as you walk through the terraced grapevines and enjoy the views.
The Church of San Giovanni Battista – This church was constructed in the 14th century and boasts gorgeous Gothic architecture, the wooden crucifix of Margliano, and the “Baptist’s Preaching.”
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Montenero- The official building here dates back to the 8th century and has gorgeous panoramic views all the way back to Monterosso.
The Castle – You can also get great views from the castle. The interesting thing about this castle as this it was first used a protection fort, then a cemetery and then an educational center now.
This is the most photogenic, picturesque and beautiful of all the villages. It is even deemed as one of the most beautiful towns in all of Italy, but it’s also the most overrun by tourists. You’ll find a natural port, one main street from the train to the harbor, a castle, and a Piazza Marconi. Back then, it was the wealthiest of all five villages due to its harbor.
The Caruggi – Those are the narrow lanes with stairs, terraces, little houses and beautiful views of the blue sea.
The Castello- Go to the watch tower and enjoy the views of the city.
Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia – A beautiful church that stands majestically in the middle of the village.
The two beaches in Vernazza.
Monterosso al Mare
This is the biggest of all five villages and one of the most visited due to its long seaside promenade and huge sandy beaches. The city itself is divided into the Old Town and the New Town. On one side you will side the Old Town called Centro Storico, and the New Town called the Fegina separated by the medieval Torre Aurora.
In the new town, you will find hotels, and high-quality restaurants while the Old Town is the more picturesque medieval part of town. Monterosso is also the flattest of the five towns making it very accessible (and packed with tourists), and also making it a great option for you if you have any mobility issues.
Another thing about Monterosso Al Mare is that it is usually the starting point for hikers who want to start exploring Cinque Terre by foot.
The “Giant Structure” – The statue of Neptune emerging from the stone is considered a symbol of Monterosso right now.
Covento di Monterosso al Mare – A convent that is visible from all parts of the village.
San Francesco Church – It was built in the 17th century, and it has important paintings by Van Dyck, and you should check out the St Francis and the Wolf statue which will reward you with magnificent views of the villages.
The beaches – The beaches of Monterosso Al Mare are considered the loveliest in all of Cinque Terre thanks to their long stretches of sand.
The Church of San Giovanni Battista – A church with a beautiful façade made from marble, a medieval bell tower, and a watchtower.
Spending one day in Cinque Terre can be quite hectic, and you will need time to fully take in the different villages. If you still have some time, head over to Manarola. There is a small harbor, picturesque parts where you can take beautiful pictures, colorful houses, and the city is considered the most “romantic” of them all. If you hike from Riomaggiore to Manarola, you’ll be met with vineyards and wine trails and the best sunset views you will ever encounter in your entire life. Manarola is all about its cozy cobbled streets, its cozy trails, and its Sciacchetrá, its known sweet dessert wine. Also make sure to check out the Natività di Maria Vergine, the bell tower, and the watch-tower.
Tip: There are no beaches in Manarola, there are only rocky “beaches” where people go to sunbathe or cliff dive.
Also if you want to take the perfect photo of Manarola get there in the afternoon during the summer months to have the sun on the back.
Corniglia is the only town that can’t be reached by boat and doesn’t have a harbor. You also have to get up the 365 steps to reach the center of the town, and for these reasons, you’ll find it’s the most relaxed of all the cities since it is the least accessible position. There is a bus that goes from the train station to town and its free with the Cinque Terre Train Card.
The Church of San Giovanni Battista
The Guardiola Tower
The Centre for Environmental Education and Naturalistic Observation
By spending one day in Cinque Terre, you will be able to see the most important attractions, take the postcard worthy pictures that you’ve always dreamed of, sip on wine, and hike the trails. The villages are close to each other if you take the train, and you’ll be able to enjoy the dramatic scenery and the laidback lifestyle that Cinque Terre has to offer you in just one day.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means that should you click on certain links, and then subsequently purchase a product, I will receive a small commission. It costs nothing extra to you but helps keep my site running. Thank you for supporting me in this way.