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Planning on spending 2 days in Italy’s magnificent Cinque Terre? Great choice! The 2 days my husband and I spent in this UNESCO World Heritage Site were our favorite over 10 days exploring Italy. However, it might surprise you that I was reluctant to get excited for the Cinque Terre portion of our trip.
The thing is, I’d seen those villages about a million times on Instagram, with many photos very heavily edited, filtered, or Photoshopped into something purely fantastical. I thought there would be nothing left to discover, and that the reality couldn’t possibly measure up to the fantasy.
Upon arrival, all my doubts were immediately proven wrong. I couldn’t believe it, but the Cinque Terre was even more unreal in person than in any picture I’d seen.
The next 2 days in Cinque Terre were spent wandering narrow stone paths in the villages, visiting tiny cafes, and hearing locals yell to each other out windows hung with drying laundry. The towns were every bit as colorful as you could imagine next to the glittering blue Ligurian sea, and the hiking was AMAZING.
Although the views are mind blowing, life in the tiny Cinque Terre villages is fairly simple. That being said, it’s still smart to plan your time to some extent if you want to hike and see all five villages. After all, you can only get around by train, shuttle, or walking, and trains can be late, hiking trails close, and the best restaurants fill up at night. Below is the perfect 2 days in Cinque Terre itinerary to help you structure your time to maximize hiking, village hopping, and wine sipping.
This article was originally published in October 2019 and was last updated in August 2023.
How to Spend 2 Days in Cinque Terre
How to Get to Cinque Terre
Driving to Cinque Terre can be a bit challenging and is generally discouraged. Cars are not allowed to enter the towns, and you must pay to use a parking area outside of each city. Trains are by far an easier way to access the five towns of the Cinque Terre, which is what I recommend you do instead.
To get to Cinque Terre by train, you will need to connect through either Levanto to the north or La Spezia to the south. From there, you can access any of the five villages by train for €5 each ride. Confirm Cinque Terre train prices and schedules here.
Travel Savvy Tip
If you are on an Italian road trip and must park a car, you could opt to pay a daily rate to park at the Levanto or La Spezia train stations. The fee is slightly cheaper than that of the town parking areas, and the stations are easier to access by car.
Where to Stay: Which Cinque Terre Town is Best?
Cinque Terre is made up of five small villages (cinque means five in Italian) that are all connected via trains and walking paths. Some visitors day trip here from Florence or other nearby cities, but I recommend staying in Cinque Terre for 2 days to get the full experience. So which village should you choose?
The first village you arrive at heading north on the train from La Spezia. In my opinion, this is the least picturesque of the five, although the standards are high. That being said, it features some great restaurants and bars, some of which even have fantastic views!
Suggested Stay: Hotel del Sole
Widely considered to be the most beautiful of the villages. I’d have to say I agree, but my experience here was my least favorite due to the crazy crowds. If you do choose to stay here, I’d visit the other towns during the day and enjoy Manarola at its calmer morning and evening hours.
Suggested Stay: Ca’ del Monica
Perched high on a hill, Corniglia (where we stayed) is the most difficult to access of the villages. The train station is down below the town, which means you must take a shuttle bus or climb more than 300 steps to get to the center. The bright side is that this tiny town gets less crowded and can feel like a bit of a retreat from busier villages.
I liked staying in this middle village because I could evenly divide my hiking days, trekking north towards Monterosso the first day and south to Manarola the next. Plus, the view from our flat was incredible, as you could see three of the other villages from the rooftop terrace.
Suggested Stay: Il Magan
My second favorite town after Corniglia, Vernazza has a lot of charm with its beautiful harbor and the unique way it juts out into the water. My favorite gelateria was also located in this town, and we did not find it to be as horribly crowded as Manarola. I’d consider staying here on a return trip.
Suggested Stay: La Mala
Monterosso al Mare
If you want a bit more of a modern flair and easy access to the sea, Monterosso al Mare is the town for you. It has the least characteristic charm of the five since it’s so flat, but this might be a plus if you are not into all the climbing that the other towns require. It also has the best beach of the villages by far, as well as elegant restaurants and chic nightlife options.
Suggested Stay: Hotel Margherita
Cinque Terre 2 Day Itinerary
Here are my suggestions for spending the perfect 2 days in Cinque Terre. This itinerary allows you to see all five villages at a perfectly doable pace that won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed or wanting more. However, you’ll probably fall in love with it like I did, and never want to leave!
2 Days in Cinque Terre: Day 1
Start your first day by hiking north on the “Blue Path” from Corniglia. The Blue Path is the famous coastal trail in Cinque Terre National Park that connects all five villages. Unfortunately, the southernmost section connecting Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corniglia is currently closed due to rockslides in 2012.
However, the initial part of this path, Via dell’Amore between Riomaggiore and Manarola, is finally set to reopen in 2024 after more than a decade. The section between Manarola and Corniglia is currently estimated to reopen in 2025, so I’ve suggested an alternative for now.
I’m happy to report that the open half of the trail contains four hilly miles of amazing views that will leave you feeling satisfied. While you can do the hike in either direction, I recommend starting in Corniglia so you can end your hike heading downhill to a very inviting beach.
Hike The Blue Path to Monterosso al Mare
The path between Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare is mildly challenging, with lots of inclines, stairs, and rocky paths. I recommend starting between 8 and 9 a.m. to avoid the worst of the crowds or heat, if visiting in summer. This would get you to Monterosso by mid afternoon.
The Blue Path requires you to pay for at least the €7.50 Cinque Terre Card for entry (funds go toward trail maintenance and fees may vary). If you wait until the morning of your hike to purchase the pass, you’ll need to wait for the stand that sells them at the trailhead to open at 9 a.m. We bought our cards right before hiking and still found the trails fairly empty until we got closer to Vernazza.
Stop in Vernazza
Vernazza was one of my favorite stops on our Cinque Terre itinerary. On the trail from Corniglia heading north, this is the first city you will arrive at. Vernazza is unique in the way it juts out into the water on a peninsula stacked in colorful homes. This lovely town also boasts a large harbor with a small beach. To me, it had the most nautical feel of the five towns.
While strolling about Vernazza, be sure to snack on a seafood cone before grabbing some gelato from Gelateria Vernazza (my favorite). Then walk back towards the water and look for a little tunnel on your left. Walk towards it to find a secret rocky beach hidden from view of the main town area.
This secluded rock beach will have some sunbathers and swimmers, but overall offers a needed escape from the afternoon crowds. When you’re done, don’t forget to pop into the lovely Church of St. Margaret of Antioch on the other side of the harbor, which dates back to the 13th century!
Descend into Monterosso
Time to hit the trails again. The stretch between Vernazza and Monterosso will offer more of the same types of uneven rocky paths that you experienced on the first portion of your hike. Eventually, you will begin a somewhat steep descent down stone stairs into Monterosso, after which you will be ready for a cold beverage and beach time.
Being that our hike was in mid August, Italy’s hottest time of year, my husband and I were completely soaked in sweat by the time we arrived in mid afternoon. I’ve never craved cold water on my skin more, and the sea to our left was looking very inviting.
Cool off with a Beverage and Beach Time
We first needed to stop at a beach bar for some rosé. While sipping, we stared at the bright blue water glittering in the sun while trying to comprehend how this could be real life. Or at least I did. I probably asked my husband “can you believe we’re really here??” about a thousand times during this trip, to which he would pause for a moment and say, “yea, I can”. It’s the engineer in him I guess…
After a drink, head down to the water and rent a beach chair and towel. Full disclosure, the sand was hot and rocky, but the water itself was a dream. We had a great time bobbing up and down in the waves for a while until we were fully recovered from our hot morning of hiking.
Once you are done and all dried off, head to Monterosso’s train station to get back to your lodging. The train arrives about three times an hour, but comes more infrequently later in the evening.
Eat Dinner in Corniglia
Corniglia may be small, but it has a great selection of little ristorantes and enotecas to check out. One of the best restaurants in Corniglia is A Cantina da Mananan, which specializes in seafood.
Reservations are a must for this little place that can only seat about 20 or so people. It is, however, a worthy selection on your 2 days in Cinque Terre itinerary. The restaurant is loaded with character and serves extremely fresh dishes in an intimate space.
Navigating the Corniglia Shuttle Bus
About 3 shuttle buses arrive at Corniglia’s train station per hour to take you up to the center of town. In many cases, the shuttle bus is worth taking to save you the 300 plus stair climb.
However, during the busiest times of day, waiting for the bus is a disaster. There isn’t an official line, and people hover on both sides of the street waiting for it. When it does arrive, everyone immediately swarms to the door of the bus, pushing and shoving their way inside.
Many times, we had to wait for two buses before we could go into Corniglia. While annoying, this is just one of those things about Italy that require a little patience!
2 Days in Cinque Terre: Day 2
Hike to Manorola via Volastra
The Blue Path is closed between Corniglia and Manarola, but there is an alternative path available (mapped here). Ascend trail 7a from Corniglia to a nice level journey along path 6d to the town of Volastra. You will then make a very long descent down stairs into Manarola on path 6, or take the shuttle bus from Volastra into Manarola.
Like the Blue Path, these trails are clearly marked with red and white dashes, and we had no trouble finding our way. However, I’m not gonna lie – this hike was quite brutal at the beginning and end, with what I can only describe as stairs galore. When ascending from Corniglia, I truly began to wonder if the whole trail would be made of uneven stone steps. The forces of gravity were real, and it wasn’t long at all before I was dripping in sweat.
The silver lining is that once you’ve reached the top, the path levels off into a serene flat trail with amazing sea views. For a while, the hiking is quite pleasant as you pass through forests and dreamy vineyards. Don’t forget to take lots of photos while appreciating the views and the fact that you are in the freaking CINQUE TERRE. The hiking really is what made this trip for me.
Descend 1200 Stairs into Manarola
Eventually, you will begin to descend into Manarola, which will require you to climb down, once again, a seemingly infinite number of stairs. I never knew climbing down could be this hard until hiking this trail. It turns out that in some ways, gravity can feel even harsher going down than it does going up.
However, you WILL eventually enter the town, and it will likely be horribly crowded. You can blame its gorgeousness and convenient location for the hoards of day trippers that beeline here for breathtaking photos.
You’ll see for yourself when you follow the waterfront path away from the village towards the sea. You’ll pass a restaurant called Nessun Dorma along the way.
Once you’re a good ways down, turn around. You will see the most amazing view of Manarola that will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a postcard or perfectly curated Instagram photo.
Travel Savvy Tip
When hiking any of these trails, do not forget to turn around once in a while. Often, particularly when climbing upward, there can be some amazing views behind you!
Take the Train to Riomaggiore for Dinner
If you are set on hiking to Riomaggiore while the main coastal trail is closed for repairs, consider Via Beccara as an alternative route. While it does deliver on awesome views, this trail is not for the faint of heart, being steep and grueling. Remember – it’s not a requirement to hike to every village and there is no shame in taking the train!
With via Beccara being closed during our trip, Aaron and I too the train for a romantic dinner in Riomaggiore . Since we weren’t hiking, it was the perfect opportunity to dress up and not worry about proper footwear or sweating through our clothes.
We opted for dinner at a seaside spot called Bar e Vini a Piè de Mà. We chose seats on the beautiful patio for sunset views over the deep blue water. I loved the options on their small menu, from which we ordered carpaccio to share and our own delicious mains. The wine poured and the water glistened in the golden hour light.
Cinque Terre Train and Hiking Passes:
Which Should You Choose?
The Blue Path (also referred to as SVA or 592) requires the Cinque Terre Card in order to hike. The other Cinque Terre trails do not have this requirement.
Besides hiking, the Cinque Terre card could provide some convenience and cost savings during your 2 days in Cinque Terre. Fees vary and proceeds largely go towards maintaining the national park and transport services. Below I am listing out the different options and perks, so you can decide which one is best for you.
Cinque Terre Hiking Cards
- Cinque Terre Trekking Card: (1 day: €7.50/ 2 day: €14.50) Allows access to the Blue Trail and covers shuttle buses.
- Cinque Terre Treno MS Card: (1 day: €18.20/ 2 day: €33.00) Same as above, except also covers any train travel between the villages.
If you follow this itinerary, the €33.00 2 day Treno Card would probably be your best bet. Day 1 would require you to spend at least €7.50 for the Blue Trail and €5.00 for one train ride (or more if you aren’t staying in Corniglia). Day 2 would have you taking at least three trains for a total of €15.00. That brings you to €27.50. If you end up taking the train at least two more times during those days, you’ll get the full value of your card.
As you can see, the best option depends on many factors, including your schedule and where you are staying. Once you make your decision, the Cinque Terre Card can be purchased online here.
What to Bring With You on the Trails
Choose comfortable athletic apparel for a day on the trails. If you’re hiking on a hot summer day like we did, you’ll want to wear breathable, moisture wicking fabrics. Trust me, these hikes are workouts!
Flip flops are not permitted on these steep, rocky paths, so you’ll need to wear sneakers or hiking shoes (I’m in love with my KEEN’s). The more tread your shoes have, the easier climb you’ll have.
Cinque Terre Packing List
- Cinque Terre Card
- Bug Spray
- Hat (this one folds up for travel!)
- Small backpack
- Water Bottles (these vacuum seal water bottles are our favorite!)
- Camera (I’ve been rocking my Sony A600 for years)
- Cell Phone
- Optional change of clothes
• • •
There you have it! You are officially equipped with everything you need to know for spending 2 days in Cinque Terre. These five colorful villages are the perfect setting for leisurely hikes or long afternoons of sipping wine by the sea. A stop in Cinque Terre is a must on a long or short trip to Italy for a moment of calm in the region’s traditional slow-paced lifestyle.
Is the Cinque Terre on your bucket list? Which village would you stay in for 2 days?