Looking for help with your Cinque Terre itinerary? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article I have outlined everything you need to know to spend two or three amazing days in Cinque Terre. Including how to get around these five towns, the best things to do, where to stay and more.
My father is from La Spezia, a city just 15 minutes away from Cinque Terre, and I was lucky enough to regularly visit this part of Italy while growing up.
In this Cinque Terre itinerary I have included all of my insider local tips, to ensure you have the best time possible on your trip to Cinque Terre.
You can visit Cinque Terre in two days, but I chose to include an expanded itinerary for three days in Cinque Terre, so that you can go beyond the main tourist sights and visit a local gem.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in, and discover the charming seaside villages of Cinque Terre!
- 1 Logistical tips for your Cinque Terre itinerary
- 1.1 About Cinque Terre
- 1.2 How to get around Cinque Terre
- 1.3 Where to stay for your Cinque Terre itinerary
- 1.4 Best Cinque Terre tours
- 1.5 Are two days in Cinque Terre enough?
- 1.6 Best time to visit Cinque Terre
- 1.7 Do you need travel insurance for 2 days in Cinque Terre?
- 1.8 What to pack for 3 days in Cinque Terre
- 2 Cinque Terre itinerary: Day 1
- 3 Cinque Terre itinerary: Day 2
- 4 Cinque Terre itinerary: Day 3
Logistical tips for your Cinque Terre itinerary
Before we dive into the best things to do in Cinque Terre in two or three days, I want to go over some logistical information that will make your stay in Cinque Terre run as smooth as possible.
About Cinque Terre
First things first, what exactly do we mean by Cinque Terre? Cinque Terre is one of the most famous destinations in Italy, but I often find not many people understand how it’s composed.
By Cinque Terre (or Five Lands in English) we mean a string of five seaside villages located on the coastline of the Italian Riviera, in Liguria.
The five towns are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
There is also a Cinque Terre National Park, which obviously includes the five towns, as well as an area of 4,300 acres beyond the towns.
How to get around Cinque Terre
First things first: resist the temptation to rent a car and drive. It may seem like a romantic idea to hit these winding coastal roads and lap up the scenery, but in reality this is not practical.
Those roads really are winding, and narrow, which can be more than a bit hair-raising when cars are coming from the other direction – or if you’re not used to driving on this side of the road.
Plus, parking is basically impossible in any of the Cinque Terre towns unless you’re super lucky, or get everywhere early. In short, I’d avoid cars and driving.
The best way to get around is by train. The main towns of Cinque Terre are well connected by direct trains.
They run regularly, the journey time between the towns is super short (around five minutes each!), and they’re surprisingly cheap.
Express trains, for example, run every 15 minutes and cost €5 for an adult and €2 for children.
There’s also the Cinque Terre Train Card; costing €18.20, which gives you unlimited train travel for the day, as well as access to the 12-kilometre Sentiero Azzurro ( or Blue Trail in English) hiking path in Cinque Terre National Park, which connects the five main towns.
There’s also a Cinque Terre Card just for trekking. This doesn’t give you access to the trains, but it does get you entrance to all the hiking trails in the park, and costs just €7.50.
It just depends on how much time you’ve got to spend in the area (a weekend in Cinque Terre, for example).
Another way to get around the Cinque Terre is by boat. This service runs between the main towns, from March until November.
A one-day boat ticket (i.e. unlimited travel) costs €30 per day – expensive, but worth it if you’re into views and travel by sea.
Where to stay for your Cinque Terre itinerary
You’ll be surprised to hear that the best place to stay in Cinque Terre, isn’t actually in Cinque Terre.
I always recommend staying in La Spezia, a fairly big city just a train ride away, as it’s better connected to the rest of Italy and considerably cheaper. 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. From here you can easily get to the train station and Cinque Terre!
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: The First – La Vista di Marina – If your Italy travel budget allows for it, then this is the perfect place to stay. Located beachfront in Riomaggiore, this apartment has insane views over the sea and iconic Riomaggiore landscape.
Best Cinque Terre tours
Given you only have two or three days in Cinque Terre, there are a couple of guided tours that you can join, which will make your time in Cinque Terre simply perfect. I have listed them below.
From Monterosso: Cinque Terre Kayak Tour – Starting in Monterosso, this active tour gives you the opportunity to see Cinque Terre from a completely different angle!
From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Full-Day Boat Tour – If you don’t want to worry about organising how to get around Cinque Terre, you can spend a whole day sailing across the stunning Ligurian Sea!
Cinque Terre: 2-Hour Private Boat Tour – If you want to splurge a little bit, you can opt for this private boat tour option!
Vernazza: Panoramic Vineyard Trekking Tour with Wine Tasting – This tour combines hiking with wine tasting, does it get any better than this?!
Are two days in Cinque Terre enough?
Absolutely. You can see Cinque Terre in two days. It’s just enough time to take it all in. Some travellers visit Cinque Terre on a day trip, but I wouldn’t recommend that.
This will allow you to see most of the beaches, wander around the cute towns and soak up the culture and history of the area. It’ll also give you a bit of time to hike at least part of the Sentiero Azzurro.
There are four main sections of the hike, and the shortest part is only a kilometre long. So regardless of time, you’ll be able to stroll at least a little bit of this stunning hiking trail and see some beautiful towns along the way.
However, if you can steal an extra day from your Italy itinerary and up your time to three days in Cinque Terre, I would say it is totally worth it.
This extra day will allow you to travel to Porto Venere, another town not technically part of the Cinque Terre but just on their doorstep – it’s a much more local, less touristy place to visit.
This small village is totally worth visiting, and extending your Cinque Terre itinerary to make time for it.
Best time to visit Cinque Terre
Obviously, the summer months are the most popular time to visit Cinque Terre, but high season is way too busy. There are 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’d say plan your Cinque Terre itinerary for the shoulder season, which falls in 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.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, visiting in winter could also mean missing out on the Sentiero Azzurro, as it may be closed this time of year (for safety reasons due to heavy rain).
However, the trails are actually open all-year round, and they’re even free to hike between November and March – great if you’re on a budget.
Some restaurants and hotels could be closed out of season though. And again: the weather is not great.
Do you need travel insurance for 2 days in Cinque Terre?
After my personal experience spending two nights in a private hospital in Tenerife, and having to pay for it out of pocket (it wasn’t cheap), I always recommend getting travel insurance.
Heymondo offers tailor made travel insurance, providing the best value for money for your specific trip. You can also buy it once you’re already abroad and have forgotten about it before flying (which, if you’re anything like me, is quite likely).
Besides the usual cancellation, medical expenses, luggage coverage and general travel insurance services, Heymondo also has a 24/7 doctor chat and instant assistance through their app.
As a Greta’s Travels reader, you get 5% off your Heymondo travel insurance!
What to pack for 3 days in Cinque Terre
That said, here are a couple absolute must-haves you don’t want to forget.
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!
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 Cinque Terre, 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.
Cinque Terre itinerary: Day 1
Explore Corniglia and its views
It’s a good idea to start a weekend in Cinque Terre in Corniglia. Once a Roman village, it’s the middle of the five towns that make up the region, and is a good jumping-off point for pretty much everywhere.
Spend some time exploring the town and lapping up the panoramic views from its clifftop location.
It’s often overlooked as it’s the smallest village, and you can’t swim here, due to its location perched on top of a cliff, but it’s a great first taste of the Cinque Terre.
Hike from Corniglia to Vernazza
It’s hiking time. This will be your first introduction to the Sentiero Azzurro, the famed cliffside hiking trail that connects all the Cinque Terre towns.
The section that runs from Corniglia to Vernazza is 3.5 kilometres, and takes between an hour and a half to two hours to hike, depending on how quickly you can go.
The hike is moderate to difficult, but you’ll be rewarded the whole way with some sweeping views of the sparkling Cinque Terre coastline.
You’ll be charmed from the moment you enter Vernazza – it’s the best known and most-visited Cinque Terre town for a reason. This is a real representative of what this region looks like.
Once you’ve gotten over its cuteness, you can go for a dip in the sea at one of two coves next to the Vernazza harbour, to cool down after your hike.
Exploring the town further, you’ll find the 12th-century Church of Santa Margarita d’Antiochia among other medieval loveliness.
You can spend some time wandering through the charming streets of Vernazza, tasting delicious focaccia, and maybe even a gelato!
Hike from Vernazza to Monterosso
Your hiking adventures on this Cinque Terre itinerary continue as you embark on the trek from Vernazza to Monterosso!
This 3.8-kilometre portion of the Sentiero Azzurro takes around two hours to complete and, again, it’s moderate to difficult.
Experienced hikers should have no trouble, but if you’re not used to hiking, leave plenty of time. Plus you’ll want to stop and enjoy those epic views over the vineyards and turquoise sea regardless of your fitness level!
Relax in Monterosso
Officially Monterosso al Mare, this town is the largest of the five Cinque Terre towns.
It has the distinction of having a sandy beach, the only town here to have one (it’s what makes it one of the best beaches near Milan), and is well known for its lemons and anchovies.
It’s divided into two parts, the older and newer, and connected by a cool underground tunnel.
You will arrive in Monterosso pretty tired from your hike, so spend a little time exploring the picturesque streets of the town, and then head straight to Spiaggia di Fegina for a swim to cool down and relax!
You can end the first day of your Cinque Terre itinerary here with a delicious dinner at one of the many seafood restaurants in town.
Cinque Terre itinerary: Day 2
Start the day in Manarola
Day two of your Cinque Terre itinerary begins in Manarola.
Manarola is possibly the most famous town in Cinque Terre, with its jumble of pastel-coloured houses clinging to the rugged cliffs.
It may not have a beach, but there are rocks here that people dive off and lounge around on, so you can go for a dip if you like.
Have lunch at La Scogliera
La Scogliera is an Insta-famous restaurant in Manarola, which is rightly sought after due to its iconic view of the town’s colourful houses, not to mention its seafood pasta dishes and grilled octopus.
With no reservations available, the only option at La Scogliera is to queue. Head there early, so you can grab your number and wait for your turn! And while it’s pricey, the views from here really are awesome.
Embark on a boat tour
One of the most iconic ways to see the Cinque Terre region is from the sea.
From the waves down below you can get a glimpse of how the towns have grown up on their cliffside settings, and really get a feel for the impressive landscape as a whole.
If you’ve only got two days in Cinque Terre, or less time, a boat trip could help give you a more well-rounded view without having to travel so far.
Thankfully there are a whole host of different boat tours to make this possible.
Seeing the towns from a different perspective, often with no crowds and the opportunity to go for a swim, all make boat tours in Cinque Terre a pretty attractive offering.
This particular tour, for example, gives you the chance to see the Cinque Terre villages by sea, and swim and snorkel. It’s only a small tour (up to 10 people).
If you’ve got a little more money to spend, then you could also opt for a private tour of Cinque Terre, which takes in all the best sights of the coastline on a three-hour journey.
Or you could head out on a speedboat on this four-hour boat tour, which starts out in La Spezia and takes you out to swimming spots and features commentary from a professional guide.
After your boat tour, hop on a train and head over to Riomaggiore, the last of the five towns of Cinque Terre.
The section of the hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore is actually one of the most famous; the “Via dell’Amore” (“Lovers’ Lane”), but it has unfortunately been closed for years due to renovation works.
If you travel by train it will only take you a few minutes to reach Riomaggiore from Manarola.
Spend some time exploring the cute town, divided into three parts by the rocky landscape and connected by tunnels. Again, there’s no beach here, but that doesn’t stop people splashing around in the sea.
Watch the sunset in Riomaggiore
This is the best sunset spot in Cinque Terre. I recommend grabbing some pizza, a few beers and some nibbles, and taking them down to the harbour.
Here you can find a spot on the rocks to enjoy your food and drinks of choice as the sun slips below the sea. A beautiful way to end the second day of your Cinque Terre itinerary.
Cinque Terre itinerary: Day 3
You’ll be able to see all of the main sights of Cinque Terre in two days. That said, if your Italy itinerary allows for an extra day, then it’s definitely worth spending three days in Cinque Terre.
If you have enough time to make your Cinque Terre itinerary three days instead of two, then it’s best spent enjoying the medieval fishing town of Porto Venere.
This small seaside settlement is famously situated on the Golfo dei Poeti (“Gulf of Poets”), and lies at the southern end of the Cinque Terre.
While not technically one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre, it is the honorary Sixth “Terra” (or land) and is still part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the main five towns and the national park.
Regardless, Porto Venere is an ancient town. It’s thought to date back to the middle of the first century BC and has a whole lot of charm, where colourful multi-storey houses nestled at the water’s edge surround its historic core.
Plus Porto Venere is easy to get to – all you have to do is take the bus from La Spezia (around 20 minutes). Here are some of the best things you can do in Porto Venere for your final day in Cinque Terre.
Walk along the Porto Venere promenade
The waterside promenade is the best place to see the everyday life of Porto Venere. There are plenty of restaurants and bars here, all on the backdrop of boats bobbing around in the marina.
Here you’ll find the old gate to the city, which is the historic entrance to the main street: the 12th-century Via Capellini.
From the promenade, there are several charming streets where you can make detours to simply wander and soak up all the cuteness of the town.
Visit San Pietro church
Scenic doesn’t quite do this place justice. San Pietro Church is perched on the top of a cliff at the end of town and has a truly dramatic setting, which makes its striking black-and-white marble exterior stand out even more.
Get closer to this 13th-century church, and you’ll see Gothic characters carved in its door among other beautiful details.
It was actually consecrated in the 1100s, and was initially built over a pre-existing Roman temple. As you can expect, the views from here – not just of the church itself – are incredible.
Swim by Lord Byron’s grotto
The Golfo dei Poeti is named after English poets Lord Byron and Shelley, and it comes from one particular moment in 1822 when Byron swam across the bay to San Terenzo to visit Shelley.
The cave from where Byron began his epic swim can be visited to this day, although it’s partially collapsed.
Visit Castello Doria
The centrepiece of Porto Venere is its castle, Castello Doria. These ruins are what remains of a 12th-century fortress, thought to be situated on an older site.
It was a key point of contention during the conflict between Pisa and Genoa in the 13th century.
It’s cool to walk around here (admission €5; lots of steps!) and soak up some of the best views of the town and surrounding landscape.
Final thoughts on visiting Cinque Terre in 3 days
There you have it, the ultimate Cinque Terre itinerary! Have you been to Cinque Terre before? How did you find it? Let me know in the comments below!
The sight of these colourful fishing villages, perched on top of the cliffs over crystal clear water is something unlike anything else you’ll ever see.
The towns of Cinque Terre are a unique sight, which will leave you speechless. As one of my favourite quotes about Italy says; “The name of Italy has magic in its very syllables.” And Cinque Terre is part of that magic.
I hope you have found my Cinque Terre itinerary useful in planning your trip!
I wanted to give you an idea of what you can do in Cinque Terre in two days, and how you can make your itinerary even better by extending it to three days in Cinque Terre.
If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below!