Our day trip Cinque Terre turned out to be better than we’d imagined. We’d dreamed of visiting Cinque Terre for years. We’d looked at hundreds of photos. We thought we knew what it would be like. Then we arrived, breathed the air, smelled the ocean and the food coming from restaurant kitchens, and heard the sounds echoing through the streets. It was way better than we had imagined.
Sometimes, you just need to experience a place, even if you can only have one day.
We think Cinque Terre is a place you need to experience 🙂
A Day Trip to Cinque Terre
Most people thinking of taking a day trip to Cinque Terre will be coming from Florence. Cinque Terre is several hours away from Florence, but it is possible as a day trip from Florence. Transportation to the area can be a bit challenging and the distance does make for a long day. However, it’s totally doable!
If coming from Florence and that is concerning, it might be worth for you to stay overnight somewhere in Cinque Terre.
What To Do on a Day Trip to Cinque Terre
Experience The “Five” Towns
Cinque Terre means “five lands” in Italian. Cinque Terre is made up of five small towns (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) along the Italian coastline that are connected by train, boat, and by hiking trail. The towns and surrounding area make up Cinque Terre National Park, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The beauty of Cinque Terre is hard to describe but the colorful buildings contrasted against the rugged hillsides, and the beautiful blue ocean make Cinque Terre one of the most special places we’ve ever visited.
Each of the towns are different with their own character and appeal. At the same time, each of the towns are kind of the same. You likely wont have time to spend significant time in each town if you are on a day trip, so recommend you plan out which towns appeal to you the most.
Here’s our quick run down:
Riomaggiore – Quite town where we really enjoyed the cobblestone streets and beautiful flowers. Started here (departed train from Florence –> La Spezia)
Manarola – Beautiful, colorful buildings perched high above the water. Hiked up the hill for wonderful views.
Corniglia – Skipped it in the interest of time. Its the smallest town and not directly on the coast.
Vernazza – Enjoyed the harbor and views of Vernazza from the trail to Monterosso
Monterosso – The largest and busiest town of the five. The beaches are great (crowded, but great) and there’s no shortage of shops and restaurants. Left from here on train headed to Florence.
Take a Hike
One of the most popular activities in Cinque Terre is hiking between the towns, and this was certainly one of our most enjoyed moments while we were there. There are several trails but probably the most popular is the Sentiero Azzurro “blue trail” which runs along the coast and connects Riomaggiore to Monterosso.
While we were there, some of the trails were closed due to serious mudslides a few years back so hiking the whole way would not have been possible. Therefore, it is smart to check but the status of the hiking trails before you go. Either way, should you chose to take on the challenge of hiking between the towns, you will be rewarded with some sensational views and an incredible experience. We hiked the part of the Blue Trail from Vernazza to Monterosso.
The hike took about 1.5-2 hours and covered 3.5 km. It has been said that this section of the trail is the most difficult section. It was definitely pretty difficult in some areas. In some areas, the steps are very steep and the rise/descent seems to keep going and going. We’re in decent shape and we made it through, but we’d would only recommend this part of this trail if you are confident in your ability and your fitness level. Also, make sure to bring plenty of water.
Although it was challenging, completing this hike was truly an unforgettable experience and one of our favorite activities while vacationing in Italy.
There is a fee to hike along the trail so make sure to have some cash (always a good idea to have cash while in Europe). You can also get a Cinque Terre Card in advance or at any of the train stations. I think that the fee was around 7 Euros per person. They charge this fee so that they can afford the maintenance cost associated with keeping the trail in safe and usable condition.
Enjoy The Beach
During the summer months, the Cinque Terre’s crystal blue waters will be calling your name; especially if you’ve just hiked along the trail. The beaches are not the “long white sand, pina colada in hand” type, but they are great in their own right. The water is calm and inviting. The backdrop is amazing. No complaints from us :).
We spent time at the Monterosso beach near old town. It was very crowded, but we loved the umbrellas and the energy.
We also enjoyed Vernazza beach by the harbor. We basked in the sun on some of the flat rocks and watched as people splashed in the water.
There are other beaches in Cinque Terre to explore – just choose whichever one seems like the best fit for you!
Getting to Cinque Terre
By Organized Tour
The easiest way to get to Cinque Terre is to take organized excursion through a tour provider. There are many providers in Florence that do various trips to Cinque Terre, including hiking trips that allow you to hike from town to town. Similar offerings exist from other parts of Tuscany as well.
Organized trips are a great option if you like having all of the logistics taken care of for you. Sometimes it can be nice to let others take care of all of the transportation and other logistics that can be challenging to figure out if you are in another country. Just remember to book through a trusted provider that has good reviews and make sure that you completely understand all of the details. We have used Viator to book tours in the past, and we have never had a bad experience.
All of the Cinque Terre towns are connected via train so it is easy to get from one to another. Going by train is arguably the best way visit Cinque Terre since most of the towns are not accessible by car.
For day trippers, remember to double check all of the timetables to make sure you know the last departing train. because During our stay, the last train was at 6 or 7 PM. You can purchase your tickets and use E-Tickets (with you confirmation number) directly from the Italian train operator, TRENITALIA. It is really easy getting to Cinque Terre by train and probably the best way to go for those not on a tour.
It’s generally not recommend that you drive to Cinque Terre. Primarily because the road to get there is challenging and parking is limited since cars are not allowed in most of the towns. If you do wish to drive, consider driving to La Spezia, parking the car and taking the train from there. From La Spezia, you can reach any one of the Cinque Terre towns.
Regardless of how much time you have, Cinque Terre is a memorable place and well worth a visit. It is possible as a day trip, even from Florence if you’re willing to endure a long travel day. These ancient fishing villages turned tourist mecca are so colorful and unique. The opportunity for delicious food, great views and fun in the sun are all plentiful in Cinque Terre.
We’re certain that you’ll love a day trip to Cinque Terre just as much as we did!
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