Cinque Terre – One Day Guide
Cinque Terre (“five lands” in Italian) are five little and colorful towns built upon rocky cliffs facing the Ligurian sea, in northwestern Italy. At first sight they might all seem very much alike, but after visiting them you will discover that each town has its own charm that makes it truly unique. Visiting this place was a dream for us, and it shouldn’t be missed on your next trip to Italy.
We visited Cinque Terre for a little over one day last summer, and man did we wish that we had stayed there for a whole week. We didn’t get to see all of the five towns, and didn’t hike the trails between them, but we surely enjoyed our time there. Here are our guide and tips for visiting this magical place:
What to see and do in each town
Monterosso al Mare
If, like Mariana, you want some time at the beach during your visit to Cinque Terre, then Monterosso is where you’ll get it. It’s the “flattest” of the towns, and the only one that has a sand beach with rows of beach chairs and umbrellas.
It was the first town where we set foot on and we headed straight to the beach. Try your best to go to the beach as early as possible, because, as you can imagine, it can get pretty crowded later on. A pair of beach chairs cost us 15 euros and we stayed for about 3 hours, sunbathing and taking a dip in the Ligurian Sea.
We didn’t really get to explore the rest of the town, but as we have read, the beach is the main thing to do there.
Next in row is Vernazza, home to one of Cinque Terre’s two most famous viewpoints. The train station is located in the middle of the town, and you exit right into the busy main street, lined with shops and restaurants.
Walk straight down the main street and you’ll arrive at the square just in front of the little harbor. Here you will find lots of cafes and restaurants with tables and chairs out in the square. It’s a lovely spot to seat down for a meal or drink, although probably not the cheapest one.
You might have probably seen the following view a lot in Instagram or blogs, and with good reason, as it’s a wonderful view of the town from above.
To arrive at this spot, take the hiking trail that leads to Monterosso and start walking up. After 10 or 15 minutes you will arrive here: It’s just a clearing by the hiking trail and you must crawl below the wooden railings to get here. The view is truly fantastic!
Unlike the other four towns, Corniglia is not situated by the shore, but on the top of a cliff some 100 meters above the sea. The train station is located on the foot of the hill, and you need to take a bus (or walk) to get to the town itself. If you have the Cinque Terre Pass, this bus ride (and the ride back down to the station) is included.
Corniglia is much smaller and calmer than the rest of the towns, with very narrow streets and alleys. Nevertheless, it’s no less charming than any of the others.
One thing it can brag of is having better views than the other towns! Just keep walking towards the tip of the town and you will reach a terrace that looks out into the sea from the top of the hill.
Believe us when we tell you the views are incredible! From up here you can see Manarola to the left, and Vernazza (and even Monterosso) to the right.
Our favorite from all the towns we visited. We booked our room in Manarola by mere luck, because it was the best accommodation we found, and fortunately we loved this town. It also has an amazing viewpoint like the one in Vernazza, but much easier to reach!
Its main street is lined with restaurants, shops, gelato and focaccia shops, and it didn’t feel as crowded as Vernazza. The boats parked at the sides of the street give it such a charming atmosphere!
Manarola doesn’t have a beach, but lots of people take a dip in its harbor, diving from the rocks, or simply laying down a towel to sunbathe.
A famous spot is the Nessun Dorma restaurant, located on the trail headed to Corniglia just a few minutes away from the town. We didn’t have time to visit the place but we have seen a lot of it on Instagram and it looks quite amazing. For some delicious focaccia, head to La Cambusa, a small bakery on the main street.
There’s an easy walking trail that leads to Riomaggiore from Manarola, called the Via dell’amore, but it seems like it’s closed most of the time due to landslides and falling rocks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to check out Riomaggiore but we have read lots of opinions that it’s amazing too, and the favorite town of quite a good amount of visitors!
Where to Stay
When it comes to accommodation in Cinque Terre, you have two options:
Cinque Terre itself
If you want to stay in one of the Cinque Terre towns you can find apartments in Airbnb, and another popular option are single rooms, or “camere” in Italian. You will see plenty of signs advertising “camere” around.
Our recommended place to stay would be 5 Terre Pelagos, which consists of several different rooms within a single apartment building in the town of Manarola. It’s located a 2 minute walk away from the train station, which was super convenient, and the “cave room” has a pretty nice view towards the main street.
If you want to see the available rooms, check availability and make your reservation via Booking.com, click on the following link:
However, if you want to save a bit in accommodation, you can stay in La Spezia, a small town just 10 minutes away by train. Accommodation there is generally cheaper than in Cinque Terre itself, so it’s a popular choice for people who are visiting Cinque Terre. There are abundant accommodation options in La Spezia, and its main streets have lots of restaurants and shops, so you might consider staying here if you are travelling on a budget.
Our recommended place to stay in La Spezia (for four) is this Airbnb apartment that is located at a walking distance of both the train station and busy streets filled with restaurants and shops. Besides from that, the host Gianna is such an amazing host! If you stay there tell her we said hi! Here’s the link: https://www.airbnb.com.co/rooms/24283888?guests=1&adults=1
Moving Around in Cinque Terre
Unless your plan is to hike the trails between the towns, the best way to move around in Cinque Terre (and to/from La Spezia) is by train. If you are moving around Italy by car, you might consider finding a cheap parking in La Spezia and leave it there, or simply return it and book another one after finishing with Cinque Terre if you are staying for a number of days. There are parking lots outside the towns but they are not within a walkable distance from the towns, and you would have to take shuttles to get to the town and then back to the parking lot.
To the contrary, moving around by train is super easy, as the train stations in each town are located on the town center (except on Corniglia). Trains run frequently and if you buy the Cinque Terre Card it’s very cheap. A single train ticket in Cinque Terre (including to/from La Spezia) costs 4 euros and has a validity of one hour and 15 minutes. But, let’s be realistic: you will probably spend more than just over an hour in each town, so basically every train ride would cost you 4 euros.
The Cinque Terre card costs 16 euros (one day) and includes: access to the national park’s hiking trails, unlimited train rides, the bus ride to get from the Corniglia train station to the town located on top of the hill (and back to the station), and free access to the bathrooms located on the train stations.
What to eat
Regarding food, some of the most popular things you will find here are focaccia and bruschetta. You will find a lot of bakeries where you can buy a slice of focaccia or pizza from 2 to 5 euros. Pesto is a ligurian specialty, so make sure to have some here, and if it’s on top of a focaccia, even better!
As you might imagine, seafood is very typical in this region, so you might want to order some seafood pasta! Anchovies are a specialty of the region so you might want to try those too!
An often overlooked town in the area is Porto Venere, which our host Gianna recommended. You can get there by bus from La Spezia or by boat from Cinque Terre. If you have some spare time go check it out!
Our advice is to stay AT LEAST two days in Cinque Terre to have enough time to calmly visit and enjoy each town without haste. If you plan on hiking the trails between the towns, then you should save some more days for your visit, and plan to do it early in the morning before the sun is at its strongest.
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