One Day in Cinque Terre is a good amount of time to explore the five different towns in this stunning national park. You should, of course, spend more time here if you can, but one day is a good chance to get a taste of this amazing region of Italy.
Whether you are planning to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip from Florence, Milan, Genoa, or somewhere a bit closer, you’ll want to start early and make sure you don’t miss the last train.
I’ll break down the best way to get there from these different cities and how to make sure you know the train times and even how to pre-book the trains to save a bit of money along the way.
Read on for the best tips for exploring Cinque Terre in a day. If you are looking to explore more of this region don’t miss out on my guide to Genoa as well as this list of the best towns in the Italian Riviera.
Cinque Terre Map
Cinque Terre Day Trip from Florence
The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre from Florence is to take the train. There are hourly trains between Florence and the city of La Spezia. From La Spezia you can connect to any of the other train stations at the towns in Cinque Terre.
The train from Florence to La Spezia takes two hours and 27 minutes. From here it is a 22-minute train from La Spezia to the nearest town and entry point of Cinque Terre, Monterosso.
I recommend starting at one end and working your way into the park. The far end of Cinque Terre is Riomaggiore. To get to Riomaggiore from La Spezia, it is the same train as the one to Monterosso, but you will stay on it for an additional 10 minutes or so.
You can plan all of the train times and book your tickets through the TrenItalia app. This is the best way to check train times and to make sure you get a seat on a train. If you book a few days in advance, you usually save money on the intercity trains as well.
Depending on which train you take, tickets can be as low as €18 ($19 USD) or as much as €31 ($33 USD). This price is per person each way.
You can download the TrenItalia app here for Android and here for iOS.
Cinque Terre Day Trip from Milan
Getting to Cinque Terre for a day trip from Milan is also quite easy to do.
A few times a day you can actually go direct from Milan straight to Monterosso. The first train of the day is at 8am and gets to you to Monterosso at 11:05. It’s a bit late to start trying to see absolutely everything, but you can still visit the towns by train and explore for several hours.
You can stay almost all day and make your way back to Monterosso at 7pm and catch a direct train to take you back to Milan. You’ll return to Milan just before 10pm having spent a wonderful day in Cinque Terre. The direct train costs €28.50 or about $30 USD each way.
Eight hours is quite enough time to really get a chance to see the different towns and even do some hiking along the Sentiero Azurro (blue trail) which runs between the five towns.
If you want to stay a bit later, it’s still possible to get later trains, they just won’t be direct. You may have to get the train to a town called Levanto or to the city of La Spezia and then you can get straight back to Milan from there.
Just as above with the day trip from Florence, if you plan to do a day trip to Cinque Terre from Milan, you will want to pre-book your trains. You can do that with TrenItalia and the best way to do it is through the app.
You can download the TrenItalia app here for Android and here for iOS.
Where to Stay Near Cinque Terre
If you want to do Cinque Terre in a day and base yourself closer to the national park, I highly recommend staying in Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure or Sestri Levante.
You can take a direct regional train from any of these towns straight to Riomaggiore in just under one hour and even less time if you want to start your Cinque Terre day trip in Monterosso.
Hotels in Rapallo
- Nonna Lucia Guesthouse – I stayed at this incredible little guesthouse and it was perfection. During the spring months, it was a very affordable €35 ($37 USD) per night. It included a large private room, a private bathroom, and is only one block away from the beach and promenade. The hosts are absolutely wonderful and gave great recommendations. It’s quiet at night and I really don’t think there’s better value for money in Rapallo. Book a stay at Nonna Lucia Guesthouse here.
- Miramar Hotel – This hotel along the waterfront is absolutely fantastic. It maintains the old-style exterior but has completely refinished the rooms to feel modern, clean, and fresh (unlike a few other hotels along this strip which seem stuck in the 70s). The rooms with a sea view are particularly spectacular. Breakfast is included with your stay and is a nice selection with plenty to choose from. Room start at €118 ($120 USD) per night. Book a stay at Miramar Hotel here.
Hotels in Santa Margherita Ligure
- Hotel Helios – Located right along the waterfront, the hotel has turned part of the beach into a private swimming area where you can cool off from the heat or lounge in the sunshine. It’s really the only beachfront hotel in the area and considering that it is incredibly affordable. Rooms are clean and modern and the restaurant is delicious. An excellent breakfast is included with your stay. Book in advance and you can even get places for about €100 or just over $100 USD. Book a stay at Hotel Helios here.
- Villa Gelsomino Exclusive House – This is a stunning old Palazzo or palace-style house just a few minute’s walk from the beach and yet you feel you are in your own slice of Italian Riviera paradise. If you are flexible with dates, you can find rooms here for just under €200 or about $200 USD per night. There is a jacuzzi and a stunning freshly made breakfast included with your stay. Book a stay at Villa Gelsomino here.
Hotels in Sestri Levante
- Hotel Due Mari – Located out in the middle of the peninsula that separates the two bays in Sestri Levante, this is one of the best-located hotels in town if you are here for a beach vacation. It’s still not a far walk into town, but it’s even closer to the sea and sand. Rooms are simple and clean. Breakfast is included with your stay and there is a stunning outdoor pool that you will want to chill at in the evenings. Rooms start at €125/$128 USD per night. Book a stay at Hotel Due Mari here.
- La Torre – This hotel looks like it should cost so much more than it does (sometimes it does cost as much as it looks, especially at the height of summer). If you plan your trip in spring or autumn, you can score a room here for under €200/$210 USD per night. There is an infinity pool and jacuzzi on a terrace that offers one of the most breathtaking views of the coastline. The house itself looks and feels a bit like a castle both in the exterior and the interior (hence the name). The rooms all have big windows that look out over that same view. It’s an incredible spot. Book a stay at La Torre here.
Cinque Terre by Car
I do not recommend doing Cinque Terre by car if you are not very comfortable driving in Italy.
The roads in this region of Italy are very narrow (they often feel like they are one way when they are in fact two way roads). They are very windy and hug the cliffside and other drivers will not be very patient with you if you are crawling along at 15 kilometers per hour.
There are also very limited parking spots in the villages, which are small and very hilly and filled with even narrower streets than the one you came in on.
That being said, there are roads that lead to Cinque Terre and you can drive to Cinque Terre if none of the above bothers you.
You have to get yourself to La Spezia in order to drive into Cinque Terre. You will likely enter La Spezia from the A15 or the A12. You’ll follow signs to La Spezia until you actually enter the city itself.
Once in La Spezia, you’ll follow signs that say “CINQUE TERRE-Portovenere.” As you head out of the city you will continue to follow signs towards Manarola-Riomaggiore.
From La Spezia, you will enter Cinque Terra at the first town, Riomaggiore.
This article is very helpful when it comes to information about parking and navigating between the villages.
Cinque Terre Card
If you plan to walk the Sentiero Azzurro between April and October, then you will need to get the Cinque Terre Card.
You do not need the Cinque Terre Card if you are hiking the Sentiero Azzurro between November and March. If you are traveling in late March or late October and you are unsure, DO NOT pre-purchase the ticket.
Instead, wait until you get to Cinque Terre and find out at the information center whether you need a ticket or not. They sell them at the office and there won’t be a long line at this time of year.
If you are traveling during peak times, which tend to be late June to early September, you may want to consider pre-purchasing your Cinque Terre Card.
The office opens at 9am and by 8:30am there is already a line outside the tourism offices in every single town (but especially Riomaggiore and Monterosso).
You also do not need to purchase a Cinque Terre Card if you want to hike other trails that are not the Sentiero Azzurro. There are tons of amazing trails around the Cinque Terre National Park that are completely free to walk.
The Cinque Terre Card currently (2022) costs €7. There is a Cinque Terre Train Card which costs €18. This includes as many trips on the train as you would like.
The Cinque Terre card also includes free use of the bathrooms at all of the train stations in Cinque Terre (so at all five towns).
It also offers free WiFi at all of the train stations (you get your own login and password). This was really handy for checking the train times, finding information about a good restaurant to try in that town, or booking my train ticket home on my app).
You can pre-book the Cinque Terre Card and learn more about the one-day and two-day tickets as well as other trail options through this website.
One Day Cinque Terre Itinerary
There are five towns in Cinque Terre that you will be able to visit on your one-day Cinque Terre itinerary.
- Monterosso al Mare
If you are traveling into Cinque Terre for a day trip from Florence, Milan, Genoa, or elsewhere, then you will want to start at one end. That means starting your day at either Riomaggiore or Monterosso al Mare.
I think where you start depends largely on what your plans are for the day. I’ve broken this one day in Cinque Terre itinerary into two parts depending on what you want to do.
If you plan to walk the Sentiero Azzurro you’ll want to follow the first Cinque Terre itinerary and if you simply want to visit each town and take the train between them, then you’ll want to follow the second Cinque Terre itinerary.
One Day in Cinque Terre Walking the Sentiero Azzurro Itinerary
If you want to walk the Sentiero Azzurro, which is something I highly recommend, then I highly recommend doing this part of the day first while it is quieter and the weather is slightly cooler.
As of writing (2022), there are only two parts of the Sentiero Azzuro or Blue Trail currently open. You can walk between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza and between Vernazza and Corniglia.
The trails between Corniglia and Manarola and between Manarola and Riomaggiore are currently closed because of landslides. It is believed that these trails will not be open again until the end of 2023 or the start of 2024.
It’s worth noting that these trails are not easy. They are very steep in parts. The walk between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza has a ton of stairs that you’ll need to climb up and down and overall it can take about two and a half to three hours to walk the two trails, not including stops in each town.
You need at least a moderate level of fitness to walk these trails. You don’t need to be a professional hiker. You can also simply do the hike in sneakers. But it is not to be taken lightly. It is a challenging walk, especially if you are traveling in the hot summer months.
Be sure to pack plenty of water. There are water fountains and shops to purchase bottles in each town, but there are very few places to get water along the trails.
There is little to no shade along most of the trail, so it’s also important to bring sunscreen and a hat for sun protection.
Starting in Monterosso al Mare
So with that in mind, I recommend starting your day at Monterosso al Mare. You can pre-purchase your trail pass online or you can arrive when the tourism office opens at 9am and purchase your ticket in person. When you purchase it in person you can ask some questions and they will also give you a wonderful map of all of the trails in Cinque Terre.
The trail between Monterosso and Vernazza is challenging. You will spend the majority of that part of the walk going up. But once you are up it is a wonderful view. With stops for photos, it takes between one and a quarter and one and a half hours to walk this portion of the Sentiero Azzurro.
If you are doing a day trip to Cinque Terre, you’ll likely need to catch the train back to Monterosso at the end of the day in order to take your train home, so you can save some sightseeing until you are back in town in the afternoon.
Vernazza to Corniglia
You’ll like want to stop and spend some time in Vernazza where you can have a coffee, refill your water bottle, use the bathroom at the train station and simply take in the views. There is a small church here that is well worth exploring (every town has a small church that is well worth exploring).
The walk from Vernazza to Corniglia was one of my favorite parts of my one day in Cinque Terre. The views along this trail are truly magical and after the initial uphill out of Vernazza, it is a mostly flat walk along the coastline until you reach the Corniglia.
Corniglia is quite different from the other towns in Cinque Terre. Instead of colorful buildings climbing up into the hills, you have a cluster of stone buildings that sit atop a hill overlooking the coastline.
This is where I recommend having lunch and relaxing for a bit. There are some really wonderful restaurants and this sandwich shop made the best roasted pork sandwich that I have ever eaten in my life. Look for dai Luca!
This is also one of the least-visited of the five towns because it is a bit harder to get to than the others. All of the other towns are accessible by ferry and the train station is a short walk from the town.
However, Corniglia is about a 10-minute uphill climb from the train station to the town, and because of its location atop a hill, getting here by boat is fairly difficult. That means it isn’t packed with tourists at lunchtime like many of the other towns.
Corniglia to Manarola
You can take your time for the rest of the day because you have finished the hardest part. Now you can reward yourself with gelato on the waterfront in Manarola.
To leave Corniglia, you’ll have to follow the signs out of town and down a large set of stairs to get to the train station.
The train runs in both directions between all five of the towns in Cinque Terre every 30 minutes, so you never have to wait too long to move onto the next town if you don’t want to.
If you purchased the Cinque Terre Train Card (I highly recommend it at least until the entire Sentierro Azzurro is back open), then you don’t need to purchase a train ticket, you can simply hop on the train when it arrives and take it to the next stop, Manarola.
If you only purchased the Cinque Terre Card rather than the train pass, you’ll need to purchase a train ticket either on the Trenitalia App or at the train station from one of the red ticket machines.
Manarola is a beautiful town where you’ll want to spend at least a half an hour or more exploring. You can walk up the hill into the old town area where you’ll find some cute little hidden cafes, a church, and some stunning views.
But the best view is when you walk down the hill towards the coast. A small part of the Sentiero Azzurro trail is open and you will want to walk out along it so that you can look back at Manarola for what is the absolute money-shot of Cinque Terre.
When you look up pictures of Cinque Terre, this is often the photo that comes up. The colorful buildings that line the port of Manarola make it a truly stunning sight to behold.
Manarola to Riomaggiore
After spending some time in Manarola, head back to the train station and hop on the train to Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore is one of the largest towns inside the national park and you’ll want to give yourself at least an hour to explore here. Perhaps even more time if you are feeling hungry again because there are some wonderful restaurants and cafes here.
When you exit the train station in Riomaggiore, you’ll have to walk through a tunnel to get to the town but there are lots of stairs and hills to wander up and down and a beautiful historical church to see. The view from the edge of the port is also really wonderful for photos.
Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare
If you are taking a train back to Florence, Milan, or elsewhere along the coast, you will likely have to make your way back to Monterosso. The train journey takes about 10 minutes.
Monterosso al Mare is split into two areas. When you get off the train you are in the “old town” area. This is where there are tons of excellent restaurants and cafes. This is also where I recommend doing any souvenir shopping. There are some beautiful boutiques as well as a few tacky souvenir shops where you can pick up a dish towel or t-shirt that says Cinque Terre.
As you walk away from the train station you’ll pass what looks like a castle. This is Torre Aurora and is actually a restaurant and bar now. If you feel like an aperitivo at the end of your day exploring Cinque Terre, this is the place to go.
If you keep walking, you’ll get to the beach which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best within the national park. If it’s hot enough to swim, be sure to pack your bathing suit so that you can change into it and go for a dip or just relax and soak up that Italian sunshine.
Cinque Terre in a Day Itinerary by Train
If you plan to explore Cinque Terre in a day by train, you will have a ton of time in each town to explore, relax, and enjoy the beaches.
This is the best option if you are visiting in summer.
If you are taking the train between all five towns, it is likely still going to be a better deal for you to purchase the Cinque Terre Train Card even though you don’t plan to walk the trails. The train between each town costs €5 in the summertime so you will spend €20 if you stop in every town.
The Cinque Terre Train Card only costs €18, so you save a bit (it adds up if you are traveling with several people).
If you don’t plan to stop in every town along the way, then you can simply pay for each train ticket as you go (although it is nice to have free access to the bathrooms with the Cinque Terre Card).
While you don’t necessarily need to start early if you are taking the train between each town, I still recommend getting an early start because it will mean you get a few of the towns almost to yourself before the ferries arrive at lunchtime.
Since you won’t be walking the trail, you can start your day in Riomaggiore. This will mean you don’t have to double back on yourself at the end of the day like you would if you were walking the Sentiero Azzurro.
Riomaggiore is a beautiful town with some fantastic cafes and restaurants. Skip breakfast at your hotel (or just have a small one) so that when you arrive to Riomaggiore you can enjoy a cappuccino and a slice of focaccia from one of the bakeries that line the main street.
I recommend spending at least an hour wandering around Riomaggiore. Be sure to head up to Castello di Riomaggiore for the incredible views back over the coast.
There is also a small beach here if you want to start the day with a dip in the sea. It feels like a quintessentially Cinque Terre moment as you swim in the water looking back over the colorful buildings that hug the cliffside.
This is one of the most photographed towns in Cinque Terre and without a doubt a town that you will want to stop in during your day trip to Cinque Terre.
Walk from the train station down the hills until you reach the waterfront. On the left, there is a little gelato spot that makes delicious ice cream and a nice strong cup of coffee.
Follow the trail out along the cliffside until you reach the viewpoint that offers incredible views back over the town. You can easily spend an hour in Manarola if not more simply enjoying that view.
To get from the train station in Corniglia to the town, you have to climb up a large set of stairs. The stairs aren’t very steep, but they switch back all the way up the hill until you reach the town.
Take your time and enjoy the views. There are a few benches along the stairs where you can stop and rest if it is starting to feel difficult.
It’s well worth the effort though.
Corniglia is probably my favorite of all five towns in Cinque Terre. The narrow streets and stone buildings make you feel like you’ve walked into a medieval village.
It is also where you will find some of the best food and the fewest tourists.
You’ll find plenty of gelato like this spot or look just across the street for what was the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I can’t seem to find it on Google, but it’s called dai Luca. Just look for the little panini spot on your left as you enter the alleyway (with the gelato shop on your right).
If you didn’t stop for something to eat in Corniglia, then you’ll definitely be ready for lunch by the time you arrive in Vernazza. Lunchtime in Vernazza is a busy time. Lots of ferries from around the Italian Riviera arrive specifically to this village because it is one of the most beautiful and is the best place to visit by boat.
It also has tons of al fresco dining options, including a few restaurants in the main square, right by the port, and in front of the town’s medieval church.
Belfort is my top pick, although a bit of a splurge (most restaurants in Cinque Terre are, to be honest!). The seafood dishes here are absolutely heavenly.
If you have time and energy, head up the hill to the ruins of Doria Tower.
Monterosso al Mare
This is the spot where you’ll want to have an afternoon at the beach. The sun will be perhaps at it’s hottest in the afternoon and you’ll be full of delicious food and need to rest those weary feet after all that walking around Cinque Terre.
Be sure to pack a nice soft beach blanket, the stony beaches in Cinque Terre aren’t the most comfortable if you just have a thin towel with you. During the summer months, there will also be plenty of people there to sell you a chair and an umbrella if you want to relax that way.
The beach here is long and beautiful and the water is calm and perfect for swimming. Up along the main road by the beach are plenty of little shops that sell cold beers or can make you an Aperol spritz in a to-go cup to take on the beach with you.
Monterosso also has a beautiful old town where you can head for an aperitivo after you enjoy the sunshine at the beach. A light snack and a good drink will set you up for a nice nap on the train ride back to wherever you are spending the night. Just don’t miss your stop!
Tips for Exploring Cinque Terre in a Day
Whether you want to walk the Sentiero Azzurro or you simply want to hop around to the different villages and explore, seeing Cinque Terre in a day is totally possible.
If you have more time, I do recommend two days. Once you spend one day amongst the towns you’ll realize just how magical it is and you won’t want to leave.
This is especially true for those that want to walk the different trails. The park has so many different hikes to do and they take you up between olive groves, vineyards, and up for views of the coast that are truly breathtaking.
If you only have one day and you are hiking the Sentiero Azzurro, be sure to keep track of the time. You can easily spend an hour or more in each town simply wandering around and taking in the views, but the day quickly passes when you spend much of the morning hiking between the first two villages.
Be sure you know what your cutoff point is for the last few towns so you can make it back in time to catch your train at the end of the day.
Wear layers. In the mornings, especially in spring and autumn, it can be quite cool, but as the day goes on and you start walking a lot, it can get very warm.
As I mentioned above, I highly recommend sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect from the sun as you walk the trails or lay on the beach. Definitely pack a bathing suit and a bottle of water that you can refill along the way.
Wear sturdy shoes. You won’t want to walk the trails or even around the steep hills in each village in flip flops or thin sandals. At least sturdy walking sandals, if not sneakers are the best option.