The ultimate guide to visiting Cinque Terre National Park
Cinque Terre National Park is one of the most famous spots in Italy and a Unesco World Heritage site since 1997. Located in the northwest of Italy, along the rocky and jagged coast of the Riviera di Levante in Liguria, this fascinating and unspoiled place boasts wonderful landscapes among lush terraced hills, vineyards, and cliffs overlooking the incredibly clear sea. It is also a paradise for outdoor activities lovers as it offers a network of nature trails that connect 5 beautiful villages (the so-called Cinque Terre) in the Park itself. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso, villages perched on the cliffs with colourful housing built in the typical Ligurian style, will literally leave you speechless.
- WHEN TO GO AND HOW LONG
The right period to get the most out of Cinque Terre and its hiking trails is from April to October. If you also want to enjoy the sea and maybe relax on the beautiful beach of Monterosso, June to September are the best months. Anyway, take in mind that July and August are the hottest and crowded months. Winter is cold and quite rainy; therefore, most of the activities are often closed, but, if you don’t mind, it’s the right period to enjoy the Cinque Terre with no crowd.
The Cinque Terre villages can be visited in a whole day, starting early in the morning from Riomaggiore or Monterosso and dedicating to each maximum of 2 hours. Our suggestion is absolutely to spend here at least two/three days and calmly visit the villages and their nature trails.
- HOW TO REACH CINQUE TERRE NATIONAL PARK
The easiest and useful way to reach Cinque Terre is undoubtedly by train. You can also get there by boat from La Spezia (or Portovenere, Levanto, Sestri Levante) and move throughout always by boat. We don’t suggest using the car because it is pretty tricky to find a car park over there and the road is curvy. If you choose to travel by car, you can leave it in La Spezia or other cities before/after Cinque Terre (like Chiavari or Sestri Levante) and get there by train.
1) By Train
There is a train every 30 minutes, and each ride among Cinque Terre railway stations costs 4 Euro (exactly between La Spezia and Levanto). It is worth buying the “Cinque Terre Card + Train“. The card costs 16 Euro for 1 day, 29 Euro for 2 days, and 41 Euro for 3 days.
It enables to you: 2° class access to regional and fast trains, access to the Park area, guided visits according to the program (check the list of activities at the “Info-Point” inside the Cinque Terre railway stations), bus service within the villages and their hamlets, free use of pay toilet, free wifi hot spot in the ParkPark. You can buy the card at each “Info-Point” located in Cinque Terre railway stations or other ticket offices along the railway before getting there (La Spezia, Levanto, Sestri Levante). You can also buy your ”Cinque Terre Card” on the official website by clicking here.
2) By Boat
There is a boat service managed by Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti that links the villages (excluding Corniglia because it is perched on a high hill). The daily ticket costs 35 Euro (hop on-off), and you can start from La Spezia harbour (Porto Mirabello) or Portovenere village. The one-way daily ticket around Cinque Terre costs 26 Euro. If you want to have just a single ride between two villages, the ticket’s cost depends on the route (ex: Riomaggiore – Manarola 7 Euro round trip; 5 Euro single ride).
The harbour of La Spezia is just 20 minutes walk from La Spezia railways station. You can buy your ticket at the company’s ticket office close to the pier (Passeggiata Morin, Thaon di Revel pier). We also suggest a stop in Portovenere because it is as beautiful as Cinque Terre villages. Anyway, in case you decide to take the train, we also recommend having at least one ride on the boat because it’s worth seeing the villages from the sea as well. The boat service runs from 30th March to 26th October. Check the company’s official site below because the rules are subject to change due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
- WHERE TO SLEEP IN 5 TERRE NATIONAL PARK
The villages offer a good accommodation choice as Hotels, Guest Houses or ”Room for Rent”. During summer (it’s the high season), the average price is between 60 Euros and 100 Euros for a double room (even more). It depends on where you want to stay. If you can’t find good accommodation there, you can also stay in La Spezia.
Click below on the town to see accommodations:
- Manarola accommodations;
- Riomaggiore accommodations;
- Corniglia accommodations;
- Vernazza accommodations;
- Monterosso accommodations;
- La Spezia accommodations.
- WHERE TO EAT
You can find restaurants, baker’s shops, mini markets, takeaway, and coffee bars throughout the villages. The average expense in a restaurant is about 15 Euros for a main course, whereas in a baker’s shop or takeaway it’s around 5 Euros. Don’t miss to taste the typical flat crispbread of the Liguria region called “Focaccia” and sip a glass of the local “Sciacchetrà” wine.
Below is a selection of our favourite restaurants in 5 Terre
- Riomaggiore: Il Pescato Cucinato (take away), Fuori Rotta (wine bar) and Osteria della Corte (restaurant);
- Manarola: Nessun Dorma (restaurant/aperitive bar), Focacceria la Cambusa (take away) and Il Porticciolo (restaurant);
- Corniglia: Osteria A Cantina De Mananan (restaurant), Terra Rossa (wine bar) and La Terza Terrazza (bar);
- Vernazza: Belforte (restaurant), Vernazza Winexperience (wine bar) and Il Piratadelle 5 Terre (restaurant);
- Monterosso al Mare: Da Eraldo (restaurant), il Massimo della Focaccia (take away) and L’Ancora della Tortuga (restaurant).
- NETWORKS PATHS THROUGH THE 5 TERRE VILLAGES
A dense network of paths links the villages and hamlets through spectacular views, cliffs, vineyards, and green hills. It is necessary to wear suitable clothes and take care of the exposed points. Access to the paths is free, excluding the one called nr. 592.
The path nr. 592 – Blue trail
The most famous and popular path is the nr. 592, better known as the “Blue Path trail” (”Sentiero Azzurro” in Italian). It is divided into 4 parts linking all the five villages of Cinque Terre. The Blue trail is the most accessible and visited trail of all the Cinque Terre (total length is 12 km). If you want to walk through the path, you must buy the “Cinque Terre Trekking Card” (1 day 7,50 Euro) or the “Cinque Terre Card + Train”. There are some checkpoints at the beginning of each section where the Rangers could check your ticket. Unfortunately, at the moment, some parts of that trail are closed due to safety reasons.
- Click here for information and to buy purchase the Cinque Terre Cards through the Park’s official website.
- Click here to see the map of all the paths.
- Smart App for ios apple devices about the paths.
- Smart App for Android devices about the path.
Information about the “Blue Trail” sections
- Riomaggiore – Manarola – Path nr. 592-1: It is the shortest of the five and most know as the ”love path”, but at the moment, it is closed because of some landslides, and there is a gate just a few meters from the Riomaggiore railway station. If you start from Manarola, there is a part of the path nr. 592-1 still accessible.
- Manarola – Corniglia – Path nr. 592-2: Also, this part at the moment is closed because of a rockslide. Anyway, you can walk along the coast for a stretch of the path where you can enjoy a terrific view of Manarola (pic nr.1) and then go back. If you want to reach Corniglia on foot anyway, you can climb the hill through the vineyards (starting from San Lorenzo’s church), heading to Volastra hamlet. You can avoid this uphill section by taking the bus for Volastra along via Discovolo. The bus stop is shortly after the post office. From Volastra hamlet, follow the path nr. 586 to Case Pianche hamlet and, once there, take the junction along the path nr. 587 to get to Corniglia (total time around 1.30 minutes). If you don’t want to hike for so long, it’s also interesting to take the bus to Volastra (included in both Cinque Terre cards) and go back to Manarola downhill through the terraced vineyards (around 30 minutes).
- Corniglia – Vernazza – Path nr. 592-3: The path crosses vineyards, hills and forest not close to the coast. The highest part is around 100 meters above sea level. The length is about 4 kilometres, and it takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
- Vernazza – Monterosso – Path nr. 592-4: The first part is along the coast where you can stare at Vernazza view (pic nr. 2), then through the forest and again along the coast. Close to Monterosso, the path is quite steep. The length is 3600 meters, and it takes around 2 hours.
For detailed information on the trails and walking time and difficulty, check the maps of the Park’s official website divided by village:
- Map of Monterosso trails;
- Map of Vernazza trails;
- Map of Riomaggiore trails;
- Map of Manarola trails;
- Map of Corniglia trails.
- SEA AND WATER ACTIVITIES
Cinque Terre National Park is also a Nature Reserve and Protected Marine Area. If you like diving, there is the “Diving Centre 5 Terre” in Riomaggiore, the only one in the protected area. It also offers canoe rental, snorkelling, and boat trips. Click here for more info about diving.
The only village that boasts a long beach with all the services is Monterosso. The other villages have a tiny and short beach (some of them are pebbles beaches) that during the high season is always super crowded. There is a beach on the left side of Corniglia Railway station as well, but it’s nothing special and above all rocky. For more info, check the Cinque Terre National Park website.
Private boat tour and other activities
In Vernazza, Riomaggiore and Manarola, you’ll also find local people offering private sunset boat tours or boat tours in general and a few tour operators advertising activities in the Park. Alternatively, you can also check the reliable web Platforms Viator.com and GetYourGuide.com that provide tours and activities around Cinque Terre National Park managed by the local operators.
Fly with a Drones over Cinque Terre National Park
If you are a drone lover (as we are), take in mind that it is strictly prohibited to fly with a drone over the Cinque Terre National Park. First of all, you have to follow the EU drones regulation by EASA. If you have all the requested general certifications to fly, you also need specific authorizations from the Park management and ENAC (Italian Civil Aviation Authority). It’s complicated to get them as the authorizations are issued only for work. If you decide to fly anyway, the local authorities will report you and seize your drone. Our recommendation is to keep your drone aside not to get into serious trouble.