Everything You Need to Know
Visiting Cinque Terre? This Cinque Terre Travel Guide has everything you need to know before exploring the charming villages of Cinque Terre. Nestled along the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre is a collection of five picturesque fishing villages, which is fitting since the name “Cinque Terre” translates to “Five Lands”.
The five enchanting villages that make up Cinque Terre include Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Over the centuries, these villages developed their unique character and way of life, relying heavily on fishing and terraced agriculture to sustain their communities. Today, their rich history and stunning landscapes have made Cinque Terre a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beloved destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in the beauty and culture of this coastal haven. If Amalfi Coast is out of your price range, then Cinque Terre is your next best option!
As in most European countries, the currency of Cinque Terre is the Euro (symbolized as EUR or €)
When To Visit
Unpopular opinion, but we think the best time to go is June-September. Yes, there will be crowds, but you can’t beat the sunshine & warm summer weather.
The official language is Italian, and while nearly everyone speaks English as a second language, we recommend dusting up on basic Italian phrases.
While Cinque Terre doesn’t have its own airport, you can easily access it by flying to one of the nearby major airports and then continuing your journey by train, bus, or car. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get to Cinque Terre by plane:
- Pisa Airport (Galileo Galilei Airport – PSA): This is the closest major airport to Cinque Terre, located approximately 70 kilometers (43 miles) away. Pisa Airport is well-connected to major European cities and offers a convenient gateway to the region.
- Genoa Airport (Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport – GOA): Genoa is another nearby airport, located approximately 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Cinque Terre. It’s a viable option if you’re arriving from other parts of Europe.
- Florence Airport (Florence Peretola Airport – FLR): Florence Airport is about 160 kilometers (99 miles) from Cinque Terre and is a suitable choice if you’re planning to explore Tuscany before heading to the coast.
Once you arrive at your chosen airport, the most convenient way to reach Cinque Terre is by taking a train to La Spezia Centrale, the main train station closest to Cinque Terre or you can take it directly to whichever village you’re visiting. Both Pisa and Genoa airports have direct train connections to La Spezia, making the transfer straightforward and you can check the train schedules and purchase tickets online at our favorite website, Rome2Rio.
What To Expect
Best Time To Visit
We ended up having the best time visiting in August, but many will tell you to avoid traveling to Cinque Terre in the summer due to the high crowds and heat. However, we found the crowds managable and the temperature perfection. It’s really a toss up as to whether you heat waves and busy crowds or ideal temperature and managable crowds. But if you are willing to risk it, we recommend visiting between June-September. For anyone else, the best time to visit Cinque Terre is during the shoulder seasons of spring and early fall when you can enjoy pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Ultimately, the choice of when to visit depends on your personal preferences and the kind of experience you’re seeking.
How Long Should I stay?
We spent four nights in Cinque Terre. This was the perfect amount of time in our opinion. It was just enough time to explore all of the villages, without feeling rushed or trying to cram too much into our itinerary. However, this really depends on the type of vacation you are looking for and how much you want to do across each of the villages. Here is a link to our Four Day Cinque Terre Itinerary for some inspiration.
It’s important to note that entry requirements for Italy as a whole may apply, especially if you are traveling from outside the Schengen Area or the European Union. These requirements can change over time, so it’s essential to check the most up-to-date information before planning your trip. Typically, when entering Italy as a tourist, you may need to consider the following:
- Visa Requirements: Italy is part of the Schengen Area, and citizens of certain countries are allowed to enter for tourism purposes without a visa for a short stay (up to 90 days within a 180-day period). However, visa requirements vary depending on your nationality, so check the Italian embassy or consulate website for the most accurate information.
- Passport: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date from Italy. Even if your passport doesn’t expire for another few months, some countries require a six month minimum prior to expiration date.
- Travel Insurance: While not mandatory, it’s highly recommended to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses and trip cancellations.
- Customs and Immigration: Be prepared to go through customs and immigration procedures when arriving in Italy and consider any documents you will need for this.
- COVID-19 Restrictions: Depending on the current situation, you may need to comply with specific COVID-19-related entry requirements, such as providing proof of vaccination, a negative test result, or completing quarantine upon arrival. These requirements can change frequently, so check with official government sources and the airline for the latest information.
What should I pack?
Be sure to pack everything you’d want for a typical beach and warm weather vacation. Keep in mind that there is tons of walking, especially walking up hills in Cinque Terre and hiking that can be done across the villages. You won’t need heels, but if you are a fan of dressing up, you can easily walk around in block heels. Be sure to pack comfortable shoes and sneakers and even a light jacket for the mornings and evening. Most importantly, remember to bring sunscreen! With high UV radiation levels, it is absolutely vital to wear sunscreen while walking around Cinque Terre! Even on a cloudy day or early in the morning, be prepared, as you still might burn! Check out our favorite sunscreen, Supergoop, which is sold on Amazon in a travel size.
We recommend choosing one of the villages to stay in as your base spot. Then you can travel between villages during the day and evening with minimal transportation time. To get to and from the villages you can use public transportation. See below for the best options!
- Train: The train is the primary mode of transportation between the five villages and is incredibly efficient. Trains run frequently, usually every 15-30 minutes, and offer a quick and convenient way to hop between the towns. However, be prepared for crowds, especially during the busy tourism season and don’t expect to get a seat!
- Hiking: Cinque Terre is famous for its stunning hiking trails that connect the villages. The most renowned trail is the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail), which runs along the coastline and provides breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Make sure to check trail conditions and openings, as some sections may be closed due to maintenance or landslides.
- Biking: Renting a bike can be a fun way to explore the area, especially if you want to venture further into the surrounding countryside. Bike rentals are available in some of the villages, and you can ride along designated paths and roads.
- Boat: Another scenic option is to travel between villages by boat. Seasonal boat services connect the villages, offering a different perspective of Cinque Terre’s colorful cliffs and crystal-clear waters.
- Local Buses: In addition to trains, local buses connect the villages to nearby towns and attractions. They are especially useful if you want to explore areas just outside Cinque Terre.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the northernmost village in Cinque Terre and is often regarded as the most resort-like of the five. Its expansive sandy beaches, complete with colorful umbrellas and sunbathers, make it a popular destination for beach lovers. The village is divided into two parts, the historical center (Monterosso Vecchio) and the new town (Monterosso Nuovo), connected by a tunnel. The old town features narrow streets, ancient churches, and a medieval castle, while the new town offers a vibrant seaside promenade filled with restaurants, gelato shops, and lively nightlife.
Vernazza is often considered the most photogenic of the Cinque Terre villages. It features a picturesque natural harbor where colorful boats bob on the clear blue waters, surrounded by steep cliffs and a stunning medieval tower. The town square is the heart of Vernazza, offering breathtaking views of the sea. Quaint shops and seaside cafes line the narrow streets, creating a perfect setting for leisurely exploration and relaxation.
Corniglia stands out as the only one of the five villages not located directly on the coastline. Instead, it sits atop a rocky promontory, offering spectacular panoramic views of the sea and vineyard-covered terraces. Corniglia maintains a quieter and more peaceful atmosphere compared to its coastal counterparts. Visitors can climb the “Lardarina,” a staircase of over 380 steps, to reach the village from the train station. The terraced vineyards surrounding Corniglia are also renowned for producing excellent local wine.
Manarola is one of the most iconic villages in Cinque Terre, known for its charming pastel-colored buildings that seem to cascade down the cliffs towards the sea. The waterfront promenade provides an ideal spot for watching the sunset, and its dramatic scenery has inspired countless artists and photographers. The village is famous for its seafood restaurants, where you can savor fresh catches of the day while gazing out at the Mediterranean.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost village in Cinque Terre and is characterized by its stunning marina, narrow winding alleys, and a welcoming, laid-back ambiance. Visitors can explore the picturesque harbor and its fishing boats, stroll through the charming streets adorned with vibrant murals, and visit the historic church of San Giovanni Battista. Riomaggiore offers a more tranquil experience compared to some of its busier counterparts, making it an excellent place to unwind.
Choosing where to stay in Cinque Terre really depends on your budget and how much time you plan on exploring each of the five villages. If you plan on trying to spend a good amount of time in each village, we recommend staying within the villages versus outside in one of the nearby towns. This will save time when commuting each morning for a day of exploration and is honestly the best way to really be integrated into the village culture.
Grand Hotel Portovenere
Situated just outside the official boundaries of Cinque Terre in the picturesque town of Portovenere, this luxury hotel offers stunning seafront views, elegant rooms, and a rooftop terrace with a pool. It’s an ideal choice for travelers seeking a more upscale and tranquil escape while still being within easy reach of Cinque Terre.
Hotel Marina Piccola
This family-run gem in Manarola boasts cozy rooms with balconies overlooking the sea, providing a perfect backdrop for sunrise and sunset views. The welcoming staff and proximity to the village center make it an excellent choice for those seeking an authentic Cinque Terre experience.
This renovated bed & breakfast offers bright and breezy rooms with a fresh and modern design. The service is impeccable and the views are even better, which you can enjoy from your room or on the terrace.
Affittacamere Da Cesare
Da Cesare provides budget-friendly rooms in Riomaggiore, making it an excellent choice for travelers looking to explore Cinque Terre without breaking the bank. The friendly staff and convenient location near the train station ensure a comfortable stay.
Cà de Angelo
A fantastic budget-friendly option in Manarola offering clean, bright and good sized rooms in an excellent central location. You are just walking location from the train station, restaurants, bars and more. Bonus points for having air conditioning and gorgeous views.
Things To Do
Discover Manarola’s Scenic Vineyards
Manarola’s terraced vineyards are a UNESCO World Heritage site and a testament to centuries-old winemaking traditions. Take a guided tour to learn about the wine production process and savor locally produced wines.
Pesto Making Class
Italy is known for it’s fresh pasta and delicious food, so why not learn how to make fresh pesto with locally sourced ingredients? There are a few different pesto making classes in Cinque Terre and we highly recommend doing this one afternoon when visiting! We ended up using Airbnb Experiences to book a pesto and wine tasking class in Vernazza. You can also book a class with Nessun Dorma while overlooking the beatiful sea and village skyline.
Explore Monterosso’s Old Town
Wander through the charming streets of Monterosso’s old town, where you’ll encounter historical buildings, churches, and quaint shops selling local handicrafts. The town’s narrow alleyways are perfect for leisurely exploration.
Take a Boat Tour
Discover the beauty of Cinque Terre from the sea by booking a boat tour. You’ll have the opportunity to admire the villages from a different perspective, swim in secluded coves, and capture incredible coastal vistas.
Enjoy Local Cuisine
Savor regional specialties like freshly caught seafood, authentic pesto, and creamy gelato in the charming local restaurants and cafes. Be sure to try the famous Ligurian focaccia, perfect for a quick snack while exploring the villages.
Perched on a cliffside terrace, Ristorante Belforte offers a truly unique dining experience. It’s renowned for its seafood dishes, including succulent mussels and fresh catch of the day. Be sure to reserve a table on the panoramic terrace for breathtaking views of Vernazza and the Ligurian Sea.
Dal Billy is a family-run gem known for its warm hospitality and traditional Ligurian cuisine. Don’t miss the trofie pasta with rich basil pesto, a dish that captures the essence of the region. The restaurant’s terrace offers a cozy setting for an intimate meal.
Located in Monterosso’s old town, Cantina di Miky boasts a diverse menu with a focus on seafood. The wine list is extensive, featuring both local and Italian selections. Try the stuffed calamari or the seafood risotto for a taste of the sea.
Il Pirata’s romantic setting, perched on the cliffs, is perfect for a memorable dining experience. The menu highlights the freshest seafood, with octopus being a standout choice. Pair your meal with a local white wine and enjoy the breathtaking sunset views.
San Martino is a casual eatery known for its delectable focaccia, perfect for a quick bite. Their seafood antipasti platter is a local favorite, and the friendly staff will gladly recommend the best wine to complement your meal.
Corniglia’s Trattoria Cecio offers a cozy and rustic atmosphere. Their homemade pasta dishes are a highlight, with options like pansotti filled with ricotta and herbs, drizzled in walnut sauce. It’s a charming spot for a taste of traditional Italian fare.
Bars and Cocktails
Elio Bar is perched on the cliffs and offers a relaxed atmosphere with a selection of cocktails and aperitivos. It’s a fantastic spot to unwind while taking in the breathtaking sunset views over the Mediterranean.
Centrally located in Vernazza, Bar Centrale is a great place to sip on classic Italian aperitivos while mingling with locals and fellow travelers. Try the local wines and soak in the village’s vibrant ambiance.
Da Eraldo is a cozy wine bar that boasts an extensive wine selection, including regional favorites. The intimate setting makes it an ideal spot for enjoying a glass of wine or two with friends.
Billy’s Bar is known for its live music, making it a lively spot for an evening out. Enjoy their signature cocktails and mingle with locals and tourists alike.
La Cantina dello Zio Bramante
Hidden away from the main streets, this quaint wine bar offers an excellent selection of local wines. The cozy atmosphere and friendly staff make it a perfect spot for wine enthusiasts.
A Pie’ de Ma’
Located in Corniglia, A Pie’ de Ma’ is a unique bar carved into the cliffs. Enjoy your drinks on the terraces while gazing at the stunning sea views. It’s a peaceful spot to relax and take in the natural beauty of Cinque Terre.
We hope our Cinque Terre Travel Guide gave you the details you needed to help plan your trip to this beautiful destination. After spending time here over the summer, we feel like we were able to cover everything from the best times to visit, how to get there, top-rated restaurants serving delectable local cuisine, must-do activities such as hiking the iconic trails and swimming in crystal-clear waters, and the finest bars and cocktail spots offering scenic views of the Mediterranean from the lense of our personal experience! Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a foodie, or simply seeking relaxation, this guide provides valuable insights into planning your dream getaway to this UNESCO World Heritage site, where breathtaking landscapes and rich culture await at every turn.