I had been dreaming about seeing these 5 coastal towns in Italy for 7 years and I knew I had to find a way to make one of my dreams come true. Imagine small hilly alleyways, colorful houses and the bluest water as far as the eye can see.
Cinque Terre has become increasingly popular over the last few years because of social media but don’t let the crowds deter you from explore these 5 magical towns. Below are my best tips for making the most of your day trip to Cinque Terre!
How to get to Cinque Terre:
I did a day trip from Florence (Santa Maria Novella) to La Spezia Centrale which took about 3 hours by train. The Florence train station is very accessible to many cities in Italy for affordable day trips, including popular cities like romantic Verona, Siena, Bologna and many more!
Book your tickets in advance online at trainline.com, I booked mine a few days in advance and paid around $60 CAD round trip which is a little expensive.
Flixbus also has route to La Spezia from Florence however it is a long trip, around 4.5 hours and it’s not that much cheaper than a train.
You cannot drive to these towns so if you do have a car you will need to park it in La Spezia and then take a train to Cinque Terre. As well, La Spezia is a great town to base yourself in if you decide you want to explore the area for a few nights. The hotel and airbnb prices are much lower than if you were to stay in one of the towns.
Tickets for Cinque Terre:
Once at La Spezia there is a ticket counter where you can buy a Cinque Terre pass to see all 5 towns and the cost is 16 euro. If you only have time for 1 or 2 than it would be a little cheaper to buy one-way tickets which cost 4 euro. Depending on if you want to spend time on a beach or relax at one of the cafes, I would say you don’t need more than 1-2 hours in each town. The closest town from La Spezia takes about 3mins and the rest are about 3-4mins apart from each other. When you buy your tickets you can go to their info desk and get a print out of all the train times to make your planning so much easier!
Suggestions for Hiking in Cinque Terre:
If you are interested in hiking there is a trail that connects each town and the trails are clearly marked and the views are supposed to be incredible. I suggest taking a train to the last town, Monterosso, and hike to the first town, Riomaggiore, with stops along the way to explore the other 3 towns.
In Manarola I found the trail for hiking and it’s located toward the back of the town, so when you leave the tunnel from the train station go right and wander around and it’s located between 2 houses, there will be a sign that says Cinque Terre hike. If you hike up you get really pretty aerial views and there’s also a cemetery up there you can check out.
Manarola is a beautiful town and one of the largest of the 5 towns. The main street has many shops and restaurants to check out, definitely try some seafood and an aperol spritz! The best views of the city are when walking towards the the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint for classic views. Get here before 10am to have the area basically to yourself for photos!
For lunch I suggest going to Nessun Dorma, this restaurant is very affordable and has the best views of the town. If you want a seat by the railing to have an uninterrupted view and great spot for photos I suggest getting to the restaurant 15mins before it opens to stand in line. The restaurant opens at 12pm every day and is closed on Tuesdays. Also, by the restaurant is great photo opportunities of Manarola without the crowds.
Riomaggiore was also very pretty and a colorful town but it is a lot smaller than Manarola and there’s less to do so you won’t need as much time. There’s places here to rent boats and kayaks for a couple hours right by the dock. This town is quite hilly and there’s lots of pretty spots to stop and take photos. If you venture out of the busy area which is where the first picture is taken below you will find lots of peaceful places to sit and relax.
Tip: There’s a pretty view point if you round the corner of the red building in the photo above and head up the stair cases. You will find a cliff side that you can walk out on and take photos of the town and have great views of the ocean!
I hope this guide helps plan and amazing day trip to discover the charming towns of Cinque Terre! I can’t recommend a trip here enough and it was definitely a highlight of my time in Italy!