Things to do in Cinque Terre

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Top things to do in Cinque Terre, a LoveHardTravelOften travel guide

Cinque Terre Travel Guide

Cinque Terre is such a quaint and unique part of Italy! The beautiful area was given UNESCO status in 1997, and with the incredible job they’ve done with preserving the beauty of this historical place, we can see why! Made up of 5 colorful cliffside fishing villages, stunning sea views and food that would make anyone drool, this spot in the Italian Riviera belongs on any Italian trip itinerary!

View over Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Here’s what you’re gonna get with this blog:

  • Top things to DO in Cinque Terre
  • Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre
  • Answers to “Where is Cinque Terre?”, “How to get to Cinque Terre” & “Cinque Terre from Florence”
  • Cinque Terre by train
  • Where & how long to STAY in Cinque Terre
  • Best time to visit Cinque Terre
  • Tips for visiting Cinque Terre

Where is Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is in the northwest of Italy on the Italian Riviera and is in the region of Liguria. The closest sizable city is La Spezia!

Things to do in Cinque Terre

  • Hike Cinque Terre
  • Explore all 5 towns
  • Have drinks with a view
  • Catch a sunset
  • Indulge in gelato
  • Take a boat ride

Hike Cinque Terre

Hike Cinque Terre, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre

Hiking along the coast from town to town is the quintessential Cinque Terre experience. The seaside views and the sneak peaks of the villages as you descend upon them are really something else, so this is definitely the #1 thing we’d recommend putting on your itinerary.

We did the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso one evening and it was such a great way to end the day.

Cliffside views from hiking Vernazza to Monterosso

Tips for the Vernazza to Monterosso hike:

  • It took us about an hour and a half. We went at both 7 am and 6:30 pm and the trail wasn’t too busy at either time!
  • Moderate in difficulty
  • Starting in Vernazza is a bit easier than starting in Monterosso
  • Follow the red & white paint marks to stay on the right trail!
  • About 5 minutes into the hike (if you start in Vernazza) is our favorite viewpoint for a picture!

Do note that depending on when you go, some or all of the hikes between cities may be closed. Google maps does not know all of the closures so make sure you ask a local! You can still explore the towns via train or boat, though, and there are ample other hikes in the area to do!

Explore the unique beauty of all 5 towns

Before we went to Cinque Terre all the towns seemed to kind of blend together from the pictures we’d seen. We couldn’t have been more wrong!

Each town is so unique and has its own quirks and character. It is definitely worth it to visit all 5!

Here are our favorite things about each city:

Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre
  • Riomaggiore – super quaint but yet still has lots to explore! You can easily get out of the crowds by taking any route off the main street and find yourself in some stunning places. Also home to our favorite gelato (Old School) and pizza (Kepris)!
Manarola town views in Cinque Terre
  • Manarola – long stretches of walkway with the best city views and restaurants with city views (see our notes below on Nessun Dorma)! There are also so many cute boutique clothing stores here and a gluten free/vegan dessert shop! The buildings are also more Pastel here which is neat, too!
  • Corniglia – there are SO many stairs to get up from the train station to this town but it’s worth it! There’s a great spot as you walk towards the water to grab an Italian Grape Ale, which is a unique beer/wine combo.
The beautiful Vernazza harbour, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre
  • Vernazza – home to our favorite photo op (very important of course), but the square by the harbor here is also the best place to just sit and relax. We enjoyed getting here early (the city isn’t awake until about 7:30/8 am) and watching the town come alive.
Archway leading into Monterosso
Black and white cathedral in Monterosso
  • Monterosso – this is the only city of the 5 that has a long beach to hang out on and is where most of the resorts are located. It’s also the most sprawling and least steep of the towns, so it feels less claustrophobic but also a little less quaint. The cathedral here is super unique and looks like MacKenzie Childs designed it!

Have drinks with a view

Enjoying a drink overlooking Manarola, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre

There’s nothing better than an afternoon Aperol Spritz along the cliffside! Our favorite spot was Nessun Dorma in Manarola – it has the most beautiful views (and gram worthy shots!) of both the colorful town & the water, and the food and drinks are delicious.

View of Manarola from Nessun Dorma restaurant

Pro tip: if you order drinks they will bring you an appetizer plate FOR FREE, which is music to our ears 🙂 This is called appertivo in Italy and is actually pretty common!

Do note that there can be quite a line to get seated here, so try to go at non-peak hours to avoid the crowd.

Catch a sunset with pizza & wine

Colorful sunset over Riomaggiore, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre

Our absolute favorite moments were sharing some pizza and wine while catching the sunset in Cinque Terre. The sun is so fiery and if you can catch the right perspective you can see the light bounce off of all the colors of the buildings – it’s magic.

It is such a special time, unlike any other sunset we’ve experienced! So much so that we set out on a mission to find the very best spot in town without a million people around.

Enjoying the beautiful sunset over Riomaggiore, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre

MISSON ACCOMPLISHED! We found the perfect spot in Riomaggiore (GPS 44.0982870, 9.7389480). To get there you go up the steps from the Hotel La Zorza yellow archway all the way to the top. Take a right at the top of the stairs and follow the path around. Go past the benches until you see a ledge. At the edge of the ledge you can sit and have it to yourselves, and you get the perfect vantage of the sunset AND the town! 

Don’t forget to grab a Kepris pizza and some Muretti Rosso wine before you head up!

Indulge in gelato!

Gelato at Old School in Riomaggiore, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre

You’re in Italy, after all! I’m pretty sure it’s a sin to come here and NOT have gelato. Whether you just finished a hike or feel like your 5th cone for the day (no judgement!), there’s never a wrong time for gelato.

Our favorite gelato in the area was at Old School in Riomaggiore near the cathedral. It’s a little off the main strip but definitely snuck into the top 3 gelato places we’ve ever had!

For our vegan friends, try Gelateria 5Terre in Manarola which has delicious vegan options so you can indulge in this Italian must-have.

Take a boat ride to see all of the towns

Blue boats in Riomaggiore harbour in Cinque Terre

Taking a boat ride from town to town gives a different perspective for the landscape of these incredible cliffside villages. You can either hire a private boat or take a local ferry from town to town!

Other things to do:

If you’ve done all of this and are thinking, okay what else? Don’t fret! There are tons of options that locals recommended to us. Here are a few options:

  • Take a ferry to an island
  • Visit wineries/go wine tasting. They’re most known for the Sciacchetrà desert wine!
  • Hike the inland hikes
  • Bike through the tunnels from Levanto to Bonasssola

Best Restaurants in Cinque Terre

Nessun Dorma, best restaurant in Cinque Terre
  • Kepris Pizza (Riomaggiore) – this pizza is TO. DIE. FOR. Like what Italian dreams are made of.
  • Old School Gelato (Riomaggiore) – the best gelato we’ve ever had!! And the 90’s rap the guy was playing in there was such a fun vibe!
  • Nessun Dorma (Manarola) – amazing drinks and appertivo, but also incredible food! Perfect ambiance overlooking Manarola, too.
  • Gelateria 5Terre (Manarola) – gluten free & vegan desserts! We went in just to check this place out and walked out with 3 desserts – all were delicious!
  • Trattoria Dal Billy (Manarola) – this place is famous for their steamed mussels. Make sure to make a reservation!
  • Honestly anywhere you find pesto – that’s what the region is known for!

How to get to Cinque Terre?

Sitting on boats in Vernazza harbour in Cinque Terre

Since these fishing villages are nestled on the mountainous and rugged Italian Riviera coastline, getting to them can be a little tricky. The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is by train.

Whether you take a train from Rome, Genoa, Pisa or Florence, you can catch one to La Spezia. From La Spezia there is a train that runs between all of the Cinque Terre towns and onto Levanto.

We booked all of our trains on Omio.com and got e-tickets that worked seamlessly!

You can also reach Cinque Terre by ferry from Porto Venere, Portofino and Genoa if you are traveling between April and September.

Driving can be a little tricky & treacherous, but if you want to go that route you’ll want to drop your car in La Spezia. There are places to park your car at the train station and then you can take the train into Cinque Terre. You probably don’t want to be messing with a car in Cinque Terre!

Cinque Terre from Florence

Light leak through the buildings in Cinque Terre

Getting to any of the Cinque Terre towns from Florence is simple via train. There are a handful of trains from Florence per day that only have 1 stop to switch trains, and the whole journey is 2 – 2.5 hours.

Most of the routes switch trains in La Spezia (which is super simple) and then from La Spezia it’s about a 10-20 minute train from there depending on which town you’re going to.

You can book your train tickets online on Omio.com and they cost about 17-25 euro. Make sure to put your destination to the town you want to go to, not just “Cinque Terre.”

Cinque Terre by Train

Cinque Terre by train, one of the top things to do in Cinque Terre

Traveling between the villages by train is super simple since there is a train line that goes between La Spezia, Lavanto and all the towns.

Things to note:

  • The best way to travel by train is the Cinque Terre Train Card that gives you unlimited rides between all the towns for 1 day.
  • The train card costs 16 euro and cannot be purchased at a machine, you have to go to the teller at the station or online.
  • The card is good for that calendar day, not 24 hours from the time of purchase, so if you arrive in the afternoon consider waiting until the next morning to purchase.
  • Each train ticket is individually 4 euro (no matter what two towns you’re going between), so if you plan to take 4 or less train rides you should just buy each ticket individually.
  • Not every train stops at every town, so make sure you get a schedule at the station and check it before you hop on!

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, where to stay in Cinque Terre

We stayed in Riomaggiore and absolutely loved it because it felt very homey and gave us the authentic Italian fishing village vibes we were looking for.

If you’re looking for similar types of vibes, we’d recommend Riomaggiore, Manarola or Vernazza.

That said, you really can’t go wrong with any of the 5 towns. Monterosso is great if you’re looking for a beach or more of a hotel/resort. Corniglia is definitely the most quaint but we’re babies and couldn’t handle all the steps up and down each time we wanted to go to the train station ;).

The towns are very small, so no matter which location in them you book you’ll be no more than a 10 minute walk from wherever you want to go. Due to the limited space in these villages and the high demand, it’s good to note that staying in one of the 5 towns can be a little pricey.

If you want to go to Cinque Terre on a budget we highly recommend staying in La Spezia since there are plenty of budget options there and it’s just a 10 minute train ride to get to anything you want to do in Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre Airbnb

Because we love the feeling of living like a local, meeting the host, having our own kitchen, etc., our favorite way to travel through Europe is staying in an Airbnb. We stayed in a fabulous Airbnb in Riomaggiore and loved our stay!

If you haven’t tried Airbnb yet, check it out! You can rent anywhere from a room in someone’s home, to an apartment to a multi-bedroom house, so it’s a great resource for travel! Get $40 off your first booking here!

How many days in Cinque Terre?

1-2 days is ample time for Cinque Terre. We stayed for 4 to take it easy, but you can easily see all 5 towns via train in 1 day, hike or take a boat the next, and feel like you’ve “done” Cinque Terre.

Best time to visit Cinque Terre

Flower overlooking Vernazza in Cinque Terre

The most popular times to visit Cinque Terre are between late April and September, so that’s when we’d recommend visiting. Late April through May are less busy but also a little cooler. We went in early May and it was a bit chilly but perfect hiking weather!

Tips for visiting Cinque Terre

Vernazza harbour at sunset
  • Drones are apparently not permitted – we saw “No Drone” signs in most of the towns so if you’re wanting footage you should be careful and do a little more research on where you can fly.
  • The towns didn’t seem to come alive until 8 am or so, so you can have photo spots and trails basically to yourself until then!

Happy Traveling!

Kylie & Scott

(Want to know more? Comment below! And make sure to follow along on Instagram @LoveHardTravelOften)

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Top things you can't miss in Cinque Terre, a LoveHardTravelOften travel guide
Things you can't miss in Cinque Terre, a LoveHardTravelOften travel guide
Top things to do in Cinque Terre, a LoveHardTravelOften travel guide
Top things to do in Cinque Terre, a LoveHardTravelOften travel guide

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