Headed to Italy and looking to spend 3 days in Cinque Terre?! I’m sharing everything you need to know to plan the perfect Cinque Terre itinerary — when to go, where to stay, where to eat, and of course, all the fun things to do!
Imagine eating authentic Italian pizza while watching the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. Learning how to make homemade pesto with an aperol spritz in hand. Sunbathing on one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Italy. Wandering tiny towns full of colorful homes and quaint, cobblestone streets. That’s Cinque Terre in a nutshell. And it’s absolutely glorious.
Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Lands”, consists of five small coastal villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare). Luckily, this Cinque Terre itinerary visits them all! Think picturesque harbors, winding cliff pathways, pastel-colored houses, and sweeping vistas full of terraced vineyards. Can’t forget about all that trofie al pesto and sage butter gnocchi (mmm… I’m drooling just thinking about those meals!).
After stepping off the train, heading to our hotel high up in the hills of Manarola, and then taking our first look at the sea, we were in awe. I can promise you, you’ll never want your 3 days in Cinque Terre to end. There’s a reason over three million travelers visit each and every year.
Honestly, it’s my new favorite area of Italy. Our trip exceeded all my expectations and then some; yes, it’s touristy, but I swear, it’s one of the prettiest destinations in all of Italy (and that’s a tough call because there’s just so much scenic beauty in this country) .
Get ready for this Cinque Terre itinerary – you’ll never wanna leave this famous coastal landscape! I know I didn’t!
3 Days in Cinque Terre At-A-Glance
- Day 1: Beach at Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza Harbor
- Day 2: Corniglia Views and Pizza Sunset in Riomaggiore
- Day 3: Nessun Dorma Pesto Class, Boat Tour, and Fresh Pasta in Manarola
So let’s get to it – the most perfect 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary coming right up! But first, some important logistics!
3 Days in Cinque Terre Itinerary Logistics
Where is Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre is in Northwestern Italy in the Italian Riviera right on the Mediterranean coast. It’s located in the Liguria Region (along with Genoa – the region’s capital, La Spezia, and Sanremo), and not terribly far from major cities like Pisa, Milan, and Florence.
Although it’s in the north, it’s on the opposite side of the country from Venice, so don’t expect to travel between the two fast!
If you’re hoping to visit both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre (like plenty of people do), remember they are pretty far apart. Amalfi is located on the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region… quite far from the villages of Cinque Terre.
How to Get to Cinque Terre
Regardless of where you’re coming from, it can be a bit tricky to get to Cinque Terre.
Why? Because if you look at a map, there’s no specific place in Italy called Cinque Terre – it’s a region comprising those five tiny villages I spoke about earlier. You’ve gotta know exactly where to go (and by that, I mean which town you wanna visit).
Also, there’s no Cinque Terre airport, so regardless of where you fly into, you’ll need to take the train to the 5 villages. So yea, it’s a little more challenging to reach than the bigger cities in Italy, but well worth it! I promise!
Flying to Cinque Terre
Okay, so here’s the thing. You can’t fly to Cinque Terre directly (there’s no airport here!), but you can fly to an airport nearby. If you’re coming from the states, I recommend flying into one of these airports and then taking the train to the villages of Cinque Terre.
How to decide which airport to fly into? Look at flight prices and flight schedules. Some airports offer more international arrivals than others, so it’s really worth looking into all the possible airports.
- Pisa (Galileo Galilei International Airport, PSA): ~50 miles, 1 ½ hours away, by far the closest airport to Cinque Terre. You need to first take the Pisa Mover to the main train station (only takes about 5 minutes), then take the train to La Spezia (about 1 ½ hours).
- Genoa (Cristoforo Colombo International Airport, GOA): ~55 miles, 2 hours away via train
- Florence (Florence Airport, FLR): ~85 miles, ~ 3 ½ hours away via train
- Milan (Milan Malpensa Airport, MXP): ~160 miles, ~4 hours away via train. The furthest away on this list, but MXP has so many international flights so definitely check out the airport in Milan.
Once you fly into one of these airports near Cinque Terre, you’ll then need to take the train! Info below! I promise you the long journey is worth it!
Taking the Train to Cinque Terre
If you’re flying to an airport near Cinque Terre or heading to the five villages from elsewhere in Italy, you’ll most likely be taking the train. Unfortunately, there are no reliable bus options, so the train is your best bet.
Thankfully, Trenitalia (the primary train operator in Italy) has direct connections to La Spezia from Rome, Florence, and Pisa (the closest airport). Wait… La Spezia? I thought we were going to Cinque Terre!
Yup, you’ll most likely need to connect in either La Spezia (south of the five towns) or Levanto (directly north of Monterosso al Mare). For further details on train times and prices, check out the Trenitalia website.
Once you get to Cinque Terre, the Cinque Terre Express train runs between La Spezia and Levanto in Sestri Levante, stopping at each village every few minutes.
Psst – Monterosso is the only one of the Cinque Terre villages that is served by long distance Intercity trains. If you end up here and your accommodation is elsewhere, you’ll need to take the Cinque Terre Express train.
If you’re crazy like us and decided to head from Venice to Cinque Terre, you’ll need to take a connecting train. First from Venezia San Lucia to Milano Centrale (2 ½ hours), and then from Milano Centrale to Monterosso (3 hours).
Honestly, although the train travel was only about 5 ½ hours, it literally took ALL day and I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way. We essentially lost an entire day of our trip and had a difficult time figuring out which train times would be best (we were worried about missing a super tight connection).
Driving to Cinque Terre
Honestly, I don’t recommend driving to Cinque Terre. While there’s a few parking lots outside the town centers, you won’t be using your car in Cinque Terre itself, AT ALL. Plus, the roads are narrow and windy through the mountains, there’s not a bunch of parking (and it can be quite expensive), and you’ll probably get a ticket or two (parking laws are very strict here).
If Cinque Terre is part of a much longer Italy road trip and you’re planning to drive over here, don’t fret. Just find a parking lot. I highly recommend finding a parking lot where you can simply drop your car off, leave it there for the duration of your stay in Cinque Terre, and then pick it back up once you’re leaving the area.
Check out the Park Centro Stazione underground parking garage at the La Spezia Centrale train station – you can park for 24 hours for €30 (the daily rate). You can then take the Cinque Terre Express Train directly to the villages.
Definitely not the most convenient way to head to Cinque Terre, but it’s possible. If you’re following this Cinque Terre itinerary, you definitely don’t need a car, promise!
How to Get Around During Your 3 Days in Cinque Terre
During your 3 days in Cinque Terre, you’ll undoubtedly be taking the train plenty of times! It’s by far the best way to get between the villages. Each of the five towns of Cinque Terre has its own train station, and they’re all connected on the Cinque Terre railway. Trains run about every 20 minutes, although standing there in the blazing sun it definitely felt longer sometimes (and the schedule never seemed to match up…).
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to get from one village to the next. A few minutes at most! It takes less than 30 minutes to get from one end of the railway to the other (including to La Spezia).
Like other big cities, Cinque Terre has its own transportation pass, the Cinque Terre Pass (very unique name, I know, haha). If you want unlimited travel on the Cinque Terre Train (all the way from La Spezia to Levanto, with all the five villages in between), you’ll wanna grab the Cinque Terre Train Card.
You can purchase the card for either 1 day, 2 days, or 3 days. We used the train a few times a day and loved not having to worry about getting (and paying for) train tickets each and every time. You can purchase the pass at any train station in Cinque, or at any of the Tourist Info Points.
I didn’t actually realize there was a ferry running between the villages until we got to Cinque Terre. And lemme tell ya — seeing the villages from the water is an activity in and of itself!
Taking the ferry is a great way to see the rugged cliffs of the coastline as well as the turquoise water and of course the colorful fishing villages from a different viewpoint. But there’s an even better way… a boat tour, which I’ll get into later.
The ferry runs from the end of March until the beginning of November.
Psst – the ferry doesn’t run to Corniglia since there’s no water access there. It does make stops in Portovenere though, and less frequently in La Spezia and Levanto.
Boat vs Train? I still choose the train, as they come way more frequently. Take a guided boat tour instead (and you won’t be smashed with hundreds of other passengers on board and even get to swim in the refreshing sea)!
Once you’ve taken the train into one of the 5 villages, you can then get around entirely on foot! The five towns are pretty small (albeit a bit hilly, especially heading up to Corniglia), and you can really see so much in a short amount of time.
We walked A TON in Cinque Terre, and highly recommend wearing comfy shoes. Leave your strappy sandals and cute espadrilles at home if you know you’ll be getting in your steps. I saw a few girls struggling in heels on the uneven cobblestone – don’t be one of them. Save your cute shoes for dinner wherever you’re staying (basically, whenever you know you’re not walking a lot, haha).
I do NOT recommend a car to get around Cinque Terre. The villages themselves are car-free (for real, you won’t see any cars), and there’s super limited parking outside the village centers. Once you realize how fast and easy the train is, you’ll be glad you left your car at home.
Driving to Cinque Terre? Park your car outside the main villages (in La Spezia) for the duration of your stay in Cinque Terre. There’s really no reason for a car in Cinque Terre, and it’ll just prove to be more of a hassle anyways.
When to Plan Your 3 Day Cinque Terre Itinerary (Weather and Crowds)
Is there really a bad time to visit Cinque Terre? With Liguria’s mild Mediterranean climates, a visit from mid-March to mid-October will probably be pretty perfect! Of course there’s pros and cons to each season, which I’ll explain a bit here!
Summer: May — September (High Season)
May through September is Cinque Terre’s busy season, and boy does it get busy. Crowds seem to increase every year – everyone wants to see the sweeping vistas and explore the colorful fishing villages (can’t blame them!).
The beaches in Monterosso al Mare are overflowing with tourists (get there early). You’ll need to make dinner reservations at popular restaurants. And book accommodation months in advance. Still, the weather will be at its best, with the highest chance of clear, sunny skies and gorgeous beach weather.
Try to avoid school vacations and especially Italian National holidays, as this is when the five towns see the highest number of visitors.
Whatever you do, do whatever you can to avoid visiting Cinque Terre when a cruise ship is in port (La Spezia) — thousands of people will be pouring into the small towns! Find the schedule here.
For reference, we visited Cinque Terre in late June. The days were long and hot and sweaty, and the towns were pretty crowded. We still had a fantastic time, but we would have preferred slightly cooler weather (since we were dripping half the time).
Spring and Fall: April and October (Shoulder Seasons)
In my opinion, the best time to visit Cinque Terre is during a shoulder season, either Spring or Fall, specifically mid to late April or mid to late October.
The massive crowds have not yet arrived (Spring) or have already gone home (Fall), the temps are cooler than sweaty summer, and you’ll be able to score some deals on accommodation and airfare to Italy. It starts to get rainier and kinda chilly in late Fall, so you may be taking a chance on weather if you visit in late October.
Winter: November — March (Low Season)
Like any other season, there are pros and cons to spending 3 days in Cinque Terre in the winter months. It’ll be very quiet and some restaurants will be closed, the weather may not be perfect (definitely expect some rain and gray skies), and the train and ferry schedules are reduced.
Although it never gets crazy crazy cold during the day (expect low 50s), it may dip into the 30s at night.
A bonus is that the hiking trails are free of charge, but heavy rains may close some of these paths. There’ll likely be some maintenance work going on as well (makes sense to do the work during low season).
But that just means you’ll be able to save money on accommodation and flights (everybody likes that).
An Overview of the Five Villages
I highly recommend visiting all 5 villages during your 3 days in Cinque Terre. And luckily, this 3-day Cinque Terre itinerary visits them all!
While the villages are similar in nature (they’ve all got dreamy seaside views, cobblestone streets, and pastel-colored houses), they’ve also got their own personality and appeal. Some are more peaceful and quiet, some are known for their delicious restaurants and cuisine, and some are great for sunset!
Here they are from north to south:
Monterosso al Male
Monterosso al Male, more frequently known as simply “Monterosso” is the largest and most developed of the 5 villages.
If you’re looking to head to the beach on your Cinque Terre itinerary, definitely head to Monterosso. You’ll find the best beaches in Cinque Terre over here, and we loved our morning at Fegina – those orange umbrellas are so iconic to the area. And of course it felt amazing to cool off in the sea (we were visiting in late June and boy was it was hot!).
Not everyone realizes this, but there’s actually two parts to Monterosso – the new town (with the gorgeous Fegina Beach) and the charming old town center. They’re split by a tunnel and you can easily walk between the two.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the harbor in Vernazza – it’s super picturesque and probably my favorite part of the village! It’s actually the only natural harbor in Cinque Terre.
Vernazza is the most photographed town in Cinque Terre for a reason. There’s a medieval tower, a gorgeous small beach at the port which gets crazy crowded in the summer (it’s super tiny), and the colorful houses in town are just so cute!
The views from above the town are absolutely out of this world (and I highly recommend hiking a short distance here). It’s where the famous viewpoints are – you’ll need your Cinque Terre pass for this. I’ve actually got a huge art print of Vernazza hanging above my couch in my living room which I finally got to see in person on the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia!
Corniglia is the only village without any sea access, and is the hardest to reach since the train platform is well below the actual town. You’ll need to walk up 377 steps to reach the village, or you can take the shuttle if you’re lucky enough to catch it like us!
It’s the most authentic of the villages, since there’s way less tourists over here and more locals out and about. Meaning Corniglia is way less crowded – perfect when you’ve had enough of all the tourists!
Despite the lack of sea access, it’s still got gorgeous views of the water and it’s surrounded by vineyards.
Manarola has to be my favorite village in Cinque Terre. In my opinion, it’s the most picturesque and charming of all the villages; there’s such a magical atmosphere and we could have spent hours sipping aperol and limoncello spritz’ watching the world go by. I still dream about those multicolored houses hidden high in the hills overlooking the sea.
It’s well-known for Nessun Dorma, a famous restaurant with the best views, where you can take a pesto-making class and have a long leisurely lunch of Italian Bruschetta platters and refreshing white wine. Trattoria dal Billy, another super popular restaurant, offers fresh seafood overlooking the sea, the vineyards, and the town below.
There’s no beach here in Manarola, but you can sunbathe, cliff dive, and swim from the cliffs and rocks surrounding the marina.
This is where everyone goes for sunset on the rocks with a pizza in hand (and yes, of course it’s included on this 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary)!
The town of Riomaggiore feels and looks like a real-life postcard. Everywhere you look is absolutely unreal.
Don’t miss a cone of fried fish at Tutti Fritti or Il Pescato Cucinato – delicious!
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
When planning a Cinque Terre itinerary, you’ve essentially got two categories of where to stay. You can either stay in one of the five villages within Cinque Terre itself, or on the outskirts of Cinque Terre in a nearby city.
The Five Villages:
If you want easy access to the other villages and wanna be in all the action 24/7, I recommend staying in one of the 5 towns. There aren’t a lot of traditional hotels in the five villages (most accommodation options are small guesthouses), so book early if you know you wanna stay in a typical hotel-like setting. No generic resorts or strips of hotels here!
Psst – Affittacamere directly translates to “landlord” in Italian, but this is just another way of saying the place is a guesthouse! They’re kinda like Italian Airbnbs – where the host doesn’t always live on site and you’ll rarely see them. Typically, these guest houses provide a folder with all the info you need instead.
Tip: Regardless of what town you stay in, I highly recommend packing light. There’s lots of stairs/hills in the villages, and the last thing I’d wanna do is drag around a huge suitcase to my accommodation!
We chose to base ourselves in Manarola here during our 3 days in Cinque Terre, and were thrilled with our choice! It felt busy but not too busy, and nights watching the sunset overlooking the pastel-colored houses were so romantic!
Manarola is the most charming and romantic of the 5 villages, a little more homey and a little less touristy than the others, and perfect for couples who want a little romance. And photographers, too, since the views are outstanding.
I’m so glad we stayed in Manarola — the quiet and relaxing evenings were lovely after busy days in the sun. It’s one of the most popular areas to stay, so book far in advance.
- Da Baranin (where we stayed and loved, with a great breakfast on the patio every morning and gorgeous views of the terraced hills!)
- Il Sogno di Manarola by The First (a brand new luxury option with views overlooking Manarola – where I originally wanted to stay but it was already sold out!)
- Marina Piccola (modern hotel full of contemporary design features in the heart of Manarola)
- La Torretta (luxury accommodation with a hot tub and free aperitivo every night)
I swear, every photo of Riomaggiore looks like a postcard. While there’s no swimming here, you can lay out your towel and sunbathe on the rocks. It’s got a younger feeling than the other villages, with the busiest and most dynamic nightlife. Plus, it’s the best place to stay within the five towns if you’re on a budget.
- Cinque Terre Residence (traditional hotel with a lovely garden plus outdoor hot tub)
- Affittacamere Le Giare (small guest house with balconies with sea views)
- Crêuza de Mä (luxury accommodation with a hot tub overlooking the Ligurian coast!)
Corniglia is the hardest town to access, so it’s not recommended for those with mobility issues. It’s also the only town not on the water, although it has some stunning sea views from above. With that being said, it’s the most peaceful place to stay (with more of a local feel), with lots of cafes with leafy terraces and fantastic views – the perfect place to enjoy a peaceful morning coffee.
Corniglia is best for hikers, those who want an off-the-beaten-track feel, and those looking for good budget options.
- Locanda il Carugio Guesthouse (modern rooms with a great design aesthetic and great terrace)
- Hanging Garden Hotel (located in the heart of Corniglia)
- Arbanella (affordable option with views of the vineyards and lush green hills)
This town is one of the bigger ones in the area (and the most popular), full of restaurants and hotels. Meaning it’s also one of the busiest – book well in advance! With its super pretty harbor, it’s great for couples and photographers, and people who don’t mind crowds.
- Hotel Gianni Franzi (a pink hotel on top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean)
- Rollando Affittacamere (super cute and authentically Italian!)
- Rooms Elisabetta Carro (such amazing views from here!)
Monterosso al Male
Since Monterosso is mostly flat and the most developed (easier to find things you may have forgotten at home), it’s the best option for families and those with mobility issues. There’s lots of traditional hotels and even some hostels here for those on a budget.
Plus, if you’re looking to stay near the beach, Monterosso has by far the best beach in the entire Cinque Terre area.
- Locanda Il Maestrale (historic, family run hotel in the heart of the old town)
- MìaChì (a contemporary feel decorated with clean lines, plus many rooms with private terraces)
- Villa Tanca Hotel (luxury accommodation with sea views)
If you don’t mind being outside the main tourist villages and wanna save quite a bit of money, opt to stay outside the 5 towns. Both La Spezia (Affittacamere I Gatti delle 5 Terre is a great choice) and Levanto (check out La Madonetta) are great options.
With trains coming every 20 minutes or so, it’s super easy to get right into the heart of Cinque Terre in a few minutes. Train travel to La Spezia and Levanto are actually included in the Cinque Terre Express train network.
You’ll miss the magical moments of the 5 villages once the sun goes down and the day trippers clear out, but it may be worth it to save some decent money.
Are 3 Days in Cinque Terre Enough?
If you wanna see all 5 villages without making a mad dash for each one, I highly recommend spending at least 3 days in Cinque Terre. This will give you ample time to explore each village, take a few short hikes on the trails, and even do a boat trip along the coast.
I think you can get by with 2 if that’s all you have time for, but we’re super glad we spent a full 3 days in Cinque Terre. If you’re a big hiker and wanna hike between a few of the villages (granted the trails are open) AND wanna do everything on my 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary, you may wanna tack on an extra day or 2.
Depending on where you’re coming from, it may take some time to reach Cinque Terre, so stay a few days and enjoy the area!
What About a Day Trip?
If all you have time for is a day in Cinque Terre, it’s possible to visit from nearby cities (Florence, Milan, and/or Pisa). BUT you’ll be rushing around A LOT and it’ll be hard to take in the dreamy atmospheres of the different villages.
You most definitely won’t be able to visit all 5 towns with just one day in Cinque Terre, and I recommend visiting no more than 3.
In addition, Cinque Terre unfortunately experiences massive over tourism. By visiting for only a day (either on a guided day trip or on a cruise), you’re not exactly pumping much money into the local economy.
I don’t say this to deter you from visiting as a day trip, but to remind you to shop local, eat at restaurants in the villages, and promise to stay longer next time.
Check out these popular day trip options from other nearby spots:
- From Florence: Cinque Terre Day Trip with Optional Hike and Lunch
- From Milan: Cinque Terre Day Trip
- From Pisa: Cinque Terre Day Trip with Italian Wine Tasting by Minivan
- From Montecatini Terme: Cinque Terre and Portovenere Tour
- From Lucca: Cinque Terre Day Trip with Italian Wine Tasting by Minivan
Other Important Tips and Faqs for your Cinque Terre Itinerary
- Say Cinque Terre correctly! Nothing screams ignorant tourists than completely butchering the name of the area (I’ve totally done that around the world so now I make a point of learning the correct pronunciation). The typical Italian pronunciation is “chin-qwa terra”.
- There’s only one main beach in all of Cinque Terre. Craving a beach day? Head to Fegina Beach in Monterosso. Other villages have rocks and small patches of sand to sunbathe on, but no true beaches.
- Invest in the Cinque Terre Treno card. This gives you unlimited train travel within the entire network (between all the towns and La Spezia and Levanto) for the number of days you buy it for.
- Cinque Terre is a National Park! While there’s no entrance fee to Cinque Terre National Park, you’ll need a special pass if you wanna hike between the villages.
- Eat all the trofie al pesto you can. Honestly, it’s so, so, so good. And very well-known in Cinque Terre. It’s actually the regional pasta type!
- The villages are hilly and steep! Wear comfy shoes and leave those heels at home.
Hiking in Cinque Terre
Love to hike? You need to add hiking a few scenic trails into your Cinque Terre itinerary! Many people who visit Cinque Terre are looking to hike between the villages. The five towns are all connected to each other via coastal pathways, the mountains, and even the railroad!
While I haven’t done the entire hike myself, I’ve heard from others it’s a pretty fantastic hike.
The most famous (and most popular) path in all of Cinque Terre is the Blue Path – and it’s actually the easiest! It connects all five villages. You can hike the entire walking trail (12km from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, passing all five villages), or do shorter sections between villages. It takes about 5 hours to hike the entire trail.
Make sure to bring lots of water and slather on that sunscreen – there’s not a lot of shade on the trails. Also, make sure to either wear tennis shoes or hiking boots – sandals will NOT cut it here and open-toed shoes have even been banned!.
Cinque Terre Trekking Card: Do note you must have a pass in order to hike the trails (although the trails are free from mid-November until the end of March). If you know you’ll be using the trains a lot as well, opt for the pass that combines both trekking and the train! If you forget to buy the pass before your hike, don’t worry – you can buy one at every start of a trail in each village.
Be aware of trail closures: Before you set out on your hike, triple check that it’s open. Not all routes are open due to heavy landslides, and some routes take years to clear.
As of now, the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola (Lover’s Lane) and Manarola to Corniglia are closed (due to a landslide). They’re planned to reopen in 2024, although that could change depending on weather and construction. Find more info here, and just remember, trail availability can change overnight.
Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast
Since many people only have time for one, I thought it was a good idea to do a short comparison of Cinque Terre vs the Amalfi Coast. Honestly, both destinations are downright beautiful, and I highly urge you to visit both (eventually). Deciding which one to choose for your trip kinda depends where else in Italy you’re going. One isn’t better than the other!
Cinque Terre is much cheaper than the Amalfi Coast, but of course this truly depends on your accommodations, where you eat, what activities you do, etc. However, it’s pretty clear that the Amalfi Coast is a much more expensive destination than Cinque Terre. I’d say Amalfi is better for family-friendly accommodations, while Cinque Terre is more compact and quicker to get around.
You honestly can’t go wrong with either!
Best 3 Days in Cinque Terre Itinerary
Note about this Cinque Terre itinerary:
- This Cinque Terre itinerary doesn’t account for any longer hikes. If you’re keen to hike between the villages, add an extra day or two or eliminate a few of the activities listed below. We enjoyed just wandering through the towns, sipping on spritzes, and people watching, so you can easily add in some more adventurous activities if you’ve had enough of relaxing.
- Feel free to switch around the days as you like! What I listed below is merely a suggestion, and since the train runs so frequently between villages, you can easily swap a few things if you prefer.
- I recommend getting to Monterosso Beach early in the morning, since it gets crazy busy, and don’t miss a sunset in Riomaggiore. My two must-do’s!
- I typically like to have a plan so I make sure I hit all my must-do’s on a trip, especially on a shorter trip like 3 days in Cinque Terre. It does get kind of tiring hopping on the train numerous times a day (sometimes the wait time is longer than you anticipate, especially in the hot sun), so I’d limit the number of villages you visit in a day to two.
Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 1: Monterroso de Mare and Vernazza
Morning: Beach Time in Monterroso de Mare
First up on this Cinque Terre itinerary – some beach time! I always like to take things a bit slower on my first day in a new area, especially when I may be battling jet lag or too many boring train rides.
So for your first morning of your 3 days in Cinque Terre, I recommend heading to Monterroso and making a beeline straight for Fegina Beach. There’s beautiful orange and green umbrellas to rent, that gorgeous turquoise water, and sparkly sand! Kinda reminded me of the beach clubs in Nice and Cannes, although way less pretentious, and way cheaper. Expect to pay about €25 for two comfy sunbeds and a parasol for the day.
We hung out for a few hours, relaxing on our chaise lounges, sunbathing in the hot Italian sun, and cooling off in the water when we got too sweaty. Visiting in summer does that to you no matter how hard you try!
Walk along the boardwalk above the beach for those classic beach shots of the rows and rows of umbrellas popping against the waters. Don’t miss the iconic rock resembling a fin – you’ll see what I mean from up here!
If you still have a little energy left (the sun always knocks me out!), walk through the tunnel into Monterroso’s Old Town. Here you can browse local boutiques and art shops, as well as taste some Italian wines at Enoteca Internazionale (the oldest wine shop/bar in town).
Feeling peckish before lunch? Try the famous Monterosso anchovies, they’re lightly fried and oh so salty and delicious.
Afternoon and Early Evening: Lunch and Explore Vernazza
Take the train one stop to Vernazza – it’s time for lunch!
Late Lunch at Ristorante Belforte
We chose to eat at Ristorante Belforte after hearing rave reviews about this special spot.
It’s easily the most romantic restaurant in Vernazza, and I can totally see why! The restaurant is inside a former CASTLE, with sweeping ocean views from almost every table! It’s a great special occasion restaurant – hey, you’re in Cinque Terre for 3 days – that’s special enough in my book!
Not only are the views and atmosphere great, our lunch was phenomenal as well. The menu is full of fresh seafood and fish and pasta, and we splurged and got some lobster! When in Vernazza! Save some room for the tiramisu – I heard it’s outta this world (we were too stuffed to try it unfortunately).
Our waiter was so entertaining and friendly (such a unique character), and we ended up chatting with him for a while! That’s what leisurely lunches in Italy should be all about, right?!
Do note that Ristorante Belforte is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Cinque Terre, meaning you’ll probably need a reservation. We had our hotel make a reservation for us a few days in advance and got one of the best tables in the house!
Once you’re full from lunch, burn off some of those calories on some short hikes.
Viewpoint #1: You can’t visit Vernazza and not see that postcard perfect shot on everyone’s Instagram! Thankfully, this view can be found in just 15 minutes on the hiking trail towards Monterosso (just follow the signs from the main square).
I admit we were not prepared and it was a tad harder than we anticipated (I totally should’ve worn sneakers). There were SO many stairs at the very beginning, and just when we thought the stairs would end, they just kept on going. I should have realized this since the viewpoint literally looks out at the town below, meaning it’s high up. Bring enough water and get ready for insane views.
Make sure to bring your Cinque Terre Card since it’s part of the paid hiking trail!
Viewpoint #2: Head back to the main square, and start the trail in the opposite direction – this time to Corniglia. Again, you’ll be walking up quite a few flights of stairs before the path diverges with even more stairs.
Luckily I went the correct way the first time (fingers crossed you do the same) and found the view! You won’t need to show your Cinque Terre card since this viewpoint is before the trail officially starts.
Unfortunately the fence was completely broken off in the exact spot where people typically stand to take photos – not sure if that was intentional (maybe locals got sick of influencers…) or if it broke by mistake. Still a pretty view regardless!
THIS is the view of the print we have hanging in our living room – and I had no clue it was here in Vernazza before heading to Cinque Terre! It was so special seeing it in person after having it in our house for a few years already.
Stroll Around the Harbor and Wander the Town
You earned a gelato (or two) – head back to Piazza Marconi (Vernazza’s main square) and make a beeline for Gelateria Vernazza. This spot is the best place in Vernazza for ice cream, and everyone knows it. If you’re craving something a bit creamier, head to Il Pirata delle 5 Terre for a ricotta and pistachio cornetto instead.
Don’t leave without strolling around the harbor and sunbathing on the small beach. Yes, it’s super small so there won’t be much room, but I’m sure you can find a spot to squeeze your towel onto.
Night: Dinner at Trattoria dal Billy (Manarola)
Once you’re done exploring, it’s time for dinner! Since we based ourselves in Manarola, we chose to eat at Trattoria dal Billy, another super popular restaurant in the 5 towns. Make a reservation in the high season.
You’ll need to climb up a rather steep hill and up some steps, so be prepared! Our hotel was actually only 3 minutes away from Trattoria dal Billy, so I made the climb a few times a day, haha. If I can do it multiple times during our 3 days in Cinque Terre, you can do it once!
Here they offer fresh seafood and pasta overlooking the sea, with views of the vineyards and even the town below. Definitely ask for an outdoor table or at least a table next to the window!
For your first official dinner in Cinque Terre, order the regional speciality – trofie al pesto! It’s a short and twisty pasta, and I admittedly had never heard of it before visiting! And mmm, that pesto; absolutely delicious!
After dinner we caught glimpses of the sunset and a delicious gelato, and it was a magical start to our 3 days in Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 2: Corniglia and Riomaggiore
Morning: Explore Corniglia
Not everyone has Corniglia on their Cinque Terre itinerary, but I wanted to visit all 5 towns so off we went! I thought it’d be silly to only visit 4 of the 5 villages — Cinque Terre does mean “5 Towns” afterall!
Plus, if you have a full 3 days in Cinque Terre, you’ll probably have the time. We only spent about an hour or so here and then made our way to Riomaggiore for the rest of the day.
Corniglia is smaller and way less touristy than the other villages, and it’s got a more local vibe to it. I mean, the town only has a population of about 150 people, whoa! Many people skip it since there’s no sea access, but that’s just part of the charm – take note of the architecture in town, stare out at the sea views, and try some warm focaccia (mine had olives in it and was delish).
Getting to Corniglia can be kinda a pain, as the town is high up in the hills and it’s far from the train station (and unfortunately there’s no elevator here)! Meaning yes, you gotta walk up the 350+ steps along a series of staircases – thankfully, there’s fantastic views along the way.
There’s also a shuttle which comes sporadically, which we were lucky to randomly catch! Walking down is so much easier, haha. You’ll need the Cinque Terre train pass in order to use the shuttle (worth the cost of the pass alone, haha), so just keep this in mind.
Don’t leave without grabbing a cone at Albert Gelateria – it’s arguably the best gelato in all of Cinque Terre. The Basil flavor is their speciality, made with basil grown in Alberto’s very own garden!
If you have tons of energy left, you can walk on over to Vernazza (you’ll need to switch things up on my Cinque Terre itinerary though). The scenic walk is about 2 miles and takes about an hour. We stumbled upon the start of the trail while we were exploring Corniglia and I have to say, even walking the first few minutes is absolutely gorgeous!
Afternoon and Evening: Explore Riomaggiore and Pizza Sunset on the Rocks
Next up – Riomaggiore! This is the town you probably initially think of when you think of Cinque Terre. It’s got those red and yellow buildings stacked right on the water, and it’s oh so Cinque Terre. A true Italian dream, and I couldn’t get enough.
I thoroughly enjoyed this town, and shh – we actually came here twice during our 3 days in Cinque Terre (once in the AM and then at sunset). Totally wish I had this Cinque Terre itinerary before we visited, haha.
Iconic Viewpoint at the Riomaggiore Marina: THIS is the classic viewpoint of Riomaggiore – put in “Vista Panoramica di Riomaggiore” into Google Maps and it’ll take you right there! We spent way too much time here taking photos, and this proved easier said than done since it was OH SO CROWDED. That’s Cinque Terre in the summer for ya!
Psst – you don’t need to rent a boat to get this view from the water. There’s some rocks you can walk out to instead if you’d like.
Fried seafood at Tutti Fritti: Riomaggiore is known for its takeaway fried seafood in a cone, so of course we had to try it! Extra crispy and extra delicious. They make every single order right then and there – the fried calamari is amazing, but there’s lots to choose from.
Homemade pasta and tiramisu cooking class: If you’re not interested in visiting Corniglia this morning, you’ll have a full day to spend in Riomaggiore!
This pasta and tiramisu cooking class looks absolutely fantastic – what better place to learn how to prepare two kinds of homemade pasta and a classic Italian dessert than in Italy! You even get to make your own sauce. Plus complimentary prosecco and snacks! Sign me up.
Castello di Riomaggiore: We randomly came across this spot by taking some random elevator up the side of the cliff (hey, we were curious and wanted to see where it went, haha). To our surprise, we got the most amazing views without even a minute of hiking! It was relatively quiet and mostly locals enjoying the view.
I later learned you can hike up the super steep cliffs, but hey – go and find the lift instead! You can go inside the castle if you’d like for just 2 euro, but from what I read it’s not really worth it (not much to see).
Pizza with a View: One thing you cannot miss out on – watching the sunset dip behind the colorful homes while eating a pizza and sitting on the rocks of Riomaggiore. What’s more Italian than that?!
Trust me – you won’t be the only one; this place gets crowded (which makes it super easy to figure out where in the marina to sit, haha). It’s kinda a cliche at this point (everyone does it), but there’s a reason for this!
Plan to come early to secure your spot – there wasn’t much room on the rocks by the time we got there about 45 minutes before sunset (our take away pizza took longer than we anticipated to get).
The perfect way to end day 2 of your Cinque Terre itinerary!
Cinque Terre Itinerary Day 3: Manarola
I’m saving my favorite village for last — Manarola! This is where we chose to stay and absolutely LOVED the multicolored houses high in the hills. With all of Manarola’s scenic beauty, you can easily stay all day if you’ve got the time.
There’s a reason most people consider Manarola to be the most beautiful out of all the five towns in Cinque Terre.
Morning: Pesto Class, Cliffside Cocktails, and Views at Nessun Dorma
If there’s one thing you do in Manarola, make it a meal (or class) at Nessun Dorma. First of all, the restaurant is legendary, and easily has the most iconic view in all of Manarola. Ever see a photo of those pastel-colored houses above the water? That’s taken from here at Nessun Dorma! Since we decided to base ourselves in Manarola, I found myself over at this “viewpoint” way too many times, haha.
I honestly had no idea what to expect, but the pesto making class was tons of fun and the staff was hilarious. I had no idea how much strength you need to smash the fresh basil leaves! And their story is oh so inspiring (they actually ended up winning the land years back after no one else wanted it).
After we (finally) finished blending all the ingredients for the pesto (cheese, olive oil, a few pine nuts, and fresh basil), it was time to eat! We all got gorgeous spreads of Italian bruschetta, olives, salami, and cheeses, and of course some delicious wine.
Such a good value and such good views. Still hungry afterwards? Order another delicious platter – they’re all droolworthy! Try both the aperol and limoncello spritzes – super refreshing.
Psst – I took my time after the class and sat with my wine admiring the views. No need to rush, just remember there’s plenty of people waiting so don’t be a jerk and hog the table forever.
Sign up for the pesto experience here on their website. I highly recommend adding this to your Cinque Terre itinerary – such a unique experience and so fun!
Not feeling pesto but still want that same view? No worries! You can either head up to Nessun Dorma and take in the view (almost the same from the waiting area) or make a reservation for a meal. You’ll need to download the Nessun Dorma app (do this in advance before you leave for your trip) and use it to reserve your spot in line.
Unfortunately you can’t make a reservation for a specific time. It works a bit differently – you essentially sign in for a place in line on the app and see how many people are in front of you. Keep refreshing. Don’t go too far – sometimes the electronic line moves faster than you think! I’ve heard of people waiting for hours though, when there’s something like 95 parties ahead of them.
Afternoon: Scenic Boat Ride
Seeing the 5 villages from the water gives you such a different perspective. And it was one of my favorite activities during our 3 days in Cinque Terre. Ohhhh, those landscapes were absolutely incredible from the Mediterranean Sea – there’s a reason Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
I had the time of my life drifting along, witnessing the most azure-colored waters and admiring the towns from afar. This is something I’d 100% do on my next trip to Cinque Terre, easily.
- Psst – if you’d rather book your pesto class and boat tour in one easy click, check this out! Such a great way to spend a day in Cinque Terre!
- Prefer a sunset boat tour from Manarola? This one got great reviews! Such a great thing to do on a honeymoon or if you want a romantic night with your love!
Up for something a bit more adventurous? Head out on a kayak trip! You’ll paddle past hidden coves, rugged cliffs and of course the bright, pastel hues of the five villages. It’s great if you wanna go at a slower pace, plus, you can get much closer to the cliffs and caves than any boat could. Check out this kayak tour and read reviews here (note that it starts in Monterosso).
If you’re traveling on a budget (or just wanna save some cash), you can create your own DIY boat tour of Cinque Terre by public ferry. Head directly to the ticket office – a full-day ferry pass for unlimited use costs about €30 per person.
Using the ferry obviously isn’t as remarkable as taking a semi-private boat tour, as the ferry will undoubtedly be crazy crowded (200-300 people) and there’ll be no commentary. But still a great option if you wanna see the towns from the sea.
Night: Sunset in Manarola and Take Away Pasta
End this 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary with one last delicious meal and a sunset view!
On the way to our hotel our first night, we were beyond starving, and came across this tiny trattoria on the street. It’s super unassuming from the outside, super casual on the inside (literally just a takeaway counter) and we had no idea what to expect. There’s no table service and even no toilet, and your pasta comes in take-out containers. The place is fuss-free, and is simply called “Take-Away Pasta”.
But OMG – the fresh pasta was heaven on Earth. Every pasta is homemade by hand, and the sauces were absolutely delicious. Well worth the short climb up the hill. Don’t miss this tiny spot in Manarola.
I think the sage and butter gnocchi was my husband’s favorite thing he ate in Italy that trip (I’m not disagreeing, every bite was delectable). We still talk about those fluffy pillows weekly, even months later!
Order some trofie al pesto, gnocchi (a must!), and tiramisu, pick up a bottle of red wine, and head down to the water to watch the sunset over Manarola. The perfect end to a perfect 3 days in Cinque Terre.
Hope this helps you plan the best Cinque Terre itinerary possible! We had an absolutely fantastic 3 days in Cinque Terre, and cannot wait to plan our next trip!