Most people will tell you that only spending 1 day in Cinque Terre isn’t enough and you won’t do justice to this famous coastline of Italy. While I do agree that a one day trip to Cinque Terre isn’t the best way to see the area, I appreciate that not everyone has the luxury of time or money to visit Cinque Terre for several days - it is an expensive area to visit after all!
So if you’re wondering how to visit Cinque Terre in one day? Is it even possible to see all 5 villages on a Cinque Terre 1 day trip? I’m here to tell you, yes it is.
We were able to visit Cinque Terre in one day from Parma, which is where we were staying as a cheaper base to explore Cinque Terre, Milan, Florence and the Tuscany region.
Read on for a Cinque Terre itinerary, 1 day guide (it’s possible, I promise!)
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Is one day enough for Cinque Terre?
Of course, one day in any place you’re visiting for the first time is rarely enough time to do it justice. In fact, when I posted on my Instagram that we did Cinque Terre in one day, I actually got some hate for it, for fast tourism and saying it doesn’t do it justice.
While I can see and agree with both those arguments, not everyone has the luxury of time or the budget to spend several days in an expensive area such as the Cinque Terre.
I’m sharing how to see Cinque Terre in 1 day, not because I think this is the “best” way to visit Cinque Terre, but because I want to show that it is possible for those who want to visit but are limited by time or budget.
We had a ferry from Ancona (on the other side of Italy) 2 days later, so we were on a serious time crunch but it was a dream of mine to visit Cinque Terre.
So if Cinque Terre has been on your bucket list, know that it is absolutely possible to see Cinque Terre in 1 day.
About Cinque Terre, Italy
The Cinque Terre is made up of five villages in the Cinque Terre National Park on Italy’s west coast. Located in the Liguria region, Cinque Terre literally means five lands.
The five villages of Cinque Terre from south to north are:
Monterosso al Mare
Where to stay close to Cinque Terre for a one day trip
Firstly you need to start with where you’ll be staying so you’re well situated for visiting Cinque Terre for 1 day only.
We stayed in Parma and I honestly don’t recommend that unless you’re comfortable driving for 2 hours as part of an already very full-on day! It took us 2 hours each way to get from Parma to La Spezia to start our Cinque Terre day trip, so I would try to stay closer if you can!
The key for us was to find somewhere affordable since everywhere in Italy is expensive, but around Cinque Terre was particularly expensive!
Consider Pisa (1 hour down the coast), Genoa (1 hour up the coast and easier if you do this Cinque Terre 1 day itinerary in reverse)
The easiest place to stay would be in La Spezia or Portovenere - or any surrounding small villages on the coast where you can easily reach La Spezia where the train station is to start your 1 day in Cinque Terre itinerary.
Just be aware that anywhere within the Cinque Terre National Park area will be more expensive.
Is it possible to do a one day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence?
If you’re staying in Florence as a base, or even Milan, both cities do offer full-day tours to visit Cinque Terre in 1 day. This is also a great option if you won’t have a vehicle or prefer not to drive.
I’ve also included a few other options below including a Cinque Terre day trip from Pisa if you’re choosing to stay there.
Buying the Cinque Terre 1 day train pass
One of the top Cinque Terre tips is to get the Cinque Terre train card for one day.
The easiest and most cost effective way to get around and see Cinque Terre in one day is with the Cinque Terre rail card.
A single train ticket between two villages costs 5 euros per person. But for 18.20 euros you can get a one-day Cinque Terre rail pass which gives you unlimited train rides between the Cinque Terre villages and access to the hiking trails between them (if you’re interested in doing some of the walks too!)
So if you’re planning on taking 4 or more train rides, or 2 train rides and a hiking trail, then it’s with buying the Cinque Terre card and I think it’s the best way to see Cinque Terre in one day to maximise your time!
If you’re only interested in accessing the hiking trails, you can also get a Cinque Terre trekking card that costs 6.50 - however I’d recommend doing this if you have 2 days in Cinque Terre or more!
All tickets can be purchased from the train stations on the La Spezia - Cinque Terre - Levanto line and are valid until midnight on the day of purchase.
How frequent are the trains in Cinque Terre
You can find the Cinque Terre train timetable here. Be aware that it does change throughout the year depending on the season, but generally during the daytime, there is a train every 30 minutes. Although trains can get delayed and be quite busy to bear this in mind when planning your day!
How to visit Cinque Terre in one day: quick guide
If you’re just here for the quick play-by-play - here’s the itinerary for Cinque Terre that we followed - note that this is easier in the summer months when the days are longer.
9.00am - Picked up our Cinque Terre railcards at La Spezia and boarded the train
9.05am - arrived at Riomaggiore for breakfast
10.30am - took the train to Manarola
12.00pm - took the train to Monterosso al Mare for lunch
2.00pm - walked to Vernazza (or you could take the train)
3.30pm - arrive in Vernazza. Had drinks and aperitivo
5.00pm - took the train to Corniglia for sunset dinner
7.00pm - took the train back to La Spezia
Read below for more details and what to do in Cinque Terre in one day.
A Cinque Terre itinerary: 1 day
9.00am - Pick up Cinque Terre rail pass at La Spezia station
Once you’ve checked the timetable, it’s really up to you how early you want to start your day itinerary in Cinque Terre. If we had been staying in La Spezia I probably would have started early at maybe 7.30/8am but starting at 9am was still fine to fit everything into our one day in Cinque Terre.
Fair warning that the queues for the ticket machines were HUGE and there were only 3 machines in the station concourse. We actually missed the first train we intended to get because we were still queuing
A quick note on parking: if you have a rental vehicle and you’ve driven to La Spezia, I wouldn’t recommend the train station car park. Several of the reviews online spoke about cars being broken into and because we had our travel cases in the car we didn’t want to risk it, so we parked at the more modern, secure underground parking at Europa Park - Parking Europe Square in the centre of La Spezia. It’s a short walk from there to the station but we’re pleased we did because when we got to the station around 9am, there was already a huge queue out of the station car park because it was already full!
9.05am - arrived at Riomaggiore for breakfast
The time between stations in Cinque Terre is only a 2-5 minutes, so you’ll be at the first stop before you know it!
Head towards Riomaggiore village to see your first sight of the magnificent, colourful village houses perched on the cliffs.
We picked up some focaccia for breakfast and headed up the hillside next to the harbour to eat our breakfast and enjoy the views. Then we spent some time just strolling around the charming streets, taking photos and soaking it in - we did a lot of that on this day trip!
Make sure you allow yourself a 10 minute buffer to get to the station for your next train. It’s tempting to leave getting to the station until the last minute because the villages are so small, but even when we visited Cinque Terre in September, the crowds made it difficult to get into the station and we missed the train and had to wait for the next one.
The walking trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola:
We were super keen to do this walk because it’s the shortest and easiest between all the villages so we could easily fit it into our Cinque Terre one day trip itinerary! The path between the two villages is famously called the Path of Love and you’ll see love locks along the way.
Unfortunately there had been a landslide and the path is closed and not projected to open again until July 2024. But if you’re planning to visit in 2024 or onwards then I’d recommend doing this walk to see the coast from a different perspective and because it’s the shortest walking distance between two villages!
10.30am - Take the train to Manarola
A nice, short two minute train ride from Riomaggiore brings you to Manarola. Although Manarola isn’t my favourite village overall, it is my favourite for the views - seeing the vibrant colours of the village perched above the turquoise blue harbour was really a dream come true and everywhere looked like a postcard!
On our itinerary we did actually come back here for a late lunch at Nessun Dorma because I managed to get a seat on their app booking system - read about that here, how it works and my Nessun Dorma experience.
There were people enjoying a swim, cliff jumping and sunbathing here as well as just milling around and getting lost in the charming, colourful streets.
I highly recommend walking along the coastal path a bit and around the headland - here you’ll get the iconic view of Manarola harbour and once you round the headland, it’s beautiful and calm away from the crowds!
If you’re wanting to visit the famous Nessun Dorma restaurant for lunch, it usually doesn’t open until mid afternoon and you need to get in the “queue” on their app to get your place at the restaurant.
My suggestion is to grab a tasty seafood cone from the town, walk up to Nessun Dorma but just before the restaurant entrance, turn left up the steps and you’ll reach a picnic area above the restaurant that’s completely free and with the exact same view - perfect if you’re on a budget or don’t want the inconvenience of waiting in line on the app.
12.00pm - Take the train to Monterosso al Mare
At this stage we decided we would end our day at either Vernazza or Corniglia so we decided to take the train from Manarola to the last village - Monterosso al Mare.
Monterosso is the northernmost village in Cinque Terre and the only village in Cinque Terre that has a large sandy beach and it’s a beautiful one - right by the train station with picture-perfect orange parasols. If you’re looking for an hour or two to chill - this is the place. There’s a small section of the beach which is free to put your towel down if you don’t want to pay for a parasol.
Monterosso was actually the village that surprised me the most! I’d heard that because it’s the biggest it’s not as charming and people often skip it - I personally wouldn’t skip it!
Yes, Monterosso isn’t perched on a cliffside like the other villages, but the bigger size gives it a more “local” and lived in feel, we spent ages exploring the streets here, we went inside churches, checked out local shops and learnt about the mudslide of 2011 which the town has had to recover from.
Because it’s the biggest town, it’s also got more accommodation options if you were planning to spend 2 days in Cinque Terre or more.
The second easiest stretch of walking trails between the villages is between Monterosso and Vernazza which takes around 1.5 hours and has amazing views! If you have time to do the walk I’d recommend it - or you can take the train to maximise your time in each village.
2.00pm - walk or take the train to Vernazza
If you’ve walked to Vernazza, you’ll come from the north and you’ll round the headland to see the iconic view of Vernazza harbour from above. Even if you haven’t walked and you’ve taken the train, I highly recommend walking a short 10 minutes north along the coastal path - find the start of the path behind the Church of St Margaret just beside the harbour.
I also recommend doing a short walk south along the other coastal path from Vernazza to see epic views of the whole village and how it’s perched almost on a peninsula of rock that juts out from the coastline.
I think in terms of photography opportunities, Vernazza was definitely my favourite Cinque Terre village to photograph!
After a fair amount of walking and exploring for a couple of hours, we managed to time it right for aperitivo - my favourite part of the day in Italy! This usually consists of a pre-meal snack and in the late afternoon, wherever you go if you order a drink, you’ll also get some sort of snack for free - think olives, a small meat and cheese selection, crackers or bread and olive oil.
5.00pm - Take the train to Corniglia for sunset dinner
I will caveat this by saying that you may want to have dinner somewhere else, but we were surprised by the crowds even in September, so we decided to go to the least popular village for dinner and it was definitely a great decision - it felt like there was only about 100 people in the village when we were there!
Corniglia is the only Cinque Terre town that doesn’t have direct access to the water. When you take the train to Corniglia, you have the choice to walk to the town up the Scalinata Lardarina - which is a brick staircase with around 400 steps. Or there is a shuttle bus from Corniglia train station. We opted to walk and it wasn’t too bad later in the day.
Corniglia is definitely not the most charming town, but it’s still quaint, colourful and it was so much fun to explore without any crowds. We were able to get a table at Terra Rossa which is a gorgeous wine bar with views looking out across the colourful houses of Corniglia and the sun set right in front of us - truly magical!
Corniglia is the least visited of all the Cinque Terre towns but I think it’s an error to skip it - it’s quieter, cheaper and unique in its position, layout and charm.
7.00pm - Take the train back to La Spezia
Make sure you’ve checked when the last train is back to La Spezia as it does change throughout the year!
If you’re in Corniglia, allow time to walk down the 400 steps to get back to the train station!
After 30,000 steps, we were wiped out and ready to head back to La Spezia!
Summary: how to visit Cinque Terre in one day
We did around 30,000 steps during this Cinque Terre one day trip - we were exhausted but it is absolutely possible and worth it to spend 1 day in Cinque Terre.
It meant we were comfortably able to reach our ferry in Ancona two days later and it meant we were not worried about overstretching our budget which we would have done if we’d stayed in Cinque Terre more than 1 day.
The Cinque Terre train card one day pass makes this day trip super easy and affordable and we found navigating the villages, walking paths and trains very easy to do.
Seeing Cinque Terre was such a bucket list travel destination for me and even just spending one day there, it completely lived up to my expectations.
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