Travel Guide: How to do a day trip to the Cinque Terre

A complete guide of where to stay, when to leave, how to get there, which towns to visit and how much you'll spend. 

If you're addicted to Pinterest like me, you'll already know about the Cinque Terre. But, as the name suggests, there's a lot more to it that just one spectacularly colourful cliff-side village. A string of five UNESCO protected medieval fishing villages all painted with pastel facades are snuggled along this rustic Italian Riviera.

With all online travel guides suggesting at least two days, how on earth were we going to squeeze it into just one?

Keep reading to discover how we did just that, including some tips and tricks from our trip!

Gelato & parasols on the streets of Vernazza

How to get there?

We ventured to the Cinque Terre on a Monday morning from our AirBnb apartment in the historic centre of Genoa. Everywhere I had read all agreed, the best and quickest way to get there is by train. The question was where to?

La Spezia
A lot of information kept pointing here, a city just past the Cinque Terre from Genoa. You'd catch an express train here and then take a connecting local train stopping at every village. The problem is you'd be going back on yourself and the express trains cost a fortune, then there's the added cost of getting to one of the villages from here.

A little last minute research the night before convinced me that we had to take the train to Levanto, a town just before the cinque terre, the journey was quicker and the tickets were cheaper. Makes sense, but you've still got to connect to the Cinque Terre from here.

Direct to one of the Cinque Terre Villages
It wasn't until we actually arrived at the departure station that we realised you could travel directly into to the Cinque Terre which was just as cost effective and quick, the same train to Levanto and La Spezia, Just get off after Levanto and before La Spezia at either Vernazza or Riomaggiore.

So we departed from Genoa Brignole to our choice of the five, Riomaggiore.


Blue skies by the water in Riomaggiore

What are the difference between the five towns and which ones did we visit?

There are five (cinque) small towns each with their own unique personality. Depending on where you're coming from there will be a first, and a last town. We came from the Genoa, an hour or so North of the Cinque Terre, so the first north most town is Monterosso and the last, Riomaggiore.

Having just one short day to spend we didn't want to squeeze all five into one and burn out. So instead we limited ourselves to just a couple of towns, and with the sporadic train delays we experienced venturing between he towns we were glad we did.

The most built up of the five towns, with a long beach and promenade and the only village to allow cars access. Sorry Monterosso, you're too big for us and we didn't have time to sunbathe!

As the only town you can see from the train station it was certainly a teaser and tempted us into adding it to our itinerary. It's the middle sized town of the group with a harbour wall stretching halfway around the town giving fantastic Photo opportunity.

The only village not directly beside the sea, so unfortunately it didn't quite make the cut. Sorry Corniglia, maybe next time.

The one made famous from Pinterest. I found Manarola the most stunning of the towns since the town is built directly atop a sheer drop cliff face.

Our destination from Genoa. A tiny harbour is in the centre of this V shaped village, with a tunnel connecting the town to the harbour. Our introduction to the Cinque terre could not have been better.


The colourful harbour in Vernazza

 Our day trip itinerary and how to get around.

12:15   Arrive in Riomaggiore
From the station, follow the signs to the town though a short tunnel by the train-line. You'll find yourself with three options, head up a set of stairs to a small square with a balcony view to the sea, climb down through another tunnel to the harbour or stroll up the main street. Do all three but don't miss a chance to venture from the harbour up along the left path then down to the rocks surrounding the town for the perfect views.

13:30   Catch the train to Vernazza
As soon as you alight at Vernazza station you'll find yourself directly on the bustling and colourful main street heading to the harbour. We had a stroll around these streets and the harbour wall before taking an upward trek to a viewpoint high above the quaint church clocktower. After a bit of exploration we found ourselves unable to resist a pause for Gelato.

15:40   Head to Manarola for food, drink and sunset
Manarola is best saved 'til Sunset. Head to the bar overlooking the village for the best views, order a local wine and wait for the plates of complimentary food to start piling up. Don't forget your cash since everything is card free in these parts, but if you do you'll find a cashpoint by the tunnel from the station.

As the sun slipped behind the clouds at sunset it was nearly impossible to tear ourselves away. It was a spectacular event to witness the town turn from golden to pastel blues before our eyes and an incredible end to an unforgettable day.


A breathtaking sunset in Manarola

How to get back?

We made the decision to buy our return ticket from Genoa to avoid any mad rush at the station in Riomaggiore. It turned out to be a great Idea too considering the inevitable delay and ticket machine issues at Manarola. 

Make sure you plan for any train delays and leave at least a 10 minute buffer between your connections. 

Our trains weren't that regular either, if we had missed out planned 19:53 we'd have to wait until 23:19 getting back at 01:23 in the morning. And we didn't quite fancy the trek accoss Genoa in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Luckily we made it on time and reflected on our incredible adventure as our train sped back to the city.

The streets of Manarola and Wine with a view

How much will it cost?

Here's a quick guide on how much we found things costing for us, hopefully this will help you budget fro your trip.

Return (Genoa - Riomaggiore) €20
One train ride between any Cinque Terre town €4
Gelato €3
Bottle of Local wine €16 
Large beer €7 

Be sure to take enough cash with you for anything you want to eat, drink or buy in the Cinque Terre since most places only accept cash and Cashpoints are few and far between.

All in all the Cinque Terre was out of this world! I really can't wait to go again and stay in one of the villages and experience the hiking trails.

Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favourite Village? Share your experiences in the comments below

How to do a Day trip to the Cinque Terre | The North Star Notebook


Maria Salomonsen said...

So beautiful photos! I'm surprised you were able to get the unlimited travel train card - I asked for one in Manarola when I arrived, and they would only sell me the full Cinque Terre card for 29 Euro..
Maria @

milli-jane said...

Hi Maria, Thanks for your comment. We actually paid for each individual ticket which was 4 euros each trip no matter how far. so we did 4 trips in total so 16 Euro. I had read on the train wall in Vernazza a day pass across all the stations was a little more than that maybe 18 Euros but never asked so maybe it was an old sign!

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