Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy, making it a hugely popular destination to visit. But it does require a bit of planning before arriving, so here’s our travel guide of what you should know to see all 5 villages of Cinque Terre in a day.
Cinque Terre was our third stop on our 2-week RV trip from Rome to Paris. After flying into Rome and spending a day there, we headed up to the northern part of Italy and stopped at Pisa. From there, we headed over to spend the day exploring these incredible villages.
We originally planned on spending the night at a campground in the area, but fate had other plans. (aka, sold-out campsites) So instead, we spent the day exploring the villages, then headed out to our next destination later that night.
Cinque Terre is made up of 5 villages along the coast of the Ligurian Sea in northwest Italy – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. It’s actually a National Park in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Each village is unique and has its own special flavor. Although they are all incredible, our favorite was Vernazza. As we were buying our train tickets, the attendant told us that Vernazza is the most romantic and beautiful of all the islands. And he was right! It ended up being our favorite. But we seriously enjoyed each one.
Yes, you can definitely see all 5 villages of Cinque Terre in a day, but I highly recommend arriving early in the morning in order to fit all the towns in. Some villages are smaller than others, but if you space out your time, you can spend time at each one. And if you want to spend more time in one village compared to the others, that’s fine too.
𝗧𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 three 𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝘃𝗶𝘀𝗶𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘃𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗮𝗴𝗲𝘀: Train, Boat, or Hiking. No cars are allowed inside, so these are the only ways to experience the villages. We were planning on seeing them by boat, but after seeing the timetables of the boat tours, we went with the train for more flexibility.
And if you do want to spend more than a day exploring, there are some really cute boutique hotels in each village.
The train is the most popular (and easiest) method of transportation used to visit the five villages of Cinque Terre. You can buy a day pass to see all the villages or individual passes to specific ones. The ease of hopping on and off makes it the fastest way to see all of them, and the train ride is comfortable as well as with views of the sea along the way.
La Spezia train station is the best starting point for visiting Cinque Terre. We bought our train pass here and took the train up to Monterroso al Mare, then worked our way back down to La Spezia.
PRO TIP: If you don’t plan on buying a day pass ticket, buy your return ticket along with your arrival ticket at departure. This way, you don’t have to worry about buying return passes at each stop. Some of the train stops are small and can get quite crowded during the day.
TRAIN TIP: DON’T FORGET to validate your tickets at each station BEFORE you get on the train! They do give out tickets for not validating.
Here are the various ticket prices for the train ride at Cinque Terre. Tickets can be purchased at any train station:
Seeing Cinque Terre by boat is an incredible experience that offers unique views of the villages. Just like the train, you can buy a hop-on, hop-off pass that allows you to stop at whatever villages you want to see.
There are a few different boat tour companies that offer tours to the villages. The port in La Spezia is the most popular place to start, with several companies operating from there. You can also hop on at Portovenere as well. You can buy your tickets directly at the port on the day of your departure.
𝗕𝗢𝗔𝗧 𝗧𝗜𝗣: Get there early in the morning! The boat schedule isn’t as flexible as the train, and if you want to see everything, you need a full day to do it. Village docking station availability often varies due to weather and time of year, so keep this in mind as well. We planned on doing the boat trip, but we arrived later in the morning, so it wasn’t worth it.
Here are the various ticket prices for a boat tour at Cinque Terre. Tickets can be bought directly at the peer:
The third way to see Cinque Terre is by foot. You can actually hike the trails between each of the five villages. There are over 120km of trails along the coastline and 48 hiking trails available. Hiking all five villages is about 11km long and takes around 5-7 hours.
Because it is actually a national park, there is no fee to hike the trails. But, if you want to hike the two most famous trails – Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia – you’ll need to buy the Cinque Terre Card. You can also
HIKING TIP: Check the current trail conditions first before setting off on the trail. Some parts of the trail are temporarily closed, and you don’t want to get stuck.
There are two options for purchasing hiking cards for Cinque Terre. Cards can be purchased at all entry points of the trail or the Tourist Information Points at the train station of each village:
We received a lot of questions asking if Cinque Terre is kid-friendly. And our answer is most definitely, yes. You just have to keep certain aspects in mind when traveling with kids.
If you have younger children, I would definitely recommend visiting by train. This is the easiest, fastest, and most comfortable way to travel between each village. If you want to visit by boat, make sure that your children feel at ease traveling on the water as much of your time will be on the boat. And if you plan on hiking, keep in mind that the trail can be difficult and tricky in some areas. It is most suited for older teenagers and adults.
We found playgrounds for the kids to play in a few of the villages, and of course, the beaches are fantastic for kids! Our daughter had just turned five when we visited Cinque Terre, and she had a blast!
There are two ideal times to visit Cinque Terre if you want to avoid the big crowds: early Spring (April & May) and Fall (September & October). The weather isn’t super hot like the summer temps and not chilly as the winter months get.
We visited in late April, and the weather was perfect! But keep in mind that Easter vacation brings many local Italian and French tourists to the area, so try to avoid that week if you can. And if you are planning on spending time in and on the water, the summer months will bring warmer water temperatures.
There are also a few parking areas near La Spezia, where you can park your camper or RV for the day. This is what we did since we couldn’t find an available overnight site for the night. We parked for FREE, took the bus to the train station, and the train to the villages. It worked out really well. You can also use google maps on your phone to find which busses to take.
CAMPGROUND TIP: Because Cinque Terre is a popular place to visit, campgrounds in this area FILL UP FAST! As soon as you know your dates, make sure to book a site in advance – at least a month or so.
So, is Cinque Terre worth it? For us, it completely was worth the visit! This was one of our bucket-list destinations for a while, so actually being able to spend the day there was incredible! From the stunning beaches to walking through each village, we had a blast.
There are fantastic little restaurants to be found in each village, including some with insane views. We ate pasta (shocking!) in Monterosso and Gelato in Vernazza. Both were really good!
And don’t forget to bring your bathing suits – the beaches are seriously incredible!