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A 2 Days in Cinque Terre Itinerary You’ll Want to Steal

Last Updated on 28th October 2022 by TSM Media

You don’t need more than two days to see the five coastal villages that form this amazing destination near the city of Genoa, the Cinque Terre. So if you’re visiting any time soon, read on to discover how to spend the perfect 2 days in Cinque Terre itinerary, and what is there to do there to have a fabulous time.

Five lands, five ancient settlements perched high on the Ligurian coastline of Italy have become, in recent years, one of the country’s top tourist attractions, and for a valid reason! They embody the essence of the Italian Riviera, offering a sample of authentic traditions, pretty sights, and magnificent sunsets, all packed in a very short itinerary.

You can either follow the popular hike that takes you across these towns, travel by train, or even sail from one settlement to the next one for a more romantic experience. However you get around, it’s worth noting that Cinque Terre is one of the best places to honeymoon in Italy.

General information about Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre (or Five Lands as it is so-called in English) is a coastal area in the Liguria region of Italy. It faces the Ligurian Sea in the Mediterranean. 

There are five different settlements: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The whole area, including the five towns, is part of the Cinque Terre National Park.

The towns are directly by the sea, except for Corniglia, which is located up on a hill. The rugged landscape of the surrounding area features distinctive terraces used for the production of grapes and olives. 

The four coastal settlements of Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are fishing villages that have also cultivated the terraced hills for the production of local wine and olive oil.

Cinque Terre wine

Moving around in Cinque Terre

The five villages are connected via hiking paths, the Cinque Terre train, and boat rides. Most people prefer to discover the five villages hiking along the main mountain trail, which offers great opportunities to get to know the locals and appreciated their culture more intimately.

To get to the Cinque Terre you can board the train from any of two different Ligurian cities, Genoa (the capital of the region), or La Spezia. The latter is often preferred as it is the closest city to Cinque Terre. 

It is also good to keep in mind, though, being such an important city in Italy, with its remarkable port and airport, Genoa has a wide range of accommodation, restaurants, transport, and entertainment, making it a great base to visit Cinque Terre and also to explore the rest of Liguria and the eastern side of the Italian peninsula.

The best way to explore the coastal villages that make the Cinque Terre is to move up or down along the coast, one village after the other. Starting from the village closest to La Spezia (Riomaggiore), or from the village that is closest to Genoa (Monterosso al Mare).

Many travelers choose to explore the villages by boat traveling with the Cinque Terre Ferry, instead of hiking. The ferry connects La Spezia to Levanto via Portovenere and the Cinque Terre villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, and Monterosso as Corniglia cannot be accessed by boat. 

The daily ferry ticket costs under €30 and it can be used without limits throughout the day.  There are hourly departures in both directions from 10 in the morning until 6 pm. 

The tickets cannot be purchased online or in advance, but at the harbor of your departure. To visit Corniglia, you can hike or take the train.

NOTE: For practical reasons, we will start this trip from Riomaggiore and we will end in Monterosso al Mare, but you can easily invert the route if you prefer to depart from the city of Genoa.

Where to spend the night Cinque Terre

Since the villages are five, it makes sense to spend the night in the middle village, Corniglia, thus staying in the centre of the hiking path, this allows you to devote the first part of the itinerary to the first two villages, Riomaggiore and Manarola.

You can spend the night in Corniglia and visit this village in the early morning. Then, move on to Vernazza and end the day in Monterosso al Mare. Check hotel prices in Corniglia here.

If you decide to stay in Corniglia, keep in mind that this is the only village up the hill, however, the train station that takes you there is located at the bottom of the mountain, next to the sea. To reach the village, travellers need to hike up over 350 steps or take a small, local bus that covers the route.

It is also an affordable option to spend the night in La Spezia and travel to any of the different villages by train. Check out up to date train timetables here.

dinner in Cinque Terre

Best tours to consider for a visit to Cinque Terre

If you don’t enjoy planning the itinerary, are not a fan of hiking, or simply would rather relax and enjoy an organized tour, these are some of the tours that I suggest. They all have excellent reviews and provide top value for money, take a look:

Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Vernazza Boat Cruise

Guided return boat cruise along the Cinque Terre coast from La Spezia, sailing all through the Gulf of the Poets admiring the magnificent village of Portovenere and the island of Palmaria from the boat before reaching the Cinque Terre. Check prices and availability here.

Cinque Terre Full-Day Trip from Florence

Explore the rugged Cinque Terre on this day trip from Florence, visiting Manarola, Riomaggiore, Monterosso, and Vernazza. Check prices and availability here.

Cinque Terre Sailing Tour by Speedboat from La Spezia

Discover the beauty of Cinque Terre on a guided speedboat tour. See the secret coves, marvel at the view of Portovenere, swim in the crystal clear waters and see all five picturesque villages s on a 4-hour speedboat tour. Check prices and availability here.

Highlights of Cinque Terre with A Guide

Although this tour might be a bit more pricey, it is definitely worth the extra money as it includes all means of transport and a knowledgeable private guide that comes with you every step of the way to explore the 5 towns that make up the Cinque Terre.

The day trip from La Spezia includes a van, ferry, and train tickets. The tour is available for large groups and prices go down as more people join the group. Check prices and availability here.

Kayaking Cinque Terre

Day 1 in Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore and Manarola

An early wake-up call to make the most of your first day in Cinque Terre, heading from La Spezia to Riomaggiore by train and start exploring the southernmost village in the region. Maybe not as picturesque as Manarola, Corniglia, or Vernazza, but still worth spending some hours visiting the village.

Head to the seaside first, an ideal location for a hearty Italian breakfast with a cornetto (croissant) and a cappuccino. The part of the village that faces the sea is the nicest area in town, featuring traditional stone buildings pained in pastel colours with red roofs that look as if they were hanging on the slope of the Riomaggiore hill overlooking the sea.

Riomaggiore

When in this town, don’t overlook a visit to the castle, from where you can have breathtaking views of the sea, the vineyards, and the hills. Another thing that’s popular among visitors is going kayaking or sailing. There are many companies in the port area offering boat tours that can often include snorkelling and refreshments.

And if you want to devote more time to the area, check out the local vineyards and wine cellars with a tour that includes also wine tasting to get acquainted with the stunning wines made in Liguria. Check prices and availability here.

Riomaggiore

Your next stop will be Manarola, one of the most photographed villages in the Cinque Terre, but this comes at a price: it is often expensive and overcrowded during the whole season (from April to October).

When visiting the village, take your time, it is a good idea to wander around, stroll along the small alleys, discover the excellent food scene of this village and stay at least until sunset, which is the best moment to admire the gorgeous colors of the seaside settlement.

The first thing to do, upon arrival, is to wander around the village and the rugged vineyards on both sides of the settlement. You will find endless romantic corners and stunning vistas. No matter where you go, it will be easy to feel completely submerged in a relaxing Italian-seaside-town kind of vibe.

In Manarola, take also the time to explore the small churches, start by visiting the San Lorenzo church, a medieval stone building with a nearby yellow clock tower that is pretty much a trademark in town. 

When dinner time arrives, reach the main roads of the town, Via Birolli and Via Discovolo, both ending by the sea. Over here you will find the best Manarola restaurants, as well as other shops, cafés, and more. 

No matter where you choose to eat (and there is indeed plenty of delicious food in Italy), do not forget to try the local seafood dishes, including pasta with seafood (pasta allo scoglio), mussels cooked with abundant pepper and white wine (impepata di cozze), and pasta with pesto sauce (pasta al pesto).

Manarola

After dinner, it is time to travel to Corniglia to check in at your hotel. Due to some heavy landslides from the past winter, the path between Manarola and Corniglia is not accessible at the moment.

In any case, if you’re following this itinerary, taking the train makes more sense as it takes you to Corniglia in the evening, a moment of the day when hiking high hills might not be the best idea!

Once at Corniglia train station, take the small bus that takes you up to the village. You will spend the night here and wake up early to explore the Corniglia early in the morning and then move on to the next village along the coast.

NOTE: 2-3 shuttle buses depart each hour from Corniglia train station to the centre of town on the top of the hill.

Corniglia

Day 2 in Cinque Terre: Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare

Start the day early to make the most of your time in Corniglia, do not rush, but keep in mind that you still have two more villages to visit, so keep an eye on your watch, time flies when you’re having a good time.

Corniglia was built on top of an ancient Roman village and even when it is part of a collection of five seaside villages, it has more of a rural, mountainous spirit due to its location up on the hill. 

However, it is precisely this location that has earned Corniglia its fame, no other place on the coast beats the breathtaking view of the sea from the hill. Right before lunch and before heading to the next village, why not visit the local vineyards to learn about the wines produced in Corniglia? 

wine train cinque terre

The wines of the Cinque Terre are intense as the winter rains and the marine salty breeze has a key role in the grape production, conferring unique aromas to the local wines. Or you can simply walk around the small village, and choose a wine bar or a restaurant to taste some of the best wines in the Cinque Terre.

When it’s time to move from Corniglia to Vernazza, hiking is the best option. The walking time is about 90 minutes, but it can be up to 2 hours if it’s very hot and you need frequent stops to catch your breath or rest… and, of course, to take pictures! 

This path is part of the Cinque Terre Hiking Trail known as the Blue Path or Blue Trail, and even when hiking during the first day of our trip was not as good as traveling by boat or taking the train, the hikes from Corniglia towards the northern villages makes more sense and the views are spectacular.

To hike the Blue Path SVA or 592 path), and since the area is part of an important National Park, you need to purchase the Cinque Terre Trekking Card. You can choose between:

  • Cinque Terre Trekking Card: with access to the Blue Path and local shuttle buses (1-day pass: €7.50, 2-day pass: €14.50)
  • Cinque Terre Treno Card: with access to the Blue Path, the buses, and the Cinque Terre train (1-day pass: €16.00, 2-day pass: €29.00)

Vernazza is the next top along your way, and it is also one of the most gorgeous villages in Cinque Terre. 

The settlement was founded in the year 1000 AD, therefore the main site to explore is Castello Belforte, a medieval castle and fortress built to prevent pirate attacks, which were very common during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

A collection of little charming houses in vivid colours face the picturesque port of Vernazza. In the area, there is also a tiny beach that locals and tourists love to visit during the hottest hours of the day, however, try to get there early as it easily gets super crowded. 

Vernazza harbour

Later in the day, you can head to the main square in Vernazza for a typical Ligurian snack made of focaccia bread or farinata (similar to focaccia but made with chickpea flour). Right after, you can head to the station to take the train to Monterosso or you can also hike.

Enough signs indicate the way up to the hiking trail, however, keep in mind that the path is considered from moderate to medium in difficulty, with a few areas where the path is too rocky and uneven). 

The journey on foot to Monterosso can take a bit more than two hours, and the sea views are breathtaking, however, the path is not as spectacular as the one that took you from Corniglia to Vernazza. So, if you’re very tired, take the train. The ride is about ten minutes.

Monterosso al Mare is the northernmost village of the Cinque Terre as well as one of the most visited settlements. 

Many people who have no plans to hike the Cinque Terre, arrive in Monterosso from Genoa to get a taste of the Cinque Terre, they come to spend the day there without any intention to go further south along the path. This makes the village crowded all year round, and not just in summer.

The village is also the biggest of all the towns along the Cinque Terre, it has a gorgeous coastal landscape and beautiful beaches with clear waters and bizarre reefs that make it perfect for snorkeling, one of the most popular things that people enjoy in the area.

The best-known part of Monterosso, Fegina, features a picturesque old town with an ancient castle, medieval alleys (locally known as carruggi), and the remains of the so-called Giant, a huge statue of the Roman god Neptune that has become the landmark of the village.

Monterosso Beach

Things to Keep in Mind when Planning a Trip to Cinque Terre

Before you go

Ask for information and get ready to change plans at the last minute. You might find unexpected maintenance worksites that will force you to take the train or the boat instead of hiking. There are a few available apps that offer real-time information, keep them handy. For more Italy guidelines, here are our top Italy travel tips.

Moving around

If you plan only to hike from one village to the other, the best pass you can purchase is the Cinque Terre Trekking Card (Blue Path and shuttle buses), the 2-day pass saves you a few euros. 

Before the purchase, though, make sure to ask about eventual portions of the trail that may have been closed due to weather conditions and mudslides. 

If two or more areas of the road are closed, buying a Cinque Terre Treno Card will make more sense as it also allows you to use the train to move around (Blue Path, buses, train). Again, the two-day pass is more convenient.

When to visit the Cinque Terre

If crowds don’t sound like the perfect travel companion, then summer is not the right moment for you. You will enjoy better weather, more affordable fees, and an even milder climate during spring. 

September can also be a good alternative. In fall and winter, the region gets heavy rains that can result in dangerous slides. For even more ideas about the best of Cinque Terre, be sure to check out our guide on the best things to do in Cinque Terre.

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Gabi Ancarola is a journalist and travel writer who has lived over 20 years in Italy, and has been living in Crete for the last five years. She hosts culinary tours, translates and writes for her Crete travel blog The Tiny Book. She’s written for Greek Reporter and published several travel guides about Greece.

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