2 Days Exploring Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre translates to “five lands.” There are five small centuries old fishing villages along the Italian coastline, where colorful buildings are stacked high along rugged steep cliffs. We spent 2 days hiking and tasting our way through the small coastal towns. In this blog post, I’ll give you some guidance and a rough itinerary for what do in Cinque Terre if you have 2-3 days.
To Get There
Fly into Genoa or Pisa to find the closest train station into Cinque Terre. There are no direct flights here.
If you are taking a train from somewhere in Europe, take it to La Spezia Centrale Train Station where you can access the local trains for Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Card
You can purchase a multi-day unlimited train and hiking trail pass called the Cinque Terre Card at La Spezia Train Station or any of the towns’ stations for easy transport between the towns. This is incredibly useful during your stay. I highly recommend purchasing this pass.
Of the five small towns, Vernazza and Manarola are the most picturesque and the ones I would recommend staying in.
A little bit about each town from north to south…
This town is mostly flat so that would be the easiest for mobility issues and families with small children. This is also the town with the best beaches.
Romantic and picturesque, this is one of the most beautiful towns to stay in.
This is the highest town from the coastline, with quaint cobblestone alleys and several churches. This town feels the most medieval.
Also quite romantic and picturesque, this was truly a gem. We stayed at Olimpo Affittacamere and it was perfect. Incredible views of the town and ocean below from our balcony.
This is a place great if you’re on a budget, not quite as stunning but you can still easily access all the other towns since they are all so close together by train.
Note: The towns are all walking only, and many have steep climbs and stairs throughout. Most people come to Cinque Terre to hike the coastal trails between the towns.
Day 1 Itinerary: Cinque Terre
Grab a light breakfast at one of the local eateries in the town that you’re staying in. I love getting a cappuccino and a sandwich or croissant.
Hike Monterosso to Vernazza
Most people come to Cinque Terre for its coastal hiking trails. Don’t miss this! Try and do at least a section of the trails between the five towns. In total, the blue path (which is the ocean trail) is 7.5 miles.
The 2.5 mile hike from Monterosso to Vernazza is the hardest of the 4 trails on the blue path (ocean path) between the five cities. The blue path is the hiking trail that goes along the coastline and is the most popular. Reverse this order and do Vernazza to Monterosso if you don’t want to climb as much. You can always take the train to different sections of the trail so you won’t have to do all of them in order.
You’ll start this trail along the beaches of Monterosso heading south along the coastline. It’s very obvious since these towns are so small.
Not into hiking? Try the Cinque Terre Full-Day Boat Tour instead, where you can view the towns from the ocean.
There are a lot of stairs and vineyards on this path, and the great clear ocean on your right.
You can go slightly off trail to see the Convent of the Capuchin Friars and the statue of San Francesco D’ Assisi.
There are many steps to climb along this hike, eventually you’ll find yourself among vineyards overlooking the sea.
One of the best views in Cinque Terre is towards the end of this hike as you approach Vernazza. You see this view from the path down to the colorful village and boats.
Take a break and grab a gelato in Vernazza
Who doesn’t love gelato! Hot from the hike, we cooled down with pistachio and strawberry, but they melted before I could get a cute pic, lol.
Hike Vernazza to Corniglia
This hike is 2.1 miles and slightly different terrain with stonework and some bamboo along the way.
My favorite thing about this hike is the restaurant with a view along the path. Bar il’ Gabbiano has the best lemonade slushies that are both in virgin and vodka forms. You can stop in for a drink or for lunch. It has the best views and is the perfect place to stop and rest your feet.
When you get to Corniglia you’ll have to take a shuttle up to the town. This is an adorable medieval looking town with lots of wine bars and places to grab a bite. I recommend roaming these streets and grabbing lunch if you haven’t eaten yet.
Dine at Trattoria Billy
Make reservations in advanced for Trattoria Billy, a restaurant high on the hill in Manarola boasting delicious lobster pasta and incredible views.
Day 2 Itinerary: Cinque Terre
Take the Pesto Making Experience at Nessun Dorma
Nessun Dorma is a top-rated restaurant in the town of Manarola. Whether you come here for dinner, pesto making, or wine tasting, you should experience the delicious fresh food and grand view from the terrace. Definitely add to you list!
The Pesto Making Experience was incredibly fun! We made pesto while learning about the region, drank wine, and made new friends. The experience also comes with a nice lunch and cute aprons!
Hike Manarola to Riomaggiore
This 1 mile hike is pretty strenuous, I would recommend you have hiking experience for this one. There are steep stairs to climb and uneven ground. As you climb you get a great view of the agricultural terraces etched into the mountainside.
Grab a small bite or drinks at bar y Vin
Once you arrive in Riomaggiore, there is a great bar on the cliffs overlooking the ocean called Bar y Vin. Stop in for a bite or a drink.
Spend the Afternoon Beachside in Monterosso
If the sun has come out head to the beaches of Monterosso and rent a chair and umbrella (about 10 Euro). The water is beautiful here and is surrounded by gorgeous mountains all around.
If you’re not into sunbathing or swimming, or if you’re over hiking, go on a Cinque Terre Sunset Boat Tour. This will be highly dependent on the weather conditions, but it will be amazing to get out onto the crystal clear water.
When you’re in Monterosso, don’t miss the ginormous statue of Neptune at the very north end of the beach. The statue was damaged during a WW2 bombing, so it’s missing it’s arms, trident and the giant seashell. It’s looks like it was carved right out of the mountain because it blends so nicely, but it was actually constructed from concrete.
Dine at La Regina Di Manarola
This restaurant has a more modern vibe, even though it taps into Italy’s more distant past when the Moors dominated Italy. Try the seed crusted tuna fish, it was my favorite dish of our entire trip. Also if you’re into basil get “The Liguria” cocktail. It was the perfect balance, not too sweet or savory.
I hope this helps you plan your trip! Do you have any more insights on things to do in Cinque Terre? Leave them in the comments below.
Looking for some alternative activities? Here are some great tours you can take to get out on the water.
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