One day in Cinque Terre, what to do and see

Vernazza -Cinque Terre in a day
Vernazza

This post is also available in: French

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

Vernazza from above
Vernazza from above

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:

From Florence:

Cinque Terre: Full-Day Train & Boat Tour from Florence

From Milan:

Cinque Terre Day Tour from Milan

From Pisa:

Cinque Terre Small Group Tour by Minivan from Pisa

From Lucca:

Cinque Terre Small Group by Minivan from Lucca

If you are looking for a shore excursion from Livorno:

Cinque Terre by Minivan Shore Excursion from Livorno

Train:

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.

From Florence

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

Manarola - Cinque Terre in a day
Manarola

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.

Approximate times:

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.

Plane:

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.

Boat:

For a more dramatic entrance, you can take the train to La Spezia and then take a boat to Cinque Terre.

Vernazza - One day in Cinque Terre
Vernazza

How to get around the Cinque Terre:

Train

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.

Tips:

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.

Boat

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.

Riomaggiore - One day in Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore

Hiking

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.

One day in Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore

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.

Riomaggiore -One day in Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore - One day in Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore

Top attractions:

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.

Vernazza

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.

Vernazza - One day in Cinque Terre
Vernazza

Cinque Terre in a day

Top attractions:

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.

Monterosso al Mare - One day in Cinque Terre
Monterosso al Mare

Top attractions:

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.

Manarola

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.

Manarola - One day in Cinque Terre
Manarola

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

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.

Top Attractions:

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.

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16 Comments

  • Hi Chrissy we found your blog most helpful but wanted to ask you re your view on this. Last year we stayed at Santa Margarita which we loved and went to Portofino by boat which was fun and see that we can do Cinque Terre by boat but I don’t think you can see them all. Equally there is a station at SM which we travelled to from France and assume you can go from there to CT.we have only a day thus wanted to do as much as possible …what do your think?

    • Hello David. I highly suggest to take the train from SM. The direct regional trains take 40 minutes to reach Monterosso and the ticket costs only 4,90 euros. From there you can take the train to all the Cinque Terre villages. They are all very close to each other and the station is inside the village apart from Corniglia that you have to climb a lot of steps or take the bus from the station. There is a 24 hour Cinque Terre Card that gives you free train rides and it costs 16 euros per person. I also suggets that you take a programme with the times the train leaves so that you make the most of your time. You will need about 1 to 1 hour and 30 minutes to explore each village apart from Monterosso which is a bit bigger and also makes a great stop for a meal as it has many choices available. The boat takes more time and you will not make it to all the villages in one day. Let me know if you need more info.

  • Hi Chrissy. love your blog. it has been very helpful. My husband and I are taking our first trip to Italy for a week in April and fly into Pisa. I thought we would have 2 nights there and want to visit Florence too, but love the sound of Cinque Terre . We are travelling around by train and bus ( even though we are retirees! Wondered if you would suggest which route might be easiest . I thought Pisa, Lucca, Cinque Terre, Florence and returning to Pisa for our flight. The amounts of nights and any other places that may be hidden gems !

    Thank you

    • Hello Frances, thanks for your nice words. It is very easy to get around Italy with a train. You don’t need more than a day to explore Pisa and if you want to climb the leaning tower don’t forget to book your tickets in advance. From Pisa, it is very easy to get to Cinque Terre as well. Depending on the train it can take from 50 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes to La Spezia. Also from Pisa, Lucca is only 30 minutes away. You can spend one day there.From there you can train the local train to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is nice so you could stay for a night there too. Now you need at least 2 full days in Florence. From Florence, I highly suggest to do a day trip to the Tuscan villages Siena and San Gimignano, for example, is a good option. From all the places mentioned Pisa is the least interesting, even half a day is enough to see it.
      So based in Pisa it is easier to go to Cinque Terre and Lucca. Then spend the rest of your days in Florence and Tuscany. If you like wine it is a paradise. Have a look at my Italy section I have a couple of posts. Don’t hesitate to email me with more questions.

  • hi, love your blog…we are making our second trip to tuscnay and would like some comments on our plan,
    we have 9 nights , 10 days. Our plan is 2 nights after we land in Florence. then stay near Lucca for 2 nights w at which time we would visit Pisa, Lucca & Cinque Terre. Thinking 1 full long day in Cinque Terre. We can train from Lucca right? Then we would be renting a gorgeous villa outside of Siena and do day trips from there.

    • Thanks, Jeff for your nice words. Your plan sounds great. Pisa can be done in half day, Lucca might need a few hours more and Cinque Terre a full day. You can reach Cinque Terre (La Spezia) by train in less than 2 hours.You can visit Pisa, Lucca and Cinque Terre from Florence as well as an alternative. There is no direct train so you need to switch ones. From Siena, you can make a fantastic road trip around Tuscany.

  • Really enjoy your blog. My 24 year old daughter and I leave for Italy in 2 weeks. We want to take a day trip form Florence. We were thinking of doing a tour but now are contemplating doing it ourselves. Is there a train from Florence, what would the cost be per person? What time would be a good time to leave Cinque Terre to return to Florence at the end of the day? I want to take IT ALL IN!!

    • There is a train from Florence to Cinque Terre. The closest train station is La Spezia Centrale. There are a few direct trains from Firenze or you will have to change to Pisa. It will take you around 2 hours and 30 minutes to get there. From there you can take the regional train to Cinque Terre. You can leave at around 6 in the afternoon from there. I recommend that you check the train schedule here http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en

  • Hi Chrissy,

    My family of 5 (3 adult children) will be doing a day trip to CT from Florence and are deciding, on doing a hike or going village to village. It looks like the hike from Vernazza and Monterosso is the best one. Wondering your thoughts on that. Would that take most of our time? We are all fit and can move pretty quickly, but wonder if the hike then sacrifices all our time not in the villages. Thanks for you r help. Your Blog is great 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment. It depends on what is more important to you. Hiking or spending time in the villages? From Vernazza, you can hike a bit until you reach a lovely view of the town and then return back and take the train to the next village.

  • Hi Chrissy: We are staying in Parma for 2-3 days and have a car. I was thinking of taking the train to Bologna for a day trip but am now thinking of doing the day trip to Cinque Terre instead! Is there a place to drive to and leave the car (safely) and get the train (?) or boat to the various cities? What do you recommend? Thanks so much!

    • Hello Joann, You can either leave the car to La Spezia and take the train to the villages or Monterosso al Mare and take the train or boat to the villages. I am afraid I don’t know of a car park as I didn’t use a car but I am sure it exists.

  • Thank you Chrissy. I will look into this. For a day trip, is there a recommended way one could, depending on the starting point, take a ferry to one village, hike to another, and then train to another to get a feel and perspective of Cinque Terre in all ways? If you have a suggestion as to how that should or could be done I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you!

    • In order to do all of these in one day, you need to be very well organized and know the timetable of the trains and boats. I would take the boat from Riomaggiore and get off to Vernazza. That way I would see both of them from the water and Manarola. After exploring Vernazza I would go to Monterosso and then Manarola and if I had time Corniglia. But it depends on what you want to see. I wouldn’t hike if I was going on a day trip. I would just walk to viewpoints.

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