Discovering the Cinque Terre: tips from a local about villages, trails and beaches (2023)
The Cinque Terre… so famous by now to have become an icon of Italian tourism. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso: these are the names of the five characteristic villages (only Corniglia is set in the inland, the other 4 are in the seaside) on the Eastern Liguria coast between Portovenere and Levanto, set within the homonymous National Park of the Cinque Terre and Unesco World Heritage together with Portovenere.
Which of the 5 villages is the most beautiful?
Everyone has his personal opinion, when it comes to which is the most beautiful of the 5 villages, because it is almost impossible choose between of these 5. My personal favourite is Monterosso, because it was the first ever I visited, but maybe the most beautiful is Manarola, in my opinion. Walking through the alleys of the villages, tasting a fresh fried fish, observing the fishermen, walking along the scenic walkways, having an aperitif at sunset: the Cinque Terre are difficult to explain, you have to live them.
How many days to visit the Cinque Terre?
It depends, I had Guests in my guesthouse which visited all of 5 in only one day.. but I suggest at minimum 2 days!
How to reach Cinque Terre: train, car or boat?
There are three ways to reach them from the town of La Spezia:
• Reaching the Cinque Terre by car
Driving with your own car to the Cinque Terre is recommendable during low season and in winter, not during high season and summer, that’s because parking lots are only a few and very expensive (3 euro per hour). They are also often not close to the historic centre of the villages. One of the largest parking in Cinque Terre area is the one in Monterosso, the Fegina parking which costs around 25 euro per day.
Driving directions: main A12 motorway exit is La Spezia, unless you intend go to Monterosso for which I recommend exits of Brugnato or Carrodano.
• Reaching the Cinque Terre by train
The best way to explore Cinque Terre is the regional CinqueTerreExpress Trenitalia train that stops in all five villages, the ride takes about 40 minutes from the central station of La Spezia to Monterosso, the furthest from town.
The train ride offers panoramic views, because the railway runs along the coastal line, and you will conveniently arrive in the centre of the village. Ticket costs 5 euros per person per way and does not allow intermediate stops, you can buy them directly at train station. Those who want to go up and down from the train, in more than one of the 5 villages, will have to buy the Cinqueterre Card (see detailed description below). Frequency of the trains is about every 20 minutes.
• Reaching the Cinque Terre by boat
In Liguria, boats that reach CinqueTerre depart from La Spezia and Portovenere or from the Tigullio Gulf area (Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, Sestri Levante). For navigation from La Spezia, Portovenere and Levanto refer to the Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti website.
Boat Ticket types:
- round-trip 1-day ticket costs 37 euro per adult and allows you to get on and off at one of the 4 stops (Monterosso, Manarola, Vernazza and Riomaggiore). You can buy it at the ticket office on site (show up half an hour before) or online on the website (where the cost raises to 40 euros daily ticket). Alternatively you can purchase:
- afternoon ticket
- single way ticket
Travelling from the Gulf of Tigullio, the ships that reach the 5 Terre are less frequent and booking is always required, rides in the middle of summer are two/ three a week. Taking the ship is expensive but allows you to have a beautiful overview of the Ligurian coast and to visit more than one village during a day. You can also buy a one-way ticket and then return by train, it’s a great solution.
Cinque Terre Card: how it works
If you intend to visit the Cinque Terre using public transport and take advantage of other services that the Cinque Terre Park offers too, such as access to hiking trails, shuttle buses between one village and another, the train with unlimited stops, you should buy the Cinque Terre Card, which you can get in two versions:
- Cinque Terre Card, trekking version: includes access to trails and shuttle bus service between villages. Price is 7,50 euro per adult , children 4-12 y/o: 4,50 euro.
- Cinque Terre Card, Train version: in addition to access to trails and shuttle bus, it allows unlimited travel with the regional CinqueTerre Express train on the route Levanto – La Spezia, with stop in all the 5 villages and ascent and descent as desired. Daily card cost depends on time of the year: during high season (from March to November) the price is € 18,20 per adult, children 4-12 y/o : € 11,40. Free under 4 years old.
Card is valid only for the selected day, or days, until midnight. Special discounted rates for over 70, groups and families consisting of two adults and two children are available.
Where to buy the Cinque Terre Card: online on the Official Site, directly at the train stations and at the Park infopoints.
Trekking paths, hiking in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre trails are not simple walks suitable for anyone, they are scenic and challenging, with climbs and descents in the middle of the Mediterranean and sometimes overhanging the sea. The stretch that connects the five villages is called “Sentiero Azzurro”, and runs along the coastal line; but there are also other trails that connect villages and sanctuaries in the inland of Cinque Terre.
To walk the CinqueTerre trails you need to wear suitable footwear, and carry a large supply of water. Actually the paths are unfortunately not all open, let’s see them together:
- The socalled Via dell’Amore (between Manarola and Riomaggiore) is the easiest and shortest trail, only 1,5 Km long. Unfortunately it is closed since years, due to a landslide, it is possible to walk only the first stretch of a few hundred meters from Manarola to the bar.
- Riomaggiore-Manarola: the alternative trail to the Via dell’Amore, it is suitable for experienced hikers, duration 1 hour, elevation gain of more than 200 meters, length 1 km and a half.
- Manarola-Corniglia: easy path accesible to all
- Corniglia -Vernazza: experts only trail : length 4 km, duration 1h and a half, elevation gain 270 meters.
- and last the Vernazza-Monterosso: experts only trail, duration 2 hours, length 3,6 km, elevation gain 217 meters.
Here you can find the Park interactive Trails Map >>
The best times to walk the paths in summer are in the late afternoon or early morning, to avoid the hottest hours and the greater number of visitors. Another very challenging path that you can take is the one from Portovenere to Riomaggiore, which also passes through the village of Campiglia.
Beaches in the Cinque Terre
In the Cinque Terre you will not find many beaches, the largest are the sandy beaches of Monterosso al Mare, they are easily accessible from the village center. Here there are stretches of both free beach and establishments. Other beaches in the Cinque Terre are:
- Beaches in Vernazza: Guvano beach, beautiful pebble beach currently accessible only by sea and attended by naturists
- Beaches in Riomaggiore: small pebble beach next to the train station
- Corniglia beaches: the socalled “Lo Spiaggione” is a long sandy and pebble beach, accessible from the village
Where to sleep to visit the Cinque Terre
If you want to visit the Cinque Terre during 2023 season contact us, I can accommodate you in my guesthouse in Cadimare, La Spezia in a comfortable double room with private bathroom and terrace overlooking the sea and there is free parking for your car in front of the house. We are 17 km away (20 minutes by car) from Riomaggiore and 6 km from the train station of La Spezia.