3 day Cinque Terre itinerary

3 day Cinque Terre itinerary

Imagine waking up with your tall, narrow French doors open, curtains swaying lightly in the breeze, and listening to the distant sound of waves crashing while you slowly open your eyelids. This scene is my safe space! It’s also what you can get staying in Cinque Terre, Italy! If you are going to northern Italy this fall or planning your trip for next spring or summer, you must make sure Cinque Terre is on your list. Here is a 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary that will make your Italian dreams come true!

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There is a lot to do in Cinque Terre. For those that don’t know Cinque Terre translates to the 5 lands. These are 5 small, colorful fishing villages lying in the cliffsides of the hills along the Ligurian coast. Each village is about 1-2 miles away from the next. They’re connected by a train, windy roads, and a hiking path — famous with avid hikers!

The 5 villages from south to north are: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. You can connect to these towns through larger train stations of La Spezia (to the south) and Santa Margherita Ligure or Genoa (to the north).

Because of this, no matter your travel style you will find something to love about Cinque Terre! The scenic, moderately difficult hikes; scenic and photographic views; delicious pesto, lemon gelato, and limoncino; and simple, rugged, colorful accommodation.

We LOVED Cinque Terre!

Quick Tips on Cinque Terre

Before we get into the 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary lets talk about some quick tips!

Make sure you get the correct train ticket(s)

I wrote about this in our lessons learned in Italy. This was one part of our Italy trip that we didn’t buy train tickets in advance. When we went to the kiosk early one morning we weren’t sure exactly what ticket to get for the full-day pass.

Long story short we found out the hard way we got the wrong tickets.

Mitigate this by buying a full-day train pass in advance. Make sure you purchase the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card.

Bring walking shoes

If you like hiking or are open to it, I recommend hiking the Cinque Terre trail! The trail connects all five villages. Technically you’re supposed to pay to hike (this helps with trail maintenance). It’s well worth it! The views you will get are amazing!

Even if you aren’t planning to do any hiking, each village has some hills and cobblestone streets to climb. I recommend bringing and wearing walking shoes.

Enjoy lots of pesto and lemon gelato

This part of Italy is known for it’s pesto and everything lemon. So don’t miss out!

Travel in the shoulder-season

Probably the biggest piece of advice I can give so that you enjoy Cinque Terre to it’s fullest — travel in the shoulder season. The shoulder season would be April-early June and September-October.

This is because Cinque Terre gets extremely touristy and crowded. The crowds might feel especially big here, because the villages are pretty small. Plus, lots of people stay outside of the 5 villages in, travel in during the day, or come on a cruise ship.

Don’t let this deter you — it’s touristy for a reason!

Book well in advance

Because of the popularity and busy-ness of Cinque Terre, make sure you book your accommodation well in advance. Even if you are traveling in the shoulder- or off-seasons.

3 day Cinque Terre itinerary

To start our 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary let’s start by talking about accommodation.

Accommodation

There are many accommodation options you can consider. You can consider staying in one of the 5 villages. The pro of this is that you will be in a great location and will be able to experience the town when all the tourists leave. The con is that the supply is limited and can book up fast.

You can also book accommodation in nearby larger towns, like La Spezia or Santa Margherita Ligure. The pro is that you might have more options here and could get away from the tourists. The con is that you will have to travel to the 5 terre each day.

We stayed in Corniglia, the middle of the 5 towns. Corniglia ended up being our favorite of the 5! But interestingly enough that might not be a popular opinion.

Corniglia is the only town of the 5 that is not right on the water. You have to climb many many stairs up to get to the town at the top of a cliff. Yes — that’s a little annoying and yes — it was quite a climb with our luggage. But do it once and you’re there! The views at the top of Corniglia are unmatched. As are the views of potential accommodation.

We stayed here at the Affittacamere Arbasia De Ma, Terre Marine and would highly recommend it!! We had a spacious apartment to ourselves, with a balcony overlooking the ocean and sunset. And it gave us a taste of living in this small village, walking down the narrow (extremely narrow!) cobblestone streets to get to our home that was built long before anything in the U.S.

Day 1: morning

On day 1, arrive in Cinque Terre. Take some time orienting yourself to the views and the town you will call home for the next couple nights. If you’re able to check-in now, do it! Get settled in, rest, shower or do whatever you want to do to prepare for the rest of the day.

If you’re accommodation isn’t ready yet, maybe find a cafe and sip on a cappuccino for a while with your luggage.

Day 1: early afternoon

Find a local place for lunch. I don’t have really specific food recommendations. I am a big fan of “running into” something. Each town has numerous restaurants and this includes shops with take away food like focaccia or pizza. We did this quite a bit for lunch because it’s easy, affordable, AND delicious.

After eating some lunch, walk around your town! Spend this day just getting acquainted with your home. Wander in and out of the shops, buy souvenirs if you need, stop to take lots of pictures, and just soak it all in!

Day 1: late afternoon

As the afternoon goes on, head back to your accommodation to freshen up for the evening.

Day 1: evening

Find a place to get an aperitivo (or pre-dinner drink). You will find numerous options wherever you are. But enjoy this time while you people watch and see some of the tourists slowly disappear.

After sipping on your drink, head to dinner. From our experience we didn’t need dinner reservations — at least not in Corniglia. We just found something that looked good and went.

One restaurant recommendation I have for Corniglia is Cecio ristorante. The restaurant sits away from the tight-knit town with an expansive view. The staff were wonderful! We made some new best friends 🙂

If you go, you must get the homemade pasta with pesto, tiramisu, and lemon gelato — all made right there by the chefs.

After a lovely dinner, make your way back to your room to sit and revel at the sun setting in the distance.

Day 2: morning

Slowly wake up and take in the experience. If I were you, I would have leisurely mornings with the view. You’re on vacation! Slowly get out of bed, make an espresso, and sip on it on your balcony (maybe with a blanket if it’s cool out).

These moments were some of my favorite in Cinque Terre. I cannot describe how incredible the views were in Corniglia. It rivaled what we saw at Lake Como!

When you feel ready, start your day 2. I recommend spending this day village hopping. Get that train ticket we talked about. It should cost about 18 Euros. Make your way to the first of the 5 villages, Riommagiore (to the south).

When you get here, wander the streets, and find a cafe to have a caffe. 😉

After wandering Riommagiore, head to Manarola for your lunch.

Day 2: early afternoon

Start your afternoon in the second southernmost town, Manarola. Find some lunch. Like I said above, there will be numerous options. Do what sounds good to you!

Wander around Manarola, making sure to head down to the ocean, take all the pictures you want before heading to the train station for the next train.

If you are like us and are staying in Corniglia at night, bypass this town and head to Vernazza. Wander around Vernazza. Some consider Vernazza the most romantic of the 5 villages.

Vernazza is also where we ran into ticket checkers that said we didn’t have the right tickets. I’m not sure if this is common in Vernazza or was just our experience.

But I can’t stress this enough! Make sure you have the correct train tickets!!!

Day 2: late afternoon

Wander around Vernazza. If you brought your bathing suit, you could jump into the water!

If you brought a book nestle yourself along the ocean and relax for a few minutes.

And then find a place to get an aperitivo along the ocean. Sip on a drink while you people-watch, process the events of the day, and spend quality time with your loved one, your family, your friend, or yourself.

Day 2: evening

Head to the final town of the five for dinner — Monterosso al Mare. This town is known for being the flattest, most accessible, and probably most family friendly. It also has one of the only real beaches in Cinque Terre.

We didn’t go to Monterosso al Mare for those things, but it was fun to wander around.

Enjoy some dinner before heading back via train to your home for the evening.

Where you will probably sit on your balcony and take in the views that you don’t want to end!

Day 3: morning

Start your morning like yesterday: taking in the view with an espresso.

When you feel ready, where some comfortable clothes and shoes. Spend a good portion of day 3 exploring Cinque Terre by the hiking trail.

I said it before, but to say it again, you don’t have to be an avid hiker to enjoy this! Some of the trails are moderate. I can’t speak for it all, but you do climb up and down the hills.

The trails wind throughout town and give you markers along the way, including historical markers. You might even make new friends on the trail.

But most importantly: THE VIEWS!!

Day 3: early afternoon

I recommend hiking to 1 village, and grabbing lunch when you get there.

After lunch you can decide if you want to hike to another village or hike back. Remember you can always take a train back. So maybe you want to hike to another village.

The views will be amazing and you will get a great work out in!

In the second village stop for a drink and rest before you take the train back to your home.

Day 3: late afternoon

Spend the later afternoon showering, relaxing, washing up for dinner, and maybe doing a bit of packing. It’s your last night 🙁

Day 3: evening

Grab dinner at your favorite place, soak in the view, and call it a night!

We were so sad to leave Cinque Terre. It was definitely touristy, but we felt very at-home here (aside from our train-hiccup).

I hope you enjoy your time there and that this 3 day Cinque Terre itinerary inspires your trip!

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