The Cinque Terre is a marvelous tourist destination featuring five seaside villages at the foot of terraced hills that fall steeply toward the sea. It is a wonderful place to enjoy the fabulous vistas by hiking amongst the vineyards and olive groves above the villages.
But this ancient land is groaning under the masses of tourists who come to enjoy the little villages, especially in the summer. You'll want to plan ahead if you want to stay in the Cinque Terre, especially with advance hotels or vacation apartment reservations.
See also: Plan Your Italy Itinerary by Rail with this Interactive Map
Cinque Terre: The 5 Villages
The five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, from north to south are:
- Monterosso al Mare
Levanto is the next town north of the Cinque Terre. Portovenere, to the south, is also a well known Italian tourist resort town.
Train. The map shows the train line that runs from Genoa through the Cinque Terre, to Pisa and on to Rome.
The train is the easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre. From Genoa (Genova), take the local train toward La Spezia and get off at your destination, or take the express directly to La Spezia and the local back to your Cinque Terra destination. Genoa is about 130 km to the north. From La Spezia, take the local ("Regionale") train toward Sestre Levante, stopping at your destination. Riomaggiore is the first stop after La Spezia.
Check rail times and prices:
- From Genoa to La Spezia
- From Rome to La Spezia
- From Florence to La Spezia
Rail Europe also offers great money-saving train passes for 3, 4, 5 or more days of unlimited train travel in Italy.
Expect the regional trains to be very crowded. Standing in the aisles at La Spezia until the first stop in the Cinque Terre is the norm spring through fall.
Plane. The nearest airports are the "Cristoforo Colombo" international airport in Genoa and the "Galileo Galilei" international airport in Pisa.
Boat. The Consorzio Marittimo Turistico runs summer boats from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre as well as excursions along the coast. See their website for more.
A Path to Lunch offers the helpful Complete Cinque Terre, Portovenere, La Spezia Boat / Ferry Schedules for Summer.
Car. While it is possible to approach Cinque Terre's 5 villages by car, it isn't recommended by travelers who've tried it. As in Venice, there is no use for a car once you're there. There is daily parking in Riomaggiore and Monterosso if you arrive early.
You can easily drive to the ridge above the villages and end up in a town like Volastra, and walk or use public transport to the five named villages of the Cinque Terre. Great views and great food await in Volastra and Groppo.
Where to Stay
While there are quite a few hotels in the Cinque Terre, the area is extremely popular, especially during the tourist season, so book early. Monterosso has the most lodging oportunities.
TripAdvisor new booking tools now allow you to compare guest hotel reviews and view hotel prices and book directly.
Vacation rentals are also popular along the Ligurian coast. For those traveling with families or wishing to stay longer and have a "slow travel" experience along the way, TripAdvisor lists over 170 vacation rentals in Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre Card
Starting in 2001, in order to maintain the tourist and weather ravaged trails and environment around the Cinque Terre, the National Park of the Cinque Terre started to require a ticket in order to walk on the "Via Dell'amore" - the first part of the Cinque Terre trail. The Cinque Terre Card is one way to simplify your travel within the Cinque Terre. Find out more about the various options: Cinque Terre Card.
Cinque Terre Maps and Resources
- Cinque Terre Travel Information - General information on the Cinque Terre, including pictures, hotel and hostel accommodations, and traveler experiences.
- Cinque Terre Hiking Map - Get a printable map and information on some of the lesser traveled trails in the Cinque Terre from Wandering Italy.
- Cinque Terre: Hiking the Blue Trail - What to Expect - get information and a map on hoofing it between villages, what to expect when you walk the Cinque Terre.
- Cinque Terre Climate and Weather - Get historical temperatures and rainfall for the area, plus a detailed current forecast with wind conditions.
Tours from Florence and Guided Treks
If you want to visit the Cinque Terre for a day from Florence without all the hassles of dealing with the trains, Select Italy offers a comprehensive package that departs from and returns to your Florence hotel. See: Cinque Terre Small Group Day Trip from Florence (book direct). You can also get a guided trekking tour of the area.
Cinque Terre: Attractions Nearby
Portovenere makes an interesting destination. There are hiking trails from here--and boats leave for the Cinque Terre frequently in the summer.
The Gulf of Poets is the gulf around La Spezia. If you're looking to get away from the throngs of tourists clogging the Cinque Terre, this is the place. Gulf of Poets maps and pictures. The link has transportation information as well.
When to Visit
Come to the Cinque Terre in Fall. You'll see the vines turn color and see people setting out nets under the olive trees in anticipation of the harvest. You might think October and November could be iffy times to visit, and there's a chance of that, but if you keep your travel plans loose, you can see some incredible things along this stretch of coastline.
The tragedy of an almost complete turn to tourism for revenue is that many vineyards are being abandoned by folks who find it more profitable to provide tourist services. That leaves increasing number of wild boar to rip up the vineyards and start the terraces tumbling down the hillside, a tragedy of great importance happening these days in increasing storms.