So you’ve made it to Cinque Terre—we’d personally like to welcome you to paradise. Cinque Terre (pronounced cheen-kway tehr-ray) is a cluster of five villages with some strikingly beautiful commonalities. The villages were built on the precipice of the Ligurian Sea, the homes and terraces sculpted out of the jagged coastline. The houses are pastel-hued; something about the burst of color paired with the fact that the creation seems impossible on this steep terrain leaves visitors stupefied and reaching for their cameras. Spending two days in this Italian paradise might not seem like enough time, but we’ve got you covered. If you find yourself with 48 hours to explore Cinque Terre, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
First things first— a hike is the best way to see everything Cinque Terre’s five towns have to offer in a short amount of time. There are several trails, some of which run along the coast, and some which run up behind the villages. It can take anywhere from one to three hours to hike between cities. The sole means of traveling within each city is by walking. So why not spend your first day exploring the coastline and the streets of each charming village by foot?
Morning and afternoon: Hike Sentiero Azzurro
Translating to “Blue Path,” Sentiero Azzurro is a cliffside hiking trail that connects Cinque Terre’s five towns:
Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The trail is within Cinque Terre National Park, so you’ll need to purchase a ticket to access it. Private trekking tours are available, or you can go it alone with a trail map.
We recommend starting in Monterosso on one end and ending in Riomaggiore at the other end—this is the most streamlined way to see all five Cinque Terre towns on your hike. Cinque Terre’s train system is easy to navigate and can get you to your starting point from just about anywhere in just a few minutes. Before you set out, make sure you’re wearing sensible shoes and clothing—the path is unpaved and varies in terrain.
Walking the Sentiero Azzurro trail takes about six hours with no breaks. But exploring Cinque Terre’s gorgeous coastline and uniquely quaint towns is essential, so it’s best to assume your hike will take most of the day. After all, you’ll need to stop for lunch—we recommend grabbing a sandwich on a fresh loaf of Italian bread at a local bakery in Vernazza and heading to Castello Doria to eat it while soaking in the stunning views. And don’t forget to treat yourself to an afternoon gelato, lemonade, or glass of wine!
Evening: Relax with a sunset cruise and dinner al fresco
After a long day of hiking, a little relaxation is certainly in order. A sunset cruise along the Mediterranean coastline is the perfect way to see Cinque Terre in all its glory. Take a private boat tour for the ultimate VIP experience.
End your day with dinner al fresco in Vernazza. Indulge in an antipasto plate of local salamis, cheeses, and olives, and wash it down with a glass (or two!) of local wine. Nightlife in Vernazza might not be too rowdy but the hospitality of its people and interesting cocktails will keep you entertained all night.
After such an active first day, it’s only right that you spend your second day in Cinque Terre eating, drinking, and relaxing in true Italian style. Beat the crowds and hit up the beach in the morning, then spend a leisurely afternoon sampling some local wines.
Morning: Head to the beach in Monterosso
The largest of the villages, Monterosso has the most restaurants, hotels, and shops for visitors, as well as the most beaches. The village is probably the most walkable, too, with smooth paved roads that are more horizontal than vertical.
Many of the village’s beaches are private and require an entry fee, but it’s worth it. It’ll buy you access to a beach chair, umbrella, showers and restrooms, and most likely access to a nearby bar— all the necessary ingredients for the perfect beach day.
Lunchtime: Pizza and limoncello
A morning of sunbathing along the Italian coast works up an appetite. Head back to Vernazza, find an open patio with breathtaking views of the coastline (they aren’t that hard to find!) and tuck into a crispy, cheesy, thin-crust pizza. Wash it down with some limoncello and you’ve found yourself the perfect lunch.
Afternoon: Sample some local wines in Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore is like the little kid next door who kind of reminds you of the Tasmanian Devil. The village is always bustling, with a constant stream of people coming in from docked cruise ships and the train station. But crowds and tourists aside, this Cinque Terre village is also home to some top-notch local wineries. Book a wine tour and spend the afternoon exploring the grape-laden vineyards dotting the hillsides while sipping a glass of Italian white or traditional sweet red wine.
Evening: Dine on fresh-caught seafood and classic Italian eats
Calling all seafood lovers! Even the toughest critic would be blown away by the fresh fish available in Cinque Terre. Don’t like fish? No problem, enjoy fresh tenants of typical Italian cuisine as well.
Eating seafood in Cinque Terre is a definite must, but you don’t have to break the bank to experience local cuisine. Not everything has to be fancy-schmancy to be a restaurant here—we recommend looking for a casual spot in Riomaggiore with live music. Many places are pretty small, and as you eat, you’ll probably be rubbing elbows with the people next to you. Might as well strike up a conversation!