Is Cinque Terre worth visiting? Having explored this stunning little coastal haven on three separate trips, our answer is a definite yes.
The pictures you see all over the internet don’t lie — the villages are like they were pulled from a page in a fairytale book. They are vibrant and colorful and the beautiful Mediterranean laps at their shores.
However, a lot of people agree with us, and over the years Cinque Terre has welcomed many, many visitors. As such, overtourism has become a very real problem here. So navigating those crowds, plus avoiding the higher costs that come with them, requires savvy planning.
But the stunning villages, scenic hikes, beautiful beaches, incredible views, and seafood galore are absolutely worth it. We are sharing our experience and some of the reasons to visit Cinque Terre, plus some things to know beforehand. Let’s dive in.
Is Cinque Terre Worth Visiting?
Yes! Cinque Terre is very much worth visiting. We have visited the area three times now and we love it. The extraordinary terraced villages hugging the Italian coastline make the most perfect backdrop for your vacation.
However, because of its extreme popularity, it can make for a chaotic, crowded experience. So, while yes, Cinque Terre is worth visiting and we definitely recommend it, you need to prepare properly.
Here we’ll outline the pros as well as the cons of the area and how to make your trip amazing without letting any of the less pleasant aspects of the region affect it.
Pros: Reasons to Visit Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is made up of five charming villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The entire region, which dates back to at least the 11th century, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why. Here’s a brief breakdown of what you can expect from each of the villages.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare is the largest and most built up of the villages. This is the first village you’ll reach coming from the north. It has a long sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and swimming and the largest train station in the area. And if you’re looking to go on any boat tours around the area, this is often where they depart from.
The next village you’ll hit if you continue south is Vernazza. Vernazza is like a living postcard — made up of vibrantly colored houses — and is often considered to be the most beautiful Cinque Terre village. It’s also our personal favorite.
Make sure to hike up to the top of the hill for views overlooking the village and sea.
The middle village is Corniglia. This is also the least popular village to visit and the smallest. Part of the reason for this is that you have to hike up 382 steps to get to the village from the train station, so it’s a bit of a work out.
But the village offers a great starting point for amazing hikes and is the quietest of the options — so if you want a quieter getaway surrounded by plenty of stunning views, this is a good choice.
Following the coast south you’ll hit Manarola next. Manarola is charming, romantic, quaint, and very popular. It has a small marina, great restaurants and local vineyards. If you’re a wine lover, this is the spot to be. Plus there are a good number of hotel options here so it’s a good base for exploring.
Additionally, this is a popular swimming spot during the summer. Near the harbor, you’ll find locals and tourists alike jumping off the rocks into the sea. There is no beach here, so you’ll have to set up your towel on the rocks or concrete.
If you’re looking for the best sunset spot in Cinque Terre, Manarola is the place to be. Head to this viewpoint (also shown in the photo above) and enjoy one of the most amazing sunset views in Italy.
Finally, Riomaggiore, the southernmost village, is a favorite if you’re looking for a slightly more lively atmosphere. With plenty of restaurants to choose from and local shops to explore, this is another picturesque village to wander around.
Needless to say, each village has its unique charm and if you can, aim to visit each one of them during your visit. The constant vibrant colors, narrow streets, and relaxed atmosphere make the region so incredibly inviting.
Hiking Between the Villages
One of the best things to do in Cinque Terre National Park is to hike the network of trails that connects the villages and also goes farther afield. There are more than 120 km (about 75 miles) of path which make up a total of 48 hiking trails.
The Blue Trail is the most famous and the most popular trail, it is also fairly easy to hike. The trail has been used over centuries, initially as a mule track to gain passage from one village to the next.
The blue trail runs from Monterosso to Riomaggiore, connecting all five villages, and is a total of 12 km with some absolutely stunning views throughout. Unfortunately, some of the trails are often closed due to weather and maintenance work, so make sure to check the status of the trails as you plan your trip.
You will likely encounter the most issues with this from November through March when the area gets a lot of rain.
To access the Blue Trail (and several other trails) you do need a Cinque Terre card that you have to show at trailheads. There are two options: either a hiking trail card or a train and hiking card combined. We highly recommend purchasing the combined ticket.
Our personal favorite hike is the route between Vernazza and Corniglia. The scenery is nothing short of spectacular.
Beautiful Beaches and Swimming Spots
Cinque Terre isn’t all beautiful painted houses and quaint villages, it also boasts many beautiful beaches great for sunbathing and swimming.
The beach in Monterosso al Mare is particularly noteworthy as it is long and sandy — the best for a “traditional” beach that you’ll find in Cinque Terre. This beach is the perfect spot to stop and soak up the sun for a while. Plus the sea is calm so you can dip in and out for a swim.
While Vernazza is largely dominated by its small harbor, there is a secluded rocky beach as well. Some of the bigger rocks make perfect spots to lay down your towel and sunbathe for a bit.
A very natural, rugged beach which is ideal for walking but not necessarily sunbathing or swimming, is in Riomaggiore.
Manarola also offers a number of excellent little swimming holes carved out amongst the large rocks. This is the ideal sport for a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear waters.
Have we mentioned the Cinque Terre views yet? Well, they’re definitely worth mentioning again (and again).
There are amazing, panoramic views of the Mediterranean all throughout the five villages. The bright, twinkling blues of the sea, combined with the multicolored houses of the villages make Cinque Terre an absolute delight, especially for photographers.
While it’s hard to get a bad picture of the region, sunset presents an especially amazing opportunity to really capture the magical atmosphere.
There are a number of good spots to watch the sunset, but two of the best spots are in Vernazza and Manarola. In Vernazza, head up the stairs to the start of the trail that heads to Monterosso al Mare for the best views.
In Manarola, head to the Manarola Overlook Viewpoint. This viewpoint is on a small spit of land that sticks out slightly so it is particularly amazing for views along the coast of all of the hues of the villages and the setting sun.
Cinque Terre is a paradise for food enthusiasts (isn’t all of Italy?), but particularly anyone who loves to indulge in fresh fish and seafood.
You can get simple dishes done quite perfectly. For example, try the anchovies in Monterosso al Mare. And if you wake up early enough you can actually watch the fishermen coming in during the early hours of the morning with their fresh catches.
Try the anchovies as part of Acciughe al Verde, a dish where they are marinated in a green sauce.
Fritto misto (also called Frittura di Paranza) is almost street food-esque. These picky dishes of fried fish and seafood are perfect for a quick snack or as a larger sharing dish.
If you fancy a soup, try Ciuppin — a tomato based fish stew.
Pair any of these dishes with a glass of local wine, the region’s specialty is a dry, intense white. The most famous of which is Sciacchetrà.
Cons: Reasons Not to Visit Cinque Terre
Crowds and Overtourism
One significant drawback to visiting Cinque Terre, especially during the summer peak season (June to September), is the insanely overwhelming crowds.
During this time the streets of all five towns are packed with bodies. Beaches are full, restaurants and bars are always booked and buzzing.
The local trains are hard to catch as they are simply always too full to get on. Even the hiking trails don’t provide much of an escape.
Overtourism is a very real problem in Cinque Terre and due to its boom in popularity in the last decade there is a distinct lack of a “local feel”.
Now, the authentic small town Italian vibe that drew the crowds here in the first place has been replaced by a far less authentic vibe. Unfortunately, the vast majority of shops and restaurants are being catered to tourists.
The entire Cinque Terre region tends to be on the pricier side for Italian destinations, both in terms of accommodation and dining.
Food prices are higher compared to other cities in Italy, and seafood dishes even more so. Hotels are limited so prices can skyrocket, especially in high season. Overall, these expenses add up — this is important to factor into your trip planning.
The villages of Cinque Terre are literally built into the side of a rocky hill. There are many, many stairs throughout the area. You’ll need to take stairs to get to many of the beaches, often you’ll need stairs to get to restaurants, or perhaps even to your accommodation.
Needless to say this does not make for easy accessibility for anyone with limited mobility.
In addition to the stairs, the streets can also pose a challenge as they are very often uneven. Plus, the trains which get you from village to village are not accessible.
Not very easy to access by car
If you arrive to Cinque Terre by car, it’s best to park on arrival and make your way around by train. While not impossible to go from village to village by car, it is much less convenient than simply hopping on and off the train. Parking can be a nightmare as it is extremely limited throughout the region.
Monterosso al Mare is your best bet for parking in the villages. Alternatively, drive to La Spezia, park, and then get on the train from there.
Our Experience Visiting Cinque Terre
Overall, we have had positive and memorable experiences every time we have visited Cinque Terre. We dealt with the typical crowds, even when visiting in the spring and fall, and it is a bit stressful.
However, we allowed extra time for train travel and lines, so we never felt too rushed. Prepping in advance by purchasing the Cinque Terre Card online and regular train tickets (if you’re doing a day trip) saves a ton of time and stress.
Also, having a plan for your day makes a huge difference. Plan which town you want to start in and end in. Plan which hikes you want to do and reserve restaurants in advance. This saved us the headache of having to deal with this on our day trip.
Hiking in Cinque Terre National Park is one of our favorite places to hike in all of Italy. The views are unlike any other place we’ve been, and even if it’s a bit crowded, you won’t regret it.
If you’re on the fence about visiting, we definitely think Cinque Terre is worth visiting based on our experiences.
When is the best time to visit Cinque Terre?
April & May: If you want to experience the region with fewer crowds, the shoulder season during springtime is the best time to visit. Do though be prepared for possible rain, as the weather in Italy in April and May tends to be unpredictable. That in turn means that the potential for some of the hiking trails to be closed is much higher. Our first visit to Cinque Terre was in May and we lucked out with the weather – sunny and blue skies.
Early June: Early summer there is a small window of opportunity when the weather is just about perfect and the peak of the crowds haven’t moved in yet. Plus in early June you’ll have ideal conditions for some swimming.
July & August: Summertime is best to avoid if you can. This is the absolute peak of tourist activity in Cinque Terre, and on top of the many bodies filling the streets, it is also the highest and most humid time of year with regular day time temperatures in the mid 80s.
End of September and October: Similar to spring, autumn is another beautiful time to experience the beauty of Cinque Terre. There are far fewer crowds after the summer throngs have gone home. This makes it possible to enjoy the villages, the beaches, swimming, hiking, and everything else the area has to offer. With that being said, we visited in mid-September and it was quite busy. Try to visit towards the end of the month or even into early October for a more calm experience.
How many days do you need in Cinque Terre?
If you want to make it a quick trip, you could see the highlights of Cinque Terre in just one day. If you do this and make your trip to Cinque Terre as a day trip, you’ll be able to keep your expenses down by booking accommodation elsewhere in the region, outside of the five villages.
However, if you’d like to spend more time hiking the trails or just relaxing along the beaches, you could easily fill up two days. Staying overnight also provides a small dip in crowds as day trippers clear out later in the day and only those with accommodation are left.
Suggested Cinque Terre 1-Day Itinerary
- Morning: Start in Monterosso al Mare and either hike, boat, or take the train to Vernazza. Take your time to wander around Vernazza and grab lunch here.
- Afternoon: Hike from Vernazza to Corniglia. Take the train to Riomaggiore and walk around.
- Evening: Train from Riomaggiore to Manarola. Go swimming near the rocks, grab some dinner, and enjoy the sunset view.
Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre
- Plan Ahead: Regardless of the time of year you visit, you should absolutely book as much as you can as early as you can. For example, make sure to purchase the Cinque Terre Card online in advance. This will help you avoid long lines and time wasted waiting around during your trip.
- Avoid Peak Season: If at all possible with your schedule, visit during less crowded months. July and August are incredibly busy in Cinque Terre, with August hitting an absolute peak as much of Europe goes on vacation. This is added to the visitors who are always coming from farther afield. On the flipside, the very quietest months in Cinque Terre are the winter months from November through February.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes: Sightseeing in Cinque Terre is a regular workout. You’ll be spending your days traversing steep streets and steps to get just about anywhere. Practical, comfortable footwear will be your absolute best friend for this trip. And a pair that can go nicely from cobblestones to hiking trails is the best choice.
- Expect Crowds: Even if you avoid the tourist season, you’re going to encounter some level of crowd. Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most popular destinations, and as such it is bustling year-round.
- Pack Essentials for Hiking: If you’re hiking for any amount of time make sure to carry a water bottle and some snacks. Remember, the Italian sun is no joke, so be prepared and don’t get caught out!
- Make Reservations: Again, plan as much as you can in advance. As soon as you have a restaurant picked out, make a reservation. The moment you know the dates for your trip, book a hotel. Don’t leave anything to the last minute, and definitely don’t leave anything up to chance — you will absolutely be disappointed as all of the villages will be totally full and you will have nowhere to eat or to sleep.
FAQ: Is Cinque Terre worth visiting?
Is Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre better?
While both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are beautiful, they offer very different experiences. If you’re looking for a beach vacation, the Amalfi Coast is the best choice — plus you can easily spend a week throughout the region, exploring all that it has to offer. Cinque Terre, on the other hand, can be enjoyed in just a day or two — and it is more about the walking and the views than lying on the beaches.
Is Cinque Terre too touristy?
Cinque Terre is undeniably touristy, especially during the peak season of summer. And yes, that influx of visitors over the years has somewhat altered the local ambiance, but the charm and beauty of the villages remains. If you time your visit right and plan it well, you will definitely still enjoy yourself and the trip will be worth it.
What is the prettiest town of Cinque Terre?
Vernazza is hands down the prettiest and most picturesque town in Cinque Terre. The village has a stunning harbor and tiers of colorful buildings creating a stunning backdrop along the cliffside.
Is a day trip to Cinque Terre worth it?
Yes, a day trip can be worthwhile depending on the time of year as well as where you start from. If you have a base somewhere like Pisa, Florence, or Lucca, you are definitely close enough to make a day excursion to Cinque Terre. However, if you have the flexibility, staying overnight is a good choice as you’ll have hours outside of when the daytrippers are visiting.
More Information for your trip to Italy
ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE
Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Safety Wing to find the best plan for you.
Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.
Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.
Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.