Are you planning a trip to Cinque Terre and looking for the perfect itinerary? Then this is your go to guide to make sure you don’t miss out on anything! Cinque Terre is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a 3 Day holiday. Get ready for beautiful morning walks, a ton of Italian gelato and eating pizza while watching the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.
First things first, before your arrival you should know that Cinque Terre consists of 5 little towns connected to each other by either a walking trail that goes over the mountains or a railroad that goes right through them. There is Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monteresso al Mare.
The Perfect Cinque Terre Itinerary – 3 Days in Cinque Terre
Which airport to choose when traveling to Cinque Terre
The easiest and fastest way to travel to Cinque Terre is to fly to either Florence or Pisa. Pisa doesn’t have much else to offer besides it’s leaning tower but Florence on the other hand is a stunning city. So why not combine the best of both worlds and combine a 3 day trip to Cinque Terre with a city trip to Florence?
How far is Cinque Terre from Pisa?
The closest airport is located in Pisa and getting to Cinque Terre is pretty straight forward. The airport is connected to the main train station by what they call the Pisa Mover and it takes about 6 minutes. The Italian railway system is a little different from the one we are used to in Belgium.
When you book your ticket you have to select the exact train which you want to take and sometimes a train can even be sold out. To reach the beautiful little towns of Cinque Terre you have to take the train to La Spezia.
The train ride from Pisa to La Spezia takes around 1,5 hour. Depending on when your train to La Spezia leaves it will take around 2 to 3 hours to reach your final destination in Cinque Terre from Pisa.
How far is Cinque Terre from Florence?
When traveling by public transport from Florence to Cinque Terre you have to take into account that it will also take at least 2 to 3 hours. Depending on which time you leave you will either have to make a transfer in Pisa or La Spezia.
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
When travelling to Cinque Terre you can either stay in La Spezia or in one of the 5 little towns itself. The more budget friendly version is of course to stay in La Spezia. But when planning my own Cinque Terre itinerary I really wanted to stay in either Riomaggiore or Manarola.
I opted to stay at Riomaggiore which is the first town when coming from La Spezia. I found a cute apartment with the most amazing view over the coastal town.
📖 READ MORE – THE BEST HOTELS IN CINQUE TERRE WITH A VIEW
How to travel around Cinque Terre?
Make sure you bring decent walking shoes with you and plenty of water and keep in mind that the famous trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is closed down.
If you want to do one of the hikes in Cinque Terre I advise you to start them early in the morning. Especially during the Summer months it can get very hot in this area. Always make sure to bring enough water and sunscreen with you!
The trains to the different towns run every 20 minutes and it takes around 2 minutes to go from one town to the next. Always make sure to validate your ticket before you get on.
💡 TIP – Try to sit in the middle of the train because the platforms are pretty small (especially the one in Riomaggiore) and otherwise you might stop in the tunnel and have no idea you have to get of the train. Yes, that did happen to us and we ended up back in La Spezia.
This will definitely be the most expensive way but also the most fun! And the best way to admire these little towns is definitely from the sea!
The Perfect Cinque Terre Itinerary – 3 Days in Cinque Terre
Day 1 – Riomaggiore & Manarola
Highlights: Boat tour and pizza
Depending on what time your flight arrives you’ll probably arrive to Cinque Terre somewhere in the afternoon. First it’s time to drop off your luggage and freshen up. When packing for Cinque Terre it might be a good idea to travel light. The towns are mostly made of stairs going up and down so dragging around a large suitcase can be pretty difficult.
Once you’ve settled down it’s time to indulge in some fresh seafood at Dau Cila. This is a one star Michelin restaurant in the harbour front of Riomaggiore.
A travel day can be pretty draining that’s why day 1 of this Cinque Terre itinerary is pretty laid back.
Next up is a scenic boat ride from Riomaggiore to Manarola and back. You can go on a private boat ride for 1 hour for €140. It’s definitely not cheap but these coastal towns are even more beautiful when admired from the sea.
Riomaggiore is one of the most scenic spots in entire Cinque Terre to watch the sun go down . And what’s better than enjoying the sunset while eating a slice of pizza? You can grab your take away pizza at CinqueTerre MiVà Take Away and enjoy it on one of the rocks in the bay.
Day 2 – Vernazza & Manarola
Highlights: panorama picnic, hike around Vernazza, dinner with a view
Are you ready to start the second day of this Cinque Terre itinerary with a breakfast with a view? Then keep on reading! One of the most beautiful view points can be found in Vernazza and while it may too hot during the day in the early morning this spots makes for the perfect place to enjoy your breakfast! All you need to do is grab some food and drinks at the local super market in Riomaggiore the day before. Bring an extra bag and a blanket with you and take the train to Vernazza. Start walking towards Monterosso al Mare along the official hiking trail. You will have to buy a day pass (€7) but you’ll need it afterwards anyway. After walking upwards for a few minutes you’ll see a little platform that overlooks entire Vernazza.
After breakfast it’s time to explore the town of Vernazza a little more! You can find another beautiful viewpoint when you hike up the trail towards Corniglia. See, I told you that day ticket was going to come in handy!
Since it’s still early in the morning why not walk all the way to Corniglia? The hike itself is around 1,5 hour one way and will offer some of the most amazing panoramic views over the Cinque Terre coastline. Corniglia is the most underrated town out of all of them but definitely worth the visit.
After hiking back to Vernazza is time to relax a little and enjoy a lunch by the sea. Take a seat underneath one of the many colourful umbrellas and enjoy an amazing lunch at Taverna del Capitano. Indulge in an Aperol Spritz and afterwards walk towards the water to watch the waves splash up against the rocks. There is also a small beach here but it tends to get very crowded.
In the evening it’s time to dress up and go for dinner to one of the most famous restaurants in Cinque Terre. Nessun Dorma is one of the most visited restaurants in the area and my guess is that the stunning view has something to do with it. Making a reservation from before isn’t possible but in the evening it’s way less busy than during the day for lunch. Make sure you arrive between 7pm and 8 pm to enjoy some delicious Italian food while watching the already stunning Manarola turn into a true sunset spectacle. The waiting time is around 20 minutes but this was for an outer table, if you are fine with a table more inwards you can get seated even faster. The price range for a full dinner including wine is around 20 up to 40 Euro per person (depending on how much wine you will drink :p)
Day 3 – Manarola, Monterosso al Mare and Riomaggiore
Highlights: beach bum and Italian gelato
I can’t believe it’s already day 3 of this Cinque Terre itinerary. Manarola is one of the prettiest towns but also one of the busiest. From 11am tour groups usually start to arrive and it can get really crowded. So the best way to enjoy this little gem is by exploring it in the early morning. And while you’re here make sure to stop by Gelateria Cinque Terre in the beginning of the main street to enjoy some vegan and gluten free ice cream, pancakes or shakes.
The best, and pretty much only beach in Cinque Terre can be found at Monterosso al Mare. The private beach (orange with green umbrella’s) opens up around 9am but make sure to reserve your seat from before and prepare to pay a decent amount of money. A little further back you’ll find blue & white umbrella’s and these you don’t have to make a reservation from before. Also the people that work here are way nice than those at the private beach! In 2020 a sun bed costs an average of 7 euro/day (5 euro for a half day). For 2 sun beds + an umbrella you’ll pay 20-25 euro/day (10-15 euro for a half day)
What better way to end this trip than by indulging in some Italian gelato and enjoying one more sunset in Riomaggiore!
I hope this 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary will help you with planning that perfect trip to the Italian coast. And while you’re at it why not combine your trip to Cinque Terre with a city trip to Venice or some hiking in the beautiful Dolomites?
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.