Cinque Terre is a small and charming stretch of coastline in the Liguria region of Northern Italy. It translates to five lands and includes five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Luckily, you can see them all in just two days with the help of the train system, hiking trails or by boat.
Cinque Terre is the perfect place for hiking, swimming, enjoying the warm weather, exploring unique villages and eating local specialties like pesto. In this itinerary, I’ll share how to see Cinque Terre in two days with transportation tips, where to stay, things to do and, of course, where to eat along the way.
*This post has been updated in 2021 and contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!*
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
I’ve been to Cinque Terre several times and I’ve stayed in La Spezia, Riomaggiore and Vernazza. We rented this apartment in Riomaggiore. The host was so kind and even helped us find parking.
Have your heart set on a pool? Those are also pretty rare in Cinque Terre, but Hotel Porto Roca in Monterosso al Mare has one.
Cinque Terre is not known for big, modern hotels. If you want a little more space and more of a hotel experience, check out Grand Hotel Portovenere in Portovenere or Hotel Firenze e Continentale in La Spezia. Both towns offer easy transportation to Cinque Terre through train or boat.
How to get to Cinque Terre
Trains run frequently to La Spezia Centrale from Rome and Florence. So, if you’re visiting Italy for an extended amount of time, it’s easy to add this itinerary on to a larger trip. You could easily add these two days on to my 10-Day Northern Italy Itinerary as well.
With the Cinque Terre Train Card you get unlimited travel between the towns, La Spezia and Levanto. This is the way to go if you want to see Cinque Terre in two days. Trains run to and from La Spezia two to three times an hour from dawn to midnight. Italy is not known for its punctuality and these trains are no exception. There are also several ferry options that can take you to/from La Spezia and between the towns.
Years ago when I visited Cinque Terra with some girls from my study abroad group, we hiked between most towns. Only a few trails are still open, so double check which ones are open before planning a hiking trip.
When to Visit Cinque Terre
I’m lucky to have visited this area in June, August and late September. In late September the towns were transitioning into the off season and some restaurants were staring to close. Naturally, August was the most crowded, but it was ideal summer weather. It’s nice to enjoy a beach destination under the sun and on the sand. June was ideal with not too many crowds yet with pleasant weather. Although, there was one day where it absolutely poured down rain for hours. Overall, it is best to visit Cinque Terre between late May and early September.
How long should I stay in Cinque Terre?
It’s easy to see Cinque Terre in two days if you want to have a few nice meals, relax on the beach and see the sunset with a cocktail. However, if you want to really spend time time in each town, leisurely do a hike and have a full beach day, you might want to take 3 to 4 days.
I’ve heard of people doing Cinque Terre as a day trip from Florence. I’ve never done that, but I wouldn’t recommend it. That is just way too much transportation for one day and you wouldn’t enjoy it as much being that rushed.
Day One: Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and Manarola
I started the day in Vernazza, arriving on the late morning train with the first heard of tourists, eager to see this slice of Italy. Old Italian men were still in the piazza having their morning cornetto and caffé and the beach was still empty.
I headed straight to the best view points in Vernazza, the castle (€1.50 entrance fee) and the hiking trail to Monterosso. Not only is the Cinque Terre Train Card the best way to go if you plan on hitting multiple towns in one day, you’ll need it for access to this part of the trail.
It might be a little early, but you NEED to experience Gelateria Vernazza. There’s also two locations in La Spezia so if you’re lucky, you can have it more than once (guilty). I’ve had my fair share of gelato and I’d like to think of myself as a bit of a connoisseur. This place has ruined me and now my previously delicious neighborhood gelateria is garbage in comparison. Cocco Nero (black coconut) has changed the way I think about Almond Joy bars and gelato combinations in general.
Monterosso al Mare
Around noon is the perfect time to roll into Monterosso for two reasons: the beach and lunch. Farinata is a regional specialty made of ceci flour (garbanzo beans) and I can’t get enough of it. Il Frantoio and La Pia are great casual spots for farinata and sandwiches. Always say yes to pesto.
This kind of farinata is not to be confused with the farinata of Lucca just 90 minutes away. I was definitely surprised when I ordered it in Lucca.
Monterosso al Mare is known for these happy umbrellas and Cinque Terre’s best sandy beach. Take a dip in the ocean and post up at a lido (beach club). After exploring Monterosso, I headed back to the hotel in La Spezia to relax and get Alfie (if you’re new to the blog, that’s my adorable old rescue doggie that tags along with me).
Alfie and I headed straight for Nessun Dorma for the best view in town with equally amazing drinks. You’ve probably seen this place pop up on your Instagram feed or Pinterest. I love a good aperitivo and this is a must do if you’re in Manarola. My €7 cocktail came with a little snack of peanuts, olives, fresh fruit and potato chips!
I was lucky and didn’t have to wait to be seated in 2018. This spot has exploded in popularity over the last few years. I hate spending precious vacation time in lines. Instead of waiting a hour to have an aperitivo, you might want to consider booking one of their pesto classes in the morning. You can experience the restaurant and learn how to make pesto without the wait!
Day Two: Riomaggiore and Portovenere
I woke up a little earlier than usual to get to Riomaggiore before the crowds and the August sun got too hot. I headed to the marina area and the only other people around were these fishermen.
Small delivery trucks were still parked on the main street, a pedestrian street that would be filled with people in less than 2 hours. Have a caffé there and watch Riomaggiore come to life before heading to the next town.
I decided to see Porto Venere instead of Corniglia. Now, I know that Porto Venere isn’t technically part of Cinque Terre, but it is considered the 6th town… so can I get a pass on this one? I feel a little guilty as Corniglia commonly gets over shadowed by its stunning neighboring towns. If you’re determined to see all cinque towns that actually comprise Cinque Terre, this is where you would take the train from Riomaggiore to Cornigilia (it’s the only town not accessible by sea). To get to Porto Venere, you can take the bus from La Spezia or take a boat straight from Riomaggiore.
Around the back side of the main street in Portovenere you’ll find Grotta di Lord Byron. There’s no sand beach here, but people just sunbathe like lizards on the rocks. After a swim or a stroll through some of the shops, stop for lunch at one of the seaside restaurants. From Portovenere, I took the bus back to La Spezia and was back just in time for aperitivo hour and more gelato from Gelateria Vernazza!
Transportation Costs for Cinque Terre in Two Days
Two day unlimited train pass: €29
One way trip on train: €4
Round-trip bus ticket to Porto Venere from La Spezia: about €4