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Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Lands” in Italian, is a stunning collection of five villages on the Italian Riviera. It is a must-visit destination for travelers looking for a dose of Italian charm! I was lucky enough to visit during my solo trip around Europe. With its vibrant colors, breathtaking landscapes, and rich history, there is no shortage of things to do and see in this beautiful region. This article will give you a perfect two-day Cinque Terre Itinerary to make the most of your time in these picturesque villages.
First, a little information:
Five villages comprise the area: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare, each with its unique charm. They are connected by a network of trails, making it possible to hike from one village to another and explore the region on foot. They are also united by a train line and boats that run between the villages, giving you multiple transportation options.
Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the entire region is protected as a national park. This helps to preserve the area’s unique landscape, cultural heritage, and traditional way of life. The sea and the surrounding farmland heavily influence the cuisine. Fresh seafood and local produce, such as olives and lemons, are common ingredients in the region’s dishes. It is also the birthplace of pesto!
Is Cinque Terre Safe?
Cinque Terre is extremely safe, making it an excellent destination for solo female travelers. There are generally a lot of tourists, and the people are friendly. Geosure (a reliable safety app) rates the villages of Cinque Terre highly across all categories, such as women’s, nighttime, and physical safety. To learn about more safety and travel apps, click here.
The biggest thing to watch out for is pickpocketing and scams. I recommend buying this Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody to keep your belongings safe! Also, follow standard safety guidelines such as sticking to well-lit areas, staying alert, and not walking alone at night in unfamiliar locations.
Where to Stay?
There are five villages to choose from, but which is right for you? You’ll explore all of them using this Cinque Terre itinerary, but I’m going to list the pros and cons of each to help you make your decision:
Riomaggiore is the first village in Cinque Terre and is known for its charming pastel-colored houses, narrow alleys, and beautiful views. It’s an ideal option for travelers seeking a quiet and relaxed experience. It is one of the least touristy and budget-friendly options with the best views. Riomaggiore is my favorite village and the one I always recommend to my friends!
Manarola is known for its vibrant harbor and stunning sunsets. It’s a popular spot for swimmers and sunbathers and is a good choice for travelers looking for a more lively atmosphere. It is comparable to Vernazza but differentiated in that it has a small beach and generally fewer tourist amenities, making it slightly less crowded.
Corniglia is the only village in Cinque Terre not located directly on the water. Instead, it is perched on a cliff and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. It’s a good option for travelers looking for a more secluded experience, but it is the worst village for those with mobility issues or those who want to avoid hiking up to their accommodations.
Vernazza is a picturesque village with a small harbor and a castle perched on a hill above the town. It’s known for its lively atmosphere and is a good choice for travelers looking for a mix of relaxation and nightlife. It tends to be the most crowded and expensive of the villages, but it also has more shops and restaurants than the others (except for maybe Monterosso al Mare).
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the five villages and is famous for its long sandy beach, historical center, and picturesque harbor. It’s the best option for travelers looking for a more traditional beach vacation, families, and those with mobility issues, as it is flatter than the other villages. However, it is not as picturesque as the other villages.
Ultimately, the best village to stay in will depend on your personal preferences and the purpose of your trip. Consider what activities you’re interested in, what type of atmosphere you prefer, and what you hope to experience in Cinque Terre. For young travelers, Riomaggiore is my pick! However, it doesn’t matter in the end, as it is easy to travel between villages, and you’ll be able to explore them all with this Cinque Terre itinerary!
When to go?
Cinque Terre is beautiful all year round, but I highly recommend going in the spring or the fall when the weather is mild, and there are fewer tourists. Cinque Terre is a place to enjoy the natural beauty; unfortunately, crowds can detract from that. Winter is also an option, but it can be cool and rainy.
Summer is the peak tourist season, but the weather in the summer is scorching and uncomfortable. In addition, many Italian accommodations do not have air conditioning, so you could set yourself up for an agonizing time. I went during the summer, and though I enjoyed my trip, I would not return during that time of the year. Luckily, this Cinque Terre itinerary will work year round!
Day 1: Hiking and Exploring!
Start your adventure by arriving in the first of the five villages, Riomaggiore. This charming village has beautiful pastel-colored homes and narrow, winding streets. Have breakfast in one of the shops as you walk down the main street and explore.
Hike Between Villages: Via dell’Amore or The Azure Trail
Via dell’Amore (Closed until July 2024)
Spend the second part of your morning hiking between villages. I recommend Via dell’Amore, translating to the “Lover’s Path.” This hike between Riomaggiore and Manarola is one of the most popular trails. The trek is approximately 1.3 miles long and takes 45 minutes to an hour. The trail is well-marked and well-maintained, making it accessible to most people with a moderate fitness level.
It’s important to note that the trail between Riomaggiore and Manarola is subject to closures due to inclement weather. Currently, it is closed until July 2024.
The Azure Trail: Vernazza-Monterosso
If you plan your visit before July 2024, the Azure Trail between Vernazza and Monterosso is another excellent option. This path is approximately 2 miles long and takes 1.5 hours to complete. It is slightly easier if you start from Vernazza, but the difference is negligible. This stretch of the Azure trail is the toughest, but it is doable with preparation and a moderate fitness level.
No matter which trail you go on, you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the crystal-clear coastline, the hills, and the villages. You’ll also pass through vineyards, olive groves, lemon trees, and along cliffs that drop down to the sea. Do not underestimate either hike because they are short. They can be challenging and slippery, with a lot of climbing. Wear sturdy shoes with a good grip and pack enough water.
Lunch/Early Afternoon in Monterosso
After your hike, take a break in Monterosso and enjoy lunch and drinks on the beach. The beach is surrounded by restaurants, bars, and shops, making it the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon by the sea. Remember to grab a gelato!
After lunch, walk around and explore Monterosso’s old town. It is a charming maze of narrow streets and historic buildings. Here, traditional shops sell local products, such as soap, jewelry, and souvenirs.
Afternoon/Evening in Corniglia and Manarola
After your afternoon in Monterosso, take the train to Corniglia to explore the town. You’ll have to do some climbing, but it is worth it! Corniglia is a little more secluded than the other villages, so it has a different vibe. After, head to Manarola to walk the streets there. Manarola also has a smaller beach that you can dip in if you want a different vibe from Monterosso.
Dinner/Sunset in Manarola or Riomaggiore
Now, you have two choices. You can stay in Manarola or head to Riomaggiore for dinner and a breathtaking sunset!
Manarola: Previously, you could see the sunset from Nessum Dorma (a foodie hotspot), but it is temporarily closed. However, you can still walk the rugged trail up to the hill. This spot, unfortunately, is not a hidden gem and can get crowded, but the view is gorgeous!
Riomaggiore: Head to the rocks by the harbor for a breathtaking sunset view! The Manarola spot tends to be more popular, but Riomaggiore is my personal favorite. The scenery is stunning, and you can find your own place on the rocks to enjoy it. The sunset from here is magical and the one thing in this Cinque Terre itinerary that I defintitely do not recommend missing.
Day 2: Kayaking and Wine!
After having breakfast near your accommodation, take this daytime kayak tour from Get Your Guide. It departs from Monterosso at 10:30 a.m. and is approximately 3 hours long. Explore hidden coves and cliffs, and get a view of the villages from the water! It is stunning and incredible for those who enjoy being active!
Lunch and Afternoon in Vernazza
After spending the morning Kayaking, explore the town of Vernazza and get lunch in one of its many restaurants. The streets in Vernazza are lively, and it is fun to see the crowds! You can shop and get some food at one of the many restaurants. You’ll want to relax after spending your morning kayaking.
Spend your late afternoon/evening on a wine tour! There are plenty of options on Get Your Guide. This one leaves at 3 p.m. from Vernazza and is approximately three hours long. You’ll enjoy a 30-minute hike to the vineyard, ending with a wine tasting and local snacks!
You can also choose this one which departs from Riomaggiore at 5 p.m. You’ll enjoy a tour of the vineyards and a tasting of 5 local wines!
Dinner in the Town of your Choice
By this point, you will have explored all of the towns in Cinque Terre, so head to your favorite one to enjoy your final dinner in these magical villages! If you missed one of the villages due to timing, now would also be a great time to explore it.
I hope you enjoy your time in Cinque Terre and use this itinerary to guide your experience! Cinque Terre is a place to relax, so take your time with the activities. Also, feel free to mix and match the excursions in this itinerary based on your preferences! For example, you can do a wine tour in the mourning and a boat tour during sunset! It is entirely up to you, but the activities listed in this itinerary are the ones I recommend.