How to Visit Cinque Terre in One Day
Jason Daniel Shaw
CINQUE TERRE – ITALY
One of the most beautiful and picturesque spots in Italy lies along the Mediterranean on the western coast of the peninsula – Cinque Terre. Literally meaning five lands, Cinque Terre is a national park that is made up of five small coastal towns. From Monterosso al Mare in the north to Riomaggiore in the south, each village has its own personality and is worth a visit. If you only have a short time in the area, it is definitely doable to see them all in one day and that is exactly what we did.
LA SPEZIA – ITALY
If you have been following along with our trip, we last left you in Pisa. After dinner we made our way to La Spezia where we found that there wasn’t much availability for hotels. Fortunately, after trying several places, we found one that had availability and as we would find out in the morning, was perfectly located for our day of exploring Cinque Terre. It was a no-frills hotel but was right across from the train station which is the best method of transportation for getting to and around Cinque Terre.
The next morning, we checked out, put our bags in the car and headed for the train station. Our biggest decision was whether to buy a single ride ticket or the day pass. In the end, if you follow the agenda that I have here, it works out to the same cost. The single-ride tickets are 4 euros each and the day pass is 16 euros per person. We decided to go for the single-ride tickets because the line for the day pass was super long and the single-ride passes could be purchased at the kiosks.
CINQUE TERRE ITINERARY
- Train from La Spezia to Monterosso al Mare (20 minutes)
- Hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza (1.8 miles)
- Hike from Vernazza to Corniglia (2 miles)
- Train from Corniglia to Riomaggiore (5 minutes)
- Train from Riomaggiore to Manarola (1 minute)
- Train from Manarola to La Spezia (15 minutes)
MONTEROSSO AL MARE
Our first stop was the northern-most village of Monterosso al Mare. It is about a 20 minute train ride from La Spezia and drops you off right above the only sandy beach along the coast. Spend some time walking through the shops or lounging around on the beach. After you are done exploring, find your way to the southern part of the beach where you will see signs directing you to a path leading up the mountainside, along the cliffs. The hike is not the hardest hike that we have ever done but it can be pretty challenging, especially in the summer when the sun is blazing. Make sure to bring proper clothing and plenty of water. There is also a small fee (7.50 euro) to make the hike but it also covers the next hike as well.
The hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza is really a beautiful walk. The views back toward Monterosso are stunning and just as it starts to fade out of view, Vernazza starts to come into view. Hiking between the villages is definitely a way to connect with the land as you explore this beautiful spot of Italy.
As the hiking trail comes into Vernazza from Monterosso al Mare, you will undoubtedly be ready for a gelato and a rest. Vernazza is a great place for that. If you make your way down to the small bay, you will find a great spot to relax by the water and take in the sights and sounds of Vernazza. There is a maze of narrow streets that lead up to a rooftop lookout that is also a great place to spend a bit of time catching your breath (for a small fee). After you have had your fill of Vernazza, find the trail to the south that leads to Corniglia.
The third village that you come to from the north is Corniglia. It is a bit different from the others because it is up on a cliff as opposed to down by the water. However, it is no less beautiful than the rest. It is the prefect place to grab a bite for lunch and do a little souvenir shopping as you are done with the hikes for the day. The hiking trails between Corniglia and Manarola and Manarola and Riomaggiore were closed due to land slides that haven’t been repaired and don’t look to be repaired any time soon. After getting your energy back in Corniglia, find the train station and buy a single-ride ticket for Riomaggiore. I know that this passes Manarola for now but there is good reason and you will see why in a bit.
Riomaggiore seemed the most crowded to us and that may be because it is the first town that you come to from the south and where a lot of people stop in the exploration of Cinque Terre. We enjoyed sitting down at the marina and watching the tour groups take their selfies with the colorful buildings. We also made our way through a lot of the little shops looking for the perfect magnet. We then made our way to the train station for the shortest ride of the day – from Riomaggiore to Manarola.
The most beautiful and most picturesque of the five villages is Manarola in my opinion. That is why we saved it for last. I wanted to take some golden hour long exposure photos of the village as well as get some aerial shots with the drone. When we arrived in Manarola, we made our way down to the water, looking for a place to have dinner. There are many great options as well as some great places to just grab a cocktail and appetizer with a view.
After dinner, I found a spot along the cliff walk to setup for the long exposure shot of the cliffside buildings at sunset. While waiting for the perfect light, I put the drone up in the air and did some exploration of the coastline. As the sun set on our day, I was able to capture one of my favorite shots of the day. Afterwards, we made our way to the station to catch a train back to La Spezia.
From the west coast, we head over to the east coast and Venice. If you want to follow along with our 25-day wedding / honeymoon trip, you can see more of our adventures in Malta, Italy, the Vatican, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.