2 Days in Cinque Terre – Guide to Visit the Ligurian Gems
Cinque Terre is a small part of the Liguria region in Italy made up of five towns : Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore. Once sleepy fisherman villages, today Cinque Terre is a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with up to 2.4 million people visiting each year. Surrounded by the mountains on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other, each one of the five town is beautiful and each has its own different character. This part of the Italian Riviera holds a feeling of authenticity, with few roads, perfectly preserved architecture, stunning coastal and mountain trails, as well as beautiful beaches with pristine turquoise waters. In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know to visit Cinque Terre.
- How to get to Cinque Terre
- Where to Park in Cinque Terre
- General Infos
Guide to visit Cinque Terre
2 days itinerary
The five towns are small enough that it is totally doable to visit all of them in one day. However, we highly recommend you to stay in the area for at least 2 nights to fully submerge in the authentic feeling and spectacular scenery of each town.
Before our travels we were wondering if there is a better or ‘right’ time one should visit each town. Now we know : because of the position of the sun in the morning and then moves during the day, it’s best to start in the north and move south. Therefore begin your visit in Monterosso al Mare – the biggest town of Cinque Terre.
Day 1 : Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare has the longest coastline of the 5 towns. With a beautiful beach of turquoise waters on one side and restaurants and shops on the other, you can spend an ideal summer day in Monterosso. It’s worth mentioning that the first part of the beach is mostly private beach clubs. The sun-beds and umbrellas are reserved months in advance. Surprisingly, many people gather at the entrances as early as 8AM (the beach opens at 9AM) and queue for an hour counting on their luck.
↬ Note : A day rental of 2 sun-beds and umbrella costs around 80 EUR!
If you walk further around the tunnel, you will arrive on the public part of the beach. Here you can stay for free as long as you like.
After spending your morning in Monterosso al Mare you have two choices: head to the train station or complete the 3.5 KM coastal walk to Vernazza (more on getting around Cinque Terre below). The trail shouldn’t take longer than an hour and is really worth it.
↬ Note : There is a 7 EUR charge payable at the little booth at the beginning of the path.
Once in Vernazza head to Ristorante Belforte for lunch with spectacular views. After lunch, take a break on the beach or the rocks.
Corniglia is the smallest village of Cinque Terre. You will end you day here, watching the sunset from the beach.
↬ Note : We decided to skip Corniglia as we had so much fun cliff jumping and chilling in Vernazza.
Day 2 : Manarola
Take the train all the way to Manarola. After wandering around the small town, head to the panoramic view point. It’s one of the most recognizable spots of Cinque Terre. Manarola is also perfect for morning swims. There is a small harbor with part of the sea protected by a huge rock. The water is calm and has no currents. Before lunch hour strikes, head to Nessun Dorma. It’s the most popular restaurant in Cinque Terre with amazing views and authentic Italian cuisine. Beware : the restaurant doesn’t take reservations and there is always a huuuge queue in front. When we arrived at 12.30 PM there were around 40 people already waiting!
Last but not least of this guide to visit Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore is best to visit during the afternoon and the sunset hours when the golden light warms up the colourful buildings. Get a bottle of prosecco and a take away pizza, find a comfortable spot on the rocks in the port and watch the day end as the last rays of sun hide behind the horizon.
How to get to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre can be reached by a train, car or a boat. There are direct trains from Genoa to Monterosso. The journey takes around 1H and is very pleasant. The train passes directly next to the coast offering spectacular views along the ride. You can book tickets in advance here or get them directly at the train station.
Arriving by car is relatively easy and also guarantees beautiful views. This time, you will be passing from the mountain side and have the sea in the distance. In the summer, the roads leading all the way to the towns are open only very early in the morning. At around 10 AM the car traffic is stopped and police forces everyone to park the cars and complete the last kilometers by walk or by public bus. The reason for this is that there is very limited parking space in Cinque Terre.
Parking in Riomaggiore
We arrived at 8AM to Riomaggiore and were able to drive all the way to the town. Police closes Strada Provinciale around 10 AM. We found a spot in the secure parking at the entrance of the village. It costs 27 EUR to park the car for a whole day. If you’d rather not pay, we suggest to leave the car at the entrance to Strada Provinciale 32 and take a bus from there.
Parking in Monterosso
We arrived in Monterosso at around 8.30 AM and parked the car at the private Monterosso Parking. We took one of the last spots. Whole day parking costs 30 EUR. There is a public car parking you can pay by the hour (around 2.5 EUR/H), however we chose the guarded parking to be sure that the car would be safe.
IMPORTANT : Car break ins
In many places in Italy, especially during the summer, it is very common for thieves to break into tourists cars. They pick mostly very busy and crowded areas, where people are forced to leave the car for a few hours. Like on the beach or monument sites. At the same time as we visited Italy, two of our friends got all of their belongings stolen (including all their expensive camera gear and computers) when someone broke into their cars. It happened in Pisa and in Santa Margherita Ligure. Both times the car was left at a public, paid (but not guarded) parking lot.
Thieves target tourists cars with foreigners plates. They know that Italian police doesn’t bother with claims made by tourists who will leave the country soon. They never steal cars- only valuables inside. And since the only thing that is stolen are items, there is no way of tracking or following them. This creates sort of an opportunity for thieves – they know that police will never investigate or try to stop them. They are never punished. And they do it again.
The only way of ensuring this won’t happen to you is leaving the car at a secure, guarded, underground parking lot. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth it. You will be able to explore and enjoy your beach time, without worrying that someone breaks into your car.
Getting around Cinque Terre
The best way to travel between the villages of Cinque Terre is by train. Trains stations are located in the centre and the trains depart every 15 or so minutes. It only takes a few minutes in between towns and the ticket costs 4 EUR per ride.
When to go
Without a doubt the best time to visit (weather wise) is during the summer. However, it’s also the busiest time of the year. July and August attract most visitors and in such small areas it becomes packed really fast. We believe that September/October would be ideal- with water still warm and fewer crowds.
Where to go next
One and a half hour drive from Cinque Terre will take you to impressive Portofino. Being in this area, you should not miss a visit to this beautiful, extravagant town. Discover why Italian and international celebrities choose Portofino as their holiday destination.
Where to stay
We decided to visit Cinque Terre as a part of our Eurotrip on a budget guide. We traveled and lived in a car for a month. Therefore, we saved a lot of money on hotels by sleeping in our car. We found the most beautiful spots in the heights above Cinque Terre.
There aren’t many hotels or apartments for rent in Cinque Terre. And everything you will find starts at 130 EUR/night for a simple room. That’s why most people base themselves in La Spezia and visit the towns by train. Look for accommodations on booking.com or airbnb 🤗