07 Dec Travel to Cinque Terre and see five beautiful towns
Cinque Terre (five lands) is the name given to the area in Italy’s Ligurian region, made up of five coastal towns. No doubt you’ve seen photos of the villages with houses built right on the cliff edge. For us, being able to travel to Cinque Terre was like a dream come true.
How to get to Cinque Terre
To travel to Cinque Terre from Rome, we first had to get a train to La Spezia, which connects to all five towns. From most other places, you will also need to connect at La Spezia. There are some direct routes to Monterosso. Our journey from Rome to La Spezia was just over 3 hours. We left Cinque Terre from La Spezia and travelled to Florence, with a stop in Pisa on the way.
Cinque Terre train
The Cinque Terre towns are serviced by local trains, running in each direction between La Spezia and Levanto. Travel time from one town to the next is 4-6 minutes and is mostly through tunnels. The trains are double level with lots of seating and a small standing area in each car. Train ticket cost: April 1 to November 1: 4 euro, off-peak: 2.50 euro. You need to purchase a ticket each time you get on the train and it must be validated in the machines.
Cinque Terre train card
The Cinque Terre train card allows unlimited travel on the La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto train line. It also includes access to the hiking paths and use of shuttle buses. There is an option of 1 day or 2 days, however, they are not 24 hour based. On arrival in La Spezia, we purchased our cards to use the next day and bought separate tickets to get us to Corniglia. You just have to validate the ticket before your first train journey, it will then expire that day at midnight, or the next for a 2 day. When passing the hiking checkpoint or using the shuttle bus just show the person your card. You can purchase your card online before you travel to Cinque Terre. Find the latest prices here.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
I’m not sure it would really matter where you stayed, all the Cinque Terre towns are beautiful. We were happy with our choice to stay in Corniglia. We liked that it was harder to access because it meant it was a lot quieter than the other towns. After visiting all the towns, our second choice would be Vernazza as it also had a more relaxed feel.
Post all about our stay in Corniglia here.
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How long to stay in Cinque Terre
We stayed two nights in Cinque Terre however, we arrived late afternoon and left in the morning, giving us only one full day. If you want to be able to see all five towns and walk or hike in Cinque Terre, you should aim for longer. During our stay, we only did one walk and we wanted to do another but just didn’t allow enough time. We both wish we had of given more time to this spectacular Italian coastal area.
Cinque Terre walking and hiking
One reason people travel to Cinque Terre is that it’s full of paths and trails ranging from easy walks to difficult hikes. Sentiero Azzurro or Blue Path is a popular choice due to it following the coastline and being the easiest.
The famous Via Dell’Amore or love way is the shortest section linking Riomaggiore and Manarola. Due to landslides, this section is closed. Also closed due to landslides is the section Manarola – Corniglia.
We walked the blue path Corniglia – Vernazza – Monterosso. The walk to Vernazza took us about 1 hour 10 minutes with stopping along the way for photo opportunities. I am not overly fit and the first steep uphill climb had me out of breath. This was the only part though. The picturesque views and sea breeze soon have you forgetting about the hard work. We left straight after having breakfast and only passed two other couples on the way. Towards the end, the path looks down on the village of Vernazza before steps lead down to the town. We then walked through town towards the ocean.
After a short break in Vernazza we continued on to Monterosso. This part took us about 1 hour 30 minutes. As it was now later, the path was busier in both directions. At narrow sections, we had to stop to let people through. There are some steep downhill areas. I’m not sure whether this section has more stairs but my knees were feeling it a lot more. My legs were shaking by the end but it was a lovely walk. We both really enjoyed walking the Cinque Terre and it’s something we won’t forget.
Tip: get out as early as you can, beat the heat and the crowds. Also, check what Cinque Terre trails are closed here.
Cinque Terre towns
Cinque Terre is made up of five small towns, all built up from the coast. All the towns are beautiful but we did like the smaller, quieter ones better.
The first town when entering from La Spezia. Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time here. After walking through the town a little, Tim felt unwell and we left. On our way out of Cinque Terre, we made a brief stop in Riomaggiore to get the iconic view from the coast. The fried seafood is apparently good here so if you get a chance give it a try.
We could have walked to Manarola from Corniglia via the uphill town of Volastra. One of the reasons we wish we spent more time in Cinque Terre. Instead, we used our card and took the train. From Manarola station, we walked through a tunnel and came out to the colourful buildings. A path leads down to the marina and then along the cliff to the viewpoint which looks out to the ocean, the town and the vineyards above.
Corniglia is the Cinque town we stayed in. We had a small room with a wonderful view. Corniglia doesn’t have a designated beach area and the ferry cannot stop there. From Corniglia train station you have to take the shuttle bus or take the large set of stairs up to town. All of these inconveniences is exactly why we were glad to stay there, it was much quieter and had a more local vibe.
We walked to Vernazza along the blue path. Our first view of the town from above was absolutely stunning. It wasn’t as busy with tourists, maybe because we were there in the morning. I would have liked more time to walk all around Vernazza.
We walked to Monterosso from Vernazza along the blue path. It was lunchtime when we arrived and it was very busy with tourists dining out. There was also lots of large tour groups. We bought takeaway pizza and ate it on an outside seat. Monterosso has the largest beach area. We were there in October and the weather was warm enough for people to be enjoying the beach.
Travel to Cinque Terre: our thoughts
I couldn’t go to Italy and not travel to Cinque Terre. There are so many photos of the stunning coastal towns, I always worry that a place won’t live up to the expectations. I’m pleased to say that the Cinque Terre exceeded my expectations, it really is so beautiful. It’s known that the summer months are really busy and I’m not sure we would have enjoyed it as much. During our October visit, we were lucky to get fantastic weather, perfect for walking along the coast. The towns were also not unbearably crowded. We just wish we had allowed more time for exploring the Cinque Terre.
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View our full two week Italy itinerary.