From the mountainous regions of the Italian Alps to the beachside resorts of the Puglia, the country of Italy has everything you could ever wish for. In order to make the most of your time in this incredible country, we recommend spending one to two weeks exploring the different regions of Italy. In particular, this guide will take you through the best sights and activity in the beautiful region of Cinque Terre, which is located on the western coast of Italy.
Cinque Terre (meaning “Five Lands”) is a group of five picturesque seaside villages located in the Liguria Region of the Italian Riviera coastline about a 110km (68 miles) north of Pisa. Visiting the Cinque Terre villages will feel like taking a step back in time with narrow paved streets that wind their way through brightly coloured old houses as well as steep stairs climbing their way up the side of the cliffs through groves of olive trees.
The five villages are called Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore; each village has its own special character and is worth taking the time to explore. The villages of Cinque Terre are a great place to slow down, relax and enjoy your holiday. There are no major tourist attractions, just pretty seaside villages to explore.
At a minimum, you should plan to spend 3 nights at Cinque Terre so that you have at least two full days for sightseeing.
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The Complete 2-day Cinque Terre Itinerary
Getting to Cinque Terre
The streets of the five villages are closed to vehicles so you will need to put away your car keys and use some of the alternative transport options that are available.
Park your car – There is limited parking at the entrances to the villages so you should plan to take the safer option and park your car at La Spezia train station and catch the train to the Cinque Terre villages.
Catch a boat – The Cinque Terre ferry runs between the villages during the busy tourist season from late March and early November. Excluding Corniglia, you will be able to visit all of the Cinque Terre villages by boat as well as La Spezia, Portovenere and Levanto.
Catch a train – Train travel in Italy is a convenient and relaxing way to travel enabling you to avoid traffic congestion and the hassle of finding a car park.
Fly to Cinque Terre – The closest airport near Cinque Terre is the Cristoforo Colombo Airport in Genoa (GOA), which is approximately 110 km away. Upon arrival at the airport, you can easily access Cinque Terre by taking a train or renting a car. The train journey from Genoa to Cinque Terre takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, with frequent connections available throughout the day. Alternatively, a scenic drive along the Italian coast will lead you to the breathtaking villages that make up Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre train starts in the town of La Spezia and runs between the 5 villages:
- La Spezia – Riomaggiore – 9 minutes
- Riomaggiore – Manarola – 6 minutes
- Manarola – Corniglia – 5 minutes
- Corniglia – Vernazza – 4 minutes
- Vernazza – Monterosso – 4 minutes
Getting around on foot – There are several hiking trails that allow you to walk along steep mountain trails between the five villages.
Two of the trails (Monterosso – Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia) require a payment or the use of a Cinque Terre Card to access whereas the rest of the trails are free:
- Monterosso – Vernazza (low route): 3.5km – €7.50/day or Cinque Terre Card
- Monterosso – Vernazza (high route): 7.5km – Free
- Vernazza – Corniglia: 4km – €7.50/day or Cinque Terre Card
- Manarola – Volastra – Corniglia (high route): 5 km – Free
- Corniglia – Manarola: Closed till mid 2022
- Manarola – Riomaggiore: Closed till mid 2022
- Riomaggiore – Portovenere: 12.5km – Free
- Riomaggiore – Santuario di Montenero: 3.5km – Free
- Levanto – Monterosso: 7km – Free
- Levanto – Bonassola – Framura (high route): 5.5km – Free
- Levanto – Bonassola – Framura (via tunnels): 7.5km – Free
Purchase the Cinque Terre Card
The Cinque Terre card is an easy option for accessing transport in the Cinque Terre Region. There are two types of Cinque Terre Cards; a Trekking Card for the two trails that require a fee and a Train Card which includes access to trains, buses as well as the two hiking trails that require a fee.
Two train rides and a hiking trail will cost you €15.50 for one day whereas the Cinque Terre card costs €16 and allows you to take unlimited train rides. The Cinque Terre Card does not include access to the ferry. The advantage of the Cinque Terre Card is that it can be purchased online and you don’t have to stand in long queues during peak tourist season to purchase individual tickets from the machine.
If you are visiting in winter where the crowds are smaller and you are not charged to use the hiking trails, you may find it cheaper to purchase the train tickets individually for €4 each.
The 2-day Cinque Terre Itinerary
Day 1 – Monterosso al Mare & Vernazza
Start your day by catching the Cinque Terre train to Monterosso al Mare.
The first thing you will see when you exit the Monterosso train station is the beautiful Italian Riviera coastline and the crystal clear blue water of the Ligurian Sea. Head in the direction of the water and walk along Spiaggia di Fegina, the main beach of Monterosso. In summer you will find the beach crammed with tourists sitting under brightly coloured beach umbrellas.
Walk to the old town
Leave Spiaggia di Fegina and the New Town of Monterosso and follow the road with the beach to your right till you reach the Old Town. You can either walk up and over the hill or take the tunnel.
Explore the Old Town
Wander through the streets of the Old Town and get lost among the brightly coloured buildings.
Lemons are one of the primary crops of Monterosso and they play a big role in the town with popular foods being limoncino (the northern equivalent to limoncello), lemon cream, lemon marmalade and lemon cake. There is even an annual Lemon Festival in May where the town is decorated with lemons.
Visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista (St John the Baptist)
As you walk through the streets of the Old Town lookout for the very noticeable Gothic striped facade of the Church of San Giovanni Battista. The church dates back to 1307 and features alternating stripes of dark green and white marble.
Visit the Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri Mortis et Orationis
Beside the Church of San Giovanni Battista is the Oratory of the Confraternita dei Neri Mortis et Orationis.
An oratory is a place set aside for community groups, which in this case was the Confraternita dei Neri or Fraternity of Blacks (referring to the robes they wore). The Fraternity of Blacks were dedicated to assisting widows and orphans.
Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
Allow two hours to hike along the cliffs from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza; along the way, you will be treated to spectacular views of the coastline.
Trenino: the monorails of Cinque Terre
As you are hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza you will notice a monorail system snaking its way along with the steep hillside fields. The trenino or toy train was created to assist farmers with the moving of grapes and other crops.
Enjoy a gelato in Vernazza
As a reward for walking all the way from Monterosso to Vernazza, make sure you buy yourself a delicious icy treat. You’ll find a gelato shop halfway along the main street between the train station and the harbour.
Admire the village views
Start walking up the stairs in the direction of Corniglia and admire the village views as you look down over the brightly coloured buildings of Vernazza and back towards Monterosso al Mare.
Walk on the harbour wall
During mild weather, the harbour wall is a great place to sit and enjoy the cool sea breezes.
If you happen to visit during inclement weather, then watching the waves as they come crashing down on the sea wall can be an exhilarating experience.
Explore the stairs and passageways
Hopefully, your calf muscles aren’t to sore after hiking from Monterosso because it’s time to climb some more stairs and explore the village. There are numerous staircases and passageways; some resulting in stunning views of the sea and Vernazza’s brightly coloured buildings.
People watch in the village square
Find yourself a comfy place to sit with an expresso or gelato and watch all the people go by in the village square. The village square is the perfect place to sit at the end of your day and watch the sun go down. This is often our favourite pass-time activity when we visit a new and exciting place.
Day 2 – Corniglia, Manarola & Riamaggiore
Climb up the stairs from the Corniglia train station
Start your day by catching the Cinque Terre train to Corniglia.
As you exit the train and walk along the platform you are faced with some 380+ stairs to reach the village of Corniglia which is located 100m above sea level. Take your time and enjoy the view.
Reward yourself with a gelato
After the challenging walk up the stairs from the train station it’s time to reward yourself with an icy cold gelato. There are several shops to choose from in Corniglia.
Explore the stairs and passageways of Corniglia.
Take your time and stroll along the narrow streets and stairs of Corniglia. Every so often you will be rewarded with stunning views to the ocean.
Once you’ve finished exploring Corniglia, walk back down the stairs to the Corniglia Train Station and catch the train to Manarola.
Walk down the main street of Manarola
Make your way through the tunnel from the train station to the main street of Manarola. Walk down the street towards the harbour and browse through the shops and restaurants.
Admire the boat ramp
As you reach the end of the main street of Manarola you’ll see a steep concrete boat ramp curving its way down towards the small protected harbour. Tiny fishing boats can be wheeled down the ramp or launched into the water using a winch.
Views of Manarola
Walk past the boat ramp and up the hill on the start of the Manarola – Corniglia trail.
The trail is often closed due to landslides but you can walk along the start of it and be rewarded with stunning views back towards the village of Manarola. This is the perfect place to sit and relax and soak in the charm of one of the more popular Cinque Terre villages.
Admire the views towards Corniglia
Walk a little bit further round the corner on the Manarola to Corniglia hiking trail and you will be able to admire the views back towards Corniglia and Vernazza.
Manarola Nativity Scene
If visiting near Christmas time you will be able to see the nativity scene or presepe set up high on the hill above the village of Manarola. The nativity scene is lit up at night with thousands of bulbs and electric cables.
Once you have finished exploring Manarola, make your way back to the train station and catch the train to Riamaggiore.
Visit the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Riamaggiore
Make your way from the train station towards the centre of the village and the Church of San Giovanni Battista. Originally built in the gothic style in 1340, the church was reconstructed after it started to collapse in 1870.
Explore streets of Riamaggiore
Continue walking through the village exploring the narrow streets and passageways as you go.
Slowly make your way down the hill to the harbour and the Fisherman’s District. From here you can watch the tiny brightly coloured fishing boats being launched into the water.
If you have any spare time, catch the train back to your favourite Cinque Terre village and continue exploring or to sit back and soak up the charm of these picturesque Italian Riviera villages.
How to Prepare for Your Visit to Italy
Before you set off on your trip to Cinque Terra, there are a number of things you will need to organise to ensure a smooth and successful trip. These include what to pack for Italy and what is the best travel insurance for your trip. Both of these will be discussed in the following section.
What is the Best Travel Insurance for Italy
Regardless of what type of trip you are heading on, one thing that is essential for everybody is good travel insurance. Accidents can happen anywhere and at anytime and unexpected hospital bills will ruin a holiday. Remove the stress from your next adventure and get covered for the worst.
World Nomads Travel Insurance provides budget reliable travel insurance that will keep you covered for any level of adventure.
What Should You Pack for Cinque Terra?
What you need to pack for Cinque Terra will rely highly on when you make your trip to Italy. During the Spring and Autumn months, temperatures and weather patterns vary wildly between beautiful sunny skies and rainy days. During the Summer, you are pretty much guaranteed nice weather with temperatures ranging from 20-35 oC. The hottest months are July and August, so these will be the most popular for a Summer holiday.
During the Winter months in Cinque Terra, the weather can go as low as freezing, so make sure you wrap up warm if you are coming between October and April. If you need more inspiration on what to pack for your trip, check out our full packing guides for all-weather conditions over here.
When it comes to toiletries, we recommend that you don’t forget to pack sunscreen. The sun in Italy is very strong, especially during the summer months. Apply a lot of cream regularly to prevent a nasty burn from ruining your trip. We use this specific sunscreen to protect us as it is not as oily and irritating as other sunscreens.
Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you will see in Italy, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.
With this, we come to the end of this 2-day itinerary to Cinque Terra. Doesn’t matter whether you have 2 days or a week in Cinque Terra, the fact is, some things might be left as unexplored (considering the compelling charm of the city) on your 2 day trip to Cinque Terra.
But that’s the life of a globetrotter, right? Well, with that being said, wherever you go or whatever you do in Cinque Terra, make sure to make the most out of it in order to create memories to cherish for a long time.
If you have visited Italy, let us know what you thought of the sights listed above, or if you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below.
As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this travel itinerary with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own Italian adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Italy content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country.
When you set off on your own adventure, be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram and we will share them with the rest of our community. In the meantime, why not follow us over there to see what we are currently up to and keep up with us on our Instagram Stories.
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Susan is a photography enthusiast and travel blogger from Brisbane, Australia. Her blog Thrifty after 50 provides tips on low-cost travel to over 50’s so you can travel more for less. At Australia Bucket List, Susan provides travel recommendations for the best things to do and see in Australia.
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