Italy has many beautiful and famous coastal fishing villages. If you often looking for travel photos on Instagram, you will surely see so many colorful pictures of houses hanging on the cliffs, spread out on a very long coast of northwestern Italy. It is the Cinque Terre, means 5 small villages in Italian language, recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1997. The 5 villages of Cinque Terre are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare and they are connected together by a 42km long coastal road, with its beautiful architecture and impressive terrain. So, when is the best time to visit, how to get, where to stay and what to do in Cinque Terre…? Let’s check it out our Cinque Terre travel blog (Cinque Terre blog) with the fullest Cinque Terre travel guide (Cinque Terre guide) for a great trip on a budget to Cinque Terre for the first time with Living Nomads below.
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Cinque Terre guide: The first looks about Cinque Terre
Overview on the map you can see the 5 villages of Cinque Terre are very close together, the distance is the same and all are located on the coast. These villages can easily be moved back and forth by local train, traveling time is 5-10 minutes for each trip. In addition, you can also climb the mountains of this Cinque Terre to cross between villages. This way is more difficult but it is very popular way for those love hiking and climbing.
The trip cost in the Cinque Terre is not so “super expensive” as in the Amalfi Coast with a magnificent of Positano, but it is not cheap either. Food or accommodation prices are quite high, especially in the summer. Average hotel room rates ranges from EUR50-150/night depending on type. Regarding the itinerary to go to the Cinque Terre you can refer to the following main ways:
In a day: Basically, you can make a day-trip to the Cinque Terre from another place of Italy. A short itinerary from morning to evening, visiting each village for about 2 hours is quite ok.
Overnight: However, you should spend 1 or 2 nights in a specific village in the region, experience life here and have fun at night. Overnight in Cinque Terre makes you more comfortable to enjoy the trip as well as more convenient to travel between villages.
Cinque Terre blog: When is the best time to visit Cinque Terre?
April, May and September: These are times that are not peak tourist season, the weather is also pleasant, beautiful sunshine in Southern Europe, very suitable for climbing activities. However, the sea water was still quite cold in April but in the September could still be bathed.
From June to the end of August: It is hot and crowded with tourists, but it is a good condition for beach activities. Climbing at this time is a bit hard because of the heat and scorching sun. Especially, August is the tourist month of European people, all beach are full of people.
In the rest of the year: Not very suitable for traveling to Cinque Terre because it is the low season, it rains a lot and cold. Stores and shops are also closed early, there are not many services to enjoy the most comfortable way.
Cinque Terre blog: How to get to Cinque Terre?
Because it is located in a rugged mountain area, far away from big cities, you only have 2 ways to get to Cinque Terre by car/bus or train, with the transfer point is La Spezia. From big cities like Florence, Venice or Rome, there are direct trains to La Spezia without changing trains.
If you take a train from other major cities in Italy to Cinque Terre, the transfer station is La Spezia. From here you catch Express Train to the villages. From La Spezia to the nearest village Riomaggiore, it takes only 9 minutes. But if you go back from any village to going to another big city like Florence, Venice or Milan, you have to pay attention. Because normally you will have to change trains 1-2 times, but the station in these villages is very limited in information, there is no instructor but the train often run wrong schedule, so you can go to the wrong train without pay attention.
If you take the bus it will be a bit difficult because the Flixbus station is quite far from La Spezia station for you can catch the train to go to the village. If you renting a self-driving car, be aware that there will not be many parking lots here, and traffic for car is also not convenient. Explora 5 Terre is a new bus service to Cinque Terre from Spezia.
There is another option is to take a boat from La Spezia to the villages, of course not as fast and convenient as the train. Boats also only operate during peak season, the cold season they do not run much because of cold and rain a lot.
Cinque Terre travel guide: How to getting around Cinque Terre?
The easiest way to travel between villages in Cinque Terre is by train or bus, and you can consider hiking if you love climbing. However, if hiking you will have to buyt tickets to travel along the coastline across the villages of €7.5/day.
Train: If you take the train, you have 2 options: Buy all day tickets or buy retail tickets, when to go, buy them. Train stations are always located close to the sea in the center of each village (the villages are quite small), so it is very convenient to travel.
For those who stay in the Cinque Terre long and want to go slow-travel style, for 2 days or more, whenever you want to go to another village, buy a ticket. The retail ticket for €4/way, ticket can be purchased at the ticket counter at the station or by the conductor on the train, if you are hurry. Note that buying tickets on train will be more expensive.
For those who want to visit the Cinque Terre during a day, or go to the “fast travel” to visit each village a little bit, you should buy the Cinque Terre Card to get the bus and the train. This card has 2 types, including train (€16/day, €29/2 days) or not including train (€7.5/day, €14.5/2 days). With Cinque Terre Card you will get unlimited travel between villages during the day, using free wifi at some points. If you go with your family, you should buy family tickets with price of € 19,60/day. See more here.
Cinque Terre travel blog: Where to stay?
If you visit Cinque Terre during the day, you will not need to think about accommodation in Cinque Terre. But if you really want to experience the Cinque Terre, you should find a place to stay at least one night in this wonderful land. There are two main options for you about accommodation:
- If you have a budget trip, you can choose to stay in the town of La Spezia, which is cheaper than in the villages. From here you can take the train to visit the villages during the day.
- Choosing to stay in one of the 5 villages is the best way to experience the Cinque Terre. Prices will be more expensive, but in return, sightseeing and dining are more convenient. The evening in these villages is quite bustling.
To find a hotel room, please go to Booking.com, Agoda.com to choose. The room rates is not much different, on Airbnb there are more family-style rooms for rent, if the hotel room is full, you can find here.
I choose stay in Manarola because this is the most beautiful village, in the evening there are quite a lot of dining options. Tourists, couples also find big stones near the coast as a place to chat and enjoy the wind and sea waves.
My hotel is 5 TERRE PELAGOS, the room rates is around 100EUR/night and even higher on the peak season. My room is small but clean, fully equipped. The minus point is quite high and there is no elevator. Yeah! That is Cinque Terre!!! One of the most expensive places in Italy. Here I was really impressed with the good boss Lorenzo – the hotel owner helped me very, very much during my time in Cinque Terre. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Some cheap and budget hotels with good reviews you can refer to below
If you don’t mind moving a little every day, then rent a room in small towns outside of Cinque Terre, such as La Spezia (Agoda, Booking). From La Spezie, if I remember correctly, the train to the first village of Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore, is less than 10 minutes, to the furthest village, Monterosso, takes about half an hour.
Cinque Terre guide: Best places to visit and what to do in Cinque Terre in every village
Riomaggiore is the closest village to La Spezia, this village is quite small but the beauty is not inferior to many other villages. The village is divided into two areas by a main road, one is partly located at the pier and another is located above the hill. The room rates in Riomaggiore are also lower than in other villages.
What to do in Riomaggiore?
Photographing in the pier area: The colorful houses located close to each other on the cliff are the highlights of Riomaggiore. There are lots of shooting angles here and every corner also can be virtual living!
Explore the upper town area: Follow the main road for a short distance, you reach the high point of Riomaggiore. View from here is quite beautiful, less touristy. There is also a small church from 14th century to visit. This is an ideal campsite and offers a panoramic view of the Cinque Terre landscape.
Lover’s lane – Via dell’Amore: This lane is now closed but there is still room to stand and sightseeing.
Relax on the rocky beach: The area where many tourists sunbathe and sit and chat in the evening. Many young people come here to play “jumping bridge”!
What to eat?
Riomaggiore doesn’t have too many eateries, if you want to eat seafood you can go to Il Pescato Cucinato or Tutti Fritti. Delicious pizza has K&Pris Pizzeria Pinseria and Da Paolino. If you want a romantic dinner for 2 people, don’t forget to look for restaurants near the beach with beautiful sunset views.
Hiking from Riomaggiore to Manarola
The Hiking trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is quite close and flat, it takes only 30 minutes. However, it is currently closed for repair and it is unknown when it will open again.