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Planning a Lucca to Cinque Terre day trip? This guide will provide you with everything you need to know for a fantastic day trip in this beautiful coastal area, including our complete itinerary, transportation guide, and pro tips for getting the most out of your experience.
Cinque Terre, or “Five Lands” in English, is a quintet of traditional fishing villages built into the rocky cliffs of the Italian Riviera.
With fluorescent buildings perched upon steep hills, providing breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea, Cinque Terre is one of the most picturesque settings in all of Italy.
Whether you’d prefer a fun hike, a dip in the sea, or a little site-seeing, there’s plenty for you to see and do on a day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre.
Know Before you go: Lucca to Cinque Terre day trip
There were a few things we wished we had known before departing on our day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre. Luckily, we learned some lessons on our excursion and are happy to share them here with you.
Our best simple advice would be to:
- Take an early morning train and choose the quicker train
- Try to arrive in Cinque Terre by 9 a.m. to make the most out of your day
- Purchase the Cinque Terre Treno card in advance for access to local trains (more on this below)
We’ll explore these topics more below, but this simple advice should help you make the most of your time in Cinque Terre.
Is a Lucca to Cinque Terre day trip worth it?
Yes, absolutely, a day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre is one hundred percent worth it.
If you visit all five villages, it may be a busy day. However, you can always skip one or stay in another longer.
Either way, the trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre is well worth the journey, and using the local train system will provide you with plenty of flexibility since trains depart frequently throughout the day.
How to get from Lucca to Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is situated about 90km northwest of Lucca, scattered along the Riviera de Levante, the eastern section of the Italian Riviera. The best and easiest way to make a day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre is by train.
To reach Cinque Terre, you first need to take the train from the Lucca station to La Spezia.
This trip will take between 1 hour 9 minutes and 2 hours 38 minutes each way. We highly recommend choosing the fastest train. This will save you a lot of time in the end.
Unfortunately, there is no direct train from Lucca to La Spezia. You will have to make one change in either Viareggio or Pisa.
Upon arriving in La Spezia, you’ll need to change trains again, this time to access the separate Cinque Terre Express train system. This is an entirely different line, and you’ll need to purchase separate tickets to access the coastal villages.
We highly recommend purchasing the Cinque Terre Train Card for your Lucca to Cinque Terre day trip. Check out more information on this in the next section.
How to book your train tickets
You can easily book your tickets and check departing times on the Trenitalia webpage or by downloading the app.
We recommend downloading the Trenitalia app and buying all your train tickets through that. It’s definitely the simplest, most convenient way to book train tickets all over Italy.
A train ticket from Lucca to La Spezia sells for between €8.40 – €16.10 each way. The faster trains are generally more expensive.
For the best prices, book your tickets 3 weeks in advance. Prices go up the closer you get to the date.
The Cinque Terre Train Card
The Cinque Terre Treno Card will be your best friend on a day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre. This card grants you access to all the trains and hiking trails in Cinque Terre, making getting around a breeze.
You’ll have two types of passes to choose from:
- Cinque Terre Train Card – gives you full use of the Cirque Terre Express train system + hiking trails for the entire day (€18.20/day for adult pass)
- Cinque Terre Trekking Card – gives you full use of hiking trails only (€7.50/day for adult pass)
Since you have limited time on your day trip, we suggest purchasing the Cinque Terre Train Card, which grants access to all hiking trails and inter-Cinque Terre trains for the entire day.
You can purchase the train card when you get to the La Spezia Station, or you can purchase it online.
We recommend purchasing the Cinque Terre Train Card online. That way, you won’t have to wait in the long lines that tend to form at the train station.
Cinque Terre Express Trains
If our experience in Cinque Terre taught us anything, it’s that these train stations can get awfully busy, especially during peak season. So, to avoid a headache, secure your tickets online before you go.
The Cinque Terre Express trains frequently run from each village, meaning you should be able to catch a train at most times. Plus, the trips between villages only take 4-6 minutes, as they’re all quite close together.
Have a look at the schedule for the 2023 Cinque Terre Express trains if you’d like to learn more.
What to do on a Lucca to Cinque Terre Day Trip
Five quaint seaside villages – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – make up the Cinque Terre.
Our recommended Cinque Terre itinerary offers activities for everyone, including hikes with panoramic views, swimming in turquoise waters, and site-seeing around ancient streets.
We suggest beginning your day in Monterosso al Mare, the village furthest from La Spezia. This will allow you to hop from village to village while heading back in the direction of the main train station, ending the day in Riomaggiore.
Of course, you’re free to take whatever route you’d like. We’ve just found this one to be the most efficient use of our time.
Where you start and end your day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre can always be altered based on your interests.
Perhaps you’re not interested in hiking. In that case, it may make more sense to spend more time in Monterosso al Mare or Manarola, both of which feature excellent swimming spots.
If you don’t fancy swimming or hiking, there are plenty of sites to see around each of the Cinque Terre villages. And you’ll find no shortage of great little restaurants where you can sit down for a meal, grab something to go or have a drink.
Start in Monterosso al Mare
After reaching the train station in La Spezia, jump on the next Cinque Terre Express train.
Located at the northern end of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso al Mare can be reached in approximately 25 minutes.
Monterosso is famous for its white sand beach and eye-catching architecture, with colorful houses lining ancient cobblestone streets.
The village is separated into two sections – the old town and the new town.
The train station is inside the new town and is within walking distance of the only sandy beach in the Cinque Terre. You’ll find inviting waters next to umbrellas and loungers, making Monterosso a must-see for beach lovers.
Afterward, make your way over to the old town, where you’ll find the remnants of an ancient castle.
Once you’ve had your fill of the largest town in Cinque Terre, you can take the hiking trail to Vernazza, which winds through olive groves and provides stunning coastal views. Or you can walk back to the train station and get on the next available train.
The hike from Monterosso to Vernazza is about 3.3 km and usually takes about 1.5 hours. If you do opt for the hike, make sure you have your Cirque Terre Card on you since you’ll need it to access the trail.
Often considered the most classic village in the Cinque Terre, Vernazza’s colorful houses wrap around a small port where you can chill out on high terraces and enjoy the immense charm.
To get the best vantage point, you’ll have to climb up the hill through town towards the hiking trail to Monterosso. However, should you choose to hike from Monterosso, these breathtaking views will be on your path.
If you take the train to Vernazza, we recommend making the trek up the hill anyway. This point offers unmatched views of the picturesque Italian village, and the photos you take there will not disappoint.
There are other awesome places to see in town too, including the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia and the Tower of the Doria Castle.
We suggest you take your time and savor this historic village. It’s one of our favorite spots just to wander the streets and drink it all in.
Speaking of drinking, if you’re getting thirsty or hungry at this point, there are plenty of excellent restaurants available. We’d recommend Batti Batti’ Focceria. Their focaccia pizza is out of this world.
Plus, you’ll need some sustenance to power you through your hike to Corniglia, the next village in the Cirque Terre.
Hike to Corniglia
We should say that it’s totally possible to take the Cirque Terre Express train from Vernazza to Corniglia.
However, once you arrive in Corniglia, you’ll need to climb almost 400 stairs ascending steeply from the train station to the village, which sits on a high point overlooking the sea.
We figured if we were going to do the leg work anyway, we might as well do it gradually and enjoy some of the best views on the Italian Riviera while we were at it.
That’s why we recommend the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia.
That said, hiking may not be ideal if you’re pressed for time. It’s about 3.5 km and takes approximately 1.5 hours to complete. If you do it, make sure you bring plenty of water and sun protection.
Along the way, make sure to stop at Bar Il Gabbiano for a refreshing orange and lemon granita.
Corniglia itself is an ancient Roman settlement with a celebrated history in agriculture. It’s also the smallest and least accessible of the five villages in the Cinque Terre.
It’s definitely worth taking a look around, but you won’t need to spend too much time in Corniglia, thanks to its diminutive size.
Enjoy the views in Manarola
Another picturesque village, Manarola, sits atop rocky cliffs towering 70 meters above its small harbor filled with colorful local boats.
We love to walk up to Punta Bonfiglio, a lookout point where you’ll find postcard-like views of Manarola and the surrounding area. This spot is also one of the best places to watch a sunset in all the Cinque Terre.
When you’ve taken in the views, head down to the water’s edge, where the tranquil waters of the harbor provide top-notch swimming. Or, if you don’t want to jump in yourself, enjoy watching the local kids jump in from the rocks, a familiar scene in summer.
If you’re hungry, we’d recommend grabbing a bite to eat at Trattoria da Billy. The food is outstanding, and the patio dining allows you to enjoy your meal while gazing down on the Mediterranean Sea.
Afterward, take some time to digest while you sunbathe on a terrace near the harbor. While Manarola does not have a sandy beach, there’s plenty of space to lounge and enjoy the sunshine.
When you’re ready to go, head for the train station and take the short ride to Riomaggiore.
End the day in Riomaggiore
As good as the sunset in Manarola is, many locals will tell you it’s even better in Riomaggiore. That’s the main reason this village is a great place to end your day in the Cinque Terre.
Riomaggiore is also one of the larger villages in the region. Its main street, Via Colombo, provides local boutiques where you can do some shopping before making your way down to the harbor.
Once you reach the harbor, you can walk out along the rocks to witness a stunning sunset, seeing the final rays of the day shine upon the colorful ancient homes in town.
If you’re up for a nice dinner, we heard Rio Bistrot, a Michelin-recommended establishment, is excellent. Though reservations are usually required, so be sure to call ahead.
However, if you can’t make a reservation, don’t worry. The eateries in Riomaggiore are second to none. Look in any direction, and you’re likely to see a lovely restaurant serving delectable local dishes.
Returning to Lucca from Cinque Terre
You can use your Cinque Terre Train Card to take the train back to La Spezia, where you’ll change trains, getting on the return train to Lucca.
We usually purchase our return tickets online via the Trenitalia app at the end of the day. There are plenty of trains leaving the station, and this gives us more flexibility should we decide to stay in the Cinque Terre into the evening.
Tours from Lucca to Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre tours from Lucca are relatively popular. So, there should be no shortage of options for you should you decide to hire a tour guide.
A tour is a great option if you don’t want to plan the day all by yourself or if you’re unsure of navigating a foreign country by yourself, which can, of course, be a bit daunting.
Here are some of the best tour experiences you can book from Lucca:
If you want to avoid the hassle of planning your day trip, then we recommend this small group tour from Lucca. An expert guide will lead you through the towns while also leaving time for swimming, shopping, and relaxing.
If you prefer a private experience for day trip, then this is a fantastic option. Your guide will pick you up in Lucca and take you to Cinque Terre. The tour is flexible, so you can choose if you want to go hiking, take a boat ride, or simply relax at the beach.
What is the best time of year to visit Cinque Terre?
The best time of year to visit Cinque Terre is during the shoulder seasons. The shoulder seasons, typically April – May or September – October, bring mild temperatures with fewer crowds and reasonably priced accommodations.
Our last visit was in the middle of September and it was still pretty crowded. If you want decent weather and less people, visiting in October might be the sweet spot.
The summer months of June, July, and August typically bring big crowds to the Cinque Terre, and trains can get quite congested. The peak summer season also causes demand for limited accommodations to soar, and hotel prices can rise significantly.
Visit during the winter months for lower prices and smaller crowds. Although swimming is out of the question, as temperatures can drop to 2 – 3 degrees, this is a great way to save money if you’re on a budget.
Tips for your day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre
Since we have visited Cinque Terre a few times, we wanted to share some tips to help you make the most out of your day trip.
Wear walking shoes
The hiking trails around the Cinque Terre can be relatively challenging, with several inclines and declines along the way. Not only that, but the villages themselves are hilly, and the ancient streets, as well as sidewalks, can be uneven in places.
But that’s the price we have to pay for such old-world beauty.We’d recommend wearing sneakers, tennis shoes, or trainers for comfort and stability.
That being said, we had friends who wore their Birkenstocks while traipsing up and down Cinque Terre’s cobblestone streets and hiking trails. So, it can be done.
Bring a swimsuit if you want to swim
If you visit the Cinque Terre during the summer months and even the shoulder season, those beautiful waters can be pretty inviting.
As we mentioned, there’s a great beach in Monterosso, and the swimming is good in Manarola, too.
If you’re on the fence about swimming, we find it’s best to have a bathing suit with you just in case the mood hits you once you arrive.
It’s easy and completely safe to carry a small day bag or backpack with you on your day trip from Lucca to Cinque Terre. Just go ahead and throw your bathing suit in there.
The last time we were there, we had to jump into the tranquil Mediterranean waters after being out in the sun for a few hours. We sure were glad we brought our bathing suits along once we hit that refreshing water.
Bring sun protection
The Italian summer sun can be powerful, and even the shoulder season sun can creep up on you if you’re not ready for it.
That’s why we’d recommend bringing some sun protection, like a hat, a long-sleeve shirt with breathable fabric, long pants, sunglasses, and an eco-friendly sunscreen.
Plan for crowds
The Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places on the Italian Riviera and perhaps the world. So, many people are going to come to relish the culture, history, and natural beauty so abundant in the Liguria region.
It’s best to prepare for crowds and give yourself plenty of time to do everything you’d like to do. Delays may happen, and it could take you longer to reach your destination than you thought.
We ended up having to wait at the local train for longer than anticipated because they were often packed full. We found it best to leave 15-20 minutes earlier than we had initially planned to ensure we got where we wanted to go on time.
You can buy your train tickets online before getting to the station and pack some snacks and water to avoid any hold-ups along your route.
Be prepared for a packed day
While a Lucca to Cinque Terre day trip is absolutely possible, it will make for a full day.
When we’ve made the trip to Cinque Terre in the past, we’ve usually left early and at the train station by 7 or 8 a.m., not returning until 7 or 8 p.m.
You can always shorten your day or even spend more time exploring the Liguria region, as trains run from around 6:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., making travel convenient and flexible.
More Information for your trip to Italy
- How to Get from Bologna to Cinque Terre
- How to Plan a Day Trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre
- 25 Things to do in Bologna, 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