If you’re looking to level-up your upcoming trip to Florence, we can’t think of a better way to do it than to include a Florence-to-Cinque-Terre day trip.
Now, don’t get us wrong. We are big-time proponents of spending a solid two or three nights minimum in the Cinque Terre. This is an area you want to let yourself sink into for a truly satisfying experience, and that means taking your time getting to know each of the villages, joining us on one of our private Cinque Terre tours for a day, enjoying leisurely sunset dinners once the day-trippers have cleared out, waving to the same fishermen you walk by in the marina every morning, and exploring the hillside paths beyond the famous Blue Trail.
But we also understand that your holiday time is limited, and that the right taste can still be full of flavor, even if you can’t take a whole bite.
Florence is closer than most people realize to the Cinque Terre. If you follow the right itinerary, one that hits all the sweet spots (we’ve got some great ideas for you below), you can be in and out in a punch-packed day that will have you inspired to plan a longer CT vacay the next time.
Florence to Cinque Terre: Distance
The distance from Florence to Cinque Terre is only 101 miles (163 kilometers), so if you set out early and plan to come back after dinner, you can get a pretty good chunk of time in for exploring.
During the high season, you can catch a train back to Florence from Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, as late as 10 pm. And if you’re really keen on getting as many hours in as you can, you could take a train there as early as 4:30 in the morning.
Of course if you drive, you’re on your own schedule and can plan the length of your day trip however you like.
Florence to Cinque Terre by Train
If you’re traveling from Florence to Cinque Terre by train just for the day — leave early! It’ll take between 2.5 to 4 hours depending on which train you take. Obviously if you’re just going for the day, you’re going to want to look for the simplest train routes, ones that either require fewer changes or take less time.
First, check out the schedules on trenitalia.com. Search for routes using the Italian names of locations, like “Firenze” instead of “Florence.”
Pro tip: Buy your ticket the day before (either in person at the station or online) and then in the morning just head to your platform. This way you won’t have to stress about buying tickets (and waiting your turn behind a dozen people) when you have a train to catch.
Remember, if you’re visiting the Cinque Terre on a day trip from Florence, you’ll likely not arrive and depart from the SAME village, so don’t buy return tickets. Buy two one-way tickets. One ticket will be from Florence to one of the Cinque Terre villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola or Riomaggiore) and your return ticket will be from an ALTERNATIVE village, back to Florence. We have beautiful, detailed itineraries in our city guides, created by people who live in the Cinque Terre.
Florence to Cinque Terre by Car
You’ll read all over the internet that getting from Florence to Cinque Terre by car is a bad idea. This is because once you’re actually in the Cinque Terre, getting around by car is much less convenient than getting around by train or ferry.
Taking the train from one village to the next is much, much faster and easier than trying to navigate the roads that connect them. You’re looking at at least an hour driving distance from the first village to the last compared to 20 minutes by train, and if you’re doing a day trip, this is going to really eat into your time actually enjoying the area. Plus, the road connecting the villages is narrow, full of hairpin turns, and edges along a pretty treacherous cliffside. In other words, scary.
Parking too can really put a major kink into your day trip plans (speaking of which — we’ve got private Cinque Terre tours that are perfect for a day trip!) . Each of the towns does have a parking area, but leaving your car there is expensive (a full day can run you almost 30 euro), and space is very limited. You might spend a significant portion of your time just waiting for a spot to free up.
So does this mean you shouldn’t drive from Florence to Cinque Terre? No — you can absolutely drive if that’s more comfortable for you. But we recommend parking your car in the underground garage beneath the La Spezia Centrale train station (you can expect to pay 18 euro for a full day or 8 euro for a half-day) and heading from there to the first village by train — the trip to the first village, Riomaggiore, takes just 7 minutes.
Spend the day exploring the villages by train and ferry on your own or with us on one of our private Cinque Terre tours, and then just take the train back to your car in La Spezia at the end of the day.
You can also hire a private driver from Florence to Cinque Terre and get the driver to drop you at the southernmost village of Riomaggiore. Then it’ll be up to them to navigate parking and up to you to be drinking a Spritz in the villages.
Florence to Cinque Terre by Bus
Another option for a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is to join a tour group and travel with them by bus. This is a great idea for anyone who is short on time or just doesn’t feel like spending the mental bandwidth on organization, research and logistics when they’re supposed to be on holiday. What’s nice too about an organized tour is that you’ll have an Italian-speaking guide who will enrich your trip with historical and background information about all the places you’ll visit.
An organized tour allows you to focus solely on being in the moment in your immediate surroundings and on enjoying yourself, instead of spending any of your precious time figuring out train schedules or directions and getting a handle on the lay of the land. When you’ve got very little time to begin with, having someone do all the legwork for you can be a very valuable investment.
P.S. Looking for a great private tour to see Florence, Italian Fix style? Take a peek at our Florence tours and join us for a fun day with our fab local experts!
Free One-Day Itinerary for the Cinque Terre.
We have fantastic itineraries in our city guides. As Italy experts, we’ve packed the city guides with our best, most detailed advice and ideas, all in one place. Restaurants, hotels, things to do (and things NOT to do), places to see (and to skip) as well as step-by-step recommendations from people who actually LIVE in the villages (not random advice from people who pass through for a weekend and claim expert status on TripAdvisor). If you’re considering traveling to Italy without insider intel, get ready to burn your precious time and money — especially in a place like the Cinque Terre.
I can confidently say that because part of our team lives there, and because we host tours to the Cinque Terre yearly, our Cinque Terre chops are legit.
We’re all about traveling right, traveling elegantly, and traveling easy around here. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel on your travels — just follow tried and tested routes, following advice from Italy experts here.
Now, to give you a taste of what I’m talking about, I’m going to sketch out a logistical plan for a Florence-to-Cinque-Terre-and-back route for one day.
Florence to Cinque Terre Day Trip Itinerary
- Take the train from Firenze S.M. Novella to Monterosso (or drive and park your car at La Spezia Centrale and take the train to Monterosso from there).
- Walk out of the train station and head straight to the beach for a swim. You can turn right and walk towards Il Gigante, the huge statue of a giant carved into the cliffside, where there is a public beach. Or treat yourself to a lounger and umbrella on one of the private beaches.
- Eat lunch in Monterosso’s Old Town. For a list of our fave restaurants in each of the five villages, check out our Cinque Terre City Guides.
- Head towards the ferry dock — you’ll be able to buy tickets from the ticket booth there. Buy a one-way ticket to Riomaggiore.
- In Riomaggiore, head up and out of the marina, onto the main street, Via Colombo. Wander up just past Vertical Bar, and climb the low, wide steps on the left up and around to a small street. Make a left onto this street and walk towards the piazzale, a large square featuring Riomaggiore’s biggest church. If it’s open, have a peek inside.
- Keep walking on this higher level back towards the sea — make sure you stop for a gelato at Old School along the way. Follow the path all the way around and back down to the train station. The views along this route are spectacular.
- At the train station, buy a ticket and hop on the next train to Manarola.
- In Manarola, head through the tunnel and down the main street to the water. Keep walking around and past the marina, following the path up the hill to Nessun Dorma, a little bar perched on the cliff there. Have an aperitivo (we’re suckers for a bright orange Spritz!).
- Head back to the train station and buy a ticket for your next stop, Vernazza.
- Check out Vernazza’s cute shops and insanely picturesque marina, before settling in for dinner at a great restaurant with a view. Choose one from the list of our top picks in our Cinque Terre City Guides and make sure you’ve made a reservation.
- Meander back to the station after your meal, and catch the next train back to Florence.
- Want us to do the heavy lifting for you? Check out our private Florence tours and Cinque Terre tours.
- Looking for more info on spending just a single day in the Cinque Terre? Check out this post.
You’ll want to read this post on 10 Cinque Terre Travel Hacks to Know Before You Go too.
- Making it more than a day trip? Our Beginner’s Guide to the Cinque Terre is a great resource, and you’ll want to know which village to stay in too — this post answers that question for you.
- Click here for our top restaurant picks and here for tips on hiking.
Have you ever daytripped from Florence to Cinque Terre? Was it worth it? We’d love to know what you thought in the comments below!
Images 1, 4, 6: Caroline White