Cinque Terre, a picturesque coastal area in Liguria, Italy, is one of the most iconic, beautiful and romantic regions in Italy.
The name Cinque Terre means “five lands”, which are the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. The area is a designated a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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As the average visitor does not have such a luxury when planning their Italian itinerary, we have put together a two-day Cinque Terre itinerary to help you experience the highlights of the area. This itinerary is a great addition to our recommended Italian road trip itineraries.
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2 Days in Cinque Terre
Day One-Getting to Cinque Terre
The closest big cities with airports are Genoa and Pisa- each about an hour away by car.
That said, it is NOT a good idea to drive to Cinque Terre. The roads are so small it is practically impossible to drive there safely. Also, there is little in the way of parking (unless you have a permit) and fines of up to €100 for entering restricted traffic zones.
Once you’ve arrived in Cinque Terre (hopefully in time for sunset), relax at your hotel and enjoy a well-earned glass of local wine on the terrace. You have a lot of walking to do over the next couple of days, so take the first night to relax.
Our itinerary starts in Monterosso so, if your hotel is elsewhere, you will need to take the train to Monterosso.
Enjoy breakfast at your hotel or grab a delicious bite from the Wonderland Bakery in Monterosso and eat on the seawall.
Monterosso is one of our favourite villages in Cinque Terre. There are charming shops on every corner and so much to explore. So, if you don’t fancy hiking, there’s plenty in Monterosso to amuse you.
Morning-Hike to Vernazza
If you do fancy the exercise (more guilt-free gelato for you), enjoy the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza (about 2 hours), where you can enjoy lunch and incredible views.
In the afternoon, you can either continue the hike to Corniglia (another 1.5 hours) or explore by train. All the villages are unique in as far as character, atmosphere, shops, restaurants and cafes and things to do.
If the weather is favourable, book a sunset boat cruise– it’s ridiculously romantic and a fantastic way to see Cinque Terre from the water. During peak season it is advisable to book in advance.
If you aren’t hiking, use the train to explore Monterosso, Vernazza and Corniglia. From Monterosso, you can also kayak, sail, fish or book a dive trip. Or, relax on one of the few sandy beaches in Cinque Terre where you can rent a sun lounge and umbrella and enjoy the Italian Riviera atmosphere.
In Vernazza, make sure to visit Castle Doria; the medieval defensive site on top of the hill. Below Castle Doria is Belforte Bastion- also worth a visit.
Corniglia is the only village without water access. But it does provide a gorgeous scenic outlook, an excellent spot to see the town awash in a beautiful orange glow at sunset.
It also enjoys a reputation as one of the quietest villages and least commercial of the five, making it an ideal place to escape the tourist crowds, especially in peak season.
Once you’ve explored Corniglia, take a train back to your hotel and prepare for an evening boat tour from Monterosso (al Mare.) You can also do this from Riomaggiore if you prefer.
The cruise usually has 8-10 people and is a very romantic trip. Tapas, champagne, wine and Antipasto are provided. Times and availability do vary (and it doesn’t run out of peak season), so please do check in advance.
After a big day, enjoy a lie-in, before exploring the other two villages.
If you enjoyed your sunset cruise, it is possible to take a daytime cruise to four of the five villages by boat (excluding Corniglia which is on a high hill and has no water access). Again, the boats only run in high season and stop running at the beginning of November, so this is something to consider when planning your trip to Cinque Terre.
Also, it takes a lot longer to get places by boat than by train, so bear that in mind when deciding your mode of transport for the day.
You do not need to book in advance for these boat trips, just show up at the harbour and buy your tickets there.
Start your day in Riomaggiore. Depending on where your hotel is, take either the train or a boat.
There are plenty of places to enjoy lunch in Riomaggiore when you arrive. The harbour is cute and worth a photograph but, honestly, you don’t need to spend a lot of time here.
Once you’ve explored Riomaggiore, head to Manarola.
Manarola is famous for being one of the best places to see the sunset in Cinque Terre.
If you’re interested in local wine, then you should book a wine tasting tour or even a pesto making class. For the more adventurous, you can also go paragliding over Cinque Terre– something you’ll never forget.
There is a beautiful harbour where you can swim if it’s warm enough. Enjoy an ice cream from Gelateria Enrica, browse the pretty shops and pick up some souvenirs (including authentic limoncello).
Then, climb the trail to St Francesco for one of the best sunset views over Cinque Terre. Hopefully, you can spend the night here for one last taste of Cinque Terre before you need to depart.