Cinque Terre (meaning “Five Earths”) is a set of secluded fishing villages in northwest Italy. The five towns—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—offer traditional, pastel-toned buildings, streets, and marinas built into the cliff-sides and are free of commercial chain stores and restaurants. For more information on the culture, sights, and beauty of it see my full post here:
But here are the logistics:
HOW TO GET THERE:
The towns are secluded, so it is highly recommended to take the train in between towns. When traveling throughout Italy, we suggest taking a train or bus from the central stations in Genoa or Pisa to one of the outer cities of Cinque Terre (Levante or La Spezia). Or, if renting a car, drive to Levante or La Spezia and park at the train station there. It is possible to drive between the villages themselves but no cars allowed inside, there’s limited parking available, and the windy roads can take hours through the mountains while the train takes less than 10 minutes.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Order your train ticket and Cinque Terre card online. It’s easy! At only 16 euro per person, the Cinque Terre card gives you access to the walking trails, transportation between the villages, free wifi, restrooms, and more! If you want to order your ticket in person, you can purchase them at every train station in the area, but the lines might be long.
WHEN TO GO:
It is recommended to visit between March and October (mid-May through August for the warm, beach weather). We went at the end of May. When traveling to Cinque Terre by car, we suggest you try to get to the train station early. We arrived around 10AM on a weekday at the start of the tourist season and think we secured one of the last remaining parking spots.
WHAT ORDER TO SEE THE TOWNS:
When planning your visit, don’t overestimate you and your companions traveling stamina. Cinque Terre is five towns after all, and it may be hard to for many travelers to see all five in one day. Make a list of things you want to see and do and prioritize those. For example, to get to Corniglia, you have to climb around 382 steps from the train station. If you’re also planning to do a hike (see our next tip!), you might want to skip that one (but then keep in mind that you’re only seeing Quattro Terre 😂).
To avoid traveling fatigue, we suggest taking the train to the furthest town and working your way back. In our case, we drove the hour from Genoa to Levante, parked there, took the train to Riamaggiore first and then worked our way backwards towards Monterosso.
OUR FAVORITE PART (TAKE A HIKE!):
Instead of taking the crowded train, you can hike the cliffs between the villages and experience the stunning views of the sea and the colorful towns. Due to a landslide in 2013, some of the main trails were shut down for construction, but our favorite hike is still accessible.
We highly recommend taking the Blue Trail from Vernazza to Monterossa. To get there, leave the train station towards the main road and across from the pharmacy there’s an alley with a sign pointing to the trail. Visitors without the Cinque Terre card can walk about 20 minutes up for a postcard-picture view of the marina, but of course you, dear reader, will grasp your Cinque Terre card and march onward, because this hike was our favorite part of the entire visit to Cinque Terre.
We recommend walking from Vernazza to Monterossa because in this direction the steepness of the climb is manageable for most beginner hikers. In contrast, if you hike from Monterossa to Vernazza, the climb is much harder, involving steep stairs for the first half hour or so. These stairs are a lot easier to walk down then climb upwards! (And you can soak your feet in the ocean as soon as you arrive).
Overall, the hike took us about 1.5 hours from checkpoint to checkpoint, with an additional hour or so taking pictures and walking from the city centers.
WHAT TOWN WAS OUR FAVORITE:
For us, it was a tie between Manarola and Monterosso (but really, this is a trick question, our real favorite was the hike from Vernazza to Manarola).
Have you been? Any additional tips or questions? Let us know below!