Cinque Terre is part of the Italian Riviera and it is also a national park. The National Park Cinque Terre, Italy consists of five small villages located on a steep mountain side in the Italian province of Liguria. Beacause of its popularity and difficult access, Cinque Terre is somewhat difficult to visit and enjoy. Cinque Terre can be visited by car, by train or by boat. Read on about the best way to visit Cinque Terre.
What you need to know about Cinque Terre, Italy
The five old fishing villages of Cinque Terre are situated between the larger cities of La Spezia (south of Cinque Terre) and Levanto (north of Cinque Terre). The five villages of Cinque Terre are (going north from La Spezia): Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
They are all located at the end of narrow canyons carved in the mountain leading to the Ligurian Sea.
Each village is situated about about 10 minutes by train from the next village.
To reach the Cinque Terre villages by car you need to use the only road that runs on top of the mountain ridge and then descend to each village. So, in order to drive from a village to the next, you need to climb backup up the mountain drive a little on the ridge road and then come down the canyon to the next village.
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre – Amazing view of Riomaggiore from the Via Amore trail that connects Riomaggiore and Manarola.
See my photos from Riomaggiore
The villages in Cinque Terre are also connected by a beautiful hiking trail that you can walk from village to village. This trail is called Via D’amore and it gives you stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Italian riviera coast in the Liguria region. I must add however, that this trail is not a good place for young kids. The only exception is when using the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola. This portion of the Via D’Amore trail is very flat and well maintained. This is the only portion we hiked with our 5 and 3 year olds. It was beautiful and not a problem. The rest of the trail will take you higher into the mountain and then descend to the villages.
There is also a boat service that connects the villages. This looks like a lot of fun if you have more than one day to visit the area.
The best way to visit Cinque Terre, Italy
The best way to visit Cinque Terre, Italy is by train. The train is the most convenient and appropriate means of transportation for visiting this beautiful area in Liguria. The train stations in each of the five villages are situated right in the middle of the village which makes for easy walking to and from the village itself. The only exception is Corniglia which is situated on top of the mountain, instead of by the water as the other villages are. For this reason, try to visit Corniglia early in the day when you are rested. We visited Corniglia at the end of the day and we were exhausted and we almost gave up walking the steep stairs up the mountain.
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre – View of the train station at Riomaggiore seen from the trailhead for Via Amore.
See my photos from Riomaggore
If you really have to take your car be prepared for very windy roads to go in and out of the villages, limited and frustrating parking in the villages, and lots of time wasted driving and parking. All the villages have very limited parking areas which fill very quickly in the morning. When these designated parking areas are filled up, tourists park their cars up the main road. Especially on the weekends, you have to park about one to two miles up the main road in order to find any parking spot. Then you have to walk all the way down to the village (usually at least 2 miles), and back up to your car when you need to leave.
You can easily park your car at the train station either at La Spezia or Levanto depending which way you are coming from. Both cities have plenty of parking in their train station parking structures.
How to get the right train tickets for visiting Cinque Terre, Italy
You will need your day train tickets if you are visiting only for that day and you will also need a pass for using the Via D’Amore trail.
The Italians have made everything very easy for you at the train station. There is a special Cinque Terre office at the train station at La Spezia, right next to the tracks. You can buy all the train tickets you need and you can also buy the ticket for walking the Via D’Amore trail as well in the same office. Very convenient and easy for a change. Make sure you also get a train schedule for that day when you buy your tickets.
My best resources for visiting Cinque Terre
If you are planning a trip to the Cinque Terre region of Italy you will find my list of resources very helpful.
- Book a budget hotel. Checkout my list of hotels for the Italian Riviera region, from Genova to Cinque Terre.
- Boat schedule to Cinque Terre from Portovenere.
What is the best way to visit Cinque Terre, Italy?
Taking the train is by far the best way to visit Cinque Terre. There is also regular boat service from April through October from Portovenere, La Spezia to all the Cinque Terre villages.
Going by boat is another great way to visit Cinque Terre, but you might need to get an early start in the morning since the boat service is not as frequent as the train service. It also takes a little longer by boat to get from one village to the next if you count the stops as well.