The Cinque Terre is a group of centuries-old seaside villages, perched on the dramatic coastline of the Italian Riviera, just north of Pisa in northwest Italy, and it’s possible to visit all of the Cinque Terre towns in just two days!
The Cinque Terre towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Each boasts colorful houses, steep, terraced vineyards, harbors filled with fishing boats, and trattorias serving delicious seafood specialties.
The Cinque Terre towns, in addition to the coastline and the surrounding hillsides, are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
My boyfriend, Tim, and I spent two days in the Cinque Terre during our 2-week summer Europe trip. This post highlights what to do here, tips for getting to and around the Cinque Terre towns, where to stay, how to hike in Cinque Terre, and more!
*P.S. this post contains some affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase.
How to Pronounce Cinque Terre
First things first, we need to learn how to pronounce Cinque Terre! For some reason, I had the hardest time with this and had to practice it several times before finally getting it down. The correct pronunciation of Cinque Terre is cheen-kweh teh-rreh.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
We visited Cinque Terre after a day trip from Florence to Pisa. We took a train from Pisa Centrale to Riomaggiore, and total train time was around 1.5 hours.
A Broad Recommendation: I booked all of our trains in Europe through trainline and found their app easy to use. When booking a train from Pisa Centrale to Riomaggiore or any of the other Cinque Terre towns, you can book the day of, since there are a ton of options, and trains run nearly every half hour between these stations (typically with a change in La Spezia Centrale). However, if you have an exact time in mind, it can be cheaper to book your trains in advance.
If you only have a day to spare and don’t want to deal with booking transportation on your own, another option is to visit Cinque Terre on a guided tour. Though we haven’t done it ourselves, the Cinque Terre Semi-Private or Private Day Tour from Florence looks like an incredible option.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
When deciding where to stay in Cinque Terre, you’ll want to consider your interests.
- If you love the beach, Monterosso al Mare is likely the best spot for you.
- If you like playing in the water and wandering through charming alleyways, Vernazza may be better.
- If you’re looking for a quiet, off-the-beaten-path village, Corniglia is right for you.
- If you want epic views, delicious food and refreshing swimming, Manarola is your best bet.
- Finally, if you’re looking for incredible sunset views and fun nightlife, Riomaggiore is the place to be.
Since we waited so long to book, we had limited options. We ended up booking The Rooftop House in Riomaggiore and were pleasantly surprised by our choice!
This Airbnb was perfect for us, and Riomaggiore ended up being our favorite of the five Cinque Terre towns. Ending our day watching a beautiful sunset here was one of our favorite moments in Cinque Terre.
Plus, our host offered luggage storage, which was especially helpful on our last day, so we could continue exploring after check-out.
A Broad Recommendation: Be sure to bring some Euros. Hotels and Airbnbs in Italy require that you pay a city tax of €2 per person per day for the first 3 days of your stay, and some require that you pay this in cash.
How to Get Around the Cinque Terre Towns
Access to Cinque Terre by car is limited, but the towns are connected by trains, hiking paths and boats. Trains frequently run from La Spezia to all five Cinque Terre towns, as well as to other major regional and national locations, via the Genoa-Pisa line. Trips between each town take around five minutes.
A Broad Recommendation: Though trains run frequently between the towns, be prepared to stand. The trains are often packed with people, and in some cases, we were lucky enough to get on let alone find a seat.
The Cinque Terre Treno MS Card gives you unlimited travel on the Cinque Terre Express trains on the Levanto-Cinque Terre-La Spezia line, as well as access to the hiking trails—more on these in a bit! The card also provides free use of the toilets in each of the railway stations. A two-day card costs €30 and is definitely worth it if you plan to visit all of the Cinque Terre towns or do some hiking.
A passenger ferry also runs between La Spezia and Levanto and stops at all of the towns except Corniglia, which doesn’t have a port. It runs from March to November, and single journeys start from €7 or €30 for a one-day, unlimited ticket.
Hiking the Cinque Terre Towns
Hiking the Cinque Terre footpaths is one of the best ways to explore the five Cinque Terre towns, and the Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail is the most popular path.
Unfortunately, portions of this trail are closed due to landslides, including the sections from Riomaggiore to Manarola and from Manarola to Corniglia. That being said, it’s still possible to hike between the towns, though the trails are both longer and steeper.
Here are some of the trails we considered hiking during our visit to Cinque Terre.
Monterosso to Vernazza
- Difficulty: average
- Length: 2.2 miles
- Duration: 1.5-2 hours
- Hiking Fee: €7,50/day or Cinque Terre Card
Note: The trail is easier if you walk from Vernazza to Monterosso. If you start in Monterosso, take the small pedestrian road leading to the Hotel Porto Roca. From here, the trail begins with a long staircase and offers great views of Vernazza.
Monterosso to Vernazza (via Santuario di Reggio & Soviore)
- Difficulty: average
- Length: 4.7 miles
- Duration: 3.5-4 hours
- Hiking Fee: none
Vernazza to Corniglia
- Difficulty: average
- Length: 2.2 miles
- Duration: 1.5-2 hours
- Hiking fee: €7,50/day or Cinque Terre Card
You can take this path in either direction, but it’s easier to start in Corniglia. From the Corniglia train station, take the shuttle bus up to the village. From here, the trail is relatively flat and you’ll be rewarded with magnificent views descending towards Vernazza.
A Broad Recommendation: Leave time to stop at the charming Bar Il Gabbiano in Prevo, a tiny hamlet of Vernazza, along the way. Here, you can enjoy stunning sea views while sipping on some yummy lemon granitas.
We started in Corniglia around 5:00 pm, and when we arrived in Vernazza, the sun was behind the town, making it difficult to take good photos. I would recommend doing this trail earlier in the day if you plan to hike in the same direction we did.
Manarola to Corniglia (via Volastra)
- Difficulty: difficult
- Length: 3.4 miles
- Duration: 2.5-3 hours
- Hiking fee: none
You can hike in either direction, but again, it’s easier to start in Corniglia. The first part of the trail is very steep. To avoid this, you can start in Manarola and take the shuttle bus up to Volastra. The bus typically runs every hour and takes about 10 minutes.
In Volastra, the trail continues behind the church of Madonna della Salute. From here, you’ll walk through ancient terraces that decline to the sea and have incredible views of the Mediterranean and the five Cinque Terre towns.
Note that the shorter trail between Manarola and Corniglia is currently closed and scheduled to reopen in 2024.
Manarola to Riomaggiore (Via Beccara)
- Difficulty: difficult
- Length: 1.2 miles
- Duration: 1-1.5 hours
- Hiking fee: none
Although Riomaggiore and Manarola are close together, they’re separated by a steep mountain, making sections of this trail quite challenging. You can hike in either direction, and you’ll have gorgeous, panoramic sea views along the way.
This was the first trail we hiked, and it was much more difficult than expected! We started in Riomaggiore around 10:30 am (in June), and it was already pretty hot out.
Note that the shorter trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore is also currently closed and scheduled to reopen in 2024.
Tips for Hiking in Cinque Terre
There are several other hiking trails in the area, and trail conditions sometimes change with short notice. So, be sure to check the Cinque Terre footpaths website before your visit.
The Cinque Terre Trekking Card provides access to all of the trails, but if you already have the Cinque Terre Train Card, you won’t need to purchase this one. The card also provides free use of the toilets in each of the railway stations.
Be sure to dress appropriately for hiking and wear comfortable tennis shoes or hiking boots; flip flops aren’t permitted on the trails. Also, be sure to wear sunscreen, bring a hat, water and snacks, and avoid hiking during the hottest times of the day.
What to Do in the Cinque Terre Towns
If you have more than one day, you should plan to visit all five Cinque Terre towns. Each one is a little different from the others and offers a variety of restaurants, sightseeing opportunities and activities.
Cinque Terre Towns: Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is the southernmost and one of the largest of the Cinque Terre towns. It’s also our favorite of the Cinque Terre towns! Riomaggiore dates back to the early 13th century and is known for its brightly painted houses, historic character and narrow, maze-like streets.
What to Do in Riomaggiore
All of Riomaggiore’s major attractions are walkable. The main street, Via Colombo, is lined with restaurants, bars and shops and is a great place to take a stroll and to do some shopping.
Be sure to visit the Gothic-style Church of San Giovanni Battista and admire the views from the piazza on which the church sits.
If you’re staying for sunset, one of the best spots to see it is from the breakwater in front of the harbor. After all, Riomaggiore is centered around its rocky harbor.
Built in 1260, Riomaggiore Castle is another great spot for sunset (though as you can tell from these photos, we visited well before sunset). The ruins of the castle sit atop a hill and offer breathtaking views of Riomaggiore and the sea.
Where to Eat in Riomaggiore
Since we stayed in Riomaggiore, we enjoyed several meals here. First and foremost, you must try Fritto misto in Riomaggiore! Fritto misto is a cone of fried fish (including sardines!), and Il Pescato Cucinato is a popular local spot to try some. We also tried a couple delicious dishes at Bar Centrale and heard that Dau Cila has good seafood as well.
If you’re looking for Italian cuisine, check out Colle del Telegrafo, Rio Bistrot, La Cantina del Macellaio or La Lampara. For breakfast, try Bar Stazione, Vertical Bar Riomaggiore or Giammi Caffe, and for gelato, try Old School Riomaggiore Gelateria & Snack Shop, Gelateria Centrale Di Germani E Giaccio or Gelateria Sottozero. Of course, we were only here for two nights, so we couldn’t try all of these, but they’re worth mentioning just in case!
A Broad Recommendation: Don’t forget to try a Lemon Granita while visiting the Cinque Terre towns. These are popular here, and you’ll find them nearly everywhere you go!
Cinque Terre Towns: Manarola
Centered around its marina with mostly bright and colorful houses, Manarola is the second-smallest of the Cinque Terre towns and one of the most picturesque. It’s believed that Manarola is also the oldest of the Cinque Terre towns, and Manarola’s economy has thrived for ages with its fishing and wine-making industries.
What to Do in Manarola
Manarola has a rocky shoreline, and though there are no sandy beaches here, there are stone jetties you can jump and swim off of.
You’ll also want to shop on Via Renato Birolli and check out the medieval Church of San Lorenzo, a Gothic Ligurian-style church. Next to the church is the Torre Campanaria, a bell tower historically used for defensive purposes. Next to the tower is another scenic viewpoint of Manarola.
The Punta Bonfiglio viewpoint overlooks the harbor and is where you’ll find one of the most iconic Cinque Terre views. To get there, follow the narrow walkway to the west along the water’s edge. This is also one of the best sunset spots in Cinque Terre.
Manarola is surrounded by grape fields, making local wine tasting a popular activity. Be sure to try some sciacchetrà, Manarola’s signature white, passito wine.
Where to Eat in Manarola
If you’re in Manarola for breakfast, try Bar Corbani or Cappun Magru, an adorable little shop right by the Church of San Lorenzo.
Above the Punta Bonfiglio viewpoint, there’s a restaurant called Nessum Dorma that’s the perfect spot for an afternoon Aperol Spritz. Unfortunately, Nessum Dorma was closed during our visit, so we didn’t have a chance to try it.
For lunch or dinner, Il Porticciolo has delicious seafood and doesn’t require reservations. We tried this spot and really enjoyed it! We also heard that La Regina di Manarola and Trattoria dal Billy have beautiful views, especially at sunset. Be sure to get a reservation in advance if you’d like to try one of these.
For delicious gelato, check out Gelateria Enrica or Gelateria 5 Terre.
Cinque Terre Towns: Corniglia
Corniglia is the smallest and quietest of the Cinque Terre towns and is unique in that the houses are lower set than the other villages. Also unlike the others, Corniglia sits on top of a hill rather than on the waterfront and thus, is not directly accessible from the sea.
From the train station, you’ll have to scale the Scalinata Lardarina, the long, zigzagging staircase with nearly 400 steps that climb up the cliff to Corniglia’s panorama terrace. From this terrace, all four of the other Cinque Terre towns can be seen.
What to Do in Corniglia
While in Corniglia, follow the Via Fieschi to La Torre viewpoint for stunning coastal views of Manarola. Or, visit one of the village’s churches: the Chiesa di San Pietro, a 14th-century, Gothic style church, and the Oratorio dei Disciplinati di Santa Caterina, a tiny chapel whose ceiling is painted to look like the sky.
Where to Eat in Corniglia
Corniglia is also surrounded by vineyards, making it one of the best Cinque Terre towns for wine tasting. We absolutely loved our stop at Terra Rossa Winebar where we had a delightful wine flight and complimentary food pairing.
Other spots you may want to try include Pan e Vin, which has tasty sandwiches and focaccias; KM0, a casual spot with sandwiches and salads; Cantina De Mananan, which is located in a historic wine cellar and offers traditional dishes made with locally caught seafood and vegetables grown in the village; and Ristorante La Posada, which offers delicious, local seafood and has a terrace overlooking Manarola.
For an aperitivo, try Bar La Terza Terra, which has a few tables overlooking the sea and offers great views. And, be sure to stop at Alberto Gelateria or Gelateria Corniglia and try gelato made from local honey (miele di Corniglia).
A Broad Recommendation: We stopped at Caffe Matteo, and the staff was extremely rude, so I wouldn’t recommend eating here.
Cinque Terre Towns: Vernazza
Vernazza is set around the Cinque Terre’s only natural harbor and is said to be one of the most beautiful of the Cinque Terre towns. It’s also one of the “truest fishing villages” on the Italian Riviera.
Vernazza is a fortified town with evidence of its existence going back as early as 1048. Although Vernazza still has strong centuries-old fishing, wine and olive oil production industries, the main source of the town’s revenue is tourism.
What to Do in Vernazza
For a small fee, you can explore the remains of the 11th century Doria Castle, another tower built for defensive purposes, specifically against pirates, and enjoy some of the best views of Vernazza.
Constructed in the 13th century, the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia boasts a mix of Gothic-Ligurian style and classic Renaissance architecture and also offers stunning views. And, the Chapel of Santa Marta is a tiny stone chapel along Vernazza’s main street, Via Roma.
Additionally, you might want to find a quiet spot on the rocks at Vernazza Harbor and swim in the Ligurian Sea.
Where to Eat in Vernazza
For breakfast, try Ananasso Bar, Lunch Box or Blue Marlin Cafe, and for lunch, Pizzeria Fratelli Basso has great focaccia.
For local seafood, try La Torre, Gambero Rosso or Gianni Franzi. Ristorante Belforte is another popular spot for local seafood and offers incredible views. Be sure to make reservations in advance if you’d like to dine here. We were lucky enough to get a last minute reservation and had a lovely dinner overlooking the sea and watching the sunset.
For yummy, post-dinner gelato, try Alberto Gelateria or Gelateria Vernazza.
Cinque Terre Towns: Monterosso al Mare
Last but not least is Monterosso al Mare, the furthest north and largest of the Cinque Terre towns. The village is split into two sections. The old town, i.e. Paese Vecchio sits on one side and the more modern Fegina on the other. Here, you’ll find Cinque Terre’s only real sandy beach.
Monterosso al Mare is also famous for its lemon trees, white wines, grapes and olives.
What to Do in Monterosso al Mare
During your visit to Monterosso al Mare, you may considering climbing up to the Torre Aurora, one of the three remaining defensive towers or stopping at the 14th-century Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, which boasts unique black and white stripes, unlike any other church in Cinque Terre.
However, the most popular thing to do in Monterosso al Mare is to relax on Fegina Beach. The beach gets quite popular in the summer, so be sure to book your chairs in advance. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also opt for a kayaking experience or boat tour from Monterosso.
At the end of Fegina Beach, you’ll see “il Gigante” or the Giant, one of the most unique statues in Cinque Terre. The statue depicts Neptune holding the waves of the sea away from the town of Monterosso al Mare. Sadly, the Giant took a large hit during the WWII bombings and lost a large part of its makeup.
Today, the body and head of Neptune still stand strong, but these also continue to weather over time due to the water.
Where to Eat in Monterosso al Mare
For breakfast, check out M.G. Bar, Pasticceria Laura or Bar Della Stazione. For traditional seafood, try Ristorante Belvedere, Miky or Trattoria da Oscar. And, of course, don’t forget gelato! We heard that Il Golosone or Gelateria La Scogliera are great spots to try out.
Tips for Visiting the Cinque Terre Towns
Unlike some other destinations in Italy, you’ll be doing some hiking and potentially some swimming in Cinque Terre, so be sure to pack your swimsuit, tennis shoes, a hat, some sunscreen and a refillable water bottle for your visit.
As long as the fountain does not say “non-potable”, the water is safe to drink.
Try to get into the towns early each day, and stay late! They can fill up pretty quickly with day trippers, especially Vernazza because it has cruises coming in and out all day.
All of the Cinque Terre towns are quite peaceful first thing in the morning when they’re still quiet. Walk up the cobblestone steps in each village, especially Manarola!
Many restaurants require reservations, and most don’t open until 7 or 8 pm. Eat all the seafood you can; it’s so fresh and delicious.
Be sure to try some pesto and focaccia, both of which are popular in Cinque Terre, and the region of Liguria.
And, be sure to try the local drinks, including the two locally made wines, the eponymous Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà, and grappa and limoncino.
Hopefully you’re feeling excited and ready to visit all of the Cinque Terre towns! Let me know if you have any questions before visiting in the comments below.
XOXO Sara at Travel A-Broads