Italy is known for its colorful villages, glimmering seaside, and delicious cuisine. There's no place quite like Italy, and Cinque Terre is no exception to that rule. From quaint Corniglia to buzzing Manarola, there is something different to please every type of traveler.
I'll never forget my first time in this iconic destination. I locked lips with countless plates of pasta, took twenty-something-dips in the warm sea, and ate more gelato than I could count on my fingers. Mamma mia!
There's something special about the language, culture, and general way of life. Cinque Terre sparked a fire within, and I left that vacation feeling fuller than ever before. This summer, I'll be heading back for round two. So to help you with your trip planning, I've pieced together this guide on planning a trip to Cinque Terre. Andiamo!
How to Plan the Ultimate Trip to Cinque Terre
Planning a trip to Italy may feel overwhelming, especially if it's your first visit. Luckily, I've visited more than five times and made all the mistakes, so you don't have to! Whether planning a romantic honeymoon or a solo trip, you can use this tried-and-tested formula.
Step 1: Determine the duration of your trip and the best time to visit
Spring and autumn are considered the best time to visit Cinque Terre, especially if you want a more authentic experience.
If you're a budget traveler, plan a trip to Cinque Terre in the off-season to save money on accommodation. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) also boast more affordable prices on activities and transport. Score!
Step 2: Research and select the top destinations
Every traveler has their own style, so what's yours? Would you prefer to keep it low-key in Corniglia or get your tourist hat on in Monterosso?
The Five Towns of Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre comprises five towns, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The Cinque Terre villages boast individual flavors, beaches, and charming vibes. Situated in Liguria, these former fishing villages are loved for the colorful, cliff-hugging homes that tower above the sea. Here's a basic view of what's on offer:
- Monterosso: The largest village with sandy beaches, bustling bars, and countless restaurants
- Vernazza: A port-centered town with traditional Ligurian architecture and seafood trattorias
- Corniglia: The heart of Cinque Terre, with plenty to see for nature enthusiasts and active travelers
- Manarola: A charming village with postcard-worthy vibes all around
- Riomaggiore: A romantic town that's perfect for couples.
Step 3: Book your accommodation
The earlier, the better! Popular tourist destinations in Cinque Terre can get booked out quickly, especially during the high season. Keep things budget-friendly by preparing at least three to six months ahead.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
You'll be spoiled for choice if you're wondering where to stay in Cinque Terre! Cinque Terre has a dazzling diversity of accommodations, from backpacker-friendly hostels to luxury apartments. Most hotels in Cinque Terre are family-run, and the prices can vary depending on the season.
Step 4: Organize transportation
Italy is home to an efficient public transportation system, with a network of trains, buses, taxis, and flights. If you plan on seeing multiple cities in Cinque Terre, consider buying a rail pass.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
Sitting on the Mediterranean Sea, the Cinque Terre is located in northern Italy. This area can be reached in under 3 hours by train from big cities like Milan, Pisa, and Florence. The train from Rome to Cinque Terre is a little over 5 hours, and you can even get overnight trains to save on accommodation! The closest airports are Pisa (PSA), Milan Malpensa (MXP), and Genoa (GOA).
I'd recommend the latter if you're wondering whether Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre is better for transportation. Cinque Terre trains are well-connected, and you can get pretty much everywhere you need to go!
Step 5: Get your travel documents in order
Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months before your departure date, and check to see if you need a Schengen Visa to enter Italy. Additionally, you should also consider travel insurance.
Step 6: Get familiar with the language
You don't have to be fluent in Italian to communicate in Cinque Terre. Luckily, most of the main tourist areas speak English. Still, you'll be surprised how much a few phrases can enhance your experience. Just wait until you see the locals' faces when you whip out a short sentence in Italian!
Step 7: Organize your travel budget
If you're a backpacker or budget traveler, this step is a must! Italy is beautiful, but it can be expensive. Plan your expenses and consider accommodation, transport, food, and sightseeing activities.
What to Do in Cinque Terre
So, what is so special about Cinque Terre? Aside from the charming villages and colorful streets, many things make this Italian gem unique. From kayaking and hiking to food and cultural tours, there are many things to do in Cinque Terre.
When the Cinque Terre weather comes out to play, you can witness the landscape in full splendor! This region is full of awe-inspiring finds, so don't miss out on the following:
- Kayaking in Cinque Terre - Walking the trail from Volastra to Corniglia
- Pasta and tiramisu cooking class in Riomaggiore - Get sailing on a boat tour
- Horse riding in Monterosso - Hike the route from Monterosso to Vernazza
You can bet your bottom dollar that the beaches here are top-notch. I may have left my last trip with second-degree sunburn, but it was worth it! Cinque Terre boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, with turquoise waters and silky soft sands. Here are some of the most popular beaches:
- Monterosso Beach (Fegina)
- Monterosso Beach (Old Town)
- Vernazza Beach (Harbor)
- Corniglia Beach (Guvano)
- Manarola Beach
- Levanto Beach
- Riomaggiore Beach
Top Hiking Trails
The Cinque Terre coastline is home to over 120 km of trails and is an absolute oasis for hiking enthusiasts. With 48 different trails, there's doubt you'll be spoiled for choice! For astounding views, my favorite hiking trails are the following:
- Corniglia to Manarola (via Volastra)
- Riomaggiore to Portovenere
- Levanto to Monterosso
For the full scoop, look at these descriptions of the trails.
You must purchase the Cinque Terre Card to enter Cinque Terre National Park. This is mandatory to go on the two most famous trails (Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia). Otherwise, the rest are free of charge.
Italy has a lot more great hiking, so why not see as much as you can? If you're wondering if Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre is better for hiking, I'd choose the latter option. With more diversity, the Cinque Terre hikes really do stand out.
Fascinating History, Food Comas, and Beyond!
Now that you've got everything you need to plan a trip to Cinque Terre, you can start to craft your ideal travel experience for you, your family, and your friends.