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Italy – a land of sun, breathtaking scenery, warm seas, history, art, delicious food, and friendly people. You can never get enough of it. The whole country is beautiful, but Cinque Terre, Five Lands, in the Italian Riviera shines on its own. One writer visited the area and was blown away by its charm. In this post, she shares her Cinque Terre three day itinerary, including spectacular hiking, and tips on how to visit this one of a kind destination.
Disclosure: Ciao Florence paid a sponsorship fee for this post. All experiences and opinions are the writers’ own.
Italy’s Cinque Terre: A Complete 3 Day Itinerary
Day One – Visit Manarola and Riomaggiore, include hiking around the villages. Take a boat trip from Manarola to see all villages from the sea.
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Day Two – Visit Monterosso and Vernazza with short hikes around villages.
Day Three – Visit Corniglia, take a longer hike.
The first time I visited Italy was as a political refugee from Poland in 1986. I fell in love with the country on the spot. During my 9 months in Rome, where I was awaiting my entry visa to the USA, I worked as a cleaning lady and managed to make few bucks to travel around. When the time came to finally leave the country, I was happy to start a new chapter of my life in America, but at the same time sad to leave beautiful Italy. I always wanted to go back, but it took me over 30 years to do it. Lured by beautiful photos of the villages, I decided to made Cinque Terre my first stop. I loved every minute of my stay there!
Cinque Terre 3 Day Itinerary
The good part about visiting Cinque Terre is that with the train running frequently between all five villages, you have some flexibility to switch things around in your itinerary. Still, it works best to have a plan and follow it if circumstances allow.
Cinque Terre 3 Day Itinerary – Day One
Take a boat ride
When staying in one location for a few days, I always start with attractions that matter the most to me. In case of Cinque Terre, a boat ride along the coast was definitely on the top of the list. Unfortunately, the sea was too rough for my sensitive stomach all three days during my visit.
If the boat ride is important to you too, start with it, if weather is permitting. You never know what kind of conditions the next day will bring. If the sea is rough, plan the boat ride for the next day or, in the worst case scenario, day three. I have no doubt that seeing Cinque Terre from the water would be the highlight of your visit. Learn more about guided boat tours from Manarola with swimming, snorkeling, music and relaxation here.
Visit Manarola and Riomaggiore
Plan to visit Manarola and Riomaggiore on the same day. They are just a short train ride from each other. To enjoy them fully, stroll their narrow streets and make sure to sit down for a meal. Take in the views, and most importantly hike around them!
How to visit Manarola
I researched Manarola when deciding on my Cinque Terre accommodation. It just felt “right” for me. As soon as I stepped into my hotel and looked out, I knew I made the right choice. The view made me fall in love with the village even before I actually saw it.
Then, what a pleasure it was to walk Manarola’s tiny streets toward its beautiful harbor. Make sure to step off the main path once in a while. Every little corner delivers its own unique charm.
Next, climb up towards the vineyards for more incredible views. Take a short hike along the coast. Finish your visit with a glass of local wine (local wine tasting is available!) and a delicious meal at the outdoor cafe overlooking the sea. How can you beat that?
How to visit Riomaggiore
Take a train from Manarola to Riomaggiore. Unfortunately hiking between two villages is currently not possible. The main part of the trail is closed (expected to reopen in April 2021).
You may think Manarola was already the highlight of your visit, but then you arrive in Riomaggiore and have the same feeling! This village is equally impressive. The scenery combined with numerous restaurants, bars, and shops makes it a great spot to hang out. Do some hiking toward the sky and take in the views. Go as far as time and conditions allow.
After all this hard work, reward yourself with dinner in the village and stay for a sunset. Complete your first day of Cinque Terre 3 day itinerary with local Limoncello. The tasty liqueur is called Limoncino here.
Cinque Terre 3 Day Itinerary – Day Two
Visit Monterosso and Vernazza
Just like the day before, your itinerary calls for two beautiful villages, Monterosso and Vernazza. Again, take your time to enjoy their beauty. Step off the beaten path and discover their narrow streets and alleys. This is where you will find the local charm. Hike up for the views. Listen to the winds and waves crashing against the rock. Have a meal at each one to complete your experience.
How to visit Vernazza
Start your second day of Cinque Terre 3 day itinerary with a visit to beautiful Vernazza, the only natural port of the area. Its small harbor – the only secure landing point on the Cinque Terre coast – guards the steepest of the five villages. Colorful, antique homes cling to impossible cliffs. The village is surrounded by very steeply-terraced olive groves which are said to produce among the finest olive oil in the country.
How to visit Monterosso
Monterosso has a resort feel. It awaits tourists with a nice long beach, a seafront promenade, beach chairs and umbrellas, hotels and some night life. It can be reached by car much easier than the other four villages.
Cinque Terre 3 Day Itinerary – Day Three
On the third day, visit the smallest village of the five, Corniglia. After lunch there, take a hike to Vernazza where you can end it or continue from there to Monterosso.
How to Visit Corniglia
I left Corniglia for the last day of my visit to Cinque Terre. Maybe because it was raining when I arrived, I did not find it as appealing as the other four. The village itself does not have a direct access to the sea and sits high up at the mountains. To reach it, you will have to climb 382 steps, but the views along the way are worth it!
Once at the top, you will find the village less commercialized than the other four but still very charming. Walk around then take a longer break to eat, inhale the fresh air and enjoy the views.
Take a longer hike
After a break, you will be ready for a longer hike. I recommend Corniglia to Vernazza. Along this route you can fully enjoy the landscapes of the Cinque Terre and admire its beauty from above. It will take about 1 1/2 hour to complete the trail. If you have enough steam left, continue from Vernazza to Monterroso, considered by many as the most beautiful stretch of the Blue Path.
Tips on Hiking in Cinque Terre
Hiking is an essential part of visiting Cinque Terre, so make it a part of your experience too. Click here for a map of hiking trails.
1.Trails around the villages are subject to frequent closings due to weather related damages. The Cinque Terre National Park offices and the State Forestry Service are available for detailed information: Cinque Terre National Park: +39 0187 76 26 00 [email protected] – State Forestry C.T.A. [email protected]
2. You need to obtain hiking permit, included in Cingue Terre Card, good for hiking and transportation between villages.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
Most likely your visit to Cinque Terre will be combined with visiting other fabulous sites and cities of Italy. The villages may look like they’re are difficult to get to, but in reality it is quite opposite. You can easily reach them from many major cities of the country.
How to get to Cinque Terre from Florence
Getting to the villages from Florence is easy since these two destinations are separated only by 170 km. You can make it a day trip but the area definitely deserves more time. Read all about getting to Cinque Terre from Florence.
How to get to Cinque Terre from Milan
You can also take an easy day trip from Milan, which is only 225 kilometers away. There are some direct trains from Milan to Monterosso and some that require a change in Genoa. The trip is about 3 hours depending on the train you choose. Make you train reservation here.
If you prefer to leave all the arrangements to professionals and travel worry free, the best way to go is to take a day trip from Milan which includes 90 minute boat trip! An expert and knowledgeable tour leader will assist you during the whole trip.
How to get to Cinque Terre from Rome
According to statistics, most international travelers enter Italy by way of Rome; therefore. a majority of visitors are most likely looking for ways to get to Italian Rivera and Cinque Terre from there. Similarly to Florence and Milan, Rome’s transportation to the villages is by far best by train. It takes between 3.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on the train. Make your reservation here.
How to get to Cingue Terre by Car
Driving to Cinque Terre
It is true that Cinque Terre is easy to reach, but this statement does not apply to getting there by car. Pictures of villages will tell you why. There are roads leading to them, but they are steep and narrow. Yes, the views will take your breath away but they also may make your heart beat faster, if you’re not comfortable driving along the cliffs.
Parking in Cinque Terre
The next thing you will need to conquer is parking, or rather lack of it. The villages are closed to car traffic, even for residents. Parking areas are available but space is limited. Learn where to park in Cinque Terre here.
For me, getting to villages by car was the only logical choice, or so I thought. I was traveling with my sister across Europe for a month by car; therefore, other type of transportation did not even cross my mind as a possibility. Well, it was not the right approach.
Next time, I would most likely consider leaving a car in La Spezia train station parking area or Levanto train station parking area. Both towns have an highway exit, and train stations at these towns are quite easy to reach.
If you decide to travel by car, arrive very early or you will be waiting for hours for a spot. Get detailed information from your hotel on where and how to park. It is a complicated process. Also, if renting a car, stay with the smaller size. The parking spots are tiny!
When to visit Cinque Terre
The temperature in Cinque Terre may go up and down but the views are always there. The villages are beautiful any season, even when it rains. Quite possibly, late spring is the best time to visit, when flowers are framing already stunning scenery.
The villages draw thousands of visitors from around the world. To skip the crowds, avoid July and August and Italian long weekends.
How to pack for Cinque Terre
No matter which way you arrive, keep in mind that you will be carrying your luggage uphill! Do not count on your bag’s wheels to do the work for you. They will not withstand the hard rocks and numerous steps. Consider a backpack, with your essentials only, which is obviously not what my sister and I did! Her suitcase never recovered after that!
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
For me, planning a trip is almost as pleasurable as going on one. I checked each village for the best mix of charm and accommodation. The village that spoke to me the most was Manarola. See what makes Manarola special.
I could not imagine staying in Cinque Terre without having at least a little balcony and the view . For that reason, I decided to pay a little extra. And what a view I found at one of the Luxury Seaview Apartments, available to rent on all major booking sites.
Other than an incredible view, the apartment delivered on everything else. I loved the decor, two rooms, two bathrooms, well-appointed kitchen, and nice comfortable bedding. The unit seemed newly remodeled with a perfect mixture of an old charm and modern conveniences.
If you are traveling with kids or are elderly, make Monterosso your base village. There are less stairs, most of the area is flat and it is easier to get to the parking or the railway station.
I hope to come back soon but for now, Arrivederci Cinque Terre!