The Practical Guide to Cinque Terre in Italy: What You Need to Know – Yoga, Wine & Travel

The Practical Guide to Cinque Terre in Italy: What You Need to Know

Cinque Terre, much like its “counterpart” in the south of Italy, the Amalfi Coast, is high up on many travelers’ bucket lists of places to visit. The five towns that make up Cinque Terre in the region of Liguria (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso) are so popular that officials will start limiting the number of tourists that are permitted to visit.

The five towns that make up Cinque Terre are incredibly enchanting; they offer a visual explosion of rainbow-coloured houses perched high up on rugged coastline, glistening aquamarine water that line the shores as well as lush green national park areas between each town – it’s no wonder that the area was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Each of the towns has its own distinct personality and it is worth exploring Cinque Terre over a few days, although it can get extremely crowded during the summer months. Read this complete Cinque Terre travel guide for practical tips to help you plan a perfect visit – how to get to Cinque Terre, things to do, where to stay and what you should see!

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Tips you should know before you visit Cinque Terre

How long should I stay? It is extremely easy to travel between the towns in Cinque Terre and each town itself is relatively small; you can easily explore each of the towns in a few hours’ time and most towns only have one main street. We planned to stay in the region for 10 days and that would have been way too long if we had not explored other fantastic towns in the region such as Portovenere, Levanto, Bonassola and Portofino. While you might need a full week or more to explore other places in Italy like the Amalfi Coast, I would recommend staying in Cinque Terre for 3-6 nights.

Where should we stay? When booking your hotel, it is important to bear in mind the proximity of the hotel to the train station. For example, if you choose to stay in Corniglia you will have to walk 382 steps between the train station and Corniglia town or catch a bus (but the schedule is infrequent). We chose to base ourselves in Riomaggiore for 3 nights and then moved to Levanto (one town over from Monterosso) to get away from the madness.

Where can I swim? There aren’t a ton of beach spots along the five towns. There is one long stretch of beach in Monterosso that can get fairly crowded and a fun rocky swimming spot at Manorola. I personally wouldn’t recommend swimming at the port in Riomaggiore as we have seen the waves get very rough along the coast.

How’s the food? We found that the restaurant options were somewhat limited compared to the Amalfi Coast and other Italian cities, and the majority of the restaurants we visited were average (and $$$), but there were some standouts! Also, I hope you like pesto because it is the region’s local specialty!

Are there ATMs? Bring cash. Most places don’t accept card or have a spending minimum and there aren’t many ATMs.

Is it easy to use my phone to navigate? Cell signal is pretty shoddy even though we had a local SIM card, make sure you use the offline maps feature in Google Maps to navigate.

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Planning a trip to Italy? Click here for 14 things you should know before you go to Italy!

How to get to Cinque Terre and getting around

The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. You can get there easily by taking a train from Pisa to La Spezia or Florence to La Spezia and then taking a local train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza or Monterosso.

Trains: Trains between towns are frequent and it takes on average <5 minutes to get from town to town, but single rides are not exactly cheap. Your best bet is to purchase a Cinque Terre Card as it also includes entry to the coastal hiking trails (and wifi!). Save the train schedule to your phone before you travel to make your life easier, and also make sure that you validate your ticket before you get on as inspectors frequently do spot checks.

Ferry: You can also travel between towns by ferry.

Car or scooter: I would not recommend hiring a car as most towns do not allow you to drive in without a valid resident permit. Hiring a scooter is pricey (50 Euros a day), but allows you to ride straight into town and the drive between towns is extremely picturesque. It also makes it easier for you to travel beyond Cinque Terre to places like Portofino and Portovenere. We hired our scooter from Paddock Scooter in Levanto (1 town over from Monterosso).

Hiking: Hiking between towns is popular but paths are often closed for maintenance. Make sure you check the status of the path before you go. Not all paths are created equal either and vary in difficulty. The short walk between Riomaggiore and Manarola is popular and is known as “Lover’s Lane”, but was shut when we were there this summer. Hiking between Monterosso and Vernazza/Vernazza and Corniglia was challenging with lots of steps up (and down) and I would recommend that you choose one hike to do a day, rather than attempting multiple segments in one go. Bring good running or walking shoes, a bottle of water, sunscreen and a hat. In order to access the coastal paths you will need to purchase a Cinque Terre Card and present it at the checkpoints at the beginning of each trail.

The Five Towns of Cinque Terre

If you’re planning a trip to Cinque Terre, here’s a quick overview of each of the five towns so you can make the most of your time exploring this amazing region!

Riomaggiore

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Riomaggiore is probably best known for its colourful marina and stacks upon stacks of brightly painted houses. There are a number of accommodation options and the main street is very close to the train station, so Riomaggiore is a good option if you’re looking for a base for your visit.

At the foot of town is a set of stairs leading down to a tunnel. Follow the tunnel and it will take you to Riomaggiore’s beautiful marina. There are steps on either side of the port but take the stairs on the left to get to the view point where you can get that classic Cinque Terre money shot. Keep walking past the bar at the view point and follow the steps down to the rocky shore. This is a great place to hang out to watch the sunset, just BYO wine and pizza from the stores in town!

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Il Pescato Cucinato is a small fish & chip shop, make sure you get here early and try their cod because they sell out fast! Da Paolino is a small takeaway shop that sells small squares of pizza by the slice as well as arancini balls – we were here almost every morning. Try the pesto mozzarella pizza for the perfect amount of grease.

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There is also a beautiful little church at the top of the town, follow the main street all the way up and take a left turn. This path offers a slightly different view of Riomaggiore from above. If you keep going you will see the remains of an old castle and while there’s not much of it left to speak of, it’s a great place for panoramic ocean views.

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We stayed at La Dolce Vita, conveniently located right on the main street. The room was spacious, comfortable and had a little balcony overlooking the heart of town. The only thing is that they do not offer breakfast, but it was easy enough to wander downstairs and pick up freshly baked pastries. Click here to book your stay at La Dolce Vita!

Manarola

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Manarola is picture perfect and is the oldest of the five towns and was our favorite spot to swim. The marina has a rocky coastline with crystal clear (cold!) water as well as a shower to rinse off the salt water. We saw people snorkeling here as well so bring your gear along! The famous Church of San Lorenzo can also be found in the upper part of the town.

Corniglia

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Corniglia is different from the other towns in that it is perched up high up on a hill. We were offered a glimpse of this seaside town on our hike from Vernazza but didn’t spend too much time here. There’s supposed to be a small beach by the train station, but to get to and from the train station you will need to battle 382 steps along the Lardarina, a long brick flight of stairs. I personally wouldn’t recommend finding accommodation in Corniglia for this reason. For those looking for a refreshing beverage and an unbeatable view, head to Bar Terza Terra.

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Vernazza

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Vernazza is easily recognizable by its protected V-shaped port and is home to the Doria Castle, a lookout tower built in the 15th century to protect the village from pirates. Vernazza is surrounded by lush vineyards and olive oil trees, two important industries for the region in addition to fishing. My recommendation? Buy gelato from one of the shops around the marina and sit by the bay to take in all the beauty.

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Monterosso al Mare

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Monterosso is the largest of the five towns and is actually divided into two sections: the old (Centro Storico) and the new – where you can find the train station, several beach clubs and a large stretch of public beach. For this reason, Monterosso is also significantly busier and livelier than the other towns, but offers the classic beach umbrella shot for you avid Instagrammers.

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Most of the beach clubs rent out umbrellas and deckchairs at outrageous prices, so you’re better off trying to find an empty spot on the public beach. You can also rent a kayak and paddle around the coast, which is what we did – we got to hop out of the kayak and swim in quiet little coves and bends around the coastline.

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One of the best restaurants we ate at in Cinque Terre was in Monterosso – Ristorante Via Venti in the old part of town – and we also had amazing pizza at Pizzeria La Smorfia (try the pesto pizza!).

What else should I know about visiting Cinque Terre?

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You don’t have to stay in Cinque Terre to visit Cinque Terre! In fact, hotels in the five towns are significantly more expensive. We opted to move from Riomaggiore to Levanto, which is one town over from Monterosso and used that as a peaceful base for exploring the coast (plus, it has a beautiful beach and awesome restaurants!). The Cinque Terre towns can get extremely crowded so it’s nice to be able get away from it all in the evening. If you’re looking to do the same thing, look no further than Villa Caterina in Levanto, a wonderful family-owned property with beautiful gardens and rooms. It is a short walk away from the train station or you can rent a scooter to zoom your way around the coast. Click here to book your stay at Villa Caterina in Levanto!

If your heart is set on staying within the 5 towns, check out La Dolce Vita in Riomaggiore. It overlooks the main street and offers a spacious and reasonably priced room as well as private terrace.

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Hope you found this Cinque Terre travel guide helpful! Have you visited Cinque Terre? What are your tips to travelers visiting the area?

Looking for more travel tips on visiting Italy? Head on over here!

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Yogawinetravel.com: The Practical Guide to Cinque Terre in Italy, What You Need to Know

Yogawinetravel.com: The Practical Guide to Cinque Terre in Italy, What You Need to Know

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73 Comments

  1. Neni says:

    Thanks for the tips! I always hire a car, so I better skip this on my trip.

    • Flo says:

      Hi Neni, I would definitely advise against hiring a car to visit Cinque Terre! Parking outside of the towns is also a pain, and most of the time it is a pretty decent walk from the parking lots at the top of the mountain down to the towns.

  2. Mohit says:

    Looks great to visit but the beach seems to be over crowded.

  3. Ashley says:

    Oh that bougainvillea makes my heart sing! Your pictures are lovely and this sounds like great solid advice for a visit. I’ll be pinning it for my Italy planning! Vernazza sounds like it would be a favorite of mine since I adore farming and flora. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mika says:

    I’ve always wanted to go to the Cinque Terre region, especially Riomaggiore! It all looks so picturesque! Thank you for sharing this info with us!

  5. Soraya says:

    This place looks absolutely darling. It’s high on my bucket list and I hope that I will be able to visit Cinque Terre next year. I love the rainbow colors in the buildings! I think you’re right about 3-6 days max to stay here – a friend got back and said they planned about 2 weeks to stay there and it was way too long. They ended up cutting their trip in Cinque Terre short and stayed only 10 days and ended up explore the other towns in the region.

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read this, Raya! If we didn’t explore other towns in Liguria (Portovenere, Portofino, etc.) then our stay would have been way too long. The towns are seriously tiny and if you ABSOLUTELY wanted to I reckon you could see all 5 towns in a day. It would be a hectic trip, but it totally doable whereas you can’t exactly do that in the Amalfi Coast!

  6. Sheena says:

    This is the most comprehensive guide I’ve read about Cinque Terre! It’s so informative & the photos are so vivid, I feel like I’m there. I have done the walk but it was about 10 years ago, now I’m itching to go back & to definitely stay for a few days, as opposed to a day trip, to really soak up the experience & views.

  7. Vyjay says:

    This is a lovely guide for Cinque Terre. The place is really straight out of a picture post card. The last time we were in Italy, we went to Pisa but could not get here, hope to travel there next time. Your post would be an excellent reference, will bookmark the same.

  8. Nam says:

    What a lovely write up! I stayed in a hostel with my sister in Biasa and we travelled to Riomaggiore via the hostel shuttle! MUCH cheaper 🙂
    Swimming in the Riomaggiore port (the area east of it anyway) wasn’t too wavy when I was there, but there were jellyfish!

    • Flo says:

      Such a great idea! I really think it’s easier to stay outside of the five towns and venture in for day trips – it’s much calmer and the food, IMO, is much better in places like Portovenere and Levanto!

      • Nam says:

        I wish I’ve stayed in Portovenere – we hiked there instead and it’s gorgeous. I bet it’s still expensive though haha! Europe is so expensive! Cinque Terre is still one of the pretties town I’ve ever been to though.

    • Helen says:

      Oh no! Sorry to hear about the jellyfish! We are looking to travel there soon. Were there many jellyfish? We are looking to travel and go in the water would you think that would be an issue?

  9. Cathy R says:

    Great photos and great guide! Thanks for the tips! I need to get a tour of Italy on my list for the future 😉

  10. CT says:

    Beautiful pictures! We discussed trying to see this region last time we were in Italy, but didn’t have the time to do it justice. Thanks for the great, practical, guide.

  11. Natalie says:

    I love Cinque Terre! I stayed in Riomaggiore too and did the hikes between towns, it’s s bummer that some of the coastal trails have been closed though, the mountain trails are much more difficult (which is what I ended up doing). Good to know that you can stay outside of Monterosso, I might try that next time to get away from the crowds for a bit.

  12. Linda says:

    I have to say this is the perfect travel guide for Cinque Terre! Your photos are amazing too! Will save this one for later!

  13. I spent there one night and I totally agree that about 3 would be perfect. I hope I’ll come back there one day! Anyway I really enjoyed reading and watching your pictures 🙂 If you’re interested in my feelings about Cinque Terre, have a look at my blog.

  14. Zoe Naylor says:

    Great guide, this region looks stunning. It’s now high up on my bucket list! I love how colourful the towns are – looks picture perfect!

    • Flo says:

      It’s definitely unlike any other, Zoe! If you haven’t been to the Amalfi Coast yet that’s another place to add to your bucket list!

  15. Sarah says:

    The photo of the painted houses looked amazing. And I got hungry just by looking at the takeaway packet of fish and chips! Yum!

    • Flo says:

      It was so incredibly fresh! It’s hilarious because they put some “samples” out by the door and seagulls were swooping in and stealing the food!

  16. Hi Flo, I really enjoyed reading the guide. Very clear and easy to read… what surprised me the most is that even being “an Italy lover” and living in the neighbouring Spain, I had no idea that Cinque Terre was actually a group of 5 villages together…. I truly though It was just a colorful and a million times photographed town.
    I’ll definitely add it on my bucket list since I’m planning to move to Italy next year!

  17. Christina says:

    All of the towns here are SO photogenic!! I’ve been to the Amalfi Coast, but not Cinque Terre and need to get here ASAP. To those cute little umbrellas on the beach… 🙂 Great post Flo!

  18. Anna says:

    It´s probably gonna be one of my next trips! All these charming and colorful little towns look so beautiful. And if you add up the italian food and weather – it´s such a dream vacation! Last year I did the 3-6 day trip to Toscana and its villages…but Italy has so many unique areas, you could travel around all your life and not see them all

  19. Jacky says:

    Oh my Gosh, I’m still trying to decide which of the towns is my favourite ? I was actually hoping to go to the region and your post answers a lot of my questions! Will definitely hire a scooter to zoom around ?

    Jacky

    • Flo says:

      Traveling by scooter was SO incredibly handy! You can’t drive into most of the towns and parking is HECTIC. Having a scooter means you can zoom right in and more often than not park right in the town center!

  20. La Dee says:

    I love your pictures *swoon* its such a pretty place. Your advice is so practical and sound. The way you described your trip made me feel like I was right there with you, experiencing the kayaks and swimming with you in the coves! 🙂 I’m putting the Cinque Terre on my travel list! Thanks !

  21. I’ve never been to Italy but have seen so many pictures of Cinque Terre. Thanks for including some street photos too. It’s nice to get a feel for what it’s like to walk around! It’s great to have such an in depth article to save for future reference!

    • Flo says:

      Thanks for checking this out Cliodhna! Italy is so incredible and I keep finding myself wanting to go back to explore the country more. Hope you make it over soon!

  22. I would absolutely adore visiting here! My dream would be to hike it so hopefully the paths are open when I visit. I love how detailed and practical this guide is, basically everything you’d need to know for a visit

  23. Bonita says:

    The photos are nice! Cinque Terra is so picturesque. Sometimes all we need is a comprehensive guide. Capturing the food, things to do, how to get there and places to stay. This is a nice post, you took me to Italy and back without moving an inch.

  24. Cinque Terre are pretty popular destination here in Croatia, but I’m not sure if I would enjoy all that hype. Too many people ruin the feeling so I would definitely stay somewhere out of the main towns. I just briefly checked the prices for some accommodations and they are not so expensive – but I suppose November is not really a high season lol.

    • Flo says:

      Maja, I would definitely recommend staying outside of the five towns. It can be overwhelming being surrounded by people everywhere you go. Would strongly recommend Levanto as it’s right next to Monterosso!

  25. Johann says:

    Beautiful! Your photos are outstanding. Very informative article and straight to the point. I’d love to visit the 5 towns of Cinque Terre. So many means of getting there too. Thank you letting the world know about this place.

    • Flo says:

      Getting there was a lot less painless than I thought! Sure, you have to change trains a few times but it wasn’t too bad 🙂 Hope you get to go there soon!

  26. JASCHEN says:

    This is so so sooooo beautiful! Cinque Terre has been on my bucket list forever and this just makes me wanna pack my bags and fly there right now. And awesome suggestions too! Definitely can’t wait to visit this paradise myself.

  27. Stacey says:

    Cinque Terra was one of my favorite girlfriend trips ever.

  28. Officials will start limiting the number of tourists?? wow! I have to admit , I loooove italy but its just tooo crowded for me. But I love the tip of staying in another town like Levanto that sounds like something we would enjoy!

  29. Kana says:

    I love the practical guide! We’re thinking of going to Italy so after your pictures, I need to stop by at Cinque Terre! The pictures are to die for! Thanks for joining #FlyAwayFriday – see you in a few days! xo

  30. Chloe says:

    Girl….I love this!!! We’re (more like I’m haha -it’s partially a surprise!) a big trip for my husband’s 30th and Cinque Terre is on our list, since we’ve been to every where else in Italy but here (so sad!!) and that needs to be changed asap!!

    • Flo says:

      Oh my how exciting! I’m sure you guys will have an amazing time – I would definitely recommend not staying in the 5 towns and looking at somewhere like Levanto!

  31. Great guide. I didn’t realize that the trains between the towns were such a great option. Thanks for the tip. I also didn’t know that pesto was so popular there. I love pesto. Though in Italy, all the food is so delicious. I would love to make it to the Cinque Terre. Maybe you want to play guide for us! 😉

    • Flo says:

      I’d love to help plan your trip! I have to admit the food inside the 5 towns was fairly pricey and not as delish as some that we’ve had in other parts of Italy, but it’s such a picturesque area 🙂

  32. Danielle says:

    Love this! I’ve seen a lot of posts on the Cinque Terre, but this one had so many useful tidbits that I hadn’t heard before. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Ava Olivia says:

    That is awesome photos and great guide! Thanks for the tips! I need to get a tour of Italy on my list for the future.

  34. Travellinn says:

    Thank you so much for this great guide! I am planning to go for a weekend (sadly got no more time…) in the end of March, and will absolutely read your post again when I go 🙂 Love your photos as well! 🙂

  35. Going here this summer as well! Thank you for the beautiful pictures and wonderful tips, pinning to my board.

  36. nathali says:

    Stunning pictures and great guide on this marvelous part of Italy. We only got to visit Riomaggiore and are lanning on going back one day…thank you for the great information that you have put together.

  37. Chris C says:

    Love the pictures! I still haven’t been to Italy yet but I’m figuring out a time when I can finally take the plunge! Great write-up!

  38. Julz says:

    It is so beautiful! We are going to Rome this year, but Cinque Terra is another place I would looooove to go in Italy.

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