The Beginner’s Guide to the Cinque Terre + Free Itinerary

by Bianca Gignac

what to do cinque terre

I love showing people the Cinque Terre for the first time.

I’m lucky enough to do that on my group trips to the Cinque Terre , and I dig seeing their faces when they arrive.

I’ve spent a ton of time in the area as a resident, a tour guide and a traveler. Whenever someone ask me, “What should I do in the Cinque Terre,” my eyes light up and I start listing off all my favorite things.

Since I get asked a lot of questions about what to do in the Cinque Terre, I decided to post this free itinerary for you to steal and use to plan your own trip.

My DIY Cinque Terre itinerary is for four days and three nights and you can see it below.

Don’t make this #1 Cinque Terre planning mistake.

Some people think the Cinque Terre is just one place – but that’s a mistake.

First, understand that the word is used to describe an area of land, not one place.

Don’t waste your time trying to see train schedules for the “Cinque Terre”.

Don’t get confused trying to book a hotel in the “Cinque Terre”.

Know that there are five main villages that make up the zone – so before you plan your stay you’ve gotta figure out which of the five villages you want to stay in.

There are also other villages surrounding the Cinque Terre, like Levanto and Portovenere, which are not technically part of the “five lands” but are still wonderful options for a home base.

If you’re looking at the map, the Cinque Terre is located just north of the Tuscan border and takes about three hours on the train from either Florence (to the south) or Milan (to the north). If you’re flying into Italy and will be visiting the Cinque Terre first, the best airports are Pisa (easiest), Genoa or Milan.

A note to hikers: Some people imagine the villages as spread over a vast area, but this isn’t true. If you want to hike between all the villages, there is really no reason to walk with all your belongings to each of the villages and change hotels. That’s a pain in the ass. I recommend just doing day hikes between the villages (you could hike them all in one big day), and leave your gear at your hotel. It’s just a train ride away after you’re done the trail.

One last thing: the Cinque Terre is actually a national park, a protected waterway and a Unesco World Heritage site. Most vehicle traffic is restricted inside the villages. This explains why the area is preserved so well and has a way of transporting you to a simpler time…a time before neon McDonald’s signs and other weights of our modern existence.


Step One: Pick a village.

The first thing you gotta do to plan your Cinque Terre stay is to choose one of the village as your home base.

Don’t get overly caught up in which village to stay, they are all wonderful, and I’ll explain them better below.

As I mentioned before, all the villages are close. Like really close.  It takes between three and twenty five minutes by train to travel between them. There are also walking trails that connect them. Current trail conditions are here.

The five Cinque Terre village from south to north:

Riomaggiore has one main street, a harbour, a rocky beach, a castle, a church, a pharmacy, and a dozen restaurants. It also has good train connections and is the closest to the main city of La Spezia. I met my husband here a decade ago, and some of my best friends live here, so I’m completely biased when I say this: it’s my favorite village.

Heading north from Riomaggiore is the second village called Manarola. It’s also a one street town, with a small harbour where you can swim. It has an incredible spit of land where the most famous Cinque Terre photos are taken from. Manarola is the smallest village; the baby of the family.

The middle child of the family is Corniglia.  She’s a rebel. She’s built far above the ocean on the cliffs. To arrive at Corniglia you gotta hoof it up the 365 steps (one for each day of the year) to reach the centre of town. If you have excessive luggage don’t stay here. But saying that, it’s where to go to get away from it all.

The beauty queen of the Cinque Terre is named Vernazza. This village is the most popular girl at school; everyone wants to hang out with her and be her friend. She’s incredibly photogenic. Vernazza is a one street town with a church built on the water. She has a castle, the remains of the old wall that protected against pirates, a gorgeous waterfront piazza and a harbour with a spit of sand that you can even call a beach.

The northernmost village is called Monterosso al Mare. She’s the biggest kid in the family, and she has many streets and even (gasp) cars driving in the village. Her landscape isn’t as vertical as her other sisters, you could even spend the entire day not climbing hills and stairs. Monterosso is made up of an old town, a new town, lots of sandy beach, some larger hotels and a long seaside promenade suitable for strollers too. If you want to avoid stairs and have a more “resort” feel to your vacation then you should stay here.

Step Two: How long are you staying?

The second thing you gotta do to plan your Cinque Terre stay is decide how long you’re staying.

I recommend two nights minimum. My itinerary below is for four days and three nights. If your short on time, I would recommend reading my article, Should I Go to the Cinque Terre?

When I take people on my group trips to the Cinque Terre, we stay for six nights. And no one ever wants to leave.

Step Three: Choose where to sleep.

The fanciest hotels are in Monterosso. A great option in the region is taking advantage of the many private apartments for rent. There are also B&B’s and hostels. You can rent an apartment for 60-120 euro a night. Truly, it’s amazing what you can get for 80 euros a night here, but book ahead. At the bottom of this article, you’ll see my recommended accommodation.


Steal this: Your 3 night, 4 day itinerary for the Cinque Terre.


  • This is designed for sunny weather. If you’re traveling in the cold season, read my article, Should I Go to the Cinque Terre?
  • It’s based out of the village of Riomaggiore.
  • The best way to travel between the five villages is with the train; traveling between each station takes mere minutes.
  • You can’t see it all and do it all in three nights. I’ve given you my favourite highlights, something that I would tell a friend to do. If you’re like me, and like to relax and soak up the environment, then you’ll dig this itinerary. If you like to be active then add my optional extras (listed at the bottom) to your stay.

Day 1.

Arrival Day. Check-in to your hotel.  Maybe you’ve had a big travel day so go stare at the ocean and drink a glass of local wine at:

  • A Pie’ de Ma’ (Via dell’Amore, Riomaggiore, take the stairs at the train station)

This is my favorite drink spot in the whole world and a visit here is mandatory to your Cinque Terre experience. My recommended tipple is either local white wine, prosecco or the specialty from this area called Sciacchetra — a fortified wine made from dry grapes of the hillsides you’re surrounded by.

After that I would cruise down to the marina. Gather at the agave and watch the sunset over the harbour. Then head to dinner at:

  • La Lanterna (Via S. Giacomo, Riomaggiore, overlooking the marina).

You’ll love the beautiful stone interior and the Ligurian comfort food it serves.

Day 2:

Rise and shine because it’s a beautiful day and you have nothing to do except enjoy it. Head down to the village and catch the morning action. Drink a coffee on the main (and only!) street. Then head to the beach in Riomaggiore for a morning swim.

  • To find the beach of Riomaggiore, go down to the marina (take the steps you’ll find on the left at the bottom of Via Colombo). When you reach the marina take the stairs to the left and it will wind around to the ferry dock, and just past there, you’ll find a beach of boulders. At first they look uncomfortable, but you can arrange the rocks until you create a nice little nest. I love this beach cause it’s mellow.

For lunch, I would suggest adventuring to the village of Groppo. It’s completely out of the way, so give yourself an hour to arrive (you need to take the train from Riomaggiore to Manarola). The food is divine and made with love with local ingredients. I suggest arranging a wine pairing with lunch. Because this restaurant is very particular,  it’s more like dining in someone’s home, reservations are a must. Contact Christianne, the owner to make a reservation.

  • Restaurant: Cappun Magru in Casa di Marin, in the village of Groppo. You can catch a bus just outside the pharmacy in Manarola to get to this restaurant in a tiny village up the hill. Phone:  0187920563

After lunch, if you’re feeling fit, walk down to Manarola (or if want to skip the 30 minute walk simply catch the bus back down the hill).  You can visit the adorable village of Manarola, it has one main street so everything is easy to see.

Walk down to the marina to see the locals at the swimming hole. Then join them! Or keep walking north along the walking path jutting out to the point and you’ll be rewarded with village views fit for a postcard.  There’s also a playground if you’re traveling with children.

For dinner, you should eat in Manarola at Da Billy. Bring your walking legs cause it’s up the hill with a great view. They serve seafood.

  • Da Billy, Via Aldo Rollandi 122, Manarola ‎ Phone: +39 0187 920628

Another Manarola option is on the main drag.

  • Trattoria il Porticciolo, Via Renato Birolli 92, Manaraola. Phone: +39 0187 920083

After dinner head down to the local’s hangout with live music most nights:

  • Cantina dello Zio Bramante, Via Renato Birolli 110, Manarola. Phone: +39 0187 920442

Train home, or if it’s open, take the walking path called Via dell’Amore. Walking the moonlit path above the swirling ocean is amazeballs.

Day 3.

If you haven’t heard, the Cinque Terre is famous for its walking paths. Hiking the Cinque Terre trails is a wonderful thing to do, and there are masses of trails weaving all over the region. Some are paid trails (it’s just five euros and helps maintain the park), and some are not.

My favourite trails are: Riomaggiore to Portovenere (free but long) and Monterosso to Levanto (free). My other fave ones are Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia, but you’ll need a trail pass for these. They are both suited to beginners and lazy hikers, although promise me you’ll not wear flip flops on the trail. As the signs also say, don’t wear high heels. Glad they pointed that out.

For just a taste of the trails, I would suggest you do the section from Monterosso to Vernazza. It is 3.5 km long and takes a little under two hours.

You can train from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, visit the village of Monterosso, and then hike the trail to the next village of Vernazza. In Monterosso you can swim at the beach and visit the old and new town. Bring a backpack and water for your hike. Live like a local and just grab a piece of focacca on the fly at the bakery, or my favorite, focaccia di recco. You gotta be a glutton and try the farinata too.

Spend your after hike afterglow in the village of Vernazza. It’s another one street town, and it’s pretty interesting as it’s been under extensive repairs after a landslide in 2011. But it’s still a lovely place to spend the afternoon.

For dinner, eat at my favourite seaside restaurant in all of the villages. You’ll find it down at the marina. Ask to seat on the lower balcony. If the sea is rough you’ll be cooled off with sea spray.

  • Ristorante Belforte, Via Guidoni, 42, Vernazza. Phone + 39 0187 812222

Day 4.

Parting is such sweet sorrow.

If you’re traveling today, a great idea is to buy your train ticket the day earlier. That way, when you show up to the train, it won’t matter if there’s a long line up, you won’t miss your train! Be sure to “validate” your tickets by inserting it into the yellow machine on your day of travel or you could risk a fine.

If your travels take you north, to Milan, Turin , Genoa or into France — then you should get off the train at Bonassola. It has an amazing beach and an adorable town. I love spending an entire afternoon here, you can rent a beach umbrella and beach chair and love summer like the rest of the Italians. It is the most underrated town of the area and worth a visit.

Options and extras:

If you have more time to spend in the Cinque Terre my other suggestions are:

  • Go to the market in La Spezia, on Fridays (cheapo clothes and shoes)
  • Go to the market at Forte Dei Marmi on Wednesdays (designer discount clothes)
  • Go to the market in Levanto, on Wednesdays (food and clothes)
  • Day trip to Portovenere on the ferry.
  • Day trip to Sestri Levante on the train.
  • Drive to Lerici and Tellaro (if you have a car).
  • Day trip to Bonassola on the train.

My accommodation recommendations.

In Riomaggiore, you can stay at a lovely sea view property with incredible views from your own private patio at Christina and Alessandro’s place,  I Limoni di Thule. If you’d like more of a traditional hotel that serves breakfast, then stay with Carla and family at the Cinque Terre Residences. If you’d like to rent an apartment, contact Amy at Riomaggiore Reservations.

How I can help you go to the Cinque Terre.

  • You can join one of my group trips. It’s a week of heaven with zero stress and I plan the whole shebang.  Click here to read more.
  • Wait for my app and guidebook coming soon.
  • Ask me a question in the comments below and I’ll help you out.

Feel free to steal* this itinerary, share it with your friends, re-post it to your blog or print it out.

* Steal my itinerary for your own personal use. If you want to reprint this itinerary on your blog, awesome, but please link to this original. Grazie



Do you have a question or comment about the Cinque Terre? What is your favorite thing to do here?

Leave a comment below.

Baci + beaches,


images by Leela Cyd

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

gillian butler November 11, 2013 at 7:11 PM

hi B,
OK I wanna go to CInque Terra!
G xo


Bianca Gignac November 13, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Hi Gillian,

Well, yours truly will take you!

Love, Bianca


kristy November 11, 2013 at 8:25 PM

Ha ha, love the bit about not wearing heels on the walking paths :) Such a worthwhile destination to visit. Absolutely stunning and who wouldn’t love a seaside walk between villages. Great post, beautiful photos!


Bianca Gignac November 13, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Ciao Kristy,

It’s hard not to laugh at that sign every time I see it — even if I’ve seen it a dozens times. It has an icon of a high heel (didn’t know there was such a thing!), and then a circular red “no” sign. It’s posted on bold signage before the trail heads and I’m not sure who it’s for! The Milanese on a day trip?

Love, Bianca


Kayleigh February 5, 2014 at 3:37 PM

Cinque Terre sounds amazing!!! My boyfriend and I are planning to go to Italy in May and we want a little of everything but only really have the budget for 12 days. I’m moving the itinerary around constantly and I certainly want Cinque Terre in there somewhere (since we love walking and the beautiful scenery)! As always, it will just be me planning every element of this holiday (he’s a lazy little thing) and so I could do with your help. At the moment this is how it is:
Day 1, 2 and 3 In Venice, on the third day a trip to Verona
Day 4 and 5 in Cinque Terre
Day 6, 7 and 8 in Florence
Day 9, 10, 11 and 12 in Rome, one day dedicated to a trip to Pompeii and the volcano.

Is this too ambitious? Initially it was going to 3 days in Venice, 3 days in Florence, 3 days in Rome and 3 days in Naples, but I wasn’t too sure we would gain as much from Naples. Do you think we should do one more day in Venice instead of Rome, or only 2 days in Florence and one more in Venice?

Sorry for so many questions but I want to make the most of this trip and you seem to have a great idea of the joys of Italy!

Any help would be amazing,

Thanks, Kayleigh :) -x-


Namita March 22, 2014 at 7:42 PM

My itinerary is much similar to yours but with lesser days in Venice and Rome,and I am travelling this April.

Waiting to see the response from Bianca !

Can’t wait to hit Cinque Terre


Sheryl February 11, 2014 at 5:57 AM

My husband and I are planning to fly to Milan and train it to La Spezia to start our Cinque Terre holiday early May, hoping that will be an ok time to go. We have 8-9days and will return to Milan. Like you, we like to just “be” in a place to soak up the atmosphere. I like the sound of your extras, but am unsure of where to stay, were thinking manorola? What do you think of a combination of walks, trains and boat trips between villages? Thanks, Sheryl


Ellen February 15, 2014 at 7:16 AM

Ciao Bianca!
I have loved reading your articles. My daughter is going to be an au pair for a family in Alba this summer and I will be visiting her. Cinque Terre definitely is a place we need to go. Ok, our favorite things to do is looking a beautiful places, shopping for clothes and shoes that aren’t too expensive, eating (me, wine), and going to the beach, so your information is invaluable to me. Thanks. Any more information is appreciated.


Leigh Ann February 23, 2014 at 11:57 AM

This is the most practical post I’ve seen so far about Cinque Terre! Thanks so much. I’ve been looking into accommodations on Air BnB, and I came across a lovely apartment in Groppo – would that be a decent location? My husband and I are wanting to spend 4 nights and do a lot of hiking. Your thoughts would be appreciated :)


marcela March 4, 2014 at 2:19 PM

My husband, my mom (75) and I will be spending 1 or 2 nights in 5T.
I would like to know if you can help me:
1) To find a hotel/apartment for not more that $100 in Riomaggiore. We have a car, our idea is to drive from Genoa, park the car at the hotel, and start from there.
2) What should we do? Train to the North and boat back to the South? Or the opposite?
3) Do I need to buy tickets in advance?
4) Can you tell me the name/website of the train?
5) Can you suggest me a non expensive boat?

Thank you!!!!

I love your blog!!



Sharon Grover March 5, 2014 at 2:17 PM

So excited, just found your website!!! I will be in northern Tuscany (near La Spezia) the last week of May. We will only be able to devote one day to Cinque Terre :(

Here are my questions:
Ferry over to Cinque Terre or train?
We are all early 50′s but athletic and want to do a little hike and see beautiful scenery! We won’t be laying on the beach or swimming. We’d like to hike to a town…get a little beverage…poke around town about 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours and hike to another town…poke around town about 1/2 to 1 1/2 hour and get a nibble and hike to another town…repeat :)
I’m guessing we will probably only get to 3 of the 5 towns???? Just want to make sure we hike with the most beautiful views on hike and approaching towns. Thoughts?????


Maggie March 15, 2014 at 8:27 PM

Hello Bianca,

I would like to first say that your blog is awesome! Got so much help information from it. I will be visiting Cinque Terre in mid May. Wish I can hop on with you but already booked the ticket. :(

Anyway, I have questions about parkings at CT. I will driving to CT from Venice, then to Pisa and finally to Florence. While I am at CT I am planning to drive as well. Tho, can I park at the train stations at Riomaggiore or Monterosso? On my first day I will eat at Ristorante Cappun Magru, do they have parkings available? I was actually planning to park my car there then walk down to Manarola. You think the owner will have a problem with it?

I will be staying at Hotel Due Gemelli so it is kind of far from Riomaggiore. Also, I don’t want to rent the car for nothing.

Looking forward to talk to you. Feel free to email me anytime. Thanks!




Hilda Murray March 16, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Hi, i am helping to plan a birthday bash trip for 10-11 of my high school classmates who are turning 60 this year… we are working with Macs Adventures for lodging and self guided walking tours… i have been to Italy and feel comfortable in getting to Ciinque Terra… we would be staying in Monterossa for 4 night and moving to Portovenere for 2 then home bound… we are looking at Sept 3-9 th and have been urged to
book right away… we need to book this week… what would you charge to book our trip, rooms,

we all want to stay together ( 10 – 11 of us )…hike sho eat drink be happy !!! celebrate… would love to have YOU there but if you can support us that would be great!!!


Constantine Christofaris March 16, 2014 at 3:44 PM

Hi Bianca

Love the look of I Limoni di Thule but they have no availability July 10-14. Can you recommend anywhere else with a similar feel?

Thanks a million for all the great information!


katie March 29, 2014 at 12:32 PM

I Limoni was booked for me also. This is what the owner wrote back to me:

Sorry we are full for the dates you requested! I can recommend a beautiful place called alloscalo, its situated at the marina, so the views are breathtaking, and the interior of the rooms are finished with the highest standard.

Contact Denise at or

Let her know I recommend you so she knows what type of room you are looking for! Enjoy your time in the Cinque Terre!



Will March 17, 2014 at 4:53 PM

Hi Bianca,
Thank you very much for your wonderful article and sharing so selflessly your tips about visiting Cinque Terre. My wife and I would love to visit here for a week during our 2.5 weeks Italian holiday around end of July-mid August. Firstly, how’s that time of the year? Will it be packed as other tourists are also coming around then?
We’re thinking only of doing 1 week in CT, 1 week in Rome and maybe 1/2 week in the Tuscan region such as Siena/San Gimignano. We’ve both been to parts of Italy before and loved it. But neither of us has been to CT and we’ve read so much about it that we didn’t want to rush it but try to leisurely absorb as much of its culture and beauty in a week.
One of our problem is trying to work out where to stay. Your article made it “harder” but it’s a lovely problem. We’ll take your advice about basing ourselves in 1 place and just take day trips around. Thanks also for your 4D/3N itinerary suggestion. We’d love to see your suggestion for a 7D/6N itinerary if possible. Thanks again and God bless.

Thanks & blessings,
Will & Jean


Lorraine wayman March 18, 2014 at 3:09 AM

Just wondered if you could recommend anywhere traditional to stay as the one you put on your website Is full
I wanted to let you know your website is fab, very informative
Regards lorraine


trevor March 22, 2014 at 10:42 AM

hi, i’m interested in dog friendly hotels or apartments? any suggestions, awesome article!

I live in Nice france, I should write something like this for people… :)


Rachel Friedman March 27, 2014 at 5:47 PM

Hi There!

I’m headed to Italy end of June for a wedding in Tuscany. Fly into Rome the afternoon of the 21st – Need to be in Pienza by the afternoon of the 27th, def want to do Cinque Terre – love off the beaten track stuff – do you have any suggestions of places to go, see, eat, etc after Cinque Terre on the way to Tuscany? Then flying out of Naples on the 30th any suggestions on the yummiest place to eat there, and if it makes sense to go somewhere for the afternoon on the Amalfi? Thanks! Rachel Friedman


Sezen March 28, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Hi bianca,your guidance ıs great but i still neden some advise.i was planning to stay 3 nights in portofino and travel to cınque terre from there since i read you.what would be the best plan for 3 nights?coming from genova..Thanks in advance…


Eva March 31, 2014 at 2:38 AM

I will visit Cinque Terre this September.
but trying to figure out how to get there and get out of there.

I will arrive from Pisa.
What is the best way to get to Cinque Terre?
Do I get off at La Spezia?

I will then head to Venice afterward.
Do I also get on the train at La Spezia? or is there better methods?


Jessie April 15, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Hey Eva,

Did you ever figure out the best way to get in and out of Cinque Terre?
I will be arriving from Como, Italy and then heading to Rome.
Is La Spezia the correct place to enter and exit? Any advice is much appreciated!


Virginia April 1, 2014 at 10:21 AM

Hi! Thank you so much for this information, I am planning a trip for May and will be taking your recommendations! One question – I am travelling from Bologna to Riomaggiore and would love some advice. Currently, I am planning on taking a few different trains, switching at Prat Centrale and Viareggio in order to arrive at La Spezia. First question – is this the most direct route? Secondly, I know that you can take a regional train from La Spezia Centrale to Riomaggiore – is there a schedule for this that I can access ahead of time? It sounds fairly easy to buy the tickets but just want to get a better idea of the timetable. Please let me know, thank you so much!


Alicia April 2, 2014 at 7:28 AM

Hi there,

My boyfriend and I are coming to the area at the end of April for a Wednesday-Sunday trip, but we’re staying in a villa in Lerici. We will be flying into Milan – any idea what train we take to get there from Milan? Also, how would we go about getting to and from the Cinque Terre from Lerici? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!


Jackie Faust April 2, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Hello, My husband, 22yr old son and I are coming to cinque terre in 2 weeks. We plan on staying for 2 nights and found a lovely looking place in Corniglia. I’m wondering if that’s a good location considering all the steps to come down in the morning and go back up each night. If we stay up there, should we plan to have dinner there instead of making our way back later in the evenings. We also found a less charming but still nice place in Vernazza. And with some of the trails closed, wondering which ones you’d recommend if we are average hikers. Thanks in advance for your advice, Jackie


Anna April 4, 2014 at 10:53 AM

Hi Bianca – I emailed you about a month ago. I will be arriving in Pisa on Mon, Oct 6th and staying in Cinque Terre for 3 nights . I’ve emailed I Limoni d Thule on three occassions – to request booking. but have not heard back. I would love to stay there . Do you have any other contact information for them ? Thanks so much. and I aprreciate your itinerary as well -


diane April 6, 2014 at 12:07 AM

Hoping to visit in early Sept.2014. Is the weather still good then, are the schools in Europe back in session? My husband will not be able to hike the trails,but will a single person be ok hiking? He has leg problems , will he be ok to walk around the villages, meaning the rocks,paths, stairs and streets ok to maneuver?
Any suggestions would be great. thanks


Sabina April 7, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Hi Bianca,

Thank you for the website info. This is great!

Question…are there any real beaches in this area?



Jenna April 8, 2014 at 11:06 AM

You mention going when the weather is warm, would early May 2014 be too soon? I was looking to get good weather and smaller crowds.


jess kaur April 12, 2014 at 11:43 AM

Hi i will be going to rome, florence and venice ….but i feel that cinque terra will be the highlight of the trip is my first solo trip . How do you think i can fit cinque terra to my travel iteniary ?

1) as a day trip from which city
2) do i need to stay there for a night or two
3) if i go cinque terra , can i skip the italian lakes

pls advice …am travelling on for about 14 to 16 days and am planning on my own ..thanks


Diane Newland April 12, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Hi Bianca, want to go to Cinque Terre in September 2015. there might be 8 or even 12 of us. My preference is to stay all together in a home that could sleep that many. Prefer Monterosso. Any suggestions?


Rebecca April 13, 2014 at 8:33 AM

You are so sweet to have this blog with all of this advice! Thank you so much.

PS I love a good love story, thanks for sharing yours!


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