The Perfect One Day in Cinque Terre Itinerary (+ Travel Tips!)

Magnificent coastal views, colorful boats bobbing in harbors, pastel villages that climb high into the cliffs, and delicious food: is it any surprise that spending at least one day in Cinque Terre is on just about everyone’s Italy bucket list?

These five gorgeous villages on the Ligurian coast are as lovely as they are popular, and even if you can only squeeze in one day in Cinque Terre, they are worth the trek to visit.

Trying to see Cinque Terre in one day?

We’ve had a chance to visit Cinque Terre several times, both on day trips and on longer, multi-day stays.

We designed this Cinque Terre itinerary to give you a taste of all five villages–and if you’re anything like us, there’s a good chance you’ll leave Cinque Terre already clamoring to come back.

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Is One Day in Cinque Terre Enough?

One of the most common questions from people considering a day trip to Cinque Terre is whether or not one day in Cinque Terre is enough time to justify the hassle of traveling to the villages–and it absolutely is!

Whether you want to squeeze in a brief taste of all five villages or explore 2-3 of them more deeply, one day in Cinque Terre is long enough to appreciate the beauty of the region.

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(… And to devour at least one serving of trofie al pesto, a very important inclusion on any Cinque Terre itinerary).

That being said, if you can squeeze in more time in Cinque Terre, you absolutely should!

We’ve visited the villages both as day trips and over a multi-day stay, and can absolutely attest that a few days in Cinque Terre is even better than one.

Bowl of Trofie al Pesto in Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Planning a day trip to Cinque Terre?

While this itinerary for Cinque Terre can work for both a day trip or an overnight one, it’s more geared toward someone who has a long day to work with, either by spending the night or staying nearby.

If you’re planning to take a day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence or Milan, we recommend booking a well-reviewed tour like this in order to make the most of your time!

We go through the reasons why in more detail in this blog post, but essentially, Cinque Terre is a bit too far from Florence (or Milan) to make a practical independent day trip.

If you’re staying a bit closer to the villages–say, in Genoa, Pisa, or even Lucca–an independent day trip becomes more feasible.

Book your day trip to Cinque Terre today!

View of Manarola Harbor, Cinque Terre

The Perfect One Day Cinque Terre Itinerary

Start your morning in Monterosso al Mare.

As the largest village in Cinque Terre (by area, anyway–Riomaggiore has the highest population) and the only village with a sandy beach, Monterosso al Mare is the perfect place to kick off your one day in Cinque Terre.

Grab a coffee and cornetto at the bar, stroll through the shops, and, if it interests you, duck into the highly memorable Oratorio dei Neri, which is a church decorated with human skeletons.

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After getting your fill of the town, head down to Monterosso al Mare’s sandy beach, which is the main beach of Cinque Terre.

Depending on what kind of day you have planned (and how early you started your day!), you may want to rent one of the colorful umbrellas at the lido (beach club) and enjoy the water for a couple of hours… or you may want to move on.

Just be sure that if you do stop to swim that you don’t stick around too long, because several other villages are calling!

View of Monterosso al Mare beach from above on a sunny day, umbrellas are visible on the right side of the photo. This beach is one of the most instagrammable places in Cinque Terre!

Head to our favorite village in Cinque Terre: Vernazza.

Colorful, busy, brilliant Vernazza is our personal favorite village in Cinque Terre!

Everything from its harbor to its small castle to its beautiful viewpoints to its tiny back streets is a delight, and no one day in Cinque Terre is complete without seeing it.

However, depending on what kind of day you have planned for yourself, there are two ways to consider reaching Vernazza from Monterosso al Mare.

view of vernazza italy, one of the 5 villages of cinque terre itinerary

Option 1: Hike to Vernazza.

The hike from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza is considered one of the most difficult sections of the famous Blue Path in Cinque Terre due to its elevation changes.

… But it’s also considered one of the most rewarding, particularly the first glimpses you get of Vernazza as you approach the village from above.

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The views are truly stunning (you can get a glimpse of what I’m talking about in the top photo of this blog post), so if you’re hoping for an active day in Cinque Terre, absolutely consider the hike!

Hiking from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza takes about 2 hours, give or take.

On the far side of Vernazza from Monterosso al Mare, before the official paid hike to Corniglia starts but after quite a steep climb, you’ll come to another stunning view of Vernazza.

Even if you’re not hiking much during your day in Cinque Terre, we recommend taking 10 minutes to climb up and admire this view!

Photo of skyline of Vernazza when approaching from Corniglia: making sure to see this view is one of our Cinque Terre tips!

Option 2: Take the train or boat to Vernazza.

Not much of a hiker, or just want to save time for other adventures during your one day in Cinque Terre?

If so, opt for taking public transportation to Vernazza!

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The train (under 5 minutes of travel time) is the most popular public transportation option between the two villages.

If you’re visiting during the summer/high season, you can also take a ferry!

The ferry is slower–it takes 15 minutes or so–but the trade-off is getting to enjoy gorgeous views of Cinque Terre from the water.

View of Vernazza from hiking trail, One Day in Cinque Terre Itinerary

Make your way to Corniglia.

As the highest set of the Cinque Terre’s five villages and the only one without a harbor, Corniglia has a bit of a different vibe than the other four villages.

The views, especially of the surrounding vineyards and cliffs, are gorgeous, and the tiny, winding streets are lovely to explore.

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If you’d like to hike to Corniglia from Vernazza, it will take about 90 minutes, and alternatively, you can take the train (no boats stop in Corniglia due to its location and lack of a harbor).

Bear in mind that even if you travel to Corniglia by train or bus, you’ll still need to either climb a steep staircase up to the village or wait for an (often extremely crowded) shuttle to take you to the top.

While Corniglia is beautiful, if you’re running out of time and absolutely have to cut one village from your Cinque Terre itinerary, we’d probably recommend cutting this one–but that’s not to say it’s not lovely and worth seeing during your day in Cinque Terre.

Photo of people sitting at a restaurant outside in Cinque Terre. There are umbrellas over the tables.

Hop the train to Riomaggiore.

At this point on your one day in Cinque Terre, we recommend skipping past Manarola and heading right to Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of Cinque Terre, via train.

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Riomaggiore is home to the largest population of the five villages (around 1500 people), and yet it feels delightfully tiny.

In Riomaggiore, you’ll find postcard-worthy views, tasty seafood, and even a few places to (carefully) cliff jump if you feel so inclined!

View of Riomaggiore at Sunset, Cinque Terre in One Day

Double back to Manarola for sunset.

We’ve saved the most iconic for last: Manarola, with its lovely promenade, oodles of restaurants, and charming harbor perfect for swimming, is arguably the most popular village in Cinque Terre.

If you’ve seen one photo from the villages, it was probably one taken here!

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Manarola’s promenade is the perfect place to watch the sunset in Cinque Terre–witnessing the changing light softening the pastel colors of the buildings is such a peaceful way to end one day in Cinque Terre.

If you want to enjoy the sunset while soaking up unforgettable views over Manarola, you’ll want to pay a visit to the much-photographed and tasty Nessun Dorma (reservations are a must).

They don’t serve a full menu, so you’ll need to move on for dinner–but it’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting for your early-evening aperitivo.

Woman facing away from camera on Manarola Promenade, One Day in Cinque Terre Itinerary

Where to Stay in Cinque Terre, Italy

Planning to spend the night in Cinque Terre?

Of the 5 villages, the only one we would recommend not staying in is Corniglia, as it’s the most difficult to get in and out of.

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Other than that, all the villages have their perks–Monterosso al Mare has the biggest beach, Manarola has the most Instagram-famous viewpoint, and Vernazza and Riomaggiore are simply drop-dead gorgeous.

Bear in mind that many properties in Cinque Terre can involve a climb to reach them, so if mobility is a concern, be sure to double-check the location.

2 Weeks in Italy Itinerary: Beach at Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre

Most properties will offer porters to carry your luggage for you for a small fee, so if clamoring through town with your luggage doesn’t sound like fun, be sure to ask your hotel about their services!

Here are a few very well-reviewed properties to consider during your time in Cinque Terre:

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Luciano Guesthouse (Riomaggiore) — This is where we stayed during our most recent visit to Cinque Terre, and we can’t recommend it enough!

The property was clean and lovely, and the customer service offered by Francesco and his wife during our stay was absolutely top-notch. We would be thrilled to stay again!

Check rates & book your stay at Luciano Guesthouse!

View across Riomaggiore Harbor

Scorci di Mare (Riomaggiore) — Want to stay a 3-minute walk from the beach and see the sea from your window?

If so, the popular Scorci di Mare is the perfect spot for you!

Check rates & book your stay at Scorci di Mare!

Da Baranin (Manarola) — Cinque Terre is expensive, there’s no getting around it.

For a budget option, consider Da Baranin–you’ll need to climb up and down a steep hill as a trade-off, but you’ll get to stay in Manarola for a very affordable price tag!

Check rates & book your stay at Da Baranin!

View of Manarola, One Day in Cinque Terre

Getting Around When Visiting Cinque Terre

Use the Cinque Terre card.

If there’s one tip we can give for getting around Cinque Terre, it’s this: purchasing a Cinque Terre card will make your day in Cinque Terre go much more smoothly than it would otherwise.

The Cinque Terre card will allow you to use the trails, the wifi network in the villages, and the buses, and also allow entrance to the toilets at the train stations in the villages (sounds silly, but at 1 Euro/use, those costs can add up!).

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You can also add on an option to your Cinque Terre card to use the trains, which we highly recommend with this one day Cinque Terre itinerary.

As of the time of writing, a one day Cinque Terre card runs 7.5 Euros for adults or 18.2 Euros with train access.

You can check updated prices and information here.

Souvenir Stand in Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Tips for Riding the Trains in Cinque Terre

Train service runs between all five villages at a rapid pace–you’ll never need to wait more than a few minutes for a train during the day.

It only takes 15 minutes by train to travel between Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore, the two villages at either end of Cinque Terre, so you’ll never be on the train for long!

Only downside? Strikes.

Train strikes are an occasional issue in Cinque Terre–we got caught by one on our first trip to the villages, and we have friends who have run into the problem as well.

While it’s unlikely you’ll run into an issue if you hope to rely on train service in Cinque Terre, keep an eye out for planned strikes.

You can use this website to check for strike information (though fair warning, it is in Italian!).

Train leaving the station in Cinque Terre

Tips for Hiking in Cinque Terre

Obviously, hiking between the villages of Cinque Terre is one of the most popular ways to travel between the five towns and is a huge draw for visitors to the area!

Unfortunately, rock slides and other environmental changes can cause regular shifts in which trails are open to visitors at any given time, so plan to do some research before committing to a certain route during your day in Cinque Terre!

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If you’re planning on hiking during your day trip, we recommend double-checking your plan with a local (the tourism offices in the train stations are always a reliable option) once you arrive in Cinque Terre, as the trails are known to open and close due to landslides, storms, etc.

You can also check the updated status of the various Cinque Terre trails on this website.

Keep in mind that the availability of the trails is also weather-dependent–we have seen them closed for safety due to rain in the past.

Kate and Jeremy hiking with their grandparents in Levanto Italy near cinque terre

Tips for Taking the Ferry in Cinque Terre

During the summer/high season, you can also travel between the villages of Cinque Terre by boat!

The only one of the 5 villages not connected to the others via ferry is Corniglia, which doesn’t have a harbor.

If you have a bit longer to spend visiting Cinque Terre, you can also take the ferry to Portovenere, the beautiful “sixth town” of Cinque Terre that receives a fraction of the visitors that the main five do!

You can check the timetable and fares here.

Visitors disembarking from a ferry in Vernazza, One Day in Cinque Terre

Is a Cinque Terre Tour Necessary?

We covered this a bit above, but if you’re on the fence about booking an organized day trip to Cinque Terre for a day, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re not spending the night and you’re staying more than 1.5 hours away from Cinque Terre, book a tour.

Otherwise, it’s not necessary.

However, Cinque Terre is a bit of a pain to get to, especially if you’re talking about taking public transportation from major cities like Florence and Milan.

If you’re planning a day trip to Cinque Terre from one of these cities, it’s absolutely in your best interest to book a tour that will handle transportation and logistics for you.

Florence and Milan are both so far from the villages that taking a day trip to Cinque Terre is just barely feasible.

This day trip from Florence and this day trip from Milan are both well-reviewed and popular!

Book your day trip to Cinque Terre today!

2 Weeks in Italy Itinerary: Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre

What to Pack for One Day in Cinque Terre

Travel Insurance — We don’t ever suggest traveling without travel insurance, and visiting Cinque Terre, especially if you plan on hiking and/or swimming, is definitely a case of better safe than sorry.

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Water Shoes — Planning to go swimming in the harbor of Manarola and/or Riomaggiore? It’s tons of fun, but the sharp rocks can definitely be hard on your feet.

You’ll be SO much more comfortable by bringing water shoes along for the ride!

Sunscreen — Because sunburns are never a good look in vacation photos.

Travel Adaptors for Italy — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely need adaptors for your electronics.

Main street of Manarola, Cinque Terre

Tote Bag — Incredibly light and easy to pack, a tote bag can serve as a grocery bag, beach bag, laundry bag, or just about anything else. They’re incredibly handy and make an excellent beach day bag when visiting Cinque Terre!

Sunglasses — You’ll be glad you put these on your packing list for Cinque Terre!

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Swim Goggles — If you’re hoping to swim, definitely add goggles to your Cinque Terre packing list–they’re cheap, small, easy to pack, and make swimming so much more fun!

Dry Bag — Using a dry bag to keep your camera and cell phone safe (without leaving them behind) while swimming or taking a boat ride is an easy and inexpensive way to limit stress during your one day in Cinque Terre!

The Perfect One Day in Cinque Terre Itinerary: Photo of Vernazza with Text

About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

18 thoughts on “The Perfect One Day in Cinque Terre Itinerary (+ Travel Tips!)”

  1. Hi Jeremy and Kate! Thank you so much for all your travel tips and itinerary you have posted. You made my trip planning to Italy SO much easier! Love your recommendations! Please keep travelling and posting!

  2. Hi Kate and Jeremy ! Thanks for such a comprehensive article. We (we’re Americans) actually live in Cannes France, so not that far away, but finally, after living here 6 years, will be taking our first trip to Cinque Terre next month. We’ll take a train from Cannes and plan a 4 day visit so we’re hoping to do everything you recommended at a more leisurely pace than your well-laid out one-day itinerary. Really appreciate all your recommendations. So happy that we are finally allowed to travel again and so excited to finally get to Cinque Terre !

    • Thanks, Michele! Sounds like a great trip you guys have planned–we’ll never get tired of revisiting Cinque Terre (or the coast of France, for that matter!).

  3. Hi Kate and Jeremy ! Thanks for such a informative article.
    I visited Italy (1979) from Venice all the way to Capri.
    But I’m interested in the Tuscany Area, do you have anything on that area?

  4. Hi Kate and Jeremy, I just discovered your One Day Cinque Terre recommendations and really like your information! I am actually planning for September of 2022 as our 2020, 40th anniversary trip from the U.S was canceled from Covid. I love your thoughts on starting in Monterosso al Mare and hiking to Vernazza, omitting Corniglia, and continuing on as you describe. My concern is we would be coming from Florence and you strongly suggested doing an organized tour. I had been thinking we would do the first train out on our own but now I am questioning that. What are your thoughts? Thanks for all of your wonderful insights. Looking forward to reading more of your discoveries.

    • Hi Susie,

      Congratulations on 40 years, even if it is a bit belated!

      Unfortunately, the complication of visiting Cinque Terre for the day by train from Florence is that most trains aren’t direct–so even if you catch a direct route one way, you can’t count on getting back as quickly. Add in that even once you “arrive” in La Spezia or Levanto you have to board yet another train to Cinque Terre itself, plus trains or hikes between the villages, and the time disappears very quickly.

      It’s not physically impossible, but it’s very logistically challenging and a real headache by the end of the day! Generally, you won’t end up seeing as much that way.

      • Hi Kate,

        I don’t know how but I actually didn’t see your reply until just now! Thank you for getting back to me and I do truly appreciate your input. I wish it was something I could have worked out. As it stands, we are planning 5 nights in Rome then rent a car and depart for hopefully a good agriturismo near Pienza. Planning 5 nights there and then another 5 nights near Gaiole in Chianti. 4 nights in Florence and then finish with 3 in Venice. I really want to enjoy the countryside but I am concerned my hubby might start to feel like all of the hill towns are running together. lol That’s why I thought of the Cinque Terre idea. If you have any other input, I am open.

        I love that you both travel as your way of life. What a DREAM!!

        Thanks again for your wonderful guidance and for the 40 year wishes,

        • Hi Susie,

          I completely understand about the countryside! If you want to mix it up a bit, you may want to add a day or so in Florence, even if it’s just a day trip, and potentially a tour that will show you another side of the countryside (we’re partial to food and wine tours ourselves).

          If you’re driving from Rome to Pienza, you also wouldn’t have to go far out of your way to see the Gardens of Bomarzo which definitely don’t blend together with anything else!


  5. Hi Kate, I will check out the Gardens, I’ve not heard of them. Also, looks like you missed that we will be staying 4 nights in Florence, that was where I was hoping to do the day trip to Cinque Terre from. I checked out your tour recommendation and it sounds like that may be our answer! Gives us an opportunity to see the villages without the stress of travel restrictions.

    I am going to read all of your Italy blogs and imagine I’m going to gain a wealth of information.
    Thank you!

    • The tour absolutely is so convenient! Not dealing with transportation alone is such a game-changer with that day trip in particular.

      Hope you guys have a wonderful trip!

  6. Hi, we will be in the port of Livorno on a cruise ship this October 6 and 7. We would love to spend 1 day in Cinque Terre. How would you recommend that we do it?

    • Hi Betsi! You can definitely take a train from Livorno to Cinque Terre (should take around 2 hours if I remember correctly), but it depends on your cruise schedule. I’d make sure to leave LOTS of extra time to get from place to place.

  7. Hi! I’m going to be in Alba with my family and we’re considering driving to cinque terre for a day. Where do you recommend we park and explore on foot? I recognize it will be a long day but it’s too tempting to pass this up

    • Hi Pooja,

      You’ll most likely want to drive as far as Levanto, park in the garage at the train station, and then take the train over to Monterosso al Mare and start your visit to Cinque Terre. You’re right, it is a very long day!

      There’s really no way to explore Cinque Terre entirely on foot–you can hike between the villages, but they are hikes, not brief strolls. Other than that, you’ll want to take the train or ferry between each village.

    • Hi Cat,

      It’s doable, just takes a few steps!

      You’ll need to take a bus (or drive, if you have a rental car) to the La Spezia Train Station. There’s parking there if you have a car. From there, you can hop on a train to Cinque Terre.

      The trains stop at all 5 villages, Riomaggiore will be the closest to you and Monterosso al Mare the furthest.


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