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? This Cinque Terre itinerary will give you a taste of all five villages–and if you’re anything like us, leave you 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 (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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
The views are truly stunning, 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 two 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–and 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!
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? Take public transportation to Vernazza!
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 boat (around 15 minutes of travel time).
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.
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.
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.
Riomaggiore is home to the largest population of the five villages (around 1500 people), and yet it feels delightfully tiny, and is home to postcard-worthy views, tasty seafood (including Michelin-honored Dau Cila right next to the harbor), and even a few places to (carefully) cliff jump if you feel so inclined!
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–and if you’ve seen one photo from the villages, it was probably one taken here.
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. 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.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
Of the five villages, the only one we would recommend not staying in is Corniglia, as it’s the most difficult to get in and out of. 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. 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:
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!
Scorci di Mare (Riomaggiore) — Want to stay a 3-minute walk from the beach and see the sea from your window? Scorci di Mare is the perfect spot for you. Riomaggiore is small, beautiful, and easy to navigate, making it the perfect reprieve from busy days (and all the other villages are a short train ride away). Plus, Scorci di Mare comes with the bonus of having a Michelin-honored restaurant located practically next door!
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!
Ca de Lelio (Manarola) — With cozy, modern rooms and a great location in Manarola, Ca de Lelio will have you perfectly situated to explore the villages.
Getting Around 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.
A Cinque Terre card will allow you to use the trails, the wifi network in the villages, 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!). 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 16 Euros with train access. You can check updated prices and information here.
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!).
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!
As of the time of writing, the Blue Path (the most famous of the trails of Cinque Terre–this is the path with paid entrance) is only open between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza and between Vernazza and Corniglia.
However, there are other, higher trails that are often open between the other villages, so grab a map and take a look at some of the less-trodden paths if you’d like to avoid the crowds and focus mostly on hiking during your one day in Cinque Terre!
If you’re planning on hiking one of the less popular trails, we do 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.
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.
During the summer/high season, you can also travel between the villages of Cinque Terre (except for Corniglia, which doesn’t have a harbor) by boat! You can check the timetable and fares here.
Is a Cinque Terre Tour Necessary?
If you’re trying to decide whether or not to book a tour to try to see Cinque Terre in one day, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you’re not spending the night and you are staying more than 1.5 hours away from Cinque Terre, book a tour. Otherwise, it’s not necessary.
On the ground in Cinque Terre, I would consider a hands-on tour limiting–the villages are easy to navigate, and wandering through them at your own pace is a huge part of the joy of visiting Cinque Terre.
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, as these cities are so far from Cinque Terre that they are just barely feasible as a day trip: this one from Florence and this one from Milan are both well-reviewed and popular.
What to Pack for 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. We use and recommend Safety Wing for trips to Cinque Terre.
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.
RuMe Bag — Incredibly light and easy to pack, a RuMe 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!
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 in Cinque Terre is an easy and inexpensive way to limit stress during your trip!