If you have never had a chance to visit this beautiful part of Italy, here is a handy 3 days program to make the most of the 5 villages included in the Cinque Terre, with its seaside and its surrounding nature.
Fly into Genova in the morning and take the train to your booked accommodation (around 2 hours journey). We personally stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the southern of the 5 ‘lands’, and it felt the most alive at night time, with plenty of bars and restaurants open until late despite being a tiny town.
Even if its main attraction ‘La Via dell’amore’ (a beautiful seaside terraced pathway between Riomaggiore and Manarola) has been closed for a few years now due to an important landslide (they are hoping to restore it in a couple of years), there is another beautiful walk starting from the center of the village and going up on top of its little castle to then walk down a pathway not far from the train station with enchanting views on the sea that leads you back down to its picturesque harbor, followed by its beach.
The following day we purchased a 24 hour Cinque Terre card for £16 which includes all trains between the 5 towns at any time (hop on, hop off), all buses within the little towns and the tickets to access 2 beautiful hiking pathways who have an admission fee to preserve its nature. This card is also available for 48h or 3 days but to budget at best we used trains and pathways all on the same day.
In fact we took the train from Riomaggiore to Corniglia. There we waited for the bus from the train station to avoid going up the over 300 stairs to get to the main village (Corniglia is the only one which has no harbor as it is on a higher level than the sea). From there we started walking on this breathtaking pathway between Corniglia and Vernazza (90 minutes hiking on average – Normal charge €7). If you are wearing appropriate shoes and are in good shape, it is quite accessible. The pathway then continues from Vernazza di Monterosso for another 120 minutes roughly, where without the Cinque terre card you would have to pay a new admission fee of €7 (for a total of €14 without the convenience of this special ticket).
TREKKING VIEWS BETWEEN CORNIGLIA AND MONTEROSSO
We arrived in Vernazza for lunch time and discovered probably our preferred village among the 5 (even if Manarola is a good competitor lol). Vernazza is really charming as you get a beautiful view on its 2 old towers when you arrive by hiking from Corniglia. Yet, the other side with its small main square, its’ harbor, it’s tiny beach and its castle is a real wonder as well!
We walked around, relaxed and had an ice cream until the hottest hours of the day were over and around 4pm we resumed our hiking towards Monterosso. We met a very unusually funny lemonade and Limoncello seller half way through the 2 villages (the typically cheeky Italian style ‘businessman’!). We arrived in Monterosso around 6.30pm and run straight to the beach to have a bath in the sea to refresh ourselves (Monterosso is the only town with sandy beaches). Then we had a DELICIOUS dinner at Il Piccolo Diavolo restaurant with excellent seafood! We finally caught the train home around 10.30pm (it feels very safe to travel in between the villages even at night time and there are trains every 20 minutes – In fact they call it the ‘Cinque Terre Tube’!).
The following day we decided to see everything from the sea, as a boat trip was really a must to discover the area in a different way. We had also been advised if we had spare time to visit Portovenere which is located further south from Riomaggiore and despite is not part of the denomination ‘Cinque Terre” is really a must. It cannot be reached by train but only by bus from La Spezia or by boat from La Spezia or Riomaggiore. So around 10am we caught a morning train from Riomaggiore back to Monterosso, the northern of the 5 ‘lands’ and there we bought a ferry ticket Monterosso – Portovenere for €18. It was so beautiful to see all the villages from the sea, a completely different prospective!
Ferry boat views
In Portovenere we arrived around lunch time (it takes 80 minutes to get from Monterosso by ferry) where we relaxed and even took a dip in the sea just in front of the famous Byron Grotto! If you have more time at disposal there are lots of things to see in the area as just in front of Portovenere there are several islands, a bit like Bournemouth and Poole with the Isle of Wight, so there are lots of boat trips to go around those islands and see them closer or some people just go on the other side to relax on its beaches. But beware, the last ferry back towards Cinque terre is unfortunately at 5pm and no later. For £13 you get back to Riomaggiore o Manarola. We decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening in Manarola as it was the only town (with Corniglia) we had not visited yet.
Manarola turned out to be such a charming little town! Less alive then Riomaggiore as the upper part only has houses and nearly any bar or restaurant (they are mainly concentrated around its harbour), but much more countryside, surrounded by beautiful vineyards all around the side of the mountains where it is located, with such a relaxing vibe as if we had stepped into a painting!
The following morning we only had half day left before returning home, so we took a train from Riomaggiore to Manarola, had a little wander in its vyneyards and then took a bus to Volastra a small town located further up between Manarola and Corniglia, from where there is a free hiking pathway to get to Corniglia (it took us 2 hours due to the heath). There is a free track between Manarola to Volastra, as well but it’s tougher to do and we did not have enough time so we cut it short with the bus service. We really enjoyed the trekking there as well and arrived in Corniglia around lunch time. We walked around enjoying the sea views from a higher level, even if we felt it was the most touristic of the 5 lands.
As usual I hope you will enjoy this program from my personal travel guide for the budgeting ideas and the precious local information I am sharing here with you!