Cinque Terre: The Ultimate Travel Planning Guide

Transportation, Accommodation, Food, and More

Cinque Terre, which translates to five lands, is a true surprise for many visitors to Italy. While many tourists visit the main attractions of Rome, Florence, and Venice, Cinque Terre has hidden under the radar for many decades only to see a huge growth in popularity recently. And the reasons are obvious: the five gorgeous, colorful towns spill down the steep hillside into the clear blue waters. These towns are surrounded by vineyards and olive groves which are perched on the mountainside and crisscrossed with hiking trails. No cars are allowed in the towns, as they are very old and small. So, pedestrians weave their way through the magical archways, hidden alleys, and into the small town squares filled with quaint restaurants, bakeries, and wine shops.

Vernazza
The entire area was established as a national park, even though the towns themselves are home to permanent residents, many of which have lived here for generations. Located in the northwest of Italy in Liguria, not too far from Florence, the Cinque Terre is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Italy.

If I haven't convinced you already, then the photos will!

This guide is divided into multiple articles. This page will give you an overview of everything including accommodation and dining. Then you can jump to Things to Do, Hiking Guide, Transportation, an Overview of the 5 Towns, or Day Trips.

Accommodation

Like much of Italy, Cinque Terre is not a particularly budget friendly location, and accommodation is no exception, but if you plan ahead and know where to find it, there are some affordable options for budget minded travelers.

The first step in finding accommodation is deciding which town to stay in. (A detailed description of each of the five towns is here.) All of the towns are close together, making it easy to travel between them by train or on foot. It's best to pick one town where you can base yourself instead of moving around each night.

In general, the two cheapest towns to stay in are Riomaggiore (places to stay) and Corniglia (places to stay).

Also check out Vernazza (places to stay) which is central, affordable, and very scenic. Vernazza is often considered to be the "best" town by many visitors.

The fanciest hotels are mainly located in Monterosso (places to stay), which also contains plenty of private rentals, too.

One of the best and most affordable options for accommodation in Cinque Terre is a private apartment or affittacamere (room for rent). Apartments are available for rent for a wide range of prices on AirBnB (anywhere from €60 to €200 a night), and it's best to make reservations well in advance if you want the best value for your money. This is particularly true during the peak seasons (April to September). The vast majority of accommodation options in Cinque Terre are privately owned rooms or apartments (see vacation rentals in Cinque Terre here), but there are a few hotels and hostels around as well, if that's your preference.

If you're on a very tight budget, it might be best to stay outside of the five towns. Levanto and La Spezia are both reasonably priced cities with a good number of affordable places to stay (prices here). Cinque Terre is accessible by train, and if you want a larger city, it's also possible to base yourself in Pisa or Genoa.

The 5 Towns of Cinque Terre

A detailed description of each of the five towns can be found here.

Riomaggiore
Monterosso is the most modern of the five towns in Cinque Terre. There's a "new" section and an "old" section. Monterosso has plenty of amenities for tourists and it's a pleasant town to base yourself in.

Vernazza is one of the most charming villages in Cinque Terre, perhaps the most scenic. (Personally, we think it's one of the most scenic in the whole of Italy!) The ancient castle and seaside church offer a glimpse into the town's history, and the harbor is well worth a visit, too. You'll find some quaint alleyways to explore and gorgeous views over the town from the hillside.

Corniglia is the only town not located on the water, but the hike is beautiful and the town itself is charming. Its distance from the water makes Corniglia feel smaller and quieter than the other towns.

Manarola is a colorful town with its buildings painted the colors of a sunset. It's a charming town with pleasant walks, a small harbor, and a pretty town center.

Riomaggiore is the southernmost town of Cinque Terre. The main street is lined with restaurants, bars, and cafes. Many shops can also be found here where you can pick up cheese, wine, or other snacks for a picnic or a hike.



Transportation

Cinque Terre restricts private vehicle use within the park. The best way to get to the area is by train (ticket prices), but there are also ferry boats available between March and October. Once you arrive in Cinque Terre, getting around is relatively easy. The towns are small enough to walk around, close together, and trains run frequently (between every 10 minutes and every half an hour). It's a scenic walk between towns, too.

Ferry boats in Cinque Terre are operated by the Maritime Tourism Consortium 5 Terre and the Gulf of Poets. Full day tickets are available for €35 and single trip tickets are available for a variety of prices.

A relatively new hop-on hop-off bus now runs between Stazione Central La Spezia (the La Spezia train station) and Vernazza. Tickets cost €18.50.

We cover transportation options in more detail in this article: Transportation in Cinque Terre.

Things to Do in Cinque Terre

Visitors don't come to Cinque Terre for the sights, they come for the experience. Most people spend their time wandering through the cobblestone streets of the towns, sipping wine, and enjoying a few easy hikes. These towns are not about checking attractions off a list, they're about soaking up the moments and views (and wine).

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Sunsets are an event in Cinque Terre. Every town has its own popular vantage point for watching the sunset, but some of the most impressive views head to Riomaggiore, Manarolo, or Vernazza. During the day, spend some time swimming in the turquoise blue waters of the Ligurian Sea. Cinque Terre has only a couple of sandy beaches - in Monterosso and a small beach near Vernazza. In most towns you can lounge of the rocks and find the popular swimming holes to cool off. If you're looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush, try cliff jumping (but only if you know where to go, as this can be very dangerous). Kayaking and paragliding are also options.

Vernazza


If historical sights are important to you, make sure you check out the churches in Corniglia and the Doria Castle in Vernazza.

For a more detailed list of activities in Cinque Terre, check out Things to Do in Cinque Terre.

Day trips

There are a variety of coastal towns that make wonderful day trips from Cinque Terre. Some hikers enjoying exploring the area on foot and towns such as Portovenere are accessible by hiking trail. If you're looking for a leisurely way to visit Portovenere, take a boat, which offers an impressive view as you arrive.

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Hop on the train and head to the beautiful villages of Sestri Levante and Chiavari if you're looking for artisan shops, sandy beaches, and impressive palaces. For a more posh travel experience, head to the infamous town of Portofino, and for a larger city with an authentic vibe, make your way to Genoa. Pisa is another popular day trip, and it has so much more to offer than its famous leaning tower.

Of course, there are a number of day trips TO Cinque Terre from many of these locations, especially Florence.

For a me detailed description, check out Day Trips from Cinque Terre.

Food & Dining

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Cinque Terre is about beauty, atmosphere, and cuisine. The food, like the towns themselves, is centered around the sea. Anchovies are a key ingredient in many Cinque Terre dishes. It's best to try them the day they are caught as they are best when they are at their freshest. Forget about any preconceived notions you might have about this fish and its awkward relationship with pizza. In Cinque Terre, it is nothing like the oily American variety. Enjoy anchovies salted, marinated, or deep fried and served with a dipping sauce. In Vernazza, make sure you try Tegame alla Vernazzana, a local specialty made with layers of anchovies, potatoes, tomatoes, white wine, oil, and herbs.

Cinque Terre is also credited with the creation of pesto. Basil grows well in this environment, and a fresh pesto dish in Cinque Terre can't be beat. You can also buy fresh pesto at a local market. Buy the refrigerated variety for the freshest ingredients.

If you want to sample some of Cinque Terre's best seafood, start your meal off with antipasti ai frutti di mare. This seafood sampling alongside a pasta dish makes just enough food for two diners.

Other local favorites include pansotti (ravioli with ricotta and greens), focaccia, and farinata.

Cinque Terre is a touristy destination, so restaurants can be expensive with variable quality. If you're trying to eat on a budget, head away from the water where the most expensive restaurants are found. Cinque Terre is also a great place to picnic. Grab some bread, meats, cheeses, and wine, and enjoy the view while you dine on some simple favorites.



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