Cinque Terre is a breathtakingly beautiful area on the northwestern coast of Italy. It is roughly a 2-hour train ride from Florence, the closest large city. Cinque Terre is comprised of 5 unique villages – all recognizable by the pretty, colorful houses cascading steep cliffs and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
While many choose to explore Cinque Terre in a day-trip from Florence, my husband and I decided to spend 2 days and 2 nights here. It was perfect amount of time for us.
Getting to Cinque Terre
If you only choose to do Cinque Terre in a day trip I still think you could see all 5 villages if you really want to, since there is a train that connects all 5 villages, and it’s fairly quick to get to between each. You might also be able to do a little bit of hiking. If you can make your stay longer, I definitely think Cinque Terre is worth it!
The main train station of Cinque Terre is La Spezia. If you’re taking the train in, you’ll depart at La Spezia and then buy a pass for the Cinque Terre Card. This is for the train which runs between La Spezia and all the 5 villages pretty regularly. You will also need a pass if you want to hike any of the trails between villages.
What to do in Cinque Terre
Make sure to explore all 5 villages! While all of them have colorful houses on the coastline, they are all so different. It is really fun to go to each village and see for yourself what makes them unique. The train makes this relatively quick and easy.
Go for a hike
One of the most incredible things to do in Cinque Terre is go for a hike! While Mitch and I were visiting, many of the hiking trails were closed, but we were still able to complete one of the trails between the villages of Monterosso and Vernazza. While it was challenging trek, the view was absolutely incredible and definitely worth the two-hour hike!
Enjoy the local cuisine
While in Cinque Terre be sure to eat some delicious seafood and world-famous pesto. Being a fishing town on the coast, Cinque Terre has some amazing seafood. I’m a vegetarian, but at least that’s what my husband tells me! I was more interested in getting anything and everything with pesto, since the Italian Riviera is the birthplace of pesto.
I was a huge fan of the pesto pizza I found in Riomaggiore. So much so, that I picked it up for lunch and dinner one day. After the fact, I realized that may have been just a little bit too much pesto for one day, but it was so good!
Take in the incredible views
Lots of the restaurants in Cinque Terre are takeaway, which is no surprise given the amazing views that the coastline offers. Mitch and I would grab lunch or dinner and make our way to a rock or step, taking in the amazing view and sea breeze while we ate.
The 5 villages
Riomaggiore was my favorite of the 5 villages and it is where we stayed! We got this cute and affordable Airbnb, just steps from restaurants and epic views of the coast. This village has a decent number of restaurants and takeaway food. There is no beach, but there are lots of steps to sit on by the water. Or, if you’re brave, you can climb out to the rocks that lead to an absolutely incredible view. Both nights we stayed here, we hopped from rock to rock and found a perfect rock for us to sit on and enjoy the sunset (with some limoncello of course).
There is an easy trail from Riomaggiore to the next village, Manarola, which weaves around the coastline cliff, called Lovers Lane. This trail was closed, as were many of the trails when we were here, so we just took the local train to the explore the other villages!
Manarola has some amazing views that are relatively easy to get to from the train. I was really excited to go to this village, because I couldn’t wait to go to the amazingly picturesque restaurant Nessun Dorma! Nessun Dorma is a modern Italian restaurant that prepares beautiful meat and cheese platters and more, as well as features incredible views!
There was a long line to be seated for lunch, but it was well worth the wait. Of course, while we were waiting, I had some lovely fellow traveler take a picture of Mitch and I in front of the beautiful view. After waiting in line for a while, they asked for volunteers who wanted to skip the line for a table that wasn’t directly on the oceanside. If I were to do it over again, I wouldn’t mind waiting a bit longer to get that perfect view spot! By the way the cheese platter was AMAZING.
Corniliga is certainly the quietest and most quaint of the 5 villages. However, getting to the center of this village is definitely not the easiest. If you take the train to Coniliga, you will have to take quite a few stairs to reach the top. At the top there are a few restaurants and things to visit. Mitch and I made a quick stop here. We explored the small, cute village and enjoyed some gelato (of course). But we definitely earned it after all those stairs!
Vernazza is the only village we actually hiked to. I had been told by several friends that the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza was their favorite and I am so glad that this trail was open while we were there! I would definitely recommend this hike, as the view, when you finally get to Vernazza, is spectacular.
Monterosso is a very lively village that is really popular among tourists, especially families. This makes sense given that Monterosso is the only village in Cinque Terre with a large sandy beach. There are also lots of restaurants and larger hotels!