Planning a day trip to Cinque Terre? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article I have outlined everything you need to know to enjoy an awesome Cinque Terre day trip, regardless of where you’re travelling from.
You will find out how to get to Cinque Terre from all the major cities in the area like Florence and Milan, the best things to do in one day in Cinque Terre, how to get around, where to eat and much more!
The five towns that compose Cinque Terre; Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, are amongst the most famous and most beautiful places in Italy, and it’s easy to see why.
With their colourful pastel houses, narrow streets, charming harbours and delicious focaccia, these small fishing villages are like nowhere else in the world.
My father was born and raised in La Spezia, a city just 20 minutes away from Cinque Terre, so I’ve been lucky enough to visit these charming towns plenty of times over the years.
This Cinque Terre day trip guide includes all the key information, as well as my local tips and insights. So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in and start planning the perfect Cinque Terre day trip!
- 1 How to get to Cinque Terre
- 2 How to get around Cinque Terre
- 3 Best things to do on a Cinque Terre day trip
- 4 Best Cinque Terre day tours
- 5 Is a Cinque Terre day trip worth it?
- 6 Best time to visit Cinque Terre
- 7 Where to stay for the best Cinque Terre day trip
- 8 What to pack for your day tour to Cinque Terre
How to get to Cinque Terre
Getting to Cinque Terre for a day trip is fairly straightforward and can be done from a range of cities and popular hotspots in the area.
La Spezia to Cinque Terre
If you plan to do a Cinque Terre day trip, I highly recommend you do so starting from La Spezia (and I don’t say this just because my father is from this Ligurian city).
From La Spezia Centrale you can take the local train to Cinque Terre. It runs regularly throughout the day, takes less than 20 minutes and costs less than 5 EUR.
If you prefer to have a local guide showing you around, telling you about the history of Cinque Terre, you can join a guided tour from La Spezia to Cinque Terre.
Florence to Cinque Terre day trip
While I personally think La Spezia is the best city to set off on your Cinque Terre day trip from, I’m conscious your starting city will ultimately depend on your Italy itinerary.
As such, I have outlined below how you can travel to Cinque Terre from other famous Italian cities.
Getting from Florence to Cinque Terre by train is relatively easy. There’s an regional train that takes two hours to travel the 170km between the two.
By car, it’s an hour and a half. This makes a Florence to Cinque Terre day trip something that’s definitely doable (although admittedly with a little too much time spent travelling)
Alternatively, you can also join a guided Florence to Cinque Terre day tour. That way, you won’t have to worry about driving, parking, or having to figure out train times.
Pisa to Cinque Terre day trip
If you want to do a Pisa to Cinque Terre day trip, you can easily drive there, as it’s only an hour and 45 minute drive along the coast.
Or you can take the train – the fastest takes just over an hour to reach Monterosso, with a change involved at La Spezia. This is probably the best option for a day trip if you’re not staying in La Spezia itself.
If you don’t want to deal with train changes, you can join an organised tour, like this small group Pisa to Cinque Terre tour, which includes also a boat tour of the coast.
Milan to Cinque Terre day trip
Personally, a Milan to Cinque Terre day trip by train isn’t something that I’d recommend. It’s doable, but the trip takes around three hours each way.
You almost spend more time travelling from Milan and back than you do in Cinque Terre.
Milanese people sometimes do it, as Cinque Terre is one of the best beaches near Milan, but that’s because they only head to the beach. If you actually want to see the towns, you’ll need longer.
That said, if you do want to do a Milan to Cinque Terre day trip, you might want to consider an organised tour to maximise your time.
Rome to Cinque Terre day trip
Surprisingly, even though it’s 327 km away, a Rome to Cinque Terre day trip can be done fairly easily (although I wouldn’t really recommend it).
You take the high-speed Trenitalia train to La Spezia, then change for the 5 Terre Express. Just make sure you get up super early!
If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of changing trains, you could also book yourself a private tour from Rome to Cinque Terre.
It’s pricey, but if your Italy trip budget allows it, it will be the easiest and smoothest way to do a Rome to Cinque Terre day trip.
How to get around Cinque Terre
Regardless of how you arrive in Cinque Terre, whether you drive or take a train, once you arrive in Cinque Terre, the best way to get around is by train.
It may seem like a romantic idea to drive along the winding coastal roads of the Italian Riviera and lap up the scenery, but the reality is that it’s just not practical.
There is simply no parking in any of the main Cinque Terre towns, and the roads are very narrow and winding. Unless you’re a pro driver, it can be a bit daunting.
You can get express trains between the Cinque Terre towns. These are very cheap and super fast, running regularly throughout the day and only taking max five minutes from town to town.
To make train travel even more affordable, they created a Cinque Terre train card, which gives you access to unlimited train travel within the Cinque Terre National Park.
Depending on the Cinque Terre card you get, this also gives you access to the Sentiero Azzurro hiking trail.
If you join an organised tour, you won’t have to worry about how to get around Cinque Terre, as all transfers will be included in the tour price.
Best things to do on a Cinque Terre day trip
Whether you’ve booked a tour and you’d like some background information on the places you’ll be visiting, or if you’ll be doing your own independent Cinque Terre day trip and want an itinerary to follow, here’s a quick guide for your adventure.
Start your day in Monterosso al Mare
This is the biggest town in Cinque Terre, and therefore makes for the most sensible place to start your day trip; for one thing it’s easily accessed both by car and train.
Monterosso itself is pretty lively – it’s the only town of the Cinque Terre to have its own stretch of sandy beach (rather than a rocky one).
This charming town is divided into two parts – the newer and the older – both of which are connected by a cool underground tunnel.
The northernmost town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso is one of the most popular destinations in the area. With its turquoise waters, drinking and dining options, picturesque streets and that beach, you can see why.
Hike part of the Sentiero Azzurro
The Sentiero Azzurro (literally “Blue Trail”) is the hiking path that connects the five towns of Cinque Terre.
Running for 12 km, this popular route is one of the main attractions in the area, as it offers up magnificent views of this Mediterranean coastline.
But don’t worry: you don’t have to tackle the entire cliffside path in one go. Realistically, if you’re visiting Cinque Terre on a day trip, it would be hard to fit the entire trail.
Instead, you can tackle it in sections. The most famous part of the Sentiero Azzurro is the one that connects Riomaggiore and Manarola, and is known as “La Via dell’Amore”, or “The Way of Love” in English.
It’s supposed to be the most beautiful, and it’s very popular also because it’s fairly short and easy. Unfortunately this section of the hike has been closed for years due to a landslide.
Instead, you can hike Monterroso to Vernazza. This section has a few challenging climbs, but it features incredibly scenic views over terraced vineyards, the sparkling blue and dramatic coastline. It takes an hour and a half to two hours.
Go for a dip in Vernazza
You will get your first glimpses of Vernazza from the Sentiero Azzurro hiking trail. Once you reach this beautiful town, be ready to be awed by its colourful houses, picturesque harbour and crystal clear waters.
Dating to the early 11th century, Vernazza is known not just for its picturesque location, but also its warren of medieval streets.
Here you’ll find charming piazzas, and the main attraction in town, the 12th-century Church of Santa Margherita d’Antiochia.
After your hike, you can spend some time going for a refreshing dip in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea, before getting ready to explore the other Cinque Terre towns.
Sitting up on a cliff overlooking the sea 100 metres below, Corniglia is set in the middle of the five towns that make up Cinque Terre.
Vineyards surround the town, which is a nice bonus, but it’s the incredibly panoramic views of the sea that take centre stage here.
Quieter than some of the other Cinque Terre towns, possibly due to its lack of swimmable coastline (and its tiny population), Corniglia has a tranquil calm all of its own.
You probably won’t have time to hike from Vernazza to Corniglia, so I suggest taking one of the express trains. That way you’ll have longer to explore these picturesque towns.
Take in the sights of Manarola
Manarola is often cited as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and a must-see on any Italy bucket list – it is the poster town for the Cinque Terre, after all.
Views of Manarola from afar, clinging to cliffs, are used on the front of guidebooks and various forms of tourist pamphlets. As a result, it’s the most popular and most visited of the Cinque Terre towns.
With its historic sights, colourful houses and rocky harbour, picturesque Manarola is the second smallest of the Cinque Terre villages.
Home to around 300 people, visiting this town on your day trip offers the chance to get lost among its storied streets and see some history: there’s Manarola Castle, a now-ruined 13th-century fortification, as well as the Church of San Lorenzo, dating to 1338.
Manarola is a good place to stop for a bite to eat. That would be because of La Scogliera. Made famous by Instagram, this seafood specialty restaurant serves up not only delicious dishes, but also stunning views.
But the best views arguably are of the town, from out at sea…
Do a boat tour along the coast
To really soak up the charm of the Cinque Terre, there’s no better way than to take a boat ride. This way you can see the colourful towns in all their glory, like sailors used to do back in the day.
This is actually part of the history of Cinque Terre. The houses are so colourful so that, back in the day, sailors could recognise their homes from afar.
If you’re on an organised tour to Cinque Terre from La Spezia, then you may already have a boat tour included in the itinerary, like this one.
But if you’re doing your Cinque Terre day trip independently, you can book yourself a tour that does only the boat cruise along the coast.
See the sunset in Riomaggiore
The southernmost of all the Cinque Terre towns, Riomaggiore dates back to the 13th century.
Compared to the other towns, it’s a little more down-to-earth, with actual life taking place in its streets, as opposed to just crowds of tourists. That’s not to say it’s not picturesque or popular – it’s both!
A real fishing village, Riomaggiore is made up of multi-storied pastel-colored houses that cling to the side of a steeply sloping valley. Take some time to wander and soak up views from higher up.
After exploring the charming streets of Riomaggiore, head down to the harbour to enjoy the sunset. Watching the sun go down in the sea, as it turns the sky and houses of Riomaggiore is simply magical.
Grab yourself some drinks, a few slices of pizza and fried fish nibbles, and get ready for the perfect end of the day to your Cinque Terre day trip.
Best Cinque Terre day tours
If the thought of hiring a car and navigating the narrow alleys of Cinque Terre fills you with fear, or if you really cannot be bothered to work out train timetables, then why not let someone else do it for you?
There are plenty of Cinque Terre day tours out there, all taking the stress out of your trip. Here are a few good ones to get you inspired…
This full-day tour sees you travel from Florence to Cinque Terre on a fully packed day trip. Starting out with a bus journey from the Tuscan capital, you’ll head to Manarola first, where you get a walking tour of the town.
Then it’s on to Corniglia, enjoying lunch at one of its local restaurants (homemade pasta, anyone?); there’s also an optional hike to Vernazza (or you could hop on the train).
It’s then off to Monterosso before finally winding up for sunset at Riomaggiore. It’s the most comprehensive Florence to Cinque Terre day trip out there. Plus, it has very high reviews!
If you don’t want such a long day trip, then this one might be better for you, as it starts from La Spezia (one of the most popular Mediterranean cruise ports).
From La Spezia, the Cinque Terre towns are a stone’s throw. You’ll meet your local guide, who’ll take you via train first to Vernazza, then Monterroso where you’ll sample limoncino (a type of limoncello).
You will then take the train to Riomaggiore, to soak up some beautiful views of the coast.
Wondering if there are tours available for a Milan to Cinque Terre day trip? Look no further than this jam-packed option.
It sees you leaving Milan by coach and heading to Monterroso al Mare.
Here you can spend some time exploring the fishing village before jumping aboard a boat to cruise along the coast, lapping up views of the Cinque Terre villages from the sea – endlessly picturesque.
Is a Cinque Terre day trip worth it?
While you can embark on a day trip to the Cinque Terre, I would say that it’s not worth it.
Yes, you get to see the beautiful villages, and if you get up (very) early you can spend a good portion of time here, but this part of Italy really deserves more time.
La Spezia is a good place to stay, as it’s very close to the towns and much cheaper, or Portovenere (often called the “sixth town” of the Cinque Terre), a very picturesque town you wouldn’t be able to see on a day trip.
It will be much more rewarding! If you’re doing the day trip from Florence or Pisa that’s a bit more realistic, as they’re not as far from Cinque Terre.
Conversely, if you’re visiting from other major Italian cities, especially Rome or Milan (both of which require around six hours of travel time in total), I’d say it’s definitely less rewarding.
Travelling from these further off destinations means you’d be spending way too much time travelling, and not enough time actually in Cinque Terre!
Best time to visit Cinque Terre
Obviously, summer in Italy is the most popular time to visit the Bel Paese, and Cinque Terre too. However, I personally think the summer months are way too busy.
In high season you will find crowds absolutely everywhere, and even long queues of people hiking the Sentiero Azzurro. Needless to say, this will definitely dampen the whole experience.
Instead, I suggest planning your Cinque Terre day trip for the shoulder season. This falls from spring to early summer, and then again in early autumn.
The weather is still nice, the boats are still running, and the Sentiero Azzurro is still open for business.
Tourist numbers drop considerably, and as such, most restaurants, bars and hotels are closed. Plus, the Sentiero Azzurro and other hiking trails are often closed (for safety reasons due to heavy rain).
Where to stay for the best Cinque Terre day trip
As I have already mentioned in this article, I suggest staying in La Spezia for the perfect Cinque Terre day trip (I actually always say this is also the best place to stay in Cinque Terre).
Here are some accommodation options for every budget.
Budget: Grand Hostel Manin – This hostel has spacious dorms, a friendly atmosphere and is located in the heart of La Spezia. It’s the perfect place to use as base to explore Cinque Terre on a budget!
Mid-range: Hotel Nella – You will need a car to stay here, but the views and experience are worth it. Located in La Foce, the hills above La Spezia, this hotel has cosy rooms in a peaceful countryside setting.
Luxury: La Spezia by The First – Luxury Rooms & Suites – If you want to treat yourself, this is the place to do so. Located in the heart of La Spezia, these modern rooms have a gorgeous view.
What to pack for your day tour to Cinque Terre
That said, here are a couple absolute must-haves you don’t want to forget.
International adaptor – It’s a bit more expensive than the country specific adaptors, but I like using an international adapter so that I only need that I can take everywhere
Power bank – Whether it’s for Google Maps or taking photos of the charming streets of Vernazza, you don’t want your phone dying on you!
Steel water bottle – If you want to cut down on your plastic consumption and save some cash in the process, don’t forget a water bottle that you can refill.
Fast drying towel – If you plan on swimming in Cinque Terre, you’ll need one of these. I like these because they dry quickly and don’t take up a lot of space in your bag.
Comfortable shoes – Especially if you plan on hiking part of the Sentiero Azzurro, you will need shoes that you’re comfortable walking in!
Final thoughts on spending one day in Cinque Terre
There you have it, the ultimate guide to planning the perfect Cinque Terre day trip! Have you visited the villages of Cinque Terre before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
Cinque Terre is a magical destination, which attracts millions of visitors every year. With its colourful houses and charming streets, there is simply nowhere else quite like it.
As I have already mentioned in this article, I highly recommend spending more than one day in Cinque Terre, so that you can properly enjoy the vibe of these beautiful towns.
If your Italy itinerary doesn’t allow it, and you’re still set on doing a day trip, then please visit from La Spezia.
Travelling over from Rome, Florence or Milan means too much time spent travelling, and not enough in Cinque Terre. I want you to make the most of these beautiful towns!
I hope you found my Cinque Terre day trip guide useful. If you have any questions about spending one day in Cinque Terre, just let me know in the comments below!
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