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Cinque Terre in 3 days: what you must see and do

You have your tickets to Italy and plan to spend some time in Cinque Terre?!

I will share everything you need to know about this region of Italy with you, and I will share with you my personal experience of exploring this beautiful part of Italy.

First, 3 days to 2 nights are enough for a quick visit to the area, but if you have extra days and want to relax and enjoy the Italian vibe, you can consider visiting each of the 5 cities in one day.

I had 3 days to spend in the area, and I considered it to be enough for visiting, but I did not have time to lay on the beach and explore all the trail hikes available in the area.

When I first set foot in Cinque Terre, a picturesque region with five centuries-old seaside villages on the Italian Riviera coastline, I knew I was in for a memorable experience.

I quickly learned that careful planning is crucial to make the most out of a three-day trip to this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Manarola from the sea
Manarola from the sea

How I found Cinque Terre Italy

What I loved most about this part of Italy are the colorful houses, the fact that you don’t need a car to explore the area and the “dolce vita” atmosphere that surrounds the region.

For moving around, I used trains and ferries. For overnight sleep, there are plenty of cozy accommodations to choose from.

As I knew from the beginning that I didn’t have time for hiking, I could pack light. So, it was easier for me to move around.

Most of the visitors choose to spend 3 days in Cinque Terre, as I did.

I want to share my itinerary with you, hoping that my experience will help you plan your own trip to the area.

I landed in Rome, and from there, I took the train to La Spezia, where I spent the night before heading to the Cinque Terre area.

La Spezia is only 10 minutes by train to Riomaggiore. After a delicious Italian breakfast, I headed to the train station and jumped into the first train to Cinque Terre.

Italian Breakfast Cinque Terre
Italian Breakfast Cinque Terre

It was 10.15 in the morning when I started my adventure to the Cinque Terre area.

The trains are clean and well-maintained, and the ride is smooth and quick.

3 day summary Cinque Terre trip

Day 0: La Spezia

Accommodation: Le 5 Terre La Spezia 

Day 1 train from La Spezia to Riomaggiore and then Manarola; explore both these towns

Accommodation: Olimpo Affittacamere with its breathtaking view

Day 2 train to Corniglia and ferry to Vernazza; explore both these towns

Accommodation: Affittacamere PZ

Day 3 ferry to Monterosso al Mare; train to Pisa/ Rome

Accommodation: Rome – Trevi Palace Hotel located 3 min walk from downtown

                             Pisa –  Hotel Di Stefano located in the heart of the city

Day 0 Evening in La Spezia

As I arrived in La Spezia around 3 o’clock I though it would be a waste of time to stay in my room or simply to roam around the town.

I heard there is a beautiful sunset cruise with a stop for a swim at the Gulf of Poets, so I did not hesitate and book it.

The tour was called Portovenere: Sunset Cruise with Aperitif and Dinner and it lasted for about 3.5 hours.

I found a comfy seat on the boat, I took a cocktail and then a glass of a red Italian wine and enjoyed the experience.

We had dinner in Porto Venere and then we came back to Porto Mirabello ( the departure port).

Porto Venere old church Cinque Terre
Porto Venere old church Cinque Terre

Day 1: Diving into the Colors of Cinque Terre

My Morning in Riomaggiore

My adventure to Cinque Terre National Park started in Riomaggiore, the southern jewel of the Cinque Terre, where history and nature converge.

Strolling through its labyrinthine streets, we are transported back in time. 

Riomaggiore from Drone Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore from Drone Cinque Terre

The Church of San Giovanni Battista, a 14th-century marvel, stands as a testament to the village’s rich heritage. 

We wander to Via dell’Amore, a path offering unparalleled views of the azure sea, framing the picturesque village in a romantic tableau. 

This morning excursion sets the tone for a day of enchantment.

Riomaggiore Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

I was a little lazy and took quite a late train to the Cinque Terre area, but if you are going during the peak season (from May to September), then you’d better wake up earlier to avoid the crowds.

My Afternoon in ManarolaCinque Terre

By noon, we were on the train heading to the second town of the Cinque Terre town, Manarola.

But before exploring the town, I decided to try the local cuisine as I was starving.

Manarola town Cinque Terre
Manarola town Cinque Terre

Italy is famous for its delicious food, and Manarola was not an exception.

I picked a restaurant close to the harbor, and I tried some seafood and pasta. Both dishes were amazing.

I ended my meal with an Italian coffee and was ready to continue my adventure.

Manarola, a kaleidoscope of brightly painted houses, is a visual feast in this village.

We meander through its charming streets, each turn unveiling a new vignette of village life. 

The tiny harbor beckons us for a refreshing swim, a welcome respite from the warm Mediterranean sun. 

Manarola from the sea
Manarola from the sea

A climb to Punta Bonfiglio offers a panoramic view that is nothing short of magical. It’s the quintessential Manarola experience – vibrant, lively, and utterly captivating.

If you have the full day to spend in this beautiful town, see my article about how I spend a full day in Manarola once.

My Evening Enjoying Local Cuisine

My day culminates in a gastronomic adventure at a traditional trattoria. 

The menu, a celebration of the sea, features locally sourced seafood. 

The anchovies, fresh and delicately prepared, are a revelation. 

Pasta with seafood Cinque Terre
Pasta with seafood Cinque Terre

But it is the Ligurian pesto that steals the show – a harmonious blend of basil, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and olive oil; each spoonful is a homage to the region’s culinary traditions.

My meal is not just food; it’s an immersive journey into the heart of Cinque Terre’s cuisine.

I’ve spent the night at Olimpo Affittacamere a charming guesthouse located in a historical house, fully renovated in 2018.

My room was clean and spacious, overlooking the city and the sea.

Day 2: The Heart of Cinque Terre

My Morning Exploring Corniglia

After a typical Italian breakfast consisting of a croissant and a cappuccino, I headed to the train station to catch the next train to Corniglia.

Corniglia Piazza Cinque Terre
Corniglia Piazza Cinque Terre

This time, I woke up earlier and was among the first tourists on the train.

There was just me and some day trippers.

Corniglia, the smallest and highest of the villages, offered me panoramic views and a peaceful atmosphere. 

I enjoyed a morning hike and visited the Church of San Pietro, feeling a sense of tranquility in its serene setting.

If you have some extra time and you plan to spend the full day in Corniglia, this is how I spent a day in Corniglia a few years ago.

Corniglia Cinque Terre
Corniglia Cinque Terre

My Afternoon Adventures in Vernazza

I took the ferry to Vernazza by noon and in a less than 20 minutes I reached the fourth town of Cinque Terre.

As I stepped into Vernazza, the quintessential Cinque Terre village, I was immediately enveloped in its enchanting atmosphere. 

Vernazza from the hill Cinque Terre
Vernazza from the hill Cinque Terre

My first destination was the historic Doria Castle. 

Climbing the ancient stone steps, I felt a profound connection to the past. 

The castle, perched majestically on a cliff, offered a breathtaking panoramic view of the Ligurian Sea, a sight that left me speechless.

Descending from the castle, I wandered through Vernazza’s winding lanes, each turn revealing hidden gems – quaint cafes, local artisans, and vibrant murals that told stories of the village’s rich maritime history. 

The colorful marina, a tapestry of boats bobbing gently in the water, provided a picturesque setting for an afternoon stroll.

Vernazza harbor Cinque Terre
Vernazza harbor Cinque Terre

Seeking a moment of tranquility, I found myself drawn to Vernazza’s serene beach. 

The gentle lapping of the waves against the shore provided a soothing backdrop as I lounged on the warm pebbles, lost in thought and captivated by the village’s rustic charm.

My Evening Watching the Sunset in Vernazza Cinque Terre

As the day waned, I climbed to a secluded spot on the cliffs. 

Here, I found a tranquil space to witness one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles – the sunset in Vernazza. 

The sky, a canvas of oranges, pinks, and purples, reflected beautifully on the sea, creating a symphony of colors. 

The sun, in its majestic descent, cast a golden glow over the village, illuminating the pastel-colored houses and the ancient church tower in a warm, ethereal light.

In this moment, time seemed to stand still. 

Vernazza sunset
Vernazza Sunset

The beauty of the sunset, with the picturesque village as its backdrop, was a scene so mesmerizing that it transcended words.

 It was a moment of pure magic, a reminder of the world’s wonders, and a memory etched in my heart forever. 

As the last sliver of the sun disappeared below the horizon, I knew this was more than just a sunset; it was a profound experience that captured the essence of Vernazza’s timeless beauty.

I ended my day with another delicious dinner in a trattoria located in the center of the town and then I headed to Affittacamere PZ, my accommodation for that night.

The guesthouse is located up on the hills in the village of Drignana, with an amazing sea view.

I found my room to be clean, and I even had an electric kettle inside.

The city center of Vernazza is just 25 25-minute walk from this beautiful accommodation, while the bus stop is just 2 2-minute walk from the guesthouse.

I chose to walk to the guesthouse as the view was amazing and the walk was nice.

Day 3: Leisure and Luxury in Cinque Terre

My Morning in village Monterosso al Mare

On the final day of my Cinque Terre adventure, I found myself in Monterosso al Mare, the largest of the five villages, with a character distinctly its own. 

The morning sun greeted me warmly as I stepped onto its famed sandy beach, a rarity in this region known for its rugged coastline. 

Monterosso Cinque Terre piazza
Monterosso Cinque Terre piazza

The beach stretched invitingly before me, its golden sands a perfect contrast to the deep blue of the Ligurian Sea.

I spent the morning in a state of serene relaxation, lounging under the Italian sun, lulled by the rhythmic sound of waves crashing gently on the shore. 

The promenade, bustling yet unhurried, offered a charming backdrop, with locals and tourists alike savoring the beauty of the day. 

The laid-back atmosphere of Monterosso, with its palm-lined streets and open-air cafes, provided a tranquil escape, allowing me to soak in the tranquil, sun-kissed ambiance of this coastal haven.

My Afternoon of Wine Tasting and Local Delights

As the afternoon unfolded, I delved into Monterosso’s culinary landscape, an exploration that tantalized my taste buds.

 The village, celebrated for its exquisite white wines and lush lemon groves, presented an array of local specialties. 

I found myself in a quaint wine cellar, where I indulged in a tasting session.

 Each sip of the crisp, aromatic white wine revealed a story of the region’s winemaking heritage and the sun-drenched terraces where the grapes thrived.

Lemon-infused delicacies complemented the wine, a tribute to Monterosso’s bountiful lemon trees. 

From tangy lemon pastries to refreshing limoncello, each dish was a burst of flavor, embodying the zest and vitality of this coastal village. 

This culinary journey was more than just a meal; it celebrated Monterosso’s rich agricultural legacy, offering a glimpse into the heart and soul of the region’s cuisine.

Monterosso beach Cinque Terre
Monterosso beach Cinque Terre

As the evening approached, my three-day journey to Cinque Terre ended.

I jumped on the next train to Pisa, and after just 1 hour and 15 minutes, I reached this beautiful city located in the heart of Tuscany.

Here, I chose to spend the night at Hotel Di Stefano, a beautiful hotel located right in the heart of the city.

I liked the breakfast a lot, which was one of the best from the last 5 days.

The fact that we could walk to Pisa tower and most of the restaurants in the area were also fantastic.

My Tips for the Perfect Trip to Cinque Terre

Embarking on a journey to the enchanting Cinque Terre, I gathered a trove of insights that transformed my trip into an unforgettable experience. 

Here, I share my personal tips to help you craft your perfect Cinque Terre adventure.

Choosing the Ideal Time to Visit

After much research and consideration, I found that the optimal time to visit Cinque Terre is during spring or early fall. 

These seasons offer a perfect balance, avoiding the peak tourist crowds of summer while still basking in pleasant weather. 

In spring, the region awakens with vibrant colors, the hillsides adorned with wildflowers and the terraced vineyards lush with new growth. 

The air is fresh and the atmosphere vibrant, making it an ideal time for hiking and outdoor activities.

Early fall, on the other hand, brings a serene beauty to the villages. 

The summer rush has subsided, and the landscape is bathed in a warm, golden hue. 

This period is also the time of the grape harvest, adding a unique cultural aspect to the visit. 

The temperature is comfortably mild, perfect for leisurely exploration of the villages and their surroundings.

Navigating Between the Villages

For transportation, I relied heavily on the local train service, a decision that proved both efficient and convenient. 

The train system in Cinque Terre is remarkably well-organized, connecting all five villages with frequent and timely services.

Vernazza harbor Cinque Terre
Vernazza harbor Cinque Terre

 Each train journey offers a brief yet scenic route, with stunning views of the coastline and the Mediterranean Sea. 

This mode of transport not only saved me time but also provided a hassle-free way to hop between villages, allowing me to maximize my time exploring each unique location.

Choosing Accommodation for an Authentic Experience

To truly capture the essence of Cinque Terre, I opted to stay within one of the villages rather than in a nearby city. 

This decision deeply enriched my experience. 

Staying in a village allowed me to immerse myself in the local culture and daily rhythms. 

Waking up to the sound of the sea, enjoying a morning espresso at a local café, and interacting with the friendly residents offered a glimpse into the authentic Cinque Terre lifestyle.

Each village has its own charm and staying in one of them provided easy access to explore the others while ensuring a genuine, intimate connection with the place. 

From family-run guesthouses to quaint B&Bs, the accommodation options added to the charm, each offering a cozy, welcoming atmosphere that made me feel more like a local than a tourist.

These tips, born from my personal journey, are shared in the hope of enhancing your own Cinque Terre adventure. 

Whether it’s choosing the best time to visit, navigating efficiently, or selecting the perfect place to stay, each aspect plays a crucial role in creating a memorable and authentic experience in this Italian Riviera paradise.

My Conclusion

Three days in Cinque Terre were just enough for me to experience its beauty, culture, and cuisine. 

This journey offered a perfect blend of adventure, relaxation, and indulgence, making it a trip I will always cherish.

FAQs

What’s the best way to travel between the Cinque Terre villages?

I found the local train service to be the most efficient and scenic way to travel between the villages.

Are there any hiking restrictions in Cinque Terre?

Some trails require a Cinque Terre Card, and I always checked for any temporary closures.

Which is the most spectacular hiking trail in Cinque Terre?

I heard that Sentiero Azzurro is the most spectacular one, but unfortunately I did not hike it so I cannot confirm this.

What are some must-try foods in Cinque Terre?

I loved the seafood, focaccia, and pesto.

Is Cinque Terre suitable for families with children?

Yes, it offers a variety of activities for all ages, though some hiking trails might be challenging for young kids.

Can I find budget accommodations in Cinque Terre?

While Cinque Terre can be pricey, I found budget-friendly options like hostels and B&Bs.

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