How Many Days to Spend in Cinque Terre

This stunning stretch of the Italian Riviera, with its five picturesque villages, demands more than a quick glance. It’s a place where you’ll want to linger, from dipping your toes in the Ligurian Sea to meandering through vibrant streets and vineyards. But working with limited vacation days like I did, you want to make sure you the time balance right to maximise your enjoyment here! This blog post highlights what there is to see in Cinque Terre, how much time is needed in exploring each village and lots more travel tips for the perfect italian adventure!

Cinque terre how many days

How Many Days to Spend in Cinque Terre?

Having spent time last summer in Cinque Terrem, I would say to do your holiday justice, you need to spend a minimum of 2-3 days in Cinque Terre. If you have more time and prefer to hike between the villages, I would suggets 3-4. The below guide will help you decide how long to spend in each village yohelp you come up with your day to day itinerary.

Cinque Terre Towns

Let’s break it down, town by town, to uncover the must-sees and dos.

Riomaggiore

Start your adventure in the easternmost village. Wander the narrow streets, catch a sunset at the marina, and savor fresh seafood. It’s the perfect introduction to Cinque Terre’s charm.
Days to spend: Half day – 1 full day

Manarola

Famous for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine and breathtaking views from Punta Bonfiglio, Manarola is a feast for the senses. Don’t miss a swim in its crystal-clear waters.
Days to spend: Half day – 1 full day

Manarola sunset

Corniglia (optional)

Perched atop a hill, this town offers panoramic views and a quieter vibe. The hike up from the train station is a rite of passage here. Reward yourself with gelato from Alberto Gelateria.
Days to spend: Half day

Corniglia

Vernazza

Often hailed as the most picturesque, Vernazza boasts a stunning harbor and the iconic Doria Castle. Enjoy a leisurely dinner by the waterfront, soaking in the vibrant atmosphere.
Days to spend: 1 full day

Vernazza wine tasting

Monterosso al Mare

With its expansive beaches and lush lemon groves, Monterosso calls for a slower pace. Lounge on the beach, explore the historic old town, and indulge in some shopping.
Days to spend: Half day – 1 full day.

Monterosso beach

How to get around Cinque Terre

There are 4 main ways to get around Cinque Terre. I have to say I really enjoyed hiking for the views and sense of adventure. The villages are best seen from a distance and the hiking routes privide these perfect vantage points for this. However I did also lover having the convenience of a train. It meant we could have dinner in on village and be home at out Airbnb in another village in 30 mins. That being said, below a quick summary of the 4 options available.

Hiking

If you’re up for some physical activity, hiking between the villages is a fantastic way to take in the breathtaking landscapes. The trails vary in difficulty, so there’s something for everyone, from casual walkers to seasoned hikers. Keep in mind that trail conditions can change, and some paths may be closed for maintenance, especially after heavy rains. It’s free to hike, but some trails require the Cinque Terre Card for access.

Train

The local train service is the most convenient way to hop between the villages. Trains run frequently, about every 20 minutes or so, making it easy to explore multiple villages in a single day. For costs, a single journey ticket ranges from €4 to €5, depending on the distance. However, investing in the Cinque Terre Card is more economical if you plan to travel multiple times or hike. This card offers unlimited train travel between the villages and access to the hiking trails. A one-day pass for the train version of the Cinque Terre Card costs about €16, while a two-day pass is around €29. Prices are slightly lower for children and groups.

Car

While it’s possible to drive to Cinque Terre, it’s not recommended. The roads leading to the villages are narrow and winding, and parking is scarce and expensive. Plus, the villages themselves are largely car-free, meaning you’d have to park outside and walk or take a shuttle in anyway. The focus in Cinque Terre is on preserving its natural beauty and reducing traffic congestion, so public transport and hiking are encouraged.

Ferries

Ferries in Cinque Terre offer a scenic route between the villages, perfect for those looking to take in the coastline from the sea. The main ferry provider, Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti, runs frequent services in peak summer, connecting Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Corniglia unfortunately, does not have sea access. Prices for a single trip start around €7, but day passes are available for around €30, giving unlimited rides and a chance to hop between towns at your leisure. Check the latest schedule on their website, as times vary, but expect boats to run hourly.

Closest Airports to Cinque Terre in Italy

There is no International Airport in Cinque Terre directly, however there are major cities you can fly into close by. The below two airports are the closest and most convenient options.

Genoa’s Cristoforo Colombo Airport

This is the closest to the action, about an hour and a half away by car. It’s ideal for those looking to dive straight into the Italian Riviera without the long transit times. The drive from Genoa to Cinque Terre is as picturesque as it gets, with stunning views of the Ligurian Sea to greet you.

Pisa International Airport

This is the next convenient option, and the one we chose. With a plethora of flights and just a two-hour train ride separating you from the colorful towns of Cinque Terre. It’s perfect for those who prefer to weave a little train adventure into their travel plans, offering a glimpse of the Tuscan countryside along the way.

Pisa

3 to 4 Day Itinerary

Below is a rough guide based on our own time in Cinque Terrre over 4 days. The itinerary can be adjusted based on which villages you want to skip.

Day 1

Vineyards

Day 1, we arrived into Corniglia, where our Airbnb was located and settled in. After unpacking, we headed to the local beach and market for some famous focaccia with a view. The bustling market had the lingering smell of dreshly baked bread and we made the most of it, sampling out all the different flavours of focaccia in the local market. After a short post lunch break, we ventured to do the shortest of all the walks (50 mins) between the villages which is between Manarola and Riomaggiore, also known as ‘Love’s Lane’. However we soon realised this walk was closed! This turn of events, had a take a slightly more unconventional and steep walking path through the vineyards (which I don’t recommend), to finally arrive in Manaola for dinner.

Day 2

Day 2, we kicked off the day with a morning hike from Levanto to Monterosso (to avoid the midday sun!). After the hike, this day was all about soaking up the sun at the iconic Monterosso beach. However, my favourite part was wandering through the old town sampling some iced lemonade and local gelato shops!

cinque terre how many days
Gelato in Monterosso

Late afternoon, we ventured further forth to Vernazza. If you are looking to capture those iconic views of Vernazza’s natural harbor and colorful marina, then these can be found at towards the end of your hike to Vernazza as the route makes way down to the village, provding a stunning vantage point for views of the coastline. We had heard Vernazza was an excellent place for wine tastings, so after wandering to a places offering tastings in the area, we settled on one at Cinque Sensi. Vernazza for the evening was the sunset views, we decided to stop by and grab some pesto to go at a locally recomended spot Pippo A Vernazza, before heading to a viewpoint for sunset views from a short path just above the main town square.

Vernazza sunset
Vernazza sunset

Day 3

The next day, we leisurely strolled the quaint Corniglia after breakfast. In the afternoon we hiked what was propbably the most beautiful of all the paths in Cinque Terre to Riomaggiore. We were greeted by the iconic pastel buildings and dramatic cliffs. We spent the rest of day meandering through the streets, capturing postcard-perfect shots, and enjoying a refreshing swim in the clear waters. Climbing to the top of the village, I was rewarded with magical, panoramic views, making it clear why Riomaggiore is often dubbed the most photogenic of the Cinque Terre villages.

Day 4

Day 4 we decided to hire some bikes and cycle over to the smaller town of Liquria, a short coastal cyclying route, where we chilled on the beach and took in the views. In the later afternoon, we decided to head back to Manarole for our final evening in Cinque Terre. This time we opted to get sunset views from the iconic viewpoint near Nessun Dorma. This place is truely magical at sunset, with a buzzing atmosphere and breathaking views. I would highly recomend booking dinner at a place close to this viewpoint in advance!

Manarola sunset

Hiking between the Cinque Terre Villages

Before setting out on any of the hikes, make sure you have purchased your Cinque Terre Pass. Also check the latest park website notice on which paths are open. Often rail or erosion can cause paths to close at different times of the year, so best to check this in advance.

From Monterosso to Vernazza, expect to spend about 2 hours on the trail. It’s a bit challenging with some steep sections, but the views are worth it. From Vernazza to Corniglia, you’re looking at about 1.5 hours. This part of the trail offers a mix of climbs and easy walks, with plenty of scenic spots. Heading from Corniglia to Manarola, plan for about an hour. This segment is generally easier, as parts of the trail are flatter and offer stunning vineyard views. Lastly, Manarola to Riomaggiore takes about 1.5 hours. Known as the Via dell’Amore, it’s currently closed for repairs, but once it reopens, it’s one of the most iconic and easiest stretches.

Cinque Terre Hiking

Cinque Terre Hiking Tips

  • Trail Passes: Before you start, check if you need a Cinque Terre Card for access to the trails. This pass also includes unlimited train travel between the villages, making it handy for return trips or skipping sections.
  • Start Early: Beat the heat and the crowds by starting your hike early in the morning. This is especially crucial in summer when temperatures soar.
  • Wear Proper Gear: Good hiking shoes are a must. The trails can be rocky and uneven, so proper footwear will help prevent slips and falls.
  • Stay Hydrated: Bring plenty of water, especially during the warmer months. While there are refill stations in each village, options are limited on the trails themselves.
  • Trail Difficulty: Trails vary in difficulty. The path from Monterosso to Vernazza and onwards to Corniglia offers some steep sections and is challenging for those not used to hiking. Consider your fitness level when planning which sections to hike.
  • Trail Closures: Check for trail closures before you go. Some paths, especially the Via dell’Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola, may be closed due to maintenance or weather conditions.
cinque terre how many days

Cinque Terre Pass

I highly recommend the Cinque Terre Pass once you get to Cinque Terre. This handy pass is worth purchasing online at the official website (www.parconazionale5terre.it), and it’s a game-changer for navigating the area. Prices vary depending on what you’re after – a basic hiking pass starts at around €7.50, while a combo train and trails pass, which includes unlimited train rides between the villages and access to all trails, is about €18.20 for one day. Getting this on the day we arrived saved us time from having to buy separate train tickets and hiking passes for our full trip, and also saved us money.

Where to stay in Cinque Terre

Each option has its unique charm. We overlooked how far in advance we needed to book accommodation here. Hence we ended up booking a Airbnb in Corniglia. Although its further out from the other villages, it was always nice to be roaming in the main towns then come back to a quiter more relaxed village to sleep at night. Nonetheless, in my research, I found pros and cons for staying at each of the 5 villages, which are summarised below.

  • Riomaggiore is great for night owls, with plenty of bars and a lively scene.
  • Manarola boasts some killer sunset spots, perfect for those Instagram moments.
  • Corniglia stands out for being the quietest, offering a break from the crowds. Nonetheless, it’s up on a hill, so the views are top-notch.
  • Vernazza has that classic harbor look, ideal for water lovers and folks who enjoy a good meal by the sea.
  • Monterosso offers the best beaches, making it a hit if you’re looking to soak up some sun. I found Monterosso has bigger feel and more accommodation options.

For booking, hit up Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) or Booking.com (www.booking.com). They have loads of options no matter which village you pick. Just type in the village name, and you’ll find everything from cozy apartments to cool little rooms.