Planning a day trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre? In this guide, we’re sharing all you need to know for your day trip, including a complete itinerary, a transportation guide, and tips on how to make the most out of your visit.
The Cinque Terre are five iconic towns on the Italian Riviera. The colored houses, steep mountains, and panoramic views make this one of the most popular spots to visit in all of Italy.
We have done two day trips to Cinque Terre on separate occasions. One from Florence and another time from Pisa, and we feel like this is the the perfect itinerary to see Cinque Terre in one day.
With a mix of hiking, swimming, and site-seeing, you’ll experience a bit of everything on this adventure filled day trip from Pisa.
How to Get from Pisa to Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre are located 100km north of Pisa along the Italian Riviera. The best and quickest way to get from Pisa to Cinque Terre for your day trip is by train.
To get to Cinque Terre, you need to take the train from Pisa Centrale to La Spezia. The journey takes between 48 minutes to 1 hour 24 minutes one-way depending on the route you book.
Book your train tickets online using the Trenitalia website or app, or you can also purchase them at the train station. We recommend downloading the Trenitalia app and booking all of your train tickets via the app – it’s the easiest and most convenient way to book train tickets in Italy.
The train tickets from Pisa to La Spezia cost between €8 – €15 each way, depending on the route you book. The faster trains are usually more expensive.
Once you arrive in La Spezia, you need to change trains to access the Cinque Terre via the Cinque Terre Express train system. This is a completely different train system, and you need to purchase separate train tickets to access the coastal towns.
We highly recommend buying the Cinque Terre Train card for your day trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre. We have provided more information on this in the next section.
Pisa Airport to Cinque Terre
If you are arriving from the Pisa airport and want to go directly to Cinque Terre, then you need to take the airport shuttle from Pisa airport to the Pisa Centrale train station.
The Pisa Mover is the airport shuttle that takes you directly from the airport to the train station. The cost is €5 euros (one-way) and only takes 5 minutes to get from the airport to the station. The shuttle is open from 6am to midnight every day.
Book your tickets for the Pisa Mover shuttle here.
Once you arrive at Pisa Centrale, you can take the train directly to La Spezia.
If you have luggage you need to store for your day trip to Cinque Terre, then drop it off at the luggage storage in the Pisa train station. It costs only a few Euros and is 100% worth it. We’ve done this before and it’s a safe and secure way to not have to worry about your luggage for the day.
Do not take your suitcases with you to Cinque Terre, as you will not have anywhere to leave it. Take only a backpack and the essentials with you.
Tip: Try to catch an earlier train and arrive before 9am to beat the crowds. Do NOT drive to Cinque Terre for your day trip, it’s much faster and more convenient to take the train.
The Cinque Terre Card
When planning your day trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre, we highly recommend that you get the Cinque Terre Card. This card is your all-access pass to the trains and hiking paths around Cinque Terre and makes it so much easier getting around.
There are two types of passes:
- The Cinque Terre Train Card – full access to the trains for the entire day + the hiking trails (€18.20/day for adults)
- The Cinque Terre Trekking Card – access to the hiking trails only (€7.50/day for adults)
We recommend buying the first option, the train card, so you have access to both the hiking trails and the train for the entire day.
You can either book the train card online in advance or in-person at the La Spezia train station when you arrive. We suggest that you book the Cinque Terre card online in order to avoid the long lines at the train station. Trust us, it gets really busy during the high season, and you’ll be grateful when you can just hop on the train without having to wait in line.
The trains run a few times every hour in each town, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch the trains throughout the day. The journey time between each of the towns is only about 4-6 minutes, they are all very close to each other.
Check the timetable for the 2023 Cinque Terre Express trains here.
Tip: During the high season, the trains can get very crowded. On our past trips, we have had to wait from 30 minutes up to an hour just to get on a train because they are too crowded to get on. Make sure to add in extra time to wait for the train, as it can be very busy during the warmer months.
Itinerary for your Pisa to Cinque Terre Day Trip
The Cinque Terre are made up of five charming fishing villages: Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, and Manarola.
Our itinerary includes a little bit of everything from hiking to site-seeing and even swimming if you’re up for it. We prefer to start in Monterosso al Mare, the furthest town from La Spezia, and make our way back town by town to end in Riomaggiore.
You can choose to start and end wherever you want, but we think this is the best route to make the most of your day trip from Pisa.
How you spend your day trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre really depends on what you like to do.
If you want to skip the hiking, then we recommend spending more time in Monterosso al Mare to relax at the beach for an hour or two, or go swimming in the harbor in Manarola.
If you don’t want to go swimming or hiking, then spend more time wandering the streets and make time to spend a long lunch or dinner at a restaurant with a view. There’s plenty to do in Cinque Terre either way.
Let’s get started.
Monterosso al Mare
Once you arrive in La Spezia, hop on the Cinque Terre Express train to Monterosso al Mare, the northernmost town of the five towns. It takes about 25 minutes to get there from La Spezia.
Monterosso is split up into two sections: the old town and the new town.
The train station is in the new town, so from here, you can walk to the only sandy beach in all of the Cinque Terre and go for a swim. It’s a stunning beach with classic Italian striped umbrellas and endless views of the Mediterranean.
If you have time, this is the perfect spot to relax for an hour and go for a little swim.
Make your way to the old town via the tunnel and visit the Aurora tower, discover the ancient castle ruins, and walk through the small streets.
From here, you can either hike to Vernazza or walk back to the train station and take the train.
The hike to Vernazza is 3.3km and takes around 1.5 hours to complete. Make sure to have your Cinque Terre Card on hand, as you’ll need to show your pass to use the trail.
Vernazza is by far one of the most beautiful towns in the Cinque Terre. The small harbor is surrounded by vibrant colored buildings and endless sea views. This is the Cinque Terre you see in all of the postcard worthy photos.
The best views of Vernazza are up the hill and on the trail that leads from/to Monterosso. If you hike to Vernazza, then you’ll get to enjoy the stunning views along the trail.
If you take the train, then it’s definitely worth it to hike up the hills for the panoramic views. Just google the trail to Monterosso and walk up to the starting point for the best photo spots.
Take your time to walk around the quaint streets and explore the town. This is one of our favorite places to wander around in Cinque Terre.
You might start feeling hungry at this point, we recommend stopping at Batti Batti’ Foccaceria for a slice of delicious focaccia pizza. You’ll need it to fuel you for the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia.
Tip: There is a public tap in the main square near the beach that you can use to fill up your water bottle. Make sure to have a full water bottle for the hike to Corniglia. All taps that say “Aqua Potible” have potable water.
The hike from Vernazza to Corniglia is one of our favorite parts of the day trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre. The path winds you through vineyards and olive groves and offers endless views of the Mediterranean sea.
You can even stop at a little shop on the way to get a lemon and orange granita. Hot tip: it’s delicious and refreshing!
The trail is 3.5km and takes about 1.5 hours to get from Vernazza to Corniglia. You could definitely do it faster, but we like to take our time to enjoy the views.
Before heading out on the trail, make sure to fill up your water bottle or restock at a shop in Vernazza. It can get really hot during the summer months will little shade.
If you decide to take the train from Vernazza to Corniglia instead of hiking, then you’ll have to climb up over 300 steps from the station to get to Corniglia. It’s on a hill and is not easily accessible – this is why we think it’s best to hike there instead.
Corniglia is smallest of the five towns and is worth a quick walk around before heading to the next town.
Train to either Manarola or Riomaggiore
At this point, you have two options on where to go next depending on where you want to spend sunset in Cinque Terre.
All of the towns in Cinque Terre offer great view points for the sunset, but the most popular spot is in Manarola.
On our past trips to Cinque Terre, we have spent sunset hour in Riomaggiore, which was spectacular and is what we do in this itinerary, but it’s really up to you.
If you want to spend sunset in Manarola, take the train from Cornigila to Riomaggiore first, and then make your way back to Manarola for sunset. The towns are only a few minutes apart by train, so it really isn’t out of your way to go to Riomaggiore first and then back to Manarola.
Manarola has one of the best spots for photos in all of the Cinque Terre. Head to the Punta Bonfiglio viewpoint for the most iconic view of Manarola. This is where you’ll go to watch the sunset as well.
After taking in the view, make your way down to the water for some people watching or swimming. During the summer months, there are always people swimming in the sea and jumping off the rocks here – it’s a great spot for it!
For dinner, we recommend Trattoria da Billy for delicious food and beautiful sea views.
Riomaggiore is the fifth and final stop on your day trip in Cinque Terre. This is one of the larger towns, so take your time to wander through the streets for a while and visit some of the local shops.
For the best view of the city, make your way down to the harbor and walk along the rocks until you have a nice full view of Riomaggiore. Take some time to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city all lit up during sunset.
There are plenty of restaurants here if you want to stop somewhere for dinner. We heard from a friend that the Michelin recommended restaurant Rio Bistrot is excellent and also has picture-perfect views of the harbor. Just make sure to call and reserve in advance.
Getting back to Pisa from Cinque Terre
Take the Cinque Terre Express train back to La Spezia and switch trains to head back to Pisa.
We like to wait to book our return tickets on the Trenitalia app until the end of the day when we know what time we’ll be done with the day trip. This gives you more flexibility if you want to spend more or less time in Cinque Terre.
Is One Day Enough for Cinque Terre?
Yes, one day is definitely enough time to see all five towns and spend time hiking. We have been to Cinque Terre twice, both times on day trips, and we felt like we had plenty of time to see everything.
If you do want to spend more time in Cinque Terre, then we recommend spending two days. One day for hiking and exploring the towns, and the second day for relaxing at the beach, going on a boat ride, or visiting the nearby town Porto Venere.
Tips for your day trip from Pisa to Cinque Terre
- Make extra time for the trains – During the high season, the trains get really busy and packed. We know this from first hand experience. Unfortunately, Cinque Terre has become extremely over crowded from May to September, so expect train delays and plan on extra time getting between towns. We had a few experiences where we weren’t able to get on a train because it was too packed and had to wait for the next one (which was also crowded).
- Visit during the shoulder season or low season – If you want a more calm experience during your day trip to Cinque Terre, we recommend visiting in between April – May and late September – October.
- Be prepared – Bring a hat, sunscreen, and a water bottle to refill. The days get hot and the sun is harsh, you’ll be happy to have these things with you.
- Bring comfortable shoes – Bring sturdy shoes if you’re hiking the trails. The trails are rocky and uneven, and it’s helpful to have comfortable shoes for day. If you want to hike in sandals, you can wear Birkenstocks or similar shoes. We hiked with someone who was wearing these and they did fine.
- Buy your Cinque Terre card in advance – To avoid the lines, buy your Cinque Terre Card online. This way you can make the most out of your day trip from Pisa to the Cinque Terre without wasting any time.
- Bring a swimsuit – If you’re visiting during the warmer months, bring a swimsuit to go for a swim in the Mediterranean sea! With the beach in Monterosso and swimming opportunities in Manarola, you should definitely take advantage and enjoy the water.
- Leave early – Try to take the train from Pisa to La Spezia early in the morning (around 7am or 8am) to beat the crowds. You’ll also have more time during the day and won’t feel as rushed with this extra time.
- Make lunch and dinner reservations in advance – If you plan to eat either lunch or dinner at a proper restaurant in Cinque Terre, then do your research ahead of time and book in advance (at least a day or two). There are plenty of options to grab and go (pizza, sandwiches, etc.), but for a dine in experience, you’ll need to make a reservation by calling a couple of days ahead of time.