Cinque Terre is one of the most famous destinations in Italy (besides the must-know “common” cities like Rome, Milan, Florence, Naples, and so on). Cinque Terre roughly translates to Five Lands – referring to five villages on five contiguous mountain slopes in the Cinque Terre national park belong to the Linguria region of Italy. Why are these so famous? Because they are very “special, true Italian”. The villages are located on the mountainside next to the sea, extremely beautiful and poetic with breathtaking views. So, is Cinque Terre visiting, how to visit Cinque Terre (Cinque Terre how to visit) as well as what to do in Cinque Terre for first-timers? Let’s check out our guide to Cinque Terre (Cinque Terre travel guide) and Cinque Terre reviews with some useful Cinque Terre tips (Cinque Terre travel tips) and top things to do in Cinque Terre to help you plan a perfect budget trip to the colorful vibrant coastal villages of Italy!
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This is a destination that can be said to be “unrivaled” in both literally and figuratively. If you plan a detailed itinerary and collect enough information, choose the right time to come, this is a place worth visiting. If you go in the wrong time, it is not too much to say “it’s a hell”.
Guide to Cinque Terre: Overview of Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre consists of 5 villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia.
Monterosso is the largest one, where there is a sandy beach that can be said to be the most satisfying. This place is more suitable for relaxation. Riomaggiore and Manarola with both gravel beaches. Vernazza with even a rocky beach.
Manarola is the village with the most famous beautiful and shooting spot. This is also the most crowded tourist spot, because the boat will bring visitors every two hours, from dawn to dusk. It’s ok to take pictures here, but it’s difficult to bathe because of the sharp rocks, very deep water. That time when me and my friend swam from here, I was lying on a float bed and then my friend pulled me out into the middle of the sea, far from the shore. Near the shore, you can’t stand the crowd of tourists. So, I advise if you want to visit this village, don’t go down to the sea but go up to see the scenery.
Vernazza is the village with the most restaurants and accommodation. Its beach is extremely small. It can’t even be called a beach because there are many boats and canoes around. But the restaurants here will have a very spectacular view. I’ll just detailed guide below.
Riomaggiore is similar to Vernazza. It is even more difficult to bathe because the floating boat is always close to the shore. Taking pictures of this village from another village is more good option.
Corniglia is the smallest village, also the least visited by tourists, because it is more difficult to get to this village. In this village are mainly residents, not too bustling or crowded. To get to this village, you have to climb 382 steps (called Corniglia steps). But if you climb up, you can take pictures of Riomaggiore nearby.
Cinque Terre travel tips: What to know before going to Cinque Terre?
Traveling to Cinque Terre, it’s best to aim to visit two or three villages if you want to take a day trip from somewhere else. And if you want to slowly experience, you should stay here for a few days. I have an Italian friend who takes me in a private car. He knows what to do and avoid doing whatever, so I have time to relax and leisure visit. So the list of “what to do” I mentioned in the following section is mainly for the day trip.
When to visit?
If possible, DO NOT go to Cinque Terre in the summer. The bustling and peak tourist season turns Cinque Terre into a steaming pan, crowds of people can be seen everywhere, and you can smell sweat at every corner. I was so scared, uncomfortable… The best time to come to Cinque Terre is in spring around April and May, at that time not too crowded, you can travel leisurely. However, this time many hotels and restaurants are closed. The second most beautiful time is October. At this time, the peak tourist time has just gone, but Italy is still sunny, hotels and restaurants are still in operation, everything is bustling enough.
Especially avoid the following occasions: End of April (Liberation Day); June 2: Republic Day; and from August 15 to the end of August – the national public holiday of Ferragosto. In fact, it would be best to avoid Italy for the whole of August. The whole country is on holiday, plus summer tourist numbers are at its peak…
These five villages are located along the mountain slopes, so you must bring a pair of comfortable, even sturdy shoes. Don’t wear sandals that will be very tiring. There are many places to climb the small paths or trails following the houses of the people which winding up in the mountains. Those who are interested in climbing to see the scene need strength and need good shoes, not kidding.
Definitely bring drinking water. I will temporarily suppose that all of you are going on a summer vacation. Italy’s summer is as hot as ours, and very dry.
How to get to Cinque Terre?
Getting to the Cinque Terre is fortunately very easy. There are direct trains to the Cinque Terre from Pisa, Genoa and Rome. Going straight means that each village has its own station. If you want to get off at any station, get off there, very convenient.
The two closest airports to Cinque Terre are Pisa Airport and Genoa Airport.
If you want to get to the Cinque Terre from other cities, you should change stations in Pisa or Genoa. The itinerary I often recommend to friends including the whole Tuscany region, then from Florence to Pisa, then from Pisa to Cinque Terre. If you want to come here from Milan, you can change trains in Genoa.
In addition, if you intend to stay in Cinque Terre for a long time to visit and hiking the mountain trails connecting the village, I recommend buying a Cinque Terre Card. The card price is about 33 Euros, sold at tourist information counters. This card gives you a whole month to ride the train between five villages comfortably, and you can climb all the trails for free. Otherwise, a fee will be charged. Or you should have a friend who understands local trails for free. This card calculates the monthly calendar, not 30 days from the first swipe. Please calculate properly.
Beyond the train stations in Pisa or Genoa, there is a transit point that almost all trains will stop here before continue going to Cinque Terre, the town of La Spezia. So if you want to get to Cinque Terre from cities that don’t have trains to Pisa or Genoa, then find a train to La Spezia and transfer there.
In the case of hire a private car and self-driving, you absolutely do not drive directly to the Cinque Terre. It’s better to drive to some towns near the Cinque Terre, like La Spezia, for example, parking the car there and then take public transport to Cinque Terre. Or find a hotel with parking. Finding a parking space in the Cinque Terre is a nightmare. In addition, you should have a strong driving. The roads to get there are all mountain roads, small, with many bends and turns and are located on the high cliffs.
Cinque Terre guide: Where to stay?
In this section, I do not recommend the hotel that I stayed, but I highly encourage you to book on Booking, Agoda or Airbnb. Hostelworld is also a good choice. However, I must warn that most of Italy’s most famous destinations are ancient destinations, houses from a very long time ago, so usually hotels and private houses will have a more reasonable structure than inns or guesthouses. Using Hostelworld in case of going solo is the most reasonable.
In Cinque Terre, you have to be prepared a huge budget for stay, regardless of in tourist season or not. It’s such a famous destination. If you want to stay for a long time but don’t want to burn your wallet, you must book early! As soon as possible. Half a year early is always fine.
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. But this is in the case of renting a very cheap accommodation. You have to include the daily commuting fee. And always remember the last trip.
Moreover, there is a good thing in towns outside of Cinque Terre that is the nightlife is more vibrant and bustling, many shops, cafes, bars, but Cinque Terre itself at night is very deserted, because it is a mountain place, mostly staircases which are steep, small, houses close each other. The first time I came to stay until midnight, Cinque Terre almost turned into “ghost” villages. In return, you can have a glimpse of the stars in the sky!
Some cheap and budget hotels with good reviews you can refer to below
Hotel Ca D’Andrean with room rates from $167/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Luna Di Marzo with room rates from $137.48/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Hotel la Colonnina with room rates from $167.58/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Hotel Margherita with room rates from $167.58/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Hotel Souvenir with room rates from $100.58/night. (Check rates and reviews on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Cinque Terre travel guide: What to see, do?
In the above part, I gave an overview of Cinque Terre, how to go to Cinque Terre, what to note and pay attention to, in this part I will suggest you what to do, see and things to do in Cinque Terre. However, I must emphasize that this is an incomplete list. The two times I went to Cinque Terre, I drove with friends for the day.
What to do in Cinque Terre for fun?
Swimming in the Cinque Terre? Should go to Monterosso!
Basically, wherever you like to bathe, that’s fine. But I recommend Monterosso Beach. Or take the train a little further to the town of Levanto to swim. Monterosso and Levanto are sandy beaches, very beautiful, easy to swim. The beaches in Manarola or Vernazza are all boat docks, either very difficult to swim in or very deep. Especially in the part of Manarola sea, boats often drop off guests, the crowd is terrible. (Please see the above section of the post to know how to get to the beach).
In addition, to bathe in these places should come early to occupy a place! You can’t imagine how crowds of visitors flocking to the Cinque Terre.
Watching “Italian life” in the nooks and crannies of Cinque Terre
Going to a new place is obviously having to “walk around the streets and walk around the markets” to know what life is like there, how beautiful it is. The same goes for Cinque Terre. The houses are colorful and beautiful with signature pastel colors of Italy, the alleys are also small and winding, and sometimes there are a few “balconies” of the village overlooking the immense sea in the sun. But if you decide to go, there are two villages I recommend the most, the village of Vernazza and the village of Riomaggiore. Why should not stroll through Manarola? Because the photos of Manarola village is the most famous, so the visitors flocking here is also most crowded. Visiting this village, only people and people hustle and jostle.
On the way to explore, you will encounter all kinds of churches and museums… In general, I’ve seen a lot of “visits” like this, so I’m not interested.
Order an Aperol Spritz to enjoy Italian Aperitivo
Italians have Aperitivo time, which roughly translates to pre-dinner socialization time. This time frame is between 6pm and 8pm. This is the time when Italians go to bars to chat, drink alcoholic beverages in the form of cocktails or wine, eat some salty foods like “light aperitifs”. Drinks are whatever you want to choose. I recommend trying Aperol Spritz or Campari for “true Italian style”. Aperol is a typical Italian aperitif, mixed with soda or carbonated water. Campari is similar. This cocktail has a very pleasant sweetness. Aperol is a slightly sweet, Campari is bitter. Those who cannot drink bitter must pay attention.
Usually cocktails in Italy are always served with snacks, but sometimes they are quite a lot. No matter how delicious, you should not eat too much. It’s my pain experience. Because these foods are easy fill your stomach. Eating at that time seems full, it is easy to skip dinner, then you will be hungry anyway.
Then from 8pm onwards is dinner time. Italians have a very long dinner, at least two hours. Each meal comes with: appetizer (antipasto) – first course (primo: pasta, risotto, bruschetta, …), starchy dishes – main course (secondo: meat, fish, … protein in general), accompanied by ritorno (usually salad or vegetable). Finish with dessert, then coffee. Finally, a glass of strong liquor (usually limonchello) to support digestive system.
Tips: The more you try at the hidden alley bars, the better the drinks will be, less touristy like tourist spots. Those places are expensive and boring.
See more article: Tips for traveling to Italy like a local.
Now it’s time to…eat!
Absolutely should not miss the opportunity to have a great dinner in the Cinque Terre! The feature of this land is that it is located on a cliff overlooking the sea. What does this signal? One is a great view, the other is scrumptious seafood.
In Cinque Terre, you should not eat meat. Just like going to Florence, please don’t eat seafood. Go somewhere to eat the right food there. In Cinque Terre, there is nothing better than enjoy seafood.
I specially recommends the restaurant Ristorante Bar Al Castello (Address: Via Guidoni, 56, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy/Hours: 12–3PM, 7–10PM/Wednesday: Closed). This place both times I go to Cinque Terre I come here. The quality is excellent, the food is fresh and delicious. The view is super beautiful!
In addition, there is a very very good white wine, a table wine, and a special wine. Table wine is cheaper, easy to drink, so you should try it. As for the special wine, I don’t remember if it’s on the menu. That kind is very expensive, and also exceptionally delicious. It’s as rich as if you taste the whole vineyard flavor in your mouth. If it’s on the menu, you should try it once. I heard that when you pack a bottle, you’ll spend at least 50 euros.
If you decide to try this restaurant, choose before sunset to start your journey. This restaurant is located very deep in the village of Vernazza, you have to climb a lot of stairs to get there. If you can come here just in time for sunset, it’s perfect. Beautiful scenery, delicious food, good mood. The whole world stopped at that moment.
Follow the hiking trail
Hiking in Cinque Terre is not difficult because the hiking trails are all marked and built. However, it is not because of good infrastructure that the hike is too easy. The trails in Cinque Terre are all native trails, narrow, many steps, quite steep, hiking is also very tiring.
If you want to hike, you should ask for a map at the tourist information office, or save the map below to know which hiking route is suitable.
The most famous route, through the most beautiful scenery is the Blue Trail, (Sentiero Azzuro – feeling the blue) – the 2nd route. This trail is also short, 12 km or so, it takes 2 or 3 hours – with people in good health. The time I went, I hiked this route, the view is very nice. Not too tired for me. But you definitely must have sports shoes, bring a hat, insect repellent. Especially water and some fruit to provide sugar.
The two times I went to Cinque Terre, I followed this routine: swimming, hiking, then going to Vernazza to have dinner and go home. If you don’t have time to stay, I think this is the most perfect route.
There are other trails that are longer and the scenes are more epic. For example trail Sentiero Rosso – Red Line. This trail is 35km long. It takes 9 to 12 hours to go!
If you know more about what to eat and what to do in Cinque Terre, please share it here with everyone! Let’s create unforgettable memories together. If you need more information, you can check it out here.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Cinque Terre you can refer to
- Cinque Terre Day Trip from Florence
- Cinque Terre and Portovenere Day Tour from Milan
- Cinque Terre Guided Day Trip from Milan
- Pisa and Cinque Terre Guided Day Trip from Florence or Pisa
- Cinque Terre and Portovenere Day Tour from Florence
- Private Day Tour of Cinque Terre with Florence Departure
- Cinque Terre Day Trip from Florence
- Best of Cinque Terre with Local Lunch
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Sailing Tour by Speedboat
- Florence: Cinque Terre Day Trip with Optional Hike and Lunch
- Cinque Terre Tour: Porto Venere, Monterosso and Vernazza
- Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Vernazza Boat Cruise
- From Monterosso: Cinque Terre Kayak Tour
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Cruise Shore Excursion
- Milan: Cinque Terre Full-Day Guided Trip With Cruise
- Cinque Terre Sunset Boat Tour
- From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Full-Day Boat Tour
- From Florence: Cinque Terre Full-Day Trip
- From Florence: Cinque Terre Full-Day Trip with Lunch
- From Florence: Pisa and Cinque Terre Full-Day Tour
- From Florence: Full-Day Private Cinque Terre w/ Pisa
If you are interesting to another paradise tourist destination with so many beautiful colorful houses hanging on the cliffs like Cinque Terre let’s check Positano: Positano blog — The fullest Positano travel guide for a great trip to beautiful Positano on a budget for the first-timers. And Italy guide here.