This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here
If you are looking for a destination that combines stunning landscapes with authentic Italian culture, then Cinque Terre should be at the top of your list. The region is a UNESCO World Heritage site boasting incredible beauty, cuisine, and history.
Despite being a small area, there is plenty to see and do in Cinque Terre, making it a perfect destination for a 3-day itinerary. So, we’ve prepared a comprehensive guide covering everything from what to see, how to get there, where to eat, and where to stay to help you plan the perfect two or three day Cinque Terre itinerary.
Ready to explore the colorful coastal villages of Cinque Terre? Andiamo!
How Many Days in Cinque Terre Is Enough?
We suggest spending three days in Cinque Terre to allow enough time to visit each village. But, if you’re short on time, you can definitely enjoy two days in Cinque Terre.
Choose Your Base Town
Cinque Terre (roughly translated to “five lands”) is a collection of five villages perched atop plunging cliffs along the Italian Riviera. Each village is only about a five-minute train ride apart on the Cinque Terre Express.
So, no matter which town you choose as your base, you’ll still be within reach of all the top attractions. Below is a breakdown of each of the five villages to help you choose your ideal base:
- Riomaggiore: The southernmost Cinque Terre village featuring a Medieval castle and striking buildings dating back to between the 1100s and 1300s. This is the closest Cinque Terre village to Tuscany, and it has a great nightlife scene.
- Manarola: Surrounded by vineyards and known for its white wine, this village has a church with a rose window and provides excellent sunset vistas.
- Corniglia: This quiet village is reached via 382 steps leading from the rail station – there is a bus shuttle too. It is the smallest, oldest, and less frequented village in Cinque Terre, but it is equally enticing to visit.
- Vernazza: Often referred to as the jewel of Cinque Terre, Vernazza is one of the most picturesque and popular towns in Italy. You can look forward to admiring the charming piazza, beautiful church, and natural harbor.
- Monterosso al Mare: This is the largest of the Cinque Terre towns and the only village boasting sandy beaches. Monterosso al Mare is also the northernmost village and is situated nearest to Genoa.
Top Sights & Activities in Cinque Terre
Wondering what to do in Cinque Terre, Italy? Here are some of the top activities to look forward to.
No visit to these beautiful coastal villages is complete without a dip in the crystal-clear azure waters. Each village has a swimming area. But some villages, like Monterosso al Mare, boast a wider variety of beaches. We’ll have a look at some of the best beaches in each village.
One of the most popular vacation activities in these fishing villages is to take a Cinque Terre boat tour. The picturesque and colorful towns are a spectacular sight — even more so when admired from a distance. You can also opt for a kayak excursion if you’re looking to be more active.
Cinque Terre is well-known as an excellent wine-producing region. The Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grape varieties are regional to Liguria and make for tasty white wines punctuated with fresh citrus notes.
Cinque Terre is classified as a national park, and it has over 48 hiking trails traversing more than 75 miles of scenic landscape — most of which are free. The two most popular trails, Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia, are paid-entry hiking paths.
3 Day Cinque Terre Itinerary
Planning to spend three days in Cinque Terre? Here’s a handy itinerary to help you plan your trip. This itinerary merely serves as a helpful guide, so you can switch things around depending on which village you choose as your base town.
Day 1 – Arrive and Explore Your Home Town
You’ll either reach Cinque Terre via train from La Spezia or from the closest airport to Cinque Terre, Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport. For this itinerary, we’ll start with Riomaggiore as the base village, as it’s only an eight-minute ride from La Spezia.
Morning and Afternoon
Once you’ve arrived in Riomaggiore, you’ll take a five-minute walk from the station through a tunnel to reach the village. Riomaggiore has an authentic feel to it, with the classic pastel-colored houses seemingly sliding down the rugged cliffs.
If you arrive in time for breakfast, head to Old School Cocktails & Food for an excellent coffee and breakfast with a view of the village. They offer some great vegetarian-friendly options too.
Once you’ve settled in, take some time to enjoy the ocean breeze by wandering along the narrow streets and the main road, Via Colombo. This road leads down to the ocean, and you’ll find many restaurants and shops dotted along the way.
Stop by the quaint fish and chip shop, Tutti Fritti, to buy a paper cone filled with a delicious assortment of fresh, fried seafood for about €7. It’s the perfect on-the-go treat to savor while relaxing at the small harbor or at Spiaggia di Riomaggiore (the beach).
Once you’ve taken in the breeze and sampled some seafood, make your way to Castello di Riomaggiore, easily accessed from Via Colombo. This stunning fort in the historic quarter was built in 1260 and offers a great vantage point of the ocean.
Near the castle, you’ll also spot the Oratorio di San Rocco. Other nearby churches worth admiring include the 16th-century Oratorio di Santa Maria Assunta and the ornate Church of San Giovanni Battista of Riomaggiore.
- Il Pescato Cucinato: Enjoy an assortment of freshly caught, fried fish of all sorts, ranging from calamari and shrimp to mussels and white fish filet. This spot is great for a quick bite if you’re short on time.
- Osteria La Torpedine: Stop at this restaurant for a sit-down lunch near the harbor. Osteria La Torpedine offers seafood-forward dishes creatively presented in a minimalist but elegant setting.
Book a wine-tasting tour with the local Terra di Bargón to learn how the ancient and rare Sciacchetrà wine, regional to Cinque Terre, is produced. You’ll get to tour the vineyards and learn more about the history of this incredible wine region.
After sampling some local wine, head over to Pizzeria Kepris. This restaurant sits next to the Riomaggiore train station and offers exciting pizza flavors at fair prices. Order your pizza for takeaway and find a spot to sit and enjoy the sunset.
Day 2 – Manarola and Corniglia
On your second day, get to know the neighboring villages of Manarola and Corniglia.
There are plenty of ways to get to Manarola from Riomaggiore. If you’d like to enjoy a scenic morning walk, you can take Via dell’Amore (or “Path of Love), a cliffside walkway connecting the two villages. This roughly one-mile path starts at the Riomaggiore train station and takes about 30 minutes to walk.
Alternatively, catch a quick train from Riomaggiore to Manarola or take a Cinque Terre ferry. The earliest ferry usually leaves from Riomaggiore around 9:00. A one-day ferry ticket costs around €30 for an adult passenger.
Note: Via dell’Amore is closed due to a landslide. It is expected to re-open in the summer of 2024.
Morning – Manarola
Once in Manarola, wander through the narrow carrugi (alleyways), admiring the colorful houses seemingly stacked on the steep cliff. Spend some time exploring the little shops before making your way to Chiesa di San Lorenzo.
This 14th-century Gothic-Baroque stone church features a beautiful rose window. Opposite the church, you’ll find a lookout point from which to admire a different perspective of Manarola.
After that, enjoy some people-watching at the harbor, or make your way to the Manarola Overlook Point. This point provides that classic angle featured in many photos of Manarola. Nearby, you’ll also find a quaint cemetery, a picnic area, and a lovely restaurant called Nessun Dorma.
This spot overlooks the harbor and village and offers refreshing aperitivi and drinks. The queue to this place can get quite long, so be sure to book ahead and plan to arrive early.
Alternatively, head to Fooderia on the main road for unique and filling sandwiches filled with local ingredients. For a treat, you can’t go wrong with Gelateria Cinque Terre. This spot serves delicious crepes, gelato, cannoli, and granitas.
Afternoon – Corniglia
After exploring Manarola, take the train to Corniglia for a break from the tourist crowds. This tiny village does not have a harbor like the other towns, so you can only take a train to it. Once at the station, you’ll have to climb the 382-step Lardarina to the village perched on a hill 328 feet above the sea.
If you’re not keen on climbing the stairs, there’s also a shuttle bus that runs between the station and the village. Tickets cost less than €3 one way.
This ancient Roman village is the least frequented of the Cinque Terre towns, but it does not lack any beauty. It is surrounded by vineyards and greenery and is home to some beautiful religious buildings like the Parish of San Pietro and the Oratory of San Caterina.
For a late afternoon meal, head to Terra Rossa Food & Winebar. Enjoy dreamy views of the coast while savoring some local white wine and a meal on the terrace. This spot is great for sunset views and offers a variety of bruschetta and some great focaccia.
Stop by Gelateria Corniglia on your way back to the train station for a sweet treat. Their lemon and basil gelato is especially refreshing.
Head back to your home base with the train from Corniglia. If you’re up for more fun, book a wine tasting in Riomaggiore. Sample five regional wines while taking an informative cellar and vineyard tour.
Day 3 – Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare
Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare are both excellent towns for enjoying the coastline, boasting sandy beaches, beautiful harbors, and many other exciting attractions.
If you’re the adventurous type, you can start your day hiking the popular Sentiero Azzurro (or Blue Trail). This roughly 7-mile hike passes through all five villages from Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare and is absolutely breathtaking.
Note: Due to a landslide closing part of the trail, you can only hike from Corniglia towards Monterosso, so you’ll have to take a short train ride from Riomaggiore to Corniglia first.
If you’re not up for that hike, you can opt for a morning ferry from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, which will take just under an hour. Or take the train to get there in about 30 minutes.
Morning/Early Afternoon – Monterosso al Mare
Once in Monterosso, there are various tourist sites to admire. But, if you made your way here with a hike, you may first want to stop by L’Osteria for a filling and rewarding Ligurian meal. Try their pesto gnocchi or opt for the seafood pasta.
Once you’re ready to admire the top attractions, make your way to the Old Town, also known as Borgo Antico, and meander through the winding streets. Be sure to stop by the 14th-century Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista to admire its striped facade. You’ll also find the Convent of the Capuchin Friars, which offers a lovely view of the coast.
You simply can’t miss out on basking in the sun on one of Monterosso’s beaches. Spiaggia Fegina is the largest and most popular beach, but you can also head to Spiaggia Il Gigante or Spiaggia Portiglione for a quieter scene. Note that many beaches have paid and unpaid areas, so bring some cash along in case.
Near Fegina Beach, you’ll spot the intriguing Statua del Gigante — a 46-foot concrete and iron statue of the god of water, Neptune. It has suffered extensive damage due to war and weather since its construction in 1910, but it’s still an amazing sight and photo opportunity.
If you’d prefer being on the water, you can opt for a kayak tour from Monterosso. The tour will take you to hidden coves and stop in Vernazza for a lunchtime break.
Late Afternoon – Vernazza
Once you’ve enjoyed all that Monterosso has to offer, take the train or ferry from Monterosso to nearby Vernazza. Or, take the roughly one-hour trail along Sentiero Azzuro if you’re looking for a short hike.
Vernazza is often considered the most beautiful of the Cinque Terre villages, but you can decide for yourself which is your favorite.
It has a beautiful natural harbor where you can people-watch, take some photos, or enjoy some seafood in one of the nearby restaurants. You’ll also want to pop by the Chiesa di Santa Margherita — a 14th-century Catholic church perched on the waterfront and boasting an octagonal tower.
Vernazza has some beautiful viewpoints too, and golden hour is the perfect time to capture postcard-worthy pictures of the pretty village. Head to the site of the 11th-century Doria Castle — now mostly in ruin. This spot offers beautiful views over the village and the ocean.
Alternatively, book a late afternoon dinner at Ristorante Bar La Torre. It’s a restaurant with a panoramic terrace providing unforgettable views of the cape of Vernazza.
End your trip to Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza with a scenic coastal boat tour at sunset. You’ll get one last look at all the stunning villages you’ve explored on your 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary as the sun sets below the horizon.
Once you’ve returned to Monterosso, take the train back to your home base.
2 day Cinque Terre itinerary
If you’re short on time or simply have many other destinations to squeeze into your Italian itinerary, consider this shortened 2-day schedule for the perfect Cinque Terre itinerary instead.
Day 1 – Arrive and Explore Your Base Town and Explore 2 Other Villages
Arrive in your base town and familiarize yourself with the village. We’ve opted for Riomaggiore, but you can start with whichever village you choose as your base. As you’ll have less time, your best bet will be to take the train to cut down on travel time.
Spend the morning wandering through the alleyways or spending some time at the harbor. Wander through the shops and stop by Old School Cocktails & Food for brunch. Stop by Castello di Riomaggiore and a church or two before making your way to the train station.
Afternoon – Manarola and Corniglia
Take the short train ride to Manarola and make your way to Chiesa di San Lorenzo to admire the architecture. Stop at the viewpoint to snap some photos before heading to Manarola Overlook Point for a picnic or an aperitivo and coastal vistas at Nessun Dorma.
Once you’ve snapped plenty of pictures and appreciated all of Manarola’s beauty, take the train to Corniglia. Make your way up the 382 stars to the village and wander through its uncrowded alleys and shops.
If you didn’t have lunch in Manarola, you could have an equally scenic meal at Terra Rossa Food & Winebar — bookings are recommended.
End your first day in Cinque Terre with dinner from Pizzeria Kepris near the Riomaggiore train station. The pizza is unlike what you’ll find anywhere in Italy, featuring unique and local flavor combinations.
If you have more time, try squeezing in an informative wine tasting.
Day 2 – Hike and Explore Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza
Enjoy your second day outdoors with a hike and a visit to Monterosso al Mare’s beaches and picture-perfect Vernazza.
Morning and Afternoon
If you’re looking to take a hike, take a train to Corniglia to start on the Sentiero Azzurro hiking trail. This 4.2-mile hike from Corniglia to Monterosso takes about three hours to complete and is moderately challenging. You can stop in Vernazza as the trail passes through it.
Alternatively, take the train to Vernazza from your base town. You can also opt for the more scenic option and take the ferry. Spend the morning exploring Vernazza before the tourist crowds fill this popular village. Be sure to head to its lookout points and snap some photos of the Chiesa di Santa Margherita.
After your visit to Vernazza, make your way to Monterosso al Mare to bask in the sun on a sandy beach. You can also include a kayak tour on the aquamarine coast. Be on the lookout for the 46-foot Statua del Gigante near Fegina Beach.
When hunger hits, head to L’Osteria for traditional Ligurian fare and some regional wine before wandering around the village. Stop by the shops for souvenirs like pesto and Monterosso’s renowned salted anchovies.
Get one last look at the charming Cinque Terre with a boat tour from Monterosso. Or, opt for a sunset ferry back to your home base.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
There are so many excellent stays in Cinque Terre, and where you stay will depend on your preferred base town. Here are some top hotels for each village in Cinque Terre.
- Riomaggiore: Scorci Di Mare – Roomy accommodation overlooking the Riomaggiore harbor.
- Manarola: Hotel Marina Piccola – Modern hotel two minutes from the marina.
- Corniglia: Affittacamere Il Timone – Mid-range apartment with a terrace and ocean view.
- Vernazza: MADA Charm Apartments – Bright and spacious apartments a short walk from the beach.
- Monterosso al Mare: Eremo della Maddalena – Luxury hotel with an outdoor pool and terrace.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. Due to the advanced train system, it’s very easy and efficient to travel by train in Italy.
Trains frequently run from Milan, Pisa, and Genoa to La Spezia Centrale, the main train station nearest to Cinque Terre. From La Spezia, it takes less than 10 minutes to make it to the southernmost Cinque Terre village, Riomaggiore.
How to Get Around Cinque Terre
Driving around Cinque Terre is not really an option. The villages in Cinque Terre National Park are all car-free, but there’s a sophisticated train system, the Cinque Terre Express, that connects all the villages.
Each village is about five minutes apart by train. The trains also run late and frequently, so you can still explore Cinque Terre at night.
Alternatively, you can take the ferry. This is a very scenic option but may be less reliable as it can be canceled due to bad weather. Ferries are also packed during peak tourist season.
Cinque Terre is known for its many stunning hiking trails, and many of these trails connect the villages, so you can also get around by foot if you’re an avid hiker.
Final Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre
While planning your trip, keep in mind that these villages are often swamped with 1000s of cruise ship passengers arriving in La Spezia during the peak tourist season.
On some days, there may be multiple cruise ships bringing passengers into the port. Check the port schedule to ensure you visit when there aren’t many cruise ship arrivals.
Another tip is to visit the villages before 10:30 and after about 16:00 to avoid large crowds and have the best experience.
Ready to Visit Cinque Terre?
We hope this article has inspired you to start planning your own Cinque Terre itinerary and get packing. These five villages are full of charm, beauty, and incredible seafood and wine, so you’re sure to have an excellent time.
If you’re looking to extend your trip, have a look at this Liguria travel guide for more inspiration.