Updated: May 26, 2022
The Cinque Terre is noted for its beauty. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces to cultivate grapes and olives on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. So, what should you know before your visit? Keep reading to find all the Cinque Terre tips that you need.
All five towns are worth a visit and every single one is unique in their own way. When I started looking, it was hard to tell what was worth it and what wasn’t so I wanted to make sure I made this guide as a help for others as they plan!
Whether you come by car or public transit, you will end up taking the train or ferry. There are basically no cars in the actual five towns and I would not recommend trying to get there directly without the use of the train.
Getting to the actual towns is pretty much only possible by train, which means that you will have to have a Cinque Terre Card. The train ticket for the Cinque Terre Express is included in the Cinque Terre Card so you won’t have to worry about paying more for it (more about this later).
By car: I highly encourage you not to drive into any of the five towns. Drive into La Spezia where you can park for less than 12€ a day instead and take the train through. You can book the spots in the garage ahead of time, but we were there in summer during peak season and had no issues finding street parking. Check the signs before you park if you decide on this option! You will also have to walk to the train station from where you park.
By Train: You can take the train to La Spezia from Genova, Florence, or Pisa. You will want to get a ticket to La Spezia Centrale.
Once you’ve gotten to La Spezia, you’ll want to be able to get around the five towns. The most popular (and easiest in my opinion) is by using the train called the Cinque Terre Express. You can get a pass for the train that is 4€ a ride or you can get an unlimited pass for 13€ for the day. This is part of the Cinque Terre Card which I will tell you more about below! The train goes to all five towns from La Spezia and they run from about 5 am to 1 am daily (during the summer).
By Boat: In the summer (March through October), there are daily ferry connections to Cinque Terre from La Spezia, Lerici, Levanto and Portovenere, though they’re suspended in bad weather.
By Bus: Buses are available just at the trains from major cities like Genova, Florence, and Pisa. There is a bus that runs along the Cinque Terre coast. You’ll find green or white ATC buses in the villages. These buses run up and down in the villages themselves (you’ll see lots of elderly locals using this service) as well as occasionally to other secondary villages in the Cinque Terre (for example, Volastra which is a little village in the Cinque Terre National Park above Manarola).
While it is possible to use these buses keep in mind that they won’t be as well connected as the trains, panoramic as the boats or as memorable as the hiking.
Here’s a complete guide to getting to Cinque Terre if you are still looking for more info.
Cinque Terre Card and Costs
The Cinque Terre Card is essential to a visit and includes entrance to the hiking trails between the towns – more on this later. Without it, it’s tricky to get to the five towns (unless you book a tour).
You can’t book a ticket in advance, but can buy one in any of the five towns as well as La Spezia or Levanto. There are a lot of different options for the card that can be found below. Prices vary a lot depending on the season and how long you are going so make sure you buy the right one!
Also use their official site to check prices if needed, but you have to purchase there. It is very obvious where to purchase because you’ll see bright red booths in the train stations.
At the train station after you buy your Cinque Terre Card, it must be verified in order to work. There are little green boxes you can get it verified at. Once purchased, head into the train station and grab a coffee or iced latte at the coffee shop there while you wait for your train. The trains run about every 20 minutes or so between towns.
Price without Train: 1 day Cinque Terre Card: € 7.50 2 day Cinque Terre Card: € 14.50 Price for children (from 4 years to 12 years old): 1 day Cinque Terre Card: € 4.50 2 days Cinque Terre Card: € 7.20
Price for family: 1 day Cinque Terre Card: € 19.60 2 days Cinque Terre Card: € 31.50 children up to 4 years old: free
Cinque Terre Card+Train
The Cinque Terre Card Train includes all the above services and also allows unlimited train travel on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line.
From April to October: 1 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 10
Price for Adults from November to March: 1 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 13 2 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 23
From April to October: 1 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 16 2 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 29 3 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 41
Price for Kids (4 years to 12 years old) November to March: 1 day Cinque Terre Train Card € 7.30
Price for Family (2 adults + 2 children to 12 years old) November to March: Cinque Terre train family card: € 31.50
From April to October: Cinque Terre family train card: € 42
How Long to Spend There
A lot of people take just one day or a day trip to see Cinque Terre. You can definitely see it in one day but it’s worth taking the time and spending a few days there. I was so so glad after our first day that we had another day to explore.
On our first day we did the famous hike and swam in different spots. We ended up sweaty and tired by the end of the day, feeling gross. A second day was perfect and just what we needed to explore the towns and revisit some spots that we missed. I think two days was just enough and I probably could have spent more time here, but we all know how much there is to see in Italy! Two days in Cinque Terre was the right amount of time.
When to Go
I feel like it’s important to talk about how hot it can get in this region of Italy. There’s little air conditioning and you will want to spend most of your time outside. We went in June and while it was hot, it was not unbearable. We were able to hike part of the trail without overheating and enjoy the cold water at the beach.
I definitely recommend trying to go in May or June when it’s warming up and the water is still cold. You’ll enjoy the awesome views and cool off in the ocean. If you’re not a fan of swimming in the ocean, going in less popular seasons means colder weather and fewer tourists.
Towns in Cinque Terre have been around since the 600s. The history is incredible there and can be seen in every town.
Cinque Terre is comprised of 5 towns – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. They are all pretty much unavailable by car and unique in their own way.
Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Site and is monitored closely for preservation. Different sections of the famous hike are closed at different parts of the summer and you probably won’t be able to visit the hike for much longer because the paths are deteriorating.
The area is known for it’s fabulous wines and has been a tradition in the area for hundreds of years so make sure you drink lots of wine!
If you plan to stay in any of the five towns, you will pay a premium and need to book far in advance, but there are lots of places to stay in Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is known for a couple of cool hostels that are pretty affordable. Monterosso al Mare is the biggest of the five towns and has many options for people to stay in where you’ll want to check out the large beach there while you stay.
The most affordable option is to stay in La Spezia. It’s honestly so close to the first town in Cinque Terre (actually just like 10 minutes by train) that it feels like you’re basically staying there. Plus, things in the five towns close early while La Spezia stays open late. We were there on a Wednesday and things were still lively past 11 pm. We were in Monterosso at 10 pm and everything was basically closed. The trains also run late so you can easily stay as long as you want in any of the five towns without feeling rushed if you stay in La Spezia.
We stayed at a really cool AirBnB that was great since we had a car. It was just $100 a night sleeps four people, and has an incredible view. If you choose to go by car, this is an affordable and easy option. We loved staying here and had an awesome view with very kind and LOCAL hosts! La Spezia also has several other AirBnBs so check them out!
The 5 Towns
As I said earlier, each town is so different and unique! They are all completely worth visiting and I wanted to give a little info on each. I’m writing this in distance order from La Spezia where you will most likely be coming to the towns from.
Riomaggiore: Riomaggiore is an interesting town because you get off the train and think the town is tiny. It’s actually much bigger than you think, but you have to take an underground tunnel to get to the main part of town or hike around a mountain. I recommend hiking around at least once to take in the awesome views. After you hike around, you can take the tunnel back.
Riomaggiore has a very small harbor in the middle of town and you can walk along the rocks to get an awesome view. It is one of the quietest Cinque Terre towns and least crowded because it’s a bit of a hike to get to. You can rent kayaks here for €5 that are pretty awesome.
Manarola: Manarola is probably the town I saw the most pictures of before I went. It’s incredibly beautiful and has lots of very pretty buildings that seem to jet out onto the ocean.
There is an area where boats pick up and drop off, but in the center between the areas of town there are large rocks that you can jump off and swim between. I loved this part so much and it was definitely a highlight of the trip! There are also several outdoor restaurants that over look the water with great seafood.
Corniglia: Corniglia is the only town in Cinque Terre that does not have access to the water. You can hike up to the town or you’ll have to take an unairconditioned bus from the train station.
Once in the town, you’ll be on really cute streets and have incredible views of the towns from both sides. We had an awesome lunch here along the coast at Bar Terza Terra. Definitely check this spot out! We chose to hike from Corniglia to the next town Vernazza because it was one of the only two sections open and we did not want to ride the extremely hot and crowded bus back to the train station.
Vernazza: Vernazza is one of the two towns that has a direct access to a beach. It also has a large harbor with lots of really colorful boats and more gelato shops than you can imagine!
We ate gelato here after our hike and went swimming. It was pretty relaxing to hang out on the rocks and swim. There are also rocks here where you can jump off that are not as big as the ones in Manarola. This town also has less hills and is easier to walk through than Riomaggiore or Corniglia.
Monterosso al Mare: Monterosso is the largest of the five towns and has a huge beach. A lot of people stay here and the beach is definitely a main attraction. There are also two sides to this town with a mountain between, you can use the underground walkway to get between them.
The beach here is rocky, but has lots of free space. You can rent a beach chair and umbrella for the day at different private beaches for 20 € for the day. There are lots of shops to explore and restaurants to try. We got drinks at an awesome spot overlooking the water called Torre Aurora. It was perfect for dinner or drinks -whatever you choose! I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Hiking Cinque Terre
One of the coolest things about the five towns is that you can use a historic path to get between them. The historic path is only accessible after purchasing the Cinque Terre Pass and they will check it before you enter the hiking areas.
Different sections of the hike are closed on different days for maintenance or because of the weather. Make sure you ask about which sections are open and the difficulty before you begin to hike at the station when you buy your pass. They will be able to tell you which places are open. While we were there, sections were closed because of the weather after certain times of day. Other sections were closed because or maintenance.
Hiking in the summer is incredibly gorgeous, but also really, really hot. The high temperatures and humidity mean you need to come prepared. Each section will take you between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on the section and your skill level.
We ended up finishing the section between Corniglia and Vernazza in about 1 1/2 hours (the pamphlet said 2 hours) so we were happy with our timing. It was pretty remote the whole way with few places to stop and we drank all our water. Come prepared with good shoes, water, and plan to stop at beautiful spots to take it all in.
The hike itself was fairly strenuous with lots of ups and downs, little tree covering, and along cliffs pretty much the whole time. This makes for a very scenic but kind of dangerous hike. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into!
My Favorite Spots
I felt like I should include some of my favorite spots we saw while there since we were able to stay for more than one day and explore a little bit more. There are definitely some highlights that you won’t want to miss.
Cliff Jumping in Manarola – those big rocks I mentioned? They are tons of fun to jump off of! I loved this spot so much.
Rocks of Riomaggiore – The incredibly blue water and colorful buildings made Riomaggiore a favorite stop on our trip. Could you imagine a more picturesque place?!
Sunset Drinks in Monterosso al Mare at Torre Aurora – we found this spot by chance and it had amazing sunset views of Monterosso. Love it so much!
Lunch in Corniglia at Bar La Terza Terra – any spot that over looks the ocean with incredible views like this is worth it to me. Delicious food before a hike and lovely cool breeze in Corniglia made this spot a fave.
So, now you’ve got all you need to know about Cinque Terre and hopefully you’re feeling a little more prepared for your trip. No matter what you do, this place is a blast and you’ll walk away knowing you’ve had an awesome experience that’s once in a lifetime! Italy is the best!