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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Travel tips for Cinque Terre day trip
Where to stay
In each of the five villages has a few accommodations. Here are five hotels in the centre of each village:
- Riomaggiore : La Vista di Marina by The First
- Manarola: La Torretta Lodge
- Corniglia: Arbanella
- Vernazza: Rina Rooms
- Monterosso al Mare: Tramonto sul Mare
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.