Cinque Terre Day Trip, the Hidden Gem on the Italian Riviera

Our Cinque Terre day trip includes a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Ligurian coastline. In each of the five towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, fishing boats dot the mini harbours, different types of restaurants offer local specialties. Besides, the cliffside hiking trail connecting villages offers sweeping sea views.

Riomaggiore viewpoint

Although we have been to Italy many times, Cinque Terre was never on our list because it was not close to any place we had visited before. Later, when we had a trip to Liguria and Tuscany, we put them on our itinerary.

The trains are the easiest way to get to and around the Cinque Terre. We started our Cinque Terre day trip at the Levanto railway station and bought day tickets with unlimited rides, including the local buses and the use of toilets. The train from Levanto to La Spezia stopped at Riomaggiore, the most southern village of the Cinque Terre, also the first place we visited on that day.

The five villages are:

  • Riomaggiore (with the best sea view)
  • Manarola (the best place to eat)
  • Corniglia (the vineyard village)
  • Vernazza (with a Piazza opening to the sea)
  • Monterosso al Mare (the beach resort)

Riomaggiore (with the best sea view)

Before entering the village, we walked up to the famous Via dell’ Amore (Way of Love). On that day, the path Via dell’ Amore, which was the shortest and easiest hiking trail in Cinque Terre, was unfortunately closed for repairing work. From where we stood, we could enjoy the astonishing panoramic sea views.

Walked through an underground tunnel, we arrived at the small harbour front. There is no sandy beach but a rocky beach. Riomaggiore is the smallest village of the five and has just one main street. On the way back to the train station, we walked way up by following a tiny scenic path. It was well paved, and we were the only tourists there. It leads us directly to the train station.

The amazing panorama sea views from "Way of Love", Cinque Terre
Harbour front, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Manarola (the best place to eat)

We arrived at this village around lunchtime. It had much more tourists compared to the first one. At the end of the colourful main street, we saw another rocky harbour. Swimmers were frolicking in the turquoise water around the rock face of the small harbour front.

Near the harbour there is the Manarola Scenic Viewpoint. Before we reached the viewpoint, we spotted a bar with an open view to the harbour front. It was the place we planned to have a quick lunch. However, the long queue in front of it discouraged us.

We headed back to the main street, where many local restaurants and bars were located. All the dishes displayed in the pictures looked attractive. Nearly every restaurant was full. So our family popped into a busy restaurant and queued for a table. Finally, we got seats and ordered three hearty seafood dishes, two plates of pasta with fresh clams, prawns, and mussels caught from the sea that morning, and one portion of fried seafood dish including tender octopus.

The main street of Manarola
Manarola coastal walkway

Corniglia (the vineyard village)

Among the five seaside villages, Corniglia is the only one without direct access to the sea. Since the train does not reach the village centre, we had to enter the village centre either walking 377 steps up the hill or taking a local bus. We took the latter way because it was too hot in the afternoon, and we would run out of time to visit the other two villages.

From the bus stop, we first followed Via Fieschi and then Sentiero Azzuro, the hiking path leading to Vernazza and passing by the local houses. And the small-scale vineyard terraces spread over the hillside.

Hiking path through the local houses in Corniglia, Cinque Terre
The vineyard slope of Corniglia

Vernazza (with a Piazza opening to the sea)

Vernazza is the only village that has a Piazza opening the sea.  The orange and yellow buildings dotted with laundries and dark green shutters around the Piazza defined a typical Cinque Terre scene. And the Castello Doria’s tower provides a 360-degree spectacular view of both the town and the sea.

Near the main square of the village, we saw another secret beach through a caved rock passage. However, the beach was not accessible on that day.

The open Piazza next to the sea, Vernazzs, Cinque Terre
The open Piazza next to the sea, Vernazzs, Cinque Terre

Monterosso al Mare (the beach resort)

As a beach town, Monterosso al Mare is the busiest village among the five. It has well-equipped beach facilities. Streets and shops are more than those in other villages. Many parasols and deck chairs lined up ready for renting, a typical Italian beach style.

One of the eye-catching sites is the church San Giovanni Battista. Its alternating black and white stripes of marble and serpentinite represent an example of splendid Ligurian Gothic architecture. And, the church facade has a notably large rose window.

An acquaintance of ours told us that the ice cream in Cinque Terre tasted super good. So we finished our day by eating ice cream. Well, it did taste like ice cream, but those from other Italian cities tasted better. 

Beach in Monterosso al Mare, Cinque terre

Travel tips for Cinque Terre day trip

Suggested tours

Where to stay

In each of the five villages has a few accommodations. Here are five hotels in the centre of each village:

How to get there

It is possible to reach Cinque Terre by train, by boat, by car, or by plane. Please find detailed information here.

If you travel to Milan, Pisa, or Florence, you can also join a tour locally.

Cinque Terre, the five small coastal villages together with nearby town Portovenere and three islands are listed in UNESCO list. #italy #destination #adventure #adventuretime #daytrip #town #medieval #traveltips #travelblog #places #travellife #europe #liguria #cinque Terre #village

40 Comments

  1. Such a great place to stay for a while. It seems so relaxing, peaceful and satisfying in this place, thanks for the detailed guide.

  2. Wow, this looks like a vacation spot I need to go to! I love the beach views and the cute town! Thanks for the trip guide, I should go here soon! -Sondra Barker @cuisineandtravel.com

  3. So much history in this region! I love the rustic look and that it doesn’t look overly modernized. Definitely adding to my bucket list!

  4. Thanks for sharing about this interesting destination and such attractive seascapes to cheer ourselves during a vacation after so many pulls and pressures every day.

  5. Such beautiful photos! This is completely and utterly spectacular!
    I would love to travel here so much. Thanks for sharing

  6. Oh wow! I’m not sure I could ever leave that place. it is absolutely one of the most gorgeous place I’ve ever seen.

  7. Oh wow! I never even knew this little gem existed! It is absolutely beautiful there – I would LOVE to visit someday!

  8. OMG! I love all the detailed information you shared on this post. I am definitely putting this destination in my bucket list. Sounds like a dream trip. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Cinque Terre looks and sounds like what dreams are made of. And wow how photogenic this place is!! I totally would love to indulge in fresh seafood here and some good Italian wine. Hope one day to make it here!

  10. I can imagine, how difficult it was to plan your own trip. I plan my own trips as well and they can be super stressful. I like the fact that you can buy one ticket and its good for all the different trains and busses. I have never been to Italy but this seems looks like a great city to start exploring. I would enjoy seeing the colorful houses and the beach.

  11. You covered a lot of ground on one day. I have never been to Italy but have seen so many beautiful pictures. Loved your detailed post and the description of the food too. 😀 I could visualize how beautiful the water would have looked. The houses of Manarola are so colorful. Thank you for this visual journey. Hope I get to visit this place someday.

  12. Wow you cant beat a beautiful historic European city. I currently in Vancouver and the city is only 150 years old – everything looks so clean and modern! Beautiful resort and write up thanks for sharing

  13. I can’t believe I still haven’t been to Cinque Terre! That photo of the colourful is so iconic, but I had no idea until after reading this post that there was so much else to do there. It’s a shame the Walk of Love was closed for repairs when you went, but that’s a great excuse to go back! Do you think you would?

    1. Yes, we are thinking about going back to the area again. We actually want to hike around. The best time would be in autumn. However, I have heard that not all trails will be open at the same time.

  14. I love the Cinque Terre so much, we actually get married here next Summer. If you visit again I recommend staying the area for a few nights to get a real feel for the place, it’s truly magic at night once the hoards of day-trippers have left. But book your accommodation in advance as it can be pricey.

    1. I totally agree with you. We need to plan well ahead and are thinking about going there again for a couple of days. We like to hike around. This time we failed to do so and had to booked our accommodation somewhere else. You have picked a romantic place to get marry. Looking forward to your experience of the arrangement.

  15. Gorgeous photos! I love your idea where you mentioned about taking a tour instead of driving and looking for parking. I usually prefer tours as it makes things to convenient
    Your tips are practical and I will be referring back to this post when I visit Cinque Terre

  16. Cinque Terre looks incredibly lovely! You took some beautiful photos! I appreciate your reviews of each of the 5 villages. It does seem like a lot to do in one day and the parking there doesn’t sound fun. I would definitely take your advice to spend a night there instead, or take a tour.
    Thanks for sharing your tips 🙂

  17. The Cinque Terre is one of my favorite places in Italy! I love the rocky beaches at Riomaggiore and the vineyards around Corniglia. The hiking between villages is great, but even better are the trails that go off the beaten track through the vineyards above the villages. You have them totally to yourself and the views are amazing! (You need more like three days for this though since many of the hikes are 20+ km.)

    1. You are right. To stay there a couple of days would be perfect. Sometimes the hiking trails are closed for repairing works. as far as I know they never open all at the same time.

  18. The Cinque Terre has a very special place in my heart. It was one of the first places I visited as an international traveler in my early 20s. I spent a night sleeping outside down at the water in Riomaggiore when the hostel had no beds left. 20 years later I took my husband and son and stayed in a very comfortable Airbnb beachside in Monterroso. You covered a lot of territory for a day trip! It’s such a beautiful area and I hope to return some day.

    1. I would like to go back as well. We could not manage to hike between the five villages. So this is something we are going to do next time.

    2. Thanks for the very detailed guide about Cinque Terre, this place looks very great, I hope I could visit one day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.