I’m very excited to share more about this magical slice of Italy today and tell you everything you need to know if you’re visiting, including an in-depth Cinque Terre itinerary. I absolutely adored Cinque Terre and wished that we could have spent weeks there during our Italy trip.
I received some DMs from people asking about Cinque Terre and saying that they weren’t as familiar with it. So of course, I had to make a travel guide because Cinque Terre should definitely be on your bucket list.
Here’s my custom Google Map of Cinque Terre with all the sights and restaurants pinned, so you can get a lay of the land.
Cinque Terre is absolutely doable as a day trip from Florence or Milan to get a little taste, but I personally don’t think a one day Cinque Terre trip is enough. Honestly, it would just feel like a tease.
If you’re able to, I’d highly recommend spending a few nights in Cinque Terre, and working at last two full days (if not more!) of Cinque Terre into your Italy itinerary.
How to get to Cinque Terre:
The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. You’ll take a train ride to La Spezia, and from there you’ll have to transfer to the smaller train that goes through all of the villages.
There are no cars allowed in Cinque Terre, so if you’re visiting Cinque Terre and driving, you’ll have to leave your car outside of the villages.
Depending on where you’re staying, once you’ve arrived at your town’s train station, you may have a very steep climb ahead of you.
We carried our bags ourselves (and by that I mean Omied is a stud and carried over 100 pounds of luggage for us), but if you’re not up for that there are porter services available that you can call, and they’ll help you transport your bags.
The five villages:
Cinque Terre is made up of five towns built into steep, sea-side cliffs (literally translated, Cinque Terre means five lands).
You can pick one of the five Cinque Terre villages to be your home base and easily hop around to the four others during your trip so you can see all of them. Here’s a bit more info on each of the Cinque Terre towns to help you decide which one you want to call home during your trip (in order from north to south).
Monterosso is the northernmost of the five towns, and it is also probably the least quintessentially “Cinque Terre.” When you think of Cinque Terre, you think of colorful little buildings built into the sides of super steep cliffs, but Monterosso doesn’t really have that.
It’s actually pretty flat, and the main street and beach reminded me a lot of Nice. While you’re not going to get as grand of views here, Monterosso is the most easily accessible town, so if you’re traveling with a stroller this would be an ideal home base.
Corniglia is the smallest of the five towns (population 80 during the winter!), and probably the hardest to get to.
Once you arrive at the train station, you’re greeted with a climb of 400 steps to get to town. Don’t worry, there’s also a bus that runs regularly from the train station up/down to town.
Vernazza has a beautiful, natural harbor, and it’s a really popular place to stay.
You’ll have lots of restaurant and bar options here, but since it’s such a popular spot among tourists it can get a bit crowded. Bring earplugs for sleeping at night!
Manarola is where you’ll find the iconic views of pastel houses built into the cliffs. This is where we decided to make our home base, and we absolutely loved it.
It’s the second smallest town after tiny Corniglia, so it’s a little quieter than Vernazza. But oh man, is it stunning.
Things get very steep very quickly here, so expect to have to lug your suitcase up a lot of stairs to your accommodations.
I think if we didn’t stay in Manarola, Riomaggiore would have been our other pick. It has a slightly more local vibe, a rocky/pebbly beach (Fossola beach), and several fabulous restaurants and bars to choose from.
Getting around in Cinque Terre:
As I mentioned, there are no cars in CInque Terre, people! The easiest, fastest, and cheapest way to get between towns is by hopping on the Cinque Terre train that runs through the towns.
The train runs about four times every hour in both directions, so you don’t have to wait very long in between trains. You can buy a Cinque Terre card at any of the train stations—these allow you to hop on and off as you please, and will also give you a wifi code for their (somewhat spotty but occasionally useful) public wifi.
Another option is to take the Cinque Terre ferry between towns.
This will take a little longer and costs a bit more than the train, but you do get to enjoy beautiful views of Cinque Terre from the sea while being transported to the other villages.
Lastly, hiking is another way to get from town to town. The Cinque Terre trail can be taken all the way from the southern most town (Riomaggiore) through all of the towns, up to the northernmost (Monterosso), and you’ll be rewarded with incredible views along the way.
In order to hike these Cinque Terre trails, you’ll need to purchase a trail pass, available at any Cinque Terre train station. Also note, you must wear closed-toed shoes on these trails, as open-toed shoes have been banned!
If you really enjoy hiking and the outdoors, I also recommend spending time exploring the Cinque Terre National Park.
Pssst, heading to Cinque Terre? Don’t miss these travel guides to help you plan your trip!
Cinque Terre: Three day itinerary
Cinque Terre Itinerary: Day 1
Hike from Manarola to Corniglia
Let’s kick things off with a hike! Start off in the morning to enjoy the cooler temperatures. The easiest hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore is currently closed due to a landslide, so you’ll have to do one of the harder hikes and break a sweat.
Since we were staying in Manarola, we did the hike from Manarola to Corniglia, which was absolutely stunning. Hiking Cinque Terre, even if it’s just one of the trails, is an absolute must-do.
The hike from Manarola to Corniglia starts with a steep ascent up through the vineyard terraces, and once you’ve made it to the top you’re greeted with the best views of Manarola below you. Then, as you continue on towards Corniglia, you’ll have amazing views of the cliffs and the sea as you make your way to this sweet little town.
As I mentioned earlier, you’ll need to purchase a Cinque Terre Trekking Card at any of the Cinque Terre train stations in order to access the trails. You can check the Cinque Terre tourism site for info on hiking trails.
Once you’ve made it to Corniglia, reward yourself with some of the best gelato in Cinque Terre, at Alberto Gelateria.
The honey (made from Corniglia honey) and basil (from basil they grow themselves) flavors are especially unique and popular. The granite, a slushy made from locally grown lemons, is especially refreshing after a hike.
If you fancy yourself a drink instead of a gelato after your hike, head to Bar Terza Terra for Corniglia’s restaurant with panoramic views.
Hop on the train and head one town over to Vernazza to enjoy lunch at the very popular Belforte. This restaurant in Vernazza is inside a former castle and offers delicious seafood and pasta with a side of sweeping ocean views.
I tried calling to make reservations dozens of times but no one answered—I ended up making reservations in person for the following day.
More gelato?? You bet. You can’t miss gelato at Gleateria Vernazza.
Amarena (black cherry) was awesome, as was the lemon and chocolate. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Vernazza’s harbor is very picturesque and a popular place to hang out. Take a dip to cool off and sunbathe on the rocks.
After spending some time in Vernazza, head back to Manarola.
The rocks down by the water are a gorgeous place to hang out and relax. Plus you’ll be able to see if the line is starting to get long at your next stop, Nessun Dorma.
Nessun Dorma has some of the most picturesque views in all of Cinque Terre. It’s located right next to Manarola’s scenic viewpoint, so whether or not you get in and have dinner here, you can still climb the ramp-up to the viewpoint to enjoy the views.
Especially as it gets closer to sunset, the line here gets very long. Go early to get a table, and then just take your time having leisurely drinks and snacks before enjoying dinner and watching the sun drop.
Cinque Terre Itinerary: Day 2
This was one of our favorite lunches in Italy. Our sweet Airbnb host who has lived in Manarola his whole life told us that Billy’s is his favorite restaurant.
Lucky for him he lives just a minute walk from Billy’s! Their pesto pasta and fish dishes were delicious, and be sure to save room for dessert because their berry semifreddo was unbelievable.
Make reservations and ask for an outdoor table for sure—the views are stunning.
Head over to Riomaggiore to spend the afternoon there. Fossola beach is a pebbly beach (water shoes are dorky looking but we were glad to have them here) where you can lay out and take a dip.
Grab lunch at Tutti Fritti, where you can pick out different fried seafoods that are served in a paper cone.
We looooved A Piè de Mà! From the Riomaggiore train station, it is on the opposite side from where all the main restaurants and the beach is, so things are a lot quieter and less full of tourists.
They have seriously stunning views of the ocean and cliffs, and we grabbed a table right by the edge. I couldn’t stop staring at the turquoise, crystal clear water below us!
We had espresso and then wine and charcuterie here and couldn’t have been happier.
This is another absolute must when visiting Cinque Terre. We went on a sunset boat ride and it was one of my favorite experiences in Italy.
Cinque Terre is so beautiful, but when you see the towns from the sea it gives you an entirely different perspective, and you realize just how heartbreakingly beautiful it truly is!
Seriously magical. Angelo’s Boat Tours will take you out for a sunset ride in a small group, and you’ll get to see all five of the towns while enjoying drinks and tapas on the boat.
End your day with dinner in Monterosso, at L’Ancora della Tortuga. This maritime-themed restaurant is another popular favorite (our Airbnb host recommended this spot as his favorite restaurant in Monterosso), and it is perched right on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
They serve delicious seafood pasta and grilled fish dishes. The interior rock wall dining area is cozy, but you know me—I’m a fan of the outdoor views.
Ask to be seated on their terrace to dine al fresco and soak it all in.
Cinque Terre Itinerary: Day 3
Spend your last day relaxing in Monterosso. Start with lunch at Belvedere, a casual but delicious seafood restaurant overlooking the beach.
Omied and I split a huge seafood pasta in red sauce that was legit to die for. And because we’re gluttons we also ordered their fritto misto.
Wash it down with a lemon spritz—so delish! Just a heads up, the people who work here are not the friendliest.
Monterosso is the only town in Cinque Terre with private beaches where you can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas for the day—very Nice style. But unlike Nice, it isn’t as exorbitantly priced.
I think it was around 23 Euro for two chairs and an umbrella all day. We had such a lovely, relaxing afternoon here.
Taste some of the different wines from the steep vineyard terraces you’ve been surrounded by at this beautiful spot in Monterosso.
For 25 Euro you can taste a few different wines and enjoy an appetizer plate.
Another favorite meal of ours in Italy! La Torre Aurora is magical. The food was fantastic (if you like foie gras, do not miss the foie gras ravioli.
One of the best things I had on our trip!), were the cocktails, and the views are just insane. Definitely request an outdoor seat, of which there are plenty.
There are several different outdoor seating areas, and we had a practically private terrace with a few other tables.
The sweeping views of the sea and beaches of Monterosso were incredible, and we had such an amazing meal and experience here. The service is also fantastic.
That’s my three-day Cinque Terre Itinerary! As I said, I really could have spent at least a week here in the Italian Riviera just relaxing and enjoying the different villages, hopping from bar to restaurant, each with more stunning views than the last.
If you’ve been to Cinque Terre, what were some of your favorite spots? Tag me on Insta @wtfab so I can see all the spots you went to!
Planning a trip? Be sure to check out my other Cinque Terre travel guides here.
The best way to see Cinque Terre is by train traveling village to village. You’ll be able to visit all the villages in one day.
In total it should take around 6 hours to walk the entire route through Cinque Terre, including some breaks.
You can happily swim in Cinque Terre between the months of May through October.
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.