Are you thinking of visiting the Cinque Terre? Then you need to read The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Cinque Terre (2022). Cinque Terre is a beautiful coastal area in the region of Liguria. It is made up of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Each village has unique, but very similar characteristics to one another.
In this guide, I will offer you all of my tips about each town in the Cinque Terre! I stayed here 3 days in 2021, and in 2022 I stayed an entire week in Manarola. It was by far the highlight of my 3 month trip in Italy this summer.
Why is the Cinque Terre so famous?
The seductive and magnificent Cinque Terre are famous for mostly, their unique beauty. The villages are all surrounded by vineyards and offer stunning views of the Ligurian Sea. They also offer the best sunset views! They have the same color palette composed of different shades of blue, green, and yellow.
Is the Cinque Terre crowded in the summer?
Yes, like most of the popular tourist places in Italy, it is very crowded with tourists in the summer season. During the day, it is packed with people laying out on the beaches, exploring the villages, and swimming in the crystal clear water.
At night, you can find locals and tourists alike enjoying the restaurants and bars that line the streets, however, around 10 pm it gets very quiet and empty.
Where is Cinque Terre on a Map?
Cinque Terre is located on the northwestern coast of Italy in the Liguria region. It is about two hours away from Florence by train and about three hours from Milan. The best way to get around Cinque Terre is by train, as there are very limited roads and parking spaces.
How to get to the cinque Terre?
I highly recommend taking the train, do not use a car. The train is the easiest and most efficient way to see the Cinque Terre. The reason I recommend the train is because it takes about 2-5 minutes to get to each town since they are all connected by the local train.
It is way more convenient than having to drive the back routes to get close to the towns. Everything is walkable, but there are a lot of stairs !!
How to get to Cinque Terre by train from Florence: Takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes
How to get to Cinque Terre by train from Rome: Takes about 4 hours and 15 minutes
How to get to Cinque Terre by train from Milan: Takes about 3 hours and 15 minutes
How to get to Cinque Terre by car from Florence: Takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes
How to get to Cinque Terre by car from Rome: Takes about 5 hours and 45 minutes
How to get to Cinque Terre by car from Milan: Takes about 4 hours and 45 minutes
Can you hike in Cinque Terre?
Yes!! You can hike the world-famous “Sentiero Azzurro” which is a trail that connects all five villages. The entire hike is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) long and takes about 5 hours to complete. I suggest starting early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowds of people.
I started the hike from Manarola to Corniglia and it took about 2.5 hours. I did it at 12pm which was a big mistake because the sun was so strong (the morning would have been way better). It was also a little challenging because a lot of it was uphill.
However, there was a winery mid way through the hike that offered the most amazing local wine and bruschetta! Not to mention the impeccable views down below.
How long should you stay in Cinque Terre?
I have overall been there three times. The first time I went for 3 full days. The second time 7 days. The third time one day. In my opinion, if you have the time and can splurge, one week is the best. That way you can hike, visit all 5 towns with enough time, and visit all the little beach spots.
If you can only go for a short amount of time and you are on a budget, then I recommend 2 nights and 3 days. You can visit 2 towns each day and have enough time to explore and even hike one morning.
When is the best time to go to Cinque Terre?
The best time to visit Cinque Terre is from April until October when the weather is mild and there are many activities and events taking place in the villages. However, if you want to avoid the crowds, I suggest visiting during the shoulder season from November to March.
The ideal time to visit for the beach would be early June because it’s not as hot and there are less people. The weather is stunning at that time too.
What to do in Manarola?
This is by far my favorite town in the Cinque Terre. It offered the best food, amazing swim spots, and breathtaking views. In the mornings it was nice and quiet, you can enjoy a nice cappuccino and brioche at one of the cafes that line the streets.
Around 11AM there was more people, but not an overwhelming amount.
If you want to see some breathtaking views, there are a lot of stairs, but it’s totally worth it! It is also my favorite town to see the sunset, I suggest going to the end of the town by the water to get an unobstructed view.
Where to eat in Manarola?
I ate some of the best food while I was staying in Manarola. Every single meal I had was fresh, flavorful, and simply amazing. I definitely suggest trying the local seafood dishes as they are caught fresh daily. The pasta is also a must as it is made with the freshest ingredients.
These are all the restaurants I actually went to that I highly recommend:
Trattoria dal Billy: They had great seafood pasta and you are seated on a terrace overlooking the vineyards and ocean. I also recommend getting the squid ink pasta or the pasta with the Billy sauce (AMAZING). Please make a reservation in advance.
La Regina di Manarola: By far the best Pizza I had on this trip (aside from Napoli). I even went twice because it was so good. My favorite pizza there was the Tropea. They also have pretty fancy and delicious drinks too.
Nessun Dorma: This is the classic restaurant that has views overlooking the entire town and the harbor. Perfect instagram spot. But I recommend coming here for aperitivo and sunset. They have delicious cocktails and a variety of cheese and bruschetta platters.
Best beaches in Manarola?
In Manarola there are a couple swimming spots. The first one is right in the center by the big rock. There is no beach area, but you can leave your things on the cement ramp or on the rocks and swim around. It is a lot of fun, you can even climb and jump !
On the right, behind Nessun Dorma there is another swim spot where you can also jump off of rocks or even just lay out and tan.
What to do in Monterosso?
Monterosso is the only town with an actual sandy beach. The water is super blue and it’s iconic for the big rock (scoglio di Monterosso) and orange umbrellas. This town is best for visiting if you want to spend a beautiful day at the beach.
This is where I stayed in 2021, I thought it was convenient for going to the beach, however, it is the busiest town and does not have my favorite restaurants.
Best beaches in Monterosso?
Monterosso is split between the newer Fegina beach and historical Monterosso Vecchio (more south). The sides are connected by tunnel for easy access. By the train station there is a long stretch of beach with a few bars/restaurants.
This is the most crowded beach as it is pretty big and beautiful. There are some free beaches there, however they are quite small and very crowded in the summer. If you want to lounge on a beach chair with an umbrella it will cost you about 35-50 euros.
I recommend going early because the chairs book up fast. It is also super fun to rent a pedalo boat and explore the coastline (it’s about 20 euros per hour).
Monterosso Vecchio beach is also a nice spot to enjoy the summer sun. There is also a beautiful cave that you can swim to and a big rock to jump from!
Where to eat in Monterosso?
I wasn’t drawn to this town specifically for the food. There are a lot of nice little lunch spots overlooking the water, but it is pretty casual.
La Cantina del Pescatore: This restaurant is located in an old fishermen’s house and they serve really good seafood. It can get quite touristy, but the food is still worth it. Nice little lunch spot.
What to do in Riomaggiore?
Riomaggiore is another cute down that has the stacked houses and amazing views. There are many cute shops and cafes. This is also where you can get a great photo for Instagram, since it is one of the most iconic places in Cinque Terre.
It was honestly not my favorite town because it was very packed with tourists. There is a lot of uphill walking and since it’s so small, it was very overwhelming.
Where to eat in Riomaggiore?
I recommend coming here for the street-food. There are numerous little shops that make fried seafood. So good and such a great price!
Tutti Frutti- This is the classic fried seafood cone that you eat on the go. If you like seafood, you must try this while you are there.
Best beach Spot in Riomaggiore?
When you get down by the water, make a left and continue walking the path along the ocean. There is this little beach spot that you can go to. It is called La Fossola. The beach is all rocks, and the water can be a little rough. But it is still a gorgeous spot, not too packed.
It is a little hard to enter, but there is a ladder and if you don’t mind the waves and you are a good swimmer, it can be fun.
What to do in Vernazza?
This is a very charming town by the harbor. It is surrounded by little restaurants and cafes with the cutest outdoor seating. This town feels very authentically Italian and is also super picturesque.
Where to eat in Vernazza?
Ristorante La Torre: This restaurant has AMAZING views of the ocean. The food is also so delicious. They have very nice seafood pasta and the veal was so tasty. The service is great and it’s such a perfect spot for dinner. You need to book in advance.
Best beach spot in Vernazza?
The harbor of Vernazza contains a small sandy beach where swimming is possible, as well as flat rocks that are ideal for sunbathing. The natural harbor surrounding the beach keeps the water calm and provides shelter for the local fishing boats.
To get to the harbor from the railway station, walk along the main village street in direction of the harbor. It will only take two minutes!
Alternatively, if the main beach is too crowded, walk up to the end of the marina where you’ll find folks lounging on the rocks and plunging into the sea. If diving isn’t your thing, there’s a ladder at the end of the pier.
What to do in Corniglia?
Corniglia is the highest town in Cinque Terre and is located on top of a cliff. To get to the main part of town, you have to walk up about 300 steps. Once you get to the top, there are some nice little shops and cafes.
I would say this town is one of my favorites, however, I hated the stairs. When you arrive form the train station there is a never ending walk up to the top. Out of all the towns it is the less convenient. But once you finish the walk to the top, the town is extremely charming and a lot more quiet than the rest.
Best beach in Corniglia?
Once you get to the top, you have to walk all the way down again to get to the beach on the right of the town. Once again, it has no sand just rocks and a dock. I definitely enjoyed this swim spot a lot because the water was extremely clean and clear.
Where to eat in Corniglia?
Bar Pan e Vin– A quiet lunch spot with amazing bruschetta!
Caffè Matteo– This cute café was tucked away in a little plaza with outdoor and indoor seating. The daily specials were tasty and affordably priced, making it easy to order even if you don’t know any Italian.
Cinque Terre 3 day Itinerary
I would like to preface that you can stay in any of the 5 towns (they are all beautiful) and then each day with the train visit one or two new ones. My favorite town to stay in was Manarola, it was fun to swim around in and it had the best restaurants. If you have only a day in Cinque Terre, you can actually visit all 5 the same day (just allocate 1 or 2 hours to each town).
Train to Monterosso
Beach day in Monterosso
Lunch by the beach
Train to Vernazza
Explore Vernazza town
Dinner at Ristorante La Torre
Hike Manarola to Corniglia in the morning
Lunch and beach day in Corniglia
Train back to Manarola
See the sunset with drinks and appetizers at Nessun Dorma
Dinner at Trattoria Dal Billy
Train to Riomaggiore
Street food and swimming in Riomaggiore
Dinner in your favorite town.
Beach day in Manarola, explore Riomaggiore and dinner at Trattoria Dal Billy
Should I visit Cinque Terre or La Spezia?
La Spezia is a port city that is one stop after Riomaggiore. It is a lot bigger than the 5 towns and has a lot more to do. If you are staying in Cinque Terre for more then 3 days, I recommend going to La Spezia for a day trip.
There are also AMAZING restaurants there and it has more of a night life.
Other Cinque Terre Tips
- There is not much night life in Cinque Terre. Around 9-10 PM it gets pretty quiet because all the tourists leave and most of the restaurants close at 10.
- There are no sharks in the water in Cinque Terre! So no need to worry about that.
- There are a lot of stairs in Cinque Terre. If you have any knee problems, I recommend not going because it will be difficult to get around.
- Bring your own sunscreen. They charge a lot of money for a bottle of sunscreen.
Overall, I think Cinque Terre is a great place to visit for a day or two. I think it is completely doable as a day trip from Florence, but if you want to spend more time here and really experience the towns, I would recommend staying for two to three nights.
I hope this helps and let me know if you have any other questions!