See all five lands of the Cinque Terre UNESCO World Heritage Site in Italy with this plan and podcast. Start your day in Monterosso with shopping, great views, time on the beach and/or a wine tasting lunch. Then, take the train or ferry to Vernazza for an ice cream or shopping. Next, take the ferry to see Manarola and Corniglia from the sea if the weather allows. End your visit in Riomaggiore where you can shop, have dinner, and see the sights of special town.
Read the information below for all of the details with options. Skip to the end of this post for the recommended version on the easy 5-step plan for visiting Cinque Terre. Listen to the accompanying podcast by clicking on the audio bar at the bottom of the page for even more insights and to help you adjust the recommended plan to fit your unique interests or to adjust it if you have more days to spend in the Cinque Terre. Follow along with the links to the walking maps of Monterosso, Vernazza, and Riomaggiore included and for more detailed maps on the links to the website www.walkli.com.
What is the Cinque Terre?
One of the most beautiful places on earth, the Cinque Terre, which means “Five Lands,” are five towns along the rugged northwest coast of Italy in the Liguria region. The colorful towns hug the steep hillsides and are difficult to reach other than by train or ferry. Ferries run when the weather is good, and the seas are calm. Although the towns are quite remote, tourists have discovered them, so it is important to have a plan to maximize your valuable time and energy when visiting the Cinque Terre. The best way to view the towns is from the sea. Weather permitting, this recommended easy 5-step plan will allow you to see each of the five lands from the sea by taking the ferry between the towns.
Before You Go to Cinque Terre
Determine Your Starting Location
Consider where you will stay in or near Cinque Terre. If you decide to stay in Cinque Terre, you will have the advantage of more time in the town where you decide to stay. On the other hand, you will need to arrive with luggage in the town, and it can be a little difficult to get to any of the remote towns. Even transporting your luggage from the train station in the towns to your accommodation can be an issue on the steep hillsides. None of the Cinque Terre towns allow cars in the town centers. Also, at the end of the day, you will need to return to the Cinque Terre town where you are staying.
Another option is to stay in a nearby town that is easier to reach, and use the nearby town as a base for visiting the Cinque Terre in one day or more days. Many people choose to stay in Levanto, just north of Cinque Terre, or La Spezia, just south of Cinque Terre. You can leave your luggage in your hotel, and travel easily via train and/or ferry in Cinque Terre. These towns are on the Cinque Terre Express train line that stops in each of the towns, but note that not all trains always stop in every town. Check the Cinque Terre Express train schedule here (http://www.cinqueterre.eu.com/images/stories/Cinque-Terre-train-timetable.pdf)
La Spezia Centrale, the most southern stop on this train, is the cruise port, so it can be busy with cruise passengers. The cost for train travel from Levanto to La Spezia and the five Cinque Terre towns is € 4 per direction. Purchase tickets at the train stations or in advance through the English version of the Trenitalia Italian train system website here: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
After much researching, on my recent trip in May of 2018 with my daughter, we decided to stay in Rapallo, about 45 minutes north of Monterosso by train, for two nights. We were able to see the quieter and less expensive town and use it as a base for spending a full day in Cinque Terre using train and ferry. See my post and podcast about Rapallo here. Rapallo is on the main train line from both Milan and Rome, so we were able to arrive and leave via train to these cities without having to change trains. Other stops on the train line between Rapallo and Monterosso include Chiavari, Lavagna, Sestri Levante, Moneglia, Delva Marina, Framura, Bonassola, and Levanto. Note that not all trains stop at each of these stops.
Consider Transportation Options
Consider buying train tickets in advance to save time and money using the links and options suggested in this plan. Also, if you will be participating in the Cinque Terre Wine School experience in Monterosso, then book ahead at the link provided in the Monterosso section below. Purchase tickets and/or check the English version of the Trenitalia Italian train system website here: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
Decide which towns you will see via ferry. You will need cash for the ferry. Since the ferry can be impacted by weather, have train schedule options handy in case the ferry is not operating. Note that not all trains stop at all of the towns. Be sure to print out the ferry schedule (valid through September 30, 2018, here http://www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Primo-Periodo.pdf.
and the Cinque Terre train schedule here (http://www.cinqueterre.eu.com/images/stories/Cinque-Terre-train-timetable.pdf) or take screen shots and save them on your phone, because Internet and cell service can be spotty in the remote lands of the Cinque Terre.
Special Information for Hikers
Many people like to hike the trails between the five lands. There are challenging hiking trails between each of the five lands, although the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola has been closed since October of 2011 when devastating floods in the Cinque Terre destroyed the trail. It is still not fully repaired as of 2018. If you would like to hike between the lands, check the official Cinque Terre website for safety and other precautions before you go (http://www.parconazionale5terre.it/Eindex.php).
There are also maps for walking between towns on www.walkli.com. Just search on Cinque Terre on that website for the walking maps between towns.
If you wish to hike between Cinque Terre towns, you will also need to purchase a Cinque Terre Card. See the next section for information about the Cinque Terre Card and the Cinque Terre Train Card.
Cinque Terre Card and Cinque Terre Train Card
The Cinque Terre Card provides use of all park buses, access to all hiking paths, Wi-fi internet connection (where available), for € 7,50 for one day or € 14,50 for two days per adult. The Cinque Terre Train Card includes all of the above plus train service between the Levanto, the Cinque Terre towns, and La Spezia from November 2nd to February 28th for € 13 for one day and € 23 for two days per adult and € 16 for one day and € 29 for two days per adult for the rest of the year. Find out more and buy tickets in advance at the official website here:
Cinque Terre Cards can also be purchased at the Cinque Terre train stations, but lines may be long and the ticket offices may close during the day or early evening.
Monterosso – Cinque Terre, Italy
Regardless of where you decide to stay, if you follow this plan, begin your day in Monterosso al Mare, usually just referred to as Monterosso, to make sure you have the opportunity to enjoy the largest of the five Cinque Terre towns while you have the most energy at the beginning of the day before making your way south during the remainder of the day. As well as many Cinque Terre Express trains, there is a train to Monterosso from Rapallo at 10:21 am that stops in Chiavari, Sestri Levanti, and Levanto, arriving in Monterosso at 11:05 am. Of course, check for other options, updates, and/or buy your tickets at the English version of the Trenitalia Italian train system website here: http://www.trenitalia.com/tcom-en
Note that it is possible to reach Monterosso by ferry. However, this plan recommends arriving via train since the ferry can be impacted by weather, and ferry tickets cannot be purchased in advance.
Yet another option is to drive to Monterosso and park at the first stop, Fegina Beach, just at the edge of the town. If you choose to drive, keep in mind that roads into town are challenging and steep. There are about 300 parking spots at Fegina Beach, and parking is € 25 Euro for the day if you are able to secure a spot. I have personally not used a car in the area, so I cannot give any personal insights on driving in Cinque Terre. To read more about this parking option and Monterosso’s central parking option you may want to check out this Cinque Terre travel blog: https://cinqueterre-travel.com/getting_there/car/
Use the Monterosso walking maps included here to guide your visit. For more detailed versions of these maps, use the link here to my Monterosso map on walkli to help guide your visit. Just search on the name of each town to see the individual maps. So, are you ready? Let’s begin!
Monterosso Train Station – Monterosso Map Point A
Most likely, you will arrive in Monterosso by train. Exit the train station toward the sea and turn to the right on Via Fegina.
Note – If you arrive via ferry, make your way north, with the sea on your left, to the train station to begin. If you arrive by car and park at the Fegina Beach parking lot, begin at Map Point B, just beside you and to the right of the Fegina Beach parking lot.
Fegina Beach and Il Gigante – Monterosso Map Point B
Walk on ViaFegina/SP 38 to the middle of Fegina Beach (Map Point B). Even if you do not care to swim, you will want to see the beautiful beach area with the outcropping of rocks in front of you in the water and the huge carving of Il Gigante looming above the beach in the cliffs on the right as you face the sea. Unfortunately, Il Gigante is currently under renovation (in the summer of 2018), so I was unable to take a picture of it. Thanks to a user on the free photo site, www.Pixabay.com I am able to share a picture here, though.
Il Gigante, in the cliff to the right as you face the sea, is a 45-foot tall (14 meters) statue of the mythical Neptune holding back the sea from the beach below. It was designed and built in 1910 by Arrigo Minerbi, the same artist who designed the doors of the Duomo, Milan’s cathedral. Unfortunately, the giant lost his arms and trident in Allied bombing raids. The statue is currently covered in scaffolding.
Monterosso Beach and Rock Outcropping – Map Point C
Now, walk back toward the train station along the beach or on the road just above the beach. Monterosso has the largest and nicest beaches in all the Cinque Terre. In addition to Fegina Beach and the stretch here with the beautiful rock outcropping in the sea, there is a beach area on the southern side of town near the ferry. All of these beaches are sandy, but they have small pebbles mixed with the sand. So, you may want to rent a chair if you decide to spend some time sunbathing. There are many options for enjoying a snack, a drink, or a casual meal along the beaches.
Monterosso View Point, Ristorante Tortuga, Cinque Terre Wine School, and World War II Bunker – Map Point D
After admiring the beach and perhaps spending some time relaxing on the beach, walk along Via Fegina with the sea to your right. When you come to the tunnel, do not enter (unless you want to take a quick peek inside). Instead, climb the wide steps to the right.
When you get to the top of the stairs, look all around you below for a beautiful view. Notice the World War II “pillbox” bunker that was built for defensive purposes.
The smaller steps that lead down toward the bunker take you to L’Ancora della Tortuga restaurant inside the cliff. This is the same restaurant that has seating at the top of the steps overlooking the sea below. The website https://www.ristorantetortuga.it is in Italian only, but the menu offerings might be helpful, so I will include it here: https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/d16a4cea/files/uploaded/Menù%20L%27Ancora%20della%20Tortuga.pdf
The Cinque Terre Wine School experience operates from the L’Ancora della Tortuga restaurant. Wine tasting with food and wines from the region are offered most days at 12:30 pm. Plan to spend time until about 3 pm here as you enjoy a leisurely afternoon with a beautiful view as you learn about the food and many wines of the region. Food offerings usually include swordfish stuffed with pecorino cheese Ligurian style, bruschetta with salted anchovies, fried cod bites, panissa (polenta cubed chips) with prawns, basil and fresh vegetables, fresh octopus salad, panfritto (Ligurian fried dough balls) served with soft cheese Ligurian Varese style, and cake(s) from the region.
Be sure to book the Cinque Terre Wine School in advance to make sure you can join in this experience if definitely want to participate. The cost is € 95, but use the link on the homepage to request a €5 discount. At booking, €20 is due per person, and the remainder is charged on the day of the visit.
Melly and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Cinque Terre Wine School, and considered it the highlight of our perfect day in Cinque Terre. We still had plenty of time to shop in Monterosso, to spend some time in Vernazza and Riomaggiore, and to see Manarola and Cornigilia from the ferry following this day planner.
Statue of Saint Francis of Assisi Viewpoint – Map Point E
After stopping at the viewpoint above the World War II bunker, and perhaps having lunch or a wine tasting experience, for an even better view climb the steep stairs above you that are built into the cliff to the left above the outdoor part of the restaurant. When you get to the top, look for the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. The large bronze statue of St. Francis taming a wolf was creating in 1962 by Silvio Monfrini, a sculptor born from Milan. The statue stands in the terrace of the Conventi del Cappuccine overlooking the sea. Melly took the pictures here. She says the climb was worth it!
Monterosso “Window” Viewpoint – Map Point F
Walk back down the steps to the outdoor restaurant area and continue along Via Fegina with the sea on your right. You will soon come to a “window” through a wall that provides yet another great view of Monterosso.
Monterosso Central Shopping Area – Map Point G
Next, continue walking around the corner to the left and walk down Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi to the shopping area in the central area of Monterosso. Walk through the narrow alleys to shop for olive oil, pesto, cooking supplies, souvenirs, and other items unique to the region. There are many small cafés and restaurants in this area, too.
Monterosso Beach Walk – Map Point H
Next, walk back toward the sea. If you have time, walk along the last section of Monterosso’s beach with the sea to your right.
Ferry Ticket Office – Map Point I
Return along the beach road with the sea to your left. If the ferry is running, stay along the beach and purchase your ferry tickets for the ferry. Look for a little ticket office with ticket sellers at a table. To follow this recommended plan, purchase a ticket to the ferry that will stop in Vernazza and allow you one opportunity to hop off and return to the ferry on the next ferry that will leave Vernazza to go on to Manarola (where you will stay on the ferry) and then Riomaggiore (where you will get off the ferry). (You will see Corniglia only from the sea, because there is no dock since this town is above the sea only.) See Ferry Time Recommendation and Ferry Time Options below for additional information.
Ferry Time Recommendation:
If you participate in the Cinque Terre Wine School in Monterosso or otherwise spend most of the day in Monterosso, suggested times are to take the 5 pm (17:00) ferry from Monterosso to Vernazza, stopping in Vernazza from 5:10 pm until 5:50 pm, and then take the 5:50 pm (17:50) ferry from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, arriving in Riomaggiore at 6:15 pm (18:15).
Ferry Time Options:
If you would like a bit more time in Vernazza, spend less time in Monterosso and take the 4 pm (16:00) ferry from Monterosso to Vernazza and then take the 5:50 pm (17:50) ferry from Vernazza to Riomaggiore, arriving in Riomaggiore at 6:15 pm (18:15).
If you would like to stop in Manarola, take the 4 pm (16:00) ferry from Monterosso to Vernazza, stopping in Vernazza from 4:10 pm until 5:10 pm, and then take the 5:10 pm ferry to Manarola. Stop in Manarola from 5:30 (17:30) until 6:05 pm (18:05) and then take the 6:05 pm (18:05) ferry from Manarola to Riomaggiore, arriving in Riomaggiore at 6:15 pm (18:15). If you plan to stop in Vernazza and Manarola and Riomaggiore, be sure to purchase a ferry ticket that allows you to get on and off at two stops. With this plan, you will not have much time in Manarola, but you can at least know that you visited.
Note – If Monterosso is crowded, buy your ticket to the ferry before walking along the beach. If the ferry is not operating due to weather, make your way back to the train station and take the next train to Vernazza. Make sure the train will stop in Vernazza.
Ferry to Vernazza – Map Point J
When you buy your ferry ticket, ask where the ferry will depart. If your next stop is Vernazza, as recommended, you will most likely leave from the ferry dock to the left as you face the see at Map Point J. Now, it’s off to Vernazza!
Vernazza – Cinque Terre, Italy
Many people consider compact and colorful Vernazza to be the most beautiful of the five Cinque Terre towns. It is easy to see the central area, composed of a small port with a tiny sandy beach and a central shopping area at the top of the hill, in a short amount of time.
Use the Vernazza walking maps included here to guide your visit. For more detailed versions of these maps, use the link here to my Vernazza map on walkli to help guide your visit.
Vernazza Ferry Port and View of Doria Castle – Vernazza Map Point A
If you follow this plan, you will arrive in Vernazza by ferry, if the seas are calm enough to travel by ferry. Look for Doria Castle looming above the town to the right as the ferry comes in to port. The castle was built in the 15thcentury to serve as a lookout to protect the town from pirates. When you step off the ferry, you will be at Map Point A.
Chiesa Di Santa Margherita – Vernazza Map Point B
From the ferry, walk away from the sea on Via Visconti toward the protected inner harbor. Turn left at the intersection of the inner harbor and the main piazza. Keep walking toward the center of the small inner harbor to reach Chiesa Di Santa Margherita. The tower of this church dominates the central harbor area. Peek inside if it is open, but the outside is the most beautiful.
Note – If you arrive via train, make your way toward the sea along Via Roma, walking down the hill with the sea to your left, to reach the protected inner harbor and Chiesa Di Santa Margherita at Map Point B.
View of the Sea Under Vernazza Buildings – Vernazza Map Point C
Walk back to Via Visconti and turn left. Walk up the hill and take the first right. On this short little street you will be able to view the sea from a little walkway under a building. Note that the walkway has recently been closed to walk through to the tiny beach behind it due to structural issues, but it makes a nice picture!
Main Shopping Area – Vernazza Map Point D
Return to Via Visconti and turn right to continue walking up the hill. Via Visconti will become Via Roma as it approaches the train station. There are a number of souvenir and specialty shops, gelato shops, and small cafés lining Via Visconti and Via Roma.
Vernazza Train Station – Vernazza Map Point E
If you need to reach the next towns via train, it is a short walk on Via Roma to the Vernazza Train Station. Trains leave for all Cinque Terre towns from this station on a regular basis.
If you want to set foot in the next town south of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre, Corniglia, you will need to take the train since Corniglia has no ferry port. The town is a hill town only and does not stretch to the sea. However, you will get to see it from the sea if you take the ferry to Riomaggiore, as recommended in this plan.
Vernazza Ferry Ticket Sales Desk – Vernazza Map Point F
Walk back down the hill of Via Roma and Via Visconti to the inner harbor. When you reach the inner harbor, just to the left of Via Visconti, look for a little table set up as a Ferry Ticket Sales Desk. If you need tickets or have any questions about the ferry, you can stop here. If you purchased your ticket as recommended in Monterosso, you can pass up the desk. Just show your ticket when you board the ferry. Just walk to the left at the end of the Via Visconti (Map Point A) to board the ferry to Manarola and Riomaggiore.
Corniglia – Cinque Terre, Italy
When you board the ferry at Vernazza, if you follow this plan you will be heading south toward Manarola and Riomaggiore. The first town after Vernazza that you will see up on the hill is the most remote of the five lands of Cinque Terre, colorful Corniglia. Corniglia can be reached by train, but many visitors just enjoy the beautiful view of it from the sea.
Manarola – Cinque Terre, Italy
The next Cinque Terre town south of Corniglia is Manarola. Like Corniglia, this small, colorful town seems to drip down from the steep cliff. Unlike Corniglia, this town does eventually make its way to the sea, and it has a ferry dock. There is a church in the small town and ruins of a 12th century fort that have been incorporated into a row of houses that hangs over the sea. The church is the Church of St Lawrence and Oratory, dating to the year 1338. Note that the popular hiking trail between Manarola and Riomaggiore was destroyed by flooding in October of 2011 and is still being reconstructed.
Riomaggiore – Cinque Terre, Italy
The last town of the Cinque Terre, traveling north to south, is Riomaggiore. The town is dominated by Riomaggiore Castle, which can be seen as you arrive via ferry and from the train station area. To reach the central shopping area and the train station is a bit of a challenging walk up steps and a steep hill from the ferry port. Visitors with health issues would do better to reach Riomaggiore by train.
Use the Riomaggiore walking maps included here to guide your visit. For more detailed versions of these maps, use the link here to my Riomaggiore map on walkli to help guide your visit.Search on Riomaggiore when you reach the walkli page.
Riomaggiore Ferry Port – Riomaggiore Map Point A
If you follow this plan, you will arrive in Riomaggiore by ferry, if the seas are calm enough to travel by ferry. When you step off the ferry, you will be at Map Point A.
Riomaggiore Inner Harbor – Riomaggiore Map Point B
Follow the steps and then veer to the right as you climb the hill along the narrow inner harbor to reach the central area of town. Follow signs pointing toward the train station and castle as you walk toward the central area of town.
Riomaggiore Main Shopping and Dining Area – Riomaggiore Map Point C
As you wind your way onto Via Colombo, you might be surprised to see so many shops, restaurants, small hotels and residential buildings high at the top of the street. There are a number of souvenir shops, clothing shops, restaurants, and cafés. There seem to be more locals here, as well as tourists staying overnight here.
Oratorio di Nostra Signora Assunta in Cielo – Riomaggiore Map Point D
Stay on Via Colombo until you reach Oratorio di Nostra Signora Assunta in Cielo near the top of the steep hill. If it is open, peek inside to see the stained glass windows and the Madonna of the Chains in remembrance of how pirates or other attackers would place locals of Riomaggiore in chains for ransom. . It is pretty from the outside, as well.
Tunnel to Riomaggiore Train Station – Riomaggiore Map Point E
Walk back down Via Colombo until you see the entrance to the tunnel to the train station at Piazza Vignaioli. Look for the mosaic murals of an Italian-Argentinian artist named Silvio Benedetto here and inside the tunnel. Turn right to enter the tunnel.
Piazza Rio Finale (view of Castello di Rimaggiore) – Riomaggiore Map Point F
When you exit the tunnel, you will arrive in Piazza Rio Finale. In addition to a view of Riomaggiore Castle above you to the right as you face away from the sea, there is a small Cinque Terre official souvenir shop in this Piazza just before the train station. The castle was built in the second part of the 13th century to protect the town from attacks from the sea. Today, it is used for conferences, cultural events and weddings.
Riomaggiore Train Station – Riomaggiore Map Point G
Take the train back from Riomaggiore to your Cinque Terre town or nearby town. Be sure to check the Trenitalia train schedule to confirm the time of the last train that will be returning to your location.
Recommended Easy 5-Step Plan for Visiting Cinque Terre
(1) Arrive in Monterosso mid-morning.
(2) Enjoy the beach, lunch, wine tasting, and/or shopping in Monterosso following the map in the Monterosso section above. Take the ferry (Plan A) or the train (Plan B) to Vernazza.
Timing note: Leave Monterosso no later than the 5 pm (17:00) ferry to Vernazza if you want to have time to stop for 40 minutes in Vernazza before taking the 5:50 pm (17:50) ferry to Riomaggiore. Take an earlier ferry for more time in Vernazza or to stop in Manarola, as well as Vernazza, before sailing on to Riomaggiore. For more detail, review the Ferry Recommendation and Ferry Options under the Vernazza section above.
(3) Follow the short walk with the map in the Vernazza section above, shop, and enjoy an ice cream or a snack in Vernazza.
(4) Take the ferry to Riomaggiore, passing by Corniglia and stopping in Manarola (but stay on the ferry). (Plan A) –OR- If the ferry is not operating, take the train to Riomaggiore. (Plan B)
(5) Shop, have dinner, and see the sights in Riomaggiore following the map in the Riomaggiore section above. Take the train back from Riomaggiore to your accommodation city or to the car park.
Remember to click on the audio bar below to hear even more insights about visiting the Cinque Terre. Subscribe to my “One Perfect Day in Travel Podcast” on iTunes/Apple Podcasts to get all of my podcasts and plans. Stay tuned for much more to come!
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to check out my plan with podcast for visiting Capri, Italy, on the amazingly beautiful Amalfi Coast. Just click here: https://oneperfectdayin.org/2017/08/29/capri-italy-10-things-to-do-with-walking-tour-maps-and-podcast-019/
Until next time, I hope all your travel days are just perfect!