Italy's Cinque Terre, or "five lands," is composed of the villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. Together, these five seaside towns rank among the most scenic parts of the country, and hiking the short distances from town-to-town is one of our must-do experiences in Italy.
The Cinque Terre is on the southern coast of Liguria, a small region that hugs the coastline of the aptly named Ligurian Sea, part of the Mediterranean. Getting there from outside Italy requires a combination of planes, trains, or rental cars. Once there, trains or foot-power are among the best ways to get around.
Read on for our guide on how to get to the Cinque Terre and how to get around once you're there. We refer to La Spezia, a port city about 10 miles from Riomaggiore, as the most logical starting point for touring the Cinque Terre.
How to Get to the Cinque Terre
If you're flying to Italy from abroad or taking shorter flights within the country, the closest airports are Cristoforo Colombo International Airport (GOA) in Genoa and Galileo Galilei International airport (PSA) in Pisa. Other, more distant airports that host more daily international flights include Bologna (BLQ), Milan Malpensa (MXP), and Rome Fiumicino (FCO). From any of these airports, you can connect by train to La Spezia, the jumping-off point for the Cinque Terre or you can rent a car and drive.
|Travel Times to La Spezia from Major Airports|
|By train||By car|
|Genoa (GOA)||3 hours||1.5 hours (113 km)|
|Pisa (PSA)||1.5 hours (including airport bus)||1 hour (83 km)|
|Bologna (BLQ)||4 hours (1 change + airport bus)||2 1/4 hours (208 km)|
|Milan (MXP)||5 hours (2 changes)||3 hours (274 km)|
|Rome (FCO)||4 1/2 hours (1 change)||4 1/4 hours (399 km)|
A Trenitalia coastal train line runs between Genoa and Rome, allowing travelers to journey from either of those two cities, as well as Pisa, on a direct, high-speed Frecciabianca train to La Spezia. The train runs three times a day in both directions. There are also several daily direct trains from Florence's Santa Maria Novella, the city's central station, to La Spezia. Train travelers from Bologna typically connect in Florence (Firenze) to reach La Spezia. From Milano Centrale, Milan's central station, you can take one of three daily direct trains to La Spezia, or connect in Genoa or Sestri Levante. For train times from these cities, see the table above.
Travelers coming from the north who wish to begin their tour of the Cinque Terre on the northern end can find trains from Milan and Genoa that stop in Monterosso, the northernmost of the five towns.
Travelers reaching La Spezia by car from the south will take the SS1/Via Aurelia coastal road. From the north, drivers can take the E80 or the SS1 past Sestri Levante as far as Carrodano Inferiore, from where they pick up the regional road to Monterosso.
How to Get Around the Cinque Terre Villages
Because it's most affordable than the five towns, many travelers opt to use La Spezia as their base for overnights and make day outings to the Cinque Terre villages. Or they may spend their first night in La Spezia and then make their way between the villages. Whatever option you choose, if you've chosen La Spezia as your starting point for exploring the Cinque Terre, you have several options for reaching the towns.
Year-round, the Cinque Terre Express train connects La Spezia to Levanto to the north, stopping in all five towns along the way. The villages are all just minutes apart from one another, and trains frequently run, especially from spring to fall. A one-way ticket between two destinations costs 4 euros (as of May 2020). If you plan to make several stops and also hike between the villages, you should buy a Cinque Terre Train Card for 16 euros. Good for one day, the card allows for unlimited train travel on the Cinque Terre Express, and access to all hiking trails customarily accessed with the Cinque Terre Card.
From April 1 to Nov. 1, ferry service is available from La Spezia and nearby Portovenere. Boats stop at four of the five villages—Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, and Monterosso, skipping Corniglia since that village is not directly on the water. Daily tickets with unlimited stops cost between 30 and 35 euros (as of May 2020), with slight discounts for afternoon-only tickets.
Of course, walking the scenic footpaths between the five villages is one of the main reasons most travelers head to the Cinque Terre in the first place. It's a total of just under 7 miles from Riomaggiore to Monterosso, the two ends of the chain of villages. The largest distance between any two towns is 2.5 miles, and the shortest is just under a mile—or about a 30-minute walk. Some of the main trails are moderately strenuous, but reasonably fit walkers should have no difficulty. Be sure to bring a sun hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle for filling up at free water fountains in each town.
If you are walking between towns, you must purchase a Cinque Terre Card. The villages and the surrounding natural area are within a national park, and the card allows you access to all trails, shuttle buses between the towns, restroom access, and museum discounts. (If you are not planning to walk between the towns, you do not need to purchase the Cinque Terre Card.)
If you travel light, an adventurous option for seeing the towns is to reserve one or more hotel nights in different villages. You can pack your things in a lightweight backpack and stroll to your next overnight destination, allowing plenty of time for long lunches and dips in the sea. If you need to keep larger luggage close at hand, there are porter services that will transfer your bags while you walk.
We list this option for getting around the Cinque Terre last for a good reason—it's the least practical way to see the towns. The roads leading to Monterosso and Riomaggiore and the villages between are narrow, winding, occasionally have steep drop-offs, and require some white-knuckle courage. Cars are not permitted in any of the communities, so drivers must compete for a minimal number of paid parking spaces outside the towns. There are lots above all the towns. Hourly fees start at 2 euros, and daily prices are between 20 and 25 euros for 24 hours. You will still need to walk or take the train or the seasonal boat to get between the towns, as the idea of driving the short distances from town to town and finding a parking space each time is nightmarish.
If you're on a driving tour of Italy and want to see the Cinque Terre, we recommend leaving your car in La Spezia or Levanto and making use of the train or seasonal ferry as a way of accessing the towns. Even if you're not an enthusiastic walker, if you're physically able to walk, you'll find even the shortest walk, between Riomaggiore and Manarola, is beautiful and rewarding.