Have you heard of the Cinque Terre? Five colourful villages along the Mediterranean Sea in Liguria, Italy. With heaps to do and see in Venice, Florence, and Rome, the Cinque Terre might not be high on your bucket list. But it should be! This is definitely one of my favourite places in Italy. Stay a couple of days if you can. If your time is limited, you can easily visit the Cinque Terre in one day from Florence. Here is a quick guide to help you plan and make the most of your day trip.
Cinque Terre can easily be reached via train. The one-way journey can take more than two hours, though, so keep that in mind. Start your day early if you want to see all five villages.
You will likely need to take a train from Florence (Santa Maria Novella) to Pisa and then switch trains to La Spezia. There are also trains that run directly between Florence (Campo di Marte) and La Spezia. Be sure to check the schedules online. A return train trip will cost between €19 to €30.
Alternatively, you can join a day tour that departs from Florence where all the logistics are taken care of. You’ll take a bus directly from Florence to the Cinque Terre. I highly recommended Walkabout Florence.
Travel between villages
At the La Spezia train station, you can purchase a Cinque Terre Train Card for €16 (price for 2019). This ticket is valid for one day and allows you to travel back and forth between all the towns and La Spezia.
It’s also possible to pay for each train trip individually (you might save a couple of euros), but this is a bit more of a hassle.
Top tip: Carefully check the train schedules! Train departures are sporadic and not all the trains stop at every village.
Here is my suggested itinerary to see all the villages and make the most of your day:
Manarola – Corniglia – Vernazza – Monterosso – Riomaggiore
Start your journey at Manarola. One of the first things you will notice as you enter the village: rocks on the roofs! It’s a local superstition to keep the evil spirits from lifting your roof and snatching you away at night.
Take in the quaint piazza as you make your way to the vantage point.
Next stop: take the train to Corniglia. This is the only town in the Cinque Terre that isn’t next to the sea. To reach Corniglia, you will have to climb 382 steps. The view from the top makes the climb worthwhile.
Have some lunch at Ristorante Cecio. I highly recommend the basil pesto pasta served the traditional way with potatoes, green beans, and pine nuts.
Now you have two options: go down the mountain and take the train or hike to Vernazza. Depending on the weather and your fitness level, I say take the scenic route! The hike isn’t difficult (mostly downhill) and the views along the way are pretty spectacular: olive groves, vineyards, and the Mediterranean Sea. The best view of Vernazza is as you walk into the village!
Grab some gelato in Vernazza! You know, as a reward for the hike you just completed.
If you look closely you will notice that each village has its own charm. My personal favourite is Vernazza. I love the little harbour and the feel of the village. If time permits, you can visit the castle. It isn’t necessarily a beautiful castle, but I enjoyed the view from the top.
Take the train to Monterosso. This village is pulsing with people and has the best beaches
Take the train to Riomaggiore, the gateway village to the Cinque Terre, to complete the loop. You can also take a ferry or boat to Riomaggiore, but the prices can be high and the journey is very dependent on the weather. After a long day of exploring, Riomaggiore is the place to kick back and relax as you sip some local wine.
Of course, you are free to travel between the villages as you like, but this itinerary worked really well for me.
Top tip: Be sure to check online if the hiking trails are open. Due to a lot of rock slides/falls in the area, some of the routes might be closed. Also, because this is a national park, you will need permits for the hiking trails.
What to eat and drink
Pizza, pasta, gelato, and wine. It is Italy after all! Cinque Terre primarily produces white wine. Have a glass or two…
People in Rome and Naples will probably stone me for saying this, but I had some pretty darn great Margarita pizza in Riomaggiore (even though Northern Italy isn’t exactly known for its pizza…)
Also, here is my guide to help you find the best photo spots in the Cinque Terre.
The day will be long and you’ll return to Florence exhausted, but it will be worthwhile. Escape the big cities (and the crowds) and explore Italy’s nature a bit.