As you might know, if you’ve read my article on Genoa, I’ve finally made it to one of the most beautiful places on Earth (in my view of course): Cinque Terre, Italy. And because I know how much research I’ve done before going and I also know how important it is to have all the correct information when planning your trip, I’ve decided to share with you my learnings from the trip: my complete guide to Cinque Terre.
I will share with you everything you might want to know before visiting Cinque Terre: the best time to visit Cinque Terre, the best town to stay in Cinque Terre, best things to do in Cinque Terre, how to visit Cinque Terre, taking a trip from Milan to Cinque Terre, and most importantly, the best views in Cinque Terre.
The first thing you will want to know is that most of the 5 towns are located on hills and there will be a lot of climbing involved! We chose to stay in Riomaggiore and once we got off the train reality kicked in and we started the climb. Ok, it was also our choice because we wanted to have the greatest view possible and it was sure worth it.
My complete guide to Cinque Terre // Getting to Cinque Terre
Even though remote, getting to Cinque Terre is not that hard, but you will have to take into consideration some hours for the travel and never book the train/bus back to back because you can never know if something will come or will be late.
Flying to Cinque Terre
Since the villages are rather remote, flying to Cinque Terre won’t be possible, but you have the option of flying in a city nearby (such as Milan, Pisa, Florence, Genoa and taking the train.
The best way of traveling to Cinque Terre is by train because you will have easy connections from wherever you are coming:
- Milan to Cinque Terre – that’s just a roughly 3h30-4h train ride from Milan Central Station to one of the 5 Ligurian cities. You will most probably need to change the train at least once (Genoa or Levanto), but most of the times the train comes at the same line so there won’t be any trouble with that.
- Genoa to Cinque Terre – if like us, you have chosen to spend a night in Genoa, you will have plenty of options to get to Cinque Terre by train, having to spend only around 1h30 on the road.
- Florence to Cinque Terre – depending on the connections it could take from 2h15 to 4h for this ride, and you could change the train once or even 3 times
- Pisa to Cinque Terre – the fastest ride, so if you have the choice of landing in Pisa, go for it! That’s because the train ride will take between 1 and 2 hours (depending on the train), with only one change requested.
The Cinque Terre Express (Cinque Terre train map)
This is the train you will be using a whole lot during your trip in Cinque Terre. While I was here I felt like taking the bus, since getting from one village to the other took 10 min maximum, being very easy to get on and off the train whenever and wherever and having to pay the same 4 EUR/ride (no matter the distance, from the 17th of March until the 4th of November 2018).
All in all, if you plan on seeing all the 5 villages (and not only, since the train has one end of the line in Levanto and the other in La Spezia), relying on the Cinque Terre Express is a must. And if you plan on taking a lot of trips by train, you can choose to get the one day pass (16 EUR/valid 24h from the stamp), 2 days pass (29 EUR) or 3 days pass (41 EUR).
The Cinque Terre train map would look like this: Levanto – Monterosso – Vernazza – Corniglia – Manarola – Riomaggiore – La Spezia. All in all, from one end to the other, the train takes approx. 30 min.
If you want to travel to the Cinque Terre by car, that would be a bit difficult because apart from the fact that the roads are very narrow and steep, parking in the villages can prove to be a challenge in itself. None of the villages have roads open for cars in the city center, thus you will have to leave the car somewhere outside and pay a rather pricey parking fee.
My complete guide to Cinque Terre //Best time to visit Cinque Terre
When planning your trip, one of the most important things to take into consideration is the best time to visit Cinque Terre. Since the region has a rather mild weather, anytime is a good time for a visit, but in my opinion, the best time would be somewhere between the beginning of March and the end of April, and the second part of September and the whole of October.
I would suggest avoiding full season, starting from early May and ending at the beginning of September, because everything will be crowded and expensive. And why not enjoy this wonderful place to its fullest?
For us, the second part of April was just right, with perfect temperatures, affordable prices, and the towns being not so crowded.
My complete guide to Cinque Terre // Best town to stay in Cinque Terre
To be honest I wouldn’t know which town would be best to stay in and that is because all of them are lovely! But let’s take them one by one and let me tell you a little bit about each and my impressions, and I’ll let you be the one to choose your perfect town to stay in Cinque Terre.
The first little town if you are coming from Levanto, and the most different from all the others, Monterosso is where you will have the possibility of staying at the beach as well if that is what you’re in for. Just don’t expect sand, because that’s not what you’ll find.
Even though different from all the other villages in Cinque Terre, Monterosso is definitely a typical Italian town, with beautiful colorful narrow streets, lots of places to eat, do apperitivo or just have a gelato. The town is split between the New Town (where the train will leave you and where the beach is) and the Old Town (the charming side of the city).
The buildings here are not as iconic as the ones in Manarola for example, but if you have a few hours to spare, make sure not to skip Monterosso because it will charm you for sure.
When we first took the train from Levanto everyone was asking about Vernazza, that’s how we figured this was one of the most popular towns for travelers. For travelers to stay in, that is.
And when we got here, later on, we discovered a beautiful town indeed with lots of pretty buildings, stranded on the cliffs in the most iconic manner possible, and views that would take your breath away. All that, with the hectic buzz owed to the hundreds of people running around the streets.
I need to be honest and say we haven’t really spent that much time in Vernazza, but we searched straight away the perfect spot for taking pictures (one of the best views in Cinque Terre – but I’ll come back to that a bit later) and we somehow ended up taking the trail to Corniglia.
After a 2-hour
walk climb, once we actually step foot in the 3rd village of the Cinque Terre we had already seen in from different angles. Maybe the less touristic town of the 5, mainly because of the hundreds of stairs you need to climb from the train station and the fact that the city is not reachable by sea, Corniglia holds a special vibe to it.
I felt that this was the most authentic Italian village of the 5, with locals sitting around in the small Piazzetta where we stopped for a glass of wine and a delicious focaccia, talking between themselves in the local dialect and just making the best out of a beautiful April afternoon.
Getting here is maybe best as we did it, by walking the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia, because either way if you choose to take the train you will have to be prepared to climb a million stairs ha ha.
Check out also Portofino!
Voted by many the most beautiful of the 5 villages in the Cinque Terre, Manarola is very small but yet very charming. We got here on an early Monday morning, just before all the buzz and fuss, and got to enjoy a delicious breakfast near the sea, before everything else was open and the tourists came flooding the town.
Indeed the views from Manarola are amazing, but the city center (which is only one street with restaurants, bars, and shops on both sides) is very crowded.
If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, take the street climbing on the left side from the tunnel leading to the train station and you will find both an oasis of chill and also some perfect views over the city.
The last of the 5 villages (or the first, depending on where you’re coming from), Riomaggiore is, from what I’ve seen during my research, a little bit underrated. That’s what I’ve noticed also on location, seeing the town not so crowded as others might have been. But at the end of the day, that’s a good thing and I’m really glad to have chosen to stay here.
The first night has welcomed us with one of the most beautiful sunsets there is and Riomaggiore has the perfect spots for admiring the sun going down and you will surely find it easily because there’s only one main street going down into the port.
Here, you can join all the other sunset enthusiasts and find a spot on the rocks from where you can indulge in one of the best views you’ll ever see: that warm light playing around with the colors of the diverse buildings perched on the hills of Riomaggiore.
One thing is sure: you will do your best to come back here for another round of this.
My Complete guide to Cinque Terre // Best Views in Cinque Terre
I know, that’s one of the main reasons people visit the 5 villages, because they offer some of the most picturesque sights in the world, giving you the possibility of taking beautiful pictures both with your camera and your mind. Something you will always remember and hold dear.
So this is why I’ve decided to make your life easier and help you out in finding some of the best views in Cinque Terre, splitting them by town so you can organize your trip accordingly.
- Riomaggiore – the best view over that iconic village is either from the sea (if you can make it, there are plenty of options and they also organize sunset tours by boat) or from the small port. You can climb the stairs on the left side and take the second pair of stairs down. This will take you on the rocks and with a little bit of attention, you can jump and get somehow in the middle of the sea from where you will have the best view possible. Also, the view from our Airbnb was amazing enough offering a view from one of the highest points in Riomaggiore (use this link and get 21 EUR credit if you don’t have an Airbnb account). Needless to say that spending the evenings on this terrace with that view was to die for.
- Manarola – start climbing your way towards Corniglia, it will be kind of rough but it will be totally worth it, trust me. You will know when to stop because you will already have the best view over the colored houses of Manarola. Another perfect spot for pictures will be the right-hand side of the Manarola church – this is where we took some beautiful pictures with a fence behind, but still beautiful. And the most well-known spot: the Nessun Dorma, or better yet, the cemetery just above it.
- Corniglia – for me, the best views over Corniglia were from the trek coming from Vernazza. You will get to see the beautiful town from different points along the way. Also, I’ve seen the stranded village from the sea, even though the ferry does not stop here and you can see it from distance, it is still a lovely view.
- Vernazza – plenty of well-known spots: the beginning of the trail to Monterosso, the Castel Doria (with a 2.5 EUR entrance fee), Bar la Torre. But for me, the best view was discovered in the first 10 minutes of the trail towards Corniglia. You can get here for free and the view will leave you breathless, the climb being totally worth it.
- Monterosso – as I’ve previously said, this town is somehow atypical for the Cinque Terre and you won’t get the iconic views you might in one of the other 4, but it is still a beautiful village. Allegedly, the best view you will get over the city is the beginning of the hiking trail to Vernazza starting from the old town of Monterosso.
So this is it, my complete guide to the Cinque Terre – hope you will find it useful and it will help you plan your trip to this amazing place on Earth. I will soon come back with my 3 days Cinque Terre Itinerary and how you can see everything (and more, hidden gems like La Spezia and most importantly Porto Venere) in just 3 days, how much does it cost and where to stop for a good coffee and focaccia or to book a table ahead of time.
Pin for later!