Many people take a day trip to Cinque Terre, but to really enjoy this area, you should spend two days in Cinque Terre (or more!). Cinque Terre is made up of five different towns, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza – each with its own personality and own allure to travelers.
I totally understand why people do just a day trip. It’s easy to get to from some major Italian cities like Florence and Pisa. I mentioned this in my last post with everything you need to know about Cinque Terre, but I have to say it again – Cinque Terre is incredible!
There are so many activities in Cinque Terre! We didn’t get to stop and truly enjoy what we were taking in. A second day really gave us the chance to get to know Cinque Terre more. We met a lot of people who were there for much longer too. Don’t be afraid to make it a bigger part of your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed!
It’s easy to fit between (or after) a day in Venice or Florence. One day was just not enough to explore, especially if you want to be able to hike and swim at some of the beaches there. On our first day, we were hot and sweaty from hiking. We barely had time to go to every town and missed half of one town (unknown to us until after we left!) and if we only spent one day there, we would have missed it completely!
So have I convinced you it’s worth it to spend two days in Cinque Terre yet? I hope so! Just in case, read through this post to find out how to spend to days in Cinque Terre.
There are five towns in Cinque Terre and we were able to go to all five in one day. It is doable, but you will not be able to do everything! Even with two days, we decided to get up early and try to get a head start on the large groups of tourists that will be coming in that day.
We stayed in La Spezia where we were able to get a great AirBnB and beat the crowds by taking an early train from La Spezia to the first town – Riomaggiore. Here’s a discount code for your first time if you’re wanting to stay here! You’ve got some really affordable options in Riomaggiore and Monterosso al Mare as well! Check them out below.
At the train station, you’ll buy your Cinque Terre Card and want to purchase a two-day card so that you can just hop on the train tomorrow. Once purchased, head into the train station and grab a coffee or an iced latte at the coffee shop there while you wait for your train. The trains run about every 20 minutes or so between towns.
This first day we chose to focus on hiking and seeing each of the towns so we could return to our favorite spots. We made a quick stop in Riomaggiore. Almost no one got off on this stop (it’s not as popular for the tourist groups) and we hopped off happily. We walked around thinking the town was really, really tiny. We later found out we needed to take a tunnel to get to the main part of town! We walked around the part we saw and hopped back on the train.
The next stop was Manarola. It’s 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. To get the famous view, you’ve got to walk around the side of town along the coast. This section is also part of the famous Cinque Terre hike, but different parts are often closed so make sure you check how far you can walk.
We walked around Manarola, checked out every view we could, and walked the little shops. We knew we would want to come back and spend more time here after just a short amount of time this day.
After another short train ride, we made it to Corniglia. Corniglia is the only town of the Cinque Terre 5 that is not right on the water. To get there, you can hike up 300 steps, or you can take a short bus ride from the train station.
We opted for the bus ride. It was incredibly hot, sticky, and smelly. The bus was not air-conditioned and lots of people will be waiting for the bus. We were very squished on our windy ride and almost no one had a seat but instead were left standing. Luckily, it was a short bus ride and the views you get from Corniglia are incredible!
By now it was about 1 pm and we were ready to relax a little bit. It’s hot in Cinque Terre in the summer so be prepared! We walked around town on the little quiet streets (this is another town often skipped by tour groups!) and sat down at an ocean view spot for lunch. It was pretty fabulous 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.
From here we started our hike. As I mentioned earlier, we bought the Cinque Terre Pass (required for hiking and gives you an unlimited train pass) so we were ready to hike. Different sections are opened and closed at different times of the year so you’ve got to check when you buy a ticket what sections are open.
We asked the help desk and found out Corniglia to Vernazza was open as well as Vernazza to Manarola. We chose to do the Corniglia to Vernazza section because we didn’t want to get on that bus again, and it was a little shorter. Each section takes between 1 1/2 – 3 hours.
The hike was easy to find from town and offered amazing coastal views. The paths are narrow and along cliffs pretty much the whole way. This means that you definitely need to be careful and pay close attention as you are walking. There is little cover from trees, but it’s very green the whole way. The ocean is always to your side and you’ll get views of lots of different cute little towns and rows upon rows of grapes for wine!
The hike is fairly strenuous and includes many sections of up and down including stairs as well as rocky paths. Some sections have railings, but not all sections. We were told by a few other hikers that the Vernazza to Manarola section was even more difficult. This made us very happy in our decisions!
Once we finished the hike we were seriously ready for some gelato and beach time! We were in luck in Vernazza because it’s got a really cute little beach area right in town as well as tons of gelato spots right along the water.
We got some gelato and settled into a spot along some rocks. I chose to swim in the crystal clear water and jump off some of the rocks. The water here was pretty smooth and people were using floaties or snorkeling while we were there. It was a very family-friendly spot.
We spent a few hours here relaxing and decided to check out the next beach town – Monterosso al Mare. We chose to take the train even though we could have had time to hike. With two days you’ve definitely got the chance to hike a lot if you are up for it! We opted for a little more beach time.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the Cinque Terre 5 and felt much more like a resort town. There are lots of beach chairs you can rent for about 20 Euros and people will crowd this beach area. There are two sections of the beach and you can enjoy both. We chose to layout on the largest section of the beach for an hour or so and barely got in the water here.
By this point, we were pretty tired and starting to get hungry.
We made a stop for some dinner at a cute little spot outside. The weather had cooled down by this point and we were enjoying a nice light breeze. I ate almost a whole pizza myself with how much we were doing! We had seen a spot in town that looked like a little castle.
We decided to take our chances of climbing up there to see if it was a spot we could go to.
We were definitely in luck and ended our day with some Rose on the incredible terrace of Torre Aurora. This is the perfect spot to end the day! At this point, it was close to 10 pm and even though the train runs until way later, we decided to head back for the night.
Day two is all about relaxing and going back to your favorite spots. I am telling you about my favorite spots and what we wanted more time to do, but that may be different for you. Honestly, this day is about taking in what you want to most.
We loved Manarola and wanted to go back to spend more time here. We also felt like we didn’t see much of Riomaggiore so we wanted to walk around and see it more as well. These towns are great options to spend more time in – they’ve got lots to do and Riomaggiore is often off the beaten path for people who are with tour groups but I think it’s incredibly picturesque.
Morning in Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is much bigger than it seems. When you get off the train, you think it’s a small town with just a tiny little harbor. It’s actually got a whole other side that you’ve get to through a tunnel or by climbing cliff side. We did both and while the cliffside was steep, the views were awesome.
We spent the rest of the morning walking around, shopping, and seeing the town. You can actually kayak here at a spot for just 5 Euros for the hour. There are also affordable boat rentals available in town that would be fun to do if you’ve got the time.
Another option is walking to the top of town to the church that has an incredible view. We chose not to hike too much this second day though.
Afternoon in Manarola
I really wanted to go back to Manarola for one main reason – cliff jumping! The biggest rocks you can jump off are here right in the center of town. There are ropes that can help you get onto the rocks and you’ll see people snorkeling all through the area. We ate lunch at a really affordable spot along the water (they all are!) and then went for a swim. Relaxing in the sun and swimming was the perfect end to our time in Cinque Terre.
From here, we took a train back to La Spezia where we picked up our car to head out into Tuscany!
Other Ideas for Day 2
rent a beach chair in Monterosso al Mare for 20 Euros for the day to relax on a private beach
take a ferry between different towns for coastal views
hike another section of the trail
snorkel through one of the five town’s marinas
kayak along the coast
visit the churches – there are a beautiful church in every town
So… Have I convinced you to spend two days in Cinque Terre? Hopefully! Leave comments below.