Updated: Jan 20
Cinque Terre is a National Park, UNESCO Heritage Site, and home to five villages with brightly colored pastel houses. Originally, fisherman painted their houses these bright colors in order to spot them from the sea. Today, home owners in Cinque Terre are only allowed to pick from five pastel colors when painting their house in order to keep this tradition alive.
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The perfect day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence Italy
Throughout this guide, we will make note of the transportation required to get from one place to the next. However, with limited time in Cinque Terre and attempting to accomplish everything in just one day, we strongly suggest booking a reputable day tour from Florence so that you can worry less about logistics and more about enjoying your time in Cinque Terre!
1. Getting to Cinque Terre
Via the Viator Day Trip, you will take an air conditioned coach bus from Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station to La Spezia (1h 45m). From La Spezia, you are given a full-day Cinque Terre Treno Card (€18.20 value, included in your day trip cost) that allows you to hop on a train to Manarola (7m). This card provides you access to the park and transportation between villages all day long.
2. Manarola (10:15 - 11:00am)
First stop on your Cinque Terre day trip is Manarola. From the moment your enter this village out of the train station, you are welcomed with pastel-colored buildings, narrow streets, and bustling crowds who are enjoying a glass of wine with an ocean view. For wine enthusiasts, do not leave this village without sampling the sweet dessert wine called Sciacchetrà that Manarola is most commonly known for.
There are several famous lookout points in Manarola that provide incredible views of the town and surrounding cliff-sides. The first is the Manarola Overlook Viewpoint and the second, which provides the iconic picture spot below, is Manarola Scenic Viewpoint.
J&L Advice: One thing we loved about the Day Trip from Florence is that it provided the smoothest logistics in Cinque Terre while including history of the villages, food advice, and a knowledgeable local guide. You are given "free time" in each city to explore on your own as much or as little as you prefer. It was the perfect way to experience Cinque Terre in just one day and we strongly recommend booking this tour for your adventure as well! For the money conscious traveler, check out our cost comparison of heading to Cinque Terre on your own compared with the tour.
2. Corniglia (11:00 - 12:30pm)
Next stop is Corniglia which is about a 2 minute train ride away from Manorola. From the train station, there are quite a few stairs to reach this hilltop village. If you prefer, there is also a shuttle available from the train station included in the above mentioned Cinque Terre Treno Card. Corniglia is unique to the five Cinque Terre villages in that it is the only rural inland village. Corniglia is surrounded by vineyards and terraces, making it an ideal location to sample some wine and Italian foods!
Hiking Option: If you are spending more than a day in Cinque Terre and would like to explore the national park's hiking options, check out the 3.6 mile trail from Manarola to Corniglia.
Wander through the narrow streets of Corniglia and be sure to look down each alleyway for quaint eateries, breathtaking terraces overlooking the water, and magnificent viewpoints from this inland cliff-side village.
Foodie Tip: When in Corniglia, a great place to stop and sample some local cuisine is at Cecio Ristorante Camere. Here, you can try Cinque Terre's famous fried sardines and pesto al a Genovese.
3. Hiking from Corniglia to Vernazza (12:30 - 2:00pm)
After enjoying a lunch of famous Cinque Terre pesto while overlooking beautiful Corniglia at Cecio Ristorante Camere, we recommend taking the incredible hiking journey to Vernazza. With only one day in Cinque Terre, time does not allow for all of the hiking trails that this national park has to offer (over 80 miles!). However, the hiking trail from Corniglia to Vernazza (2 miles) is one of the most popular and provides stunning views of both villages from afar. With limited time in Cinque Terre, this hike is one to prioritize.
Your Cinque Terre Treno Card also provides access to the park's hiking trails. You will need to show this at the park's checkpoint prior to entering the trail.
Important Note: Closed-toed shoes are required to hike the Cinque Terre trails. Failure to wear closed-toed shoes could lead to a fine from a park ranger.
About a mile into the hiking trail, you will come across Bar II Gabbiano. On a hot summer day, this is an ideal spot to stop for a frozen lemon slushy (ask for a half lemon/half orange juice for a refreshing citrus drink!), while enjoying the panoramic views of Cinque Terre and catching your breath from the elevation gain.
The last mile of the trek takes you back downhill towards Vernazza. The views of this village as you descend from the cliff-side are nothing short of awe inspiring. It is safe to say the most epic views of Vernazza can be seen on this final stretch of the hike.
3. Vernazza (2:00 - 3:00pm)
Vernazza is arguably one of the most picture-perfect towns in Cinque Terre. It offers a small beach to cool off on after your hike. It also has long pier that walks out to the water and allows you to enjoy a magnificent view of the colored houses.
Fun Fact: Vernazza was the inspiration for the town in the Disney Pixar movie Luca!
Some of the top things to do in Vernazza if time allows is to visit the 14th century church, Church of St. Margaret of Antioch, or climb to the hilltop castle, Ruins of Doria Tower, which dates back to the first century AD.
Foodie Tip: Get yourself some cinnamon & tiramisu gelato from Gelateria II Porticciolo. The gelato here was our favorite in all of Italy!
4. Monterosso (3:00 - 4:00pm)
Hop back on a train in Vernazza and after three minutes you will arrive in Monterosso, the northernmost village in Cinque Terre. Monterosso is the largest of the Cinque Terre villages and is surrounded by lemon trees, vineyards, and olive trees.
Hiking Option: If you are spending more than a day in Cinque Terre and time allows, another spectacular hiking option is the 2.3 mile trail from Vernazza to Monterosso. About 15 minutes into this trail, there is a spectacular view of Vernazza around this pin-point.
Monterosso is most well-known for its expansive beaches, especially after Spiaggia di Fegina was named one of the world's sexiest beaches by Forbes Magazine. Other things to do in Monterosso include climbing up to Statua di San Francesco d'Assisi to see panoramic views of the village (10 min walk from the historic village), visiting the 14th century church, Parrocchi S. Giovanni Battista, and tasting the village's most famous food and drinks.
We have several food & drink tips for Monterosso, the first being Monterossini from Pasticceria Bar Laura. This warm, dark chocolate-filled pastry can only be found in Monterosso so it is certainly worth making the time to try (pictured below)! The second is the pan fritto with stracchino cheese served at Il Frantoio. Finally, sample some delicious Monterosso white wine at Enoteca Internazionale Winery or grab a bottle to enjoy on the beach!
5. Boat Ride to Riomaggiore (4:00 - 4:45pm)
From the northernmost village of Monterosso, a unique way to travel to the southernmost village of Riomaggiore is by boat! This allows you to view all five villages from the water, which is a surreal experience. The ferry service is called Consorzio Marittimo Turistico Cinque Terre and only runs if weather conditions are safe. Therefore, we recommend buying your ticket in person in order to verify it will be running on the day of your travels. If the ferry is not running on the day of your travels, it takes about 14 minutes by train to travel south to Riomaggiore.
Ferry Tickets: 11€ /Person for a one-way journey (all ticket costs and logistics are included in the Viator Day Trip). You board the ferry in Monterosso at the end of the pier outside the historic village, near many of the other boat tours.
6. Riomaggiore (4:45 - 5:15pm)
Riomaggiore is yet another picture-perfect village with brightly colored pastel houses that contains a small harbor for swimming and sunbathing. The marina is filled with fishing boats and houses that appear to be stacked on top of one another in this small cliff-side village.
Heading south from the ferry dock will lead you to the small, tucked-away Spiaggia di Riomaggiore beach. North from the ferry dock will lead you to this iconic picture spot, as well as, other attractions that Riomaggiore has to offer. Heading into town, you may consider stopping at the 2nd century church, San Giovanni Battista of Riomaggiore, and the 2nd century stone Castello di Riomaggiore if time allows.
7. La Spezia and Return to Florence (5:15 - 7:30pm)
Last but not least, take the train 8 minutes to La Spezia and you are back in the port city where your adventures in Cinque Terre first began. From here, you can board the air conditioned coach provided by the Viator Day Trip and head back to Florence with enough time to eat dinner in the city.
If you have additional days in Cinque Terre, you may consider spending some time in the beautiful city of La Spezia as well. Some of the top things to do include visiting Castello San Giorgio, the Technical Naval Museum of Spezia, and dining at the popular La Taverna del Metallo for some noms and brews.
Planning Your Trip
How to get from Florence to Cinque Terre
There are two ways to experience Cinque Terre as a day trip from Florence. We have outlined both ways and their current costs (as of 2022) below:
The first option is planning your own transportation, tickets, and timetable in Cinque Terre. We have outlined the below costs per person for this scenario (estimated total: $69-95 per person)
A train ticket from Florence to La Spezia will vary based off your needs. A round-trip, non-stop ticket from Firenze Campo Marte to La Spezia Centrale will cost roughly $63 and take 1h 43m each way. A round-trip ticket from Firenze S.M. Novella (more frequent trains) to La Spezia Centrale with one train change in Pisa will cost roughly $49 and take 2h 9m each way.
One adult full-day Cinque Terre Treno Card will cost €18.20 (~$20). This will allow you access to the trains and shuttles throughout all five Cinque Terre villages, as well as, access to the park's hiking trails.
[Optional] Taking the ferry from Monterosso to Riomaggiore with ferry service Consorzio Marittimo Turistico Cinque Terre in order to see all five villages from the water will cost roughly €11 (~$12).
The second option is by booking a Day Trip from Florence. This option includes everything below and costs roughly $104 per person:
Air conditioned coach bus from Firenze S. M. Novella to La Spezia Centrale including a history of the towns being passed along the way, such as Luca and Pisa (1h 43m; $63+ value).
All train, shuttle, and park entrance fees ($20 value)
Boat ferry tickets (weather permitting) from Monterosso to Riomaggiore ($12 value)
History of each town, as well as, dining and experience advice from a local guide
Free time in each village available at your choosing
Discounted lunch of local seafood assortment and pesto al a Genovese in Corniglia
Optional hiking along one of Cinque Terre's most iconic trails
J&L Recommended: The Day Trip is worth the extra cost to not have to worry about logistics with such a packed itinerary.
How many days in Cinque Terre is enough?
With a full itinerary of destinations within Italy, we thought a day trip to Cinque Terre allowed us to view the highlights of each village. However, can one truly spend enough time indulging in pasta, wine, and epic coastal views?
There are certainly enough things in Cinque Terre to keep you busy for a week, with more than 70 miles of hiking trails, wineries, eateries, and beaches. For nature enthusiasts, you may consider starting in Manorolla and hiking through all five villages until you get to Riomaggiore (6 hours of hiking) while spending a night or two in a different village along the way. The opportunities are endless!
J&L Recommended: 1-3 Full Days
For longer visits to Cinque Terre, an affordable place to stay is in La Spezia. Discover hotel deals in La Spezia below!
What is the best month to go to Cinque Terre?
To take advantage of the pleasant weather while experiencing a minimal amount of tourists, we would say the best time to visit Cinque Terre is on the shoulder seasons of April-May and September-November.
J&L Recommended: April - May & September - November
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