A Day Trip to Cinque Terre

The five colorful villages of Cinque Terre in Italy have long been on my bucket list. So when I went with my family on a Mediterranean cruise where a day trip to Cinque Terre was possible from many ports, I knew it was my priority.

Cinque Terre is the smallest National Park in Italy. It consists of five towns, four of which sit on the coastline, and four feature brightly-colored houses nestled into green hills. There is hiking, beaches, restaurants and stores, and cliffs to jump off of.

A day trip to Cinque Terre, Italy from Genoa or Florence
Vernazza as seen from the Vernazza-Monterosso Hiking Trail

Which Ports Can I Take a Day Trip to Cinque Terre From?

No matter where you decide to leave from, it is a long drive or train to Cinque Terre, so realize this will be a long day. Cinque Terre is between Florence and Genoa so you can reach them by day trips from either of these ports or Portofino. For my family, it was a matter of figuring out which port we were most willing to miss. Portofino was our favorite port, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping it. It will be easiest to get there from Florence or Genoa.

You have three basic ways to get from Florence or Genoa to Cinque Terre. Expect to spend about ten hours away from the ship with these options. No matter what you choose, reaching the beginning of Cinque Terre will take at least an hour and a half.

  • Book a tour from Florence to Cinque Terre or a tour from Genoa to Cinque Terre.
  • Get a cab at either port, which will bring you to the entrance of Cinque Terre. This is ultimately what we did. We caught a cab at the port in Genoa, which cost us about 60 Euros per person. If you want to pre-book our driver, call David Carbone at +39-340-6505474.
  • The cheapest option is to take a train from Genoa (Genova Brignole) or Florence (Livorno) to Monterosso al Mare. To do this option, you must figure out how long it will take you to get from the port to the train station. Buying your tickets through trainline can simplify things.

A Mediterranean cruise is busy. Unlike a Caribbean cruise, where I often sit on the beach or take a hike, there is so much I want to see at each port. For us, not having to navigate so much by ourselves was worth the 30 extra dollars per person to hire the car.

One day in Cinque Terre, Italy
The village of Monterosso, as seen from the ferry

1-Day Cinque Terre Itinerary

By taking a car from Genoa, we had about five hours to spend in Cinque Terre. My son and I loved Cinque Terre, but many from our group were disappointed. Here are a few things that will help you not to be disappointed.

It is hot. It was Rome hot, and if you have been to Rome in summer, you know what I mean.

Cinque Terre in the summer is crowded. Particularly in the towns closer to Monterosso al Mar.

Unless you take the hike, you will not see the sort of views that the pictures on the internet show. And the buildings are more faded than the pictures show. My son and I did the hike. We got the views. For us, the trip was worth it.

Day trip to Cinque Terre from Genoa, Italy
Our lunch view of the ferry and coastline

Now that I got that out of my system, onto what to do once you reach Cinque Terre.

There are five towns in Cinque Terre- Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. You are going to have around five hours to explore them. It won’t be possible to explore them all, so I suggest you pick at most two. Read this article to decide where you want to go.

It is easy to travel between the villages by train or ferry. The trips are quick and frequent in-season.

You can buy train tickets here. I purchased the pass that also allowed me to hike.

I recommend taking at least one ferry ride to see the towns from the water. We bought our ferry tickets in Monterosso near the street in front of the ferry dock. Here are the timetables.

The taxi that brought you into Monterosso cannot drive between towns. You will have to get local cabs if you want a cab in or between towns, but Cinque Terre requires a lot of walking as much of it isn’t accessible by car.

What I did in Cinque Terre in One Day

You can see that there are many options for spending your one day in Cinque Terre, so I will share what we did. Hiking is a passion of mine, so that was my priority. I will share that it was stressful to finish my hike on time.

Take a Stroll through Monterosso

We walked through the flat town of Monterosso to the ferry station on the far side of town.

Ferry to Vernazza

We then took the ferry to the town of Vernazza. The views from the ferry were worth the ride, and it gave us a chance to have a cold drink from the bar on the ferry.

Beaches in Cinque Terre, Italy
The beach in Monterosso by the ferry terminal.

Castello Doria

After getting off the ferry, we climbed up to the medieval castle on top of the rock. There is a small fee to tour this castle which provides lovely views but is only a shell.

Lunch in Al Castello

We were all about the views, so we chose to have an authentic Italian lunch with an excellent view right under the castle.

Vernazza to Montorosso Hike

How to hike between Monterosso and Vernazza
The hike is mainly either directly up or down steep stairs. Here is part of the trail that is flat.

I got so much misinformation about this hike before doing it that I was ill-prepared, but my son and I are glad to have completed this challenging hike with gorgeous ocean views, the two towns, farms, churches, and vineyards. It was a unique way to experience Cinque Terre.

By the time you travel from town to the trail, this hike will be at least three and a half miles long and take around 3 hours. Most of the hike has extreme elevation changes. Although there is shade, you need to bring a lot of water. There is nothing on the trail, such as bathrooms or stores. What you have with you is all you will have.

Here is a trail map from AllTrails, but as I said, you need to get from where you are to where it starts and ends.

You need to get a pass to do this trail online.

If you have the right mindset, Cinque Terre is a beautiful area to visit. It is ideally a place to visit off-season and with more time, but it is worth seeing as a day trip from Florence or Genoa.

Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favorite experience there?

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