A day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is a great and easy way to explore one of the most unique landscapes of Italy.
Italy certainly isn’t a huge country compared to many, but it has so much to offer to its visitors that it can be overwhelming. Organizing a trip to Italy is easier said than done, especially when time is limited and there’s so many places to visit in Italy. With so much to see, it’s hard to pick where to go. I must admit that not even I have seen all of Italy!
Generally speaking, as a local and as an experienced traveler I advise those who visit Italy and want to truly appreciate its culture, history, landscape and nature, and even the uniqueness of its food, to concentrate on one small area at a time, wisely picking a base from where to start exploring. Tuscany and Liguria are good places to travel to in order to get a first feel for Italy, not to mention they are great starting point to go on Cinque Terre tours.
Cinque Terre is one of the most incredible places to visit in Italy. It is a series of five (cinque in Italian) stunning villages perched on the hills and overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean sea, so unique that they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cinque Terre tours are probably among the top things to do while in the country. The good news is that it is possible to go from Florence to Cinque Terre on a small group tour.
Make sure to read my post “67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy.”
Going from Florence to Cinque Terre
Tuscany is often considered the cradle of modern Italian culture, hence a good place for first time visitors to Italy. Florence, its capital, is a fabulous city that has a lot to offer, packed as it is with art, history and atmosphere. Adding to this, Florence also provides a great starting point to visit the rest of Tuscany and beyond. Indeed, it is possible to go from Florence to Cinque Terre on a day tour, thus venturing to one of the most unique places in the country – so unique that it is UNESCO listed.
Needless to say, it’s important to pick a good company to tour Cinque Terre with. One of them is Ciao Florence, which offers a good Cinque Terre tour departing from Florence.
Here are some more great options for tours to Cinque Terre, which all include round-trip transportation:
- All-Inclusive Cinque Terre Full Day Tour – this tour is actually great value for money. You will travel by train and boat; get to see most of the Cinque Terre on a well paced trip; and even get some free time at the end of the day. Free cancellation is allowed up to 24 hours before the tour. The meeting point is Piazzale Montelungo.
- Private Cinque Terre Tour w/ Pisa – this tour may seem expensive, but consider the price is actually per small group and you get to see a lot in just one day! It also includes a stop in Pisa to admire the leaning tower. Free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure and hotel pick-up and drop-off in an air-conditioned minibus are included.
- Full-Day Private Tour to Cinque Terre – similar to the tour above, again you will be going in a small group but instead of seeing Pisa you will get to see Tuscany countryside instead.
- Cinque Terre Hiking Trip – a perfect tour if you want to be able to walk.
- A Taste of Cinque Terre – a more budget friendly tour during which you visit 3 of the 5 villages.
- Semi-Private Day Tour to Cinque Terre – this is probably the most recommended tour.
Although Cinque Terre certainly deserves more than a day and in fact don’t even consider going for just half-day (as you basically will just be able to get there and nothing more), I still believe that, if time is limited, going on a well organized tour from Florence to Cinque Terre is a good way to appreciate it. But this is not the only reason why you should consider a Cinque Terre tour from Florence.
So, here are some more good reasons why taking a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is actually a good idea.
By the way, there are many other interesting day trips from Florence! Check them out in this post.
5 Reasons To Go On A Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre
It defeats time constraints
An organized tour from Florence to Cinque Terre can be done in a day, which is perfect if you don’t have too much time. As I have said before, time constraint certainly is the main reason people go on organized day tours.
A Cinque Terre day tour from Florence is perfect if you only have an extra day to spare in your travels but still don’t want to miss the chance to see and appreciate one of the most spectacular places in the country.
To find out why I like group tours, read my post “10 reasons to go on a guided tour.”
It’s already, beautifully organized (by an expert)
An organized day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre spares all the organizational issues. One of the biggest challenges that you may face, even as an experienced traveler, is organizing a trip – long or short, it hardly matters. Making sure to fit all the things you want to see in a tight schedule is at times mission impossible, and causes a headache or two when you have to check the train times, and the walking distances between the places you want to visit.
Going on a Cinque Terre tour from Florence means not having to worry about fitting everything into the schedule, checking the train departures – someone else, an expert, is doing that already.
Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre are guided, which means having a tour leader that guide the group step-by-step; who will assist it with any issue and will take care of any problem that may arise during the tour. It also means having someone that speaks Italian, taking the edge off communication if you don’t speak it or are not comfortable with it.
Furthermore, a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence with a tour guide also means having an expert that will explain the historical and cultural significance of the various places visited; who will know the best spots for pictures; and who will know how to dodge the crowds of tourists that may be present. The good news is that you even get free time to wander around by yourself during the day.
It’s actually convenient
Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre don’t have to break the bank. The common assumption is that organized tours, including day tours, are too expensive. Tourists would often rather struggle with all the organizational issues – spending a lot of time comparing prices booking every single activity and transportation, just to save a few pennies.
As an experienced traveler, I can say that organized tours are often the way to go not only for the comfort of having something already nicely arranged, but also because they are actually not nearly as expensive as you may think. After all, a guided Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is bound to include transportation, a tour guide, visits to places of interest, and even a boat ride to Vernazza.
It goes to (almost) all Cinque Terre villages
A day excursion from Florence to Cinque Terre typically goes through Cinque Terre National Park, to explore what is considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. During the day, it is possible to explore four out of five villages in the area. I will highlight them below.
Typically, the first village visited on a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is Riomaggiore, which dates back to the early 13th century. The name Riomaggiore comes from the latin “Rivus Major,” and refers to the stream that still flows under the main street. The village grew under the Republic of Genoa, and it became known in Europe for the production of wine. It was beautifully isolated until the end of the 19th century, when the railway connecting Genoa and La Spezia was finally built.
What makes Riomaggiore famous and a must see during Cinque Terre tours is its historic character, as well as its wine. It is quintessentially Italian: picture colorful houses perched one against the other, and narrow, cobbled alleys. It’s simply gorgeous.
One of the highlights of day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre is Manarola, with its tiny harbor and colorful buildings. Famous for its Sciacchetrà wine, celebrated by Italian poet, writer and revolutionary Gabriele D’Annunzio in his poems and now produced in the entire region, Manarola boasts brightly painted houses, medieval relics and the incredible Punta Bonfiglio, from where to enjoy a breathtaking view.
Manarola is supposed to be the oldest of Cinque Terre villages, likely founded in Roman times – though the present settlement dates back to the 12th century. During a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence you can explore the main square, where the Oratorio dei Disciplinati and the Church of San Lorenzo and its beautiful tower are located.
A proper day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre must include a visit to Monterosso, one of the nicest fishing villages in the area, known as “the Pearl of Cinque Terre” and famous for its beautiful beaches of Monterosso al Mare and the thick vegetation that surrounds it. The village, the largest of the five and temporarily excluded from the Cinque Terre Trail in 1948 on allegations of being “too large,” is probably the least charming of the five.
Yet, Monterosso makes for an interesting visit even during a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence. Originally it was only accessed via a mule track that connected it to the other villages in Cinque Terre. Nowadays, it is divided in two parts: the old village; and Fegina, the modern one. These are connected by a tunnel.
During Cinque Terre tours that go to Monterosso, it is possible to visit the old village of Monterosso, where there are the remains of the old medieval fortifications (Fieschi Castle and Aurora Tower), as well as the Church of St. John the Baptist (dating to the late 13th century) and the Capuchin Monastery (which dates back to the 17th century).
Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre also stop at Fegina, the new village, where there is a beautiful promenade and a nice beach where it is possible to go for a swim.
Finally, a good Cinque Terre day trip from Florence includes a boat ride from Monterosso to Vernazza, on the beautiful Ligurian sea.
The best way to end a day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre is by taking a boat to Vernazza (there are no cars there except on Tuesdays, market day). This is a lovely village with a nice natural harbor, colorful houses and a piazzetta (small square). It is thought to be the prettiest of the Cinque Terre villages.
What makes this a must see during a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is the incredible atmosphere. The village was first recorded in 1080, when it was called Castrum Vernation and it was used as a naval base. The area where it is located is scattered with fortifications built during Genoa’s rule, which can still be seen today. Furthermore, the surroundings are all terraced and used for the cultivation of olive trees (for oil) and grapes (for wine).
Among the things you will be able to enjoy during a day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre, there are Doria Castle, which was built in medieval times to protect the village from pirates; and the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia, built in 1318. The village is a maze of tiny alleys (called “caruggi”) lined with lovely cafés and craft shops, and a few wine bars.
Other Things To Do In Cinque Terre
A day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre certainly is a great and easy way to appreciate this gorgeous part of Italy. Needless to say, the area has a lot to offer, so yours will be a long day, and needless to say you could spend weeks exploring. So, here are a few other things to do in Cinque Terre.
Less visited compared to the other Cinque Terre villages and usually not included in a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence, Corniglia (whose name, according to legend, comes from Cornelia, the daughter of the Roman farmer who created the settlement) is the only one of the villages that is not directly located on the water. It is located on top of a 100 meters high promontory, and can be reached from the train station via the Lardarina, a brick stairway (though be ready, it is 382 steps!) or a shuttle bus.
What makes Corniglia special is a view point from where it is possible to admire the rest of the villages of Cinque Terre – it’s a real pity that it is not included in day tours from Florence, but a nice addition if you can arrange a private tour.
One of the best things to do in Cinque Terre is hiking – but unfortunately you can’t really enjoy it on day trips. The most famous hiking trail in Cinque Terre is Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail), a series of four individual paths that go along the coast and connect all the villages.
The Sentiero Azzurro can be walked in around 6 hours. However, most people prefer walking one bit at a time, and just spend more time exploring the villages rather than just rushing through the trail.
Of the Sentiero Azzurro, the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia is one of the most difficult – hence the reason it is not included in guided tours. The path is quite steep in certain points, and there is a fair amount of climbing and descending. It takes about 2 hours to walk it.
The longest bit of the Sentiero Azzurro goes all the way to Monterosso: there are lots of stairs and narrow passages, but the views are very rewarding. It is 3 km long and it takes around 2 hours to walk it.
One of the most famous hiking trails of Cinque Terre leaves from Riomaggiore and it is called Via dell’Amore. It’s a short and easy trail that offers stunning views and that can be easily walked even during a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence. However, the trail has been closed to allow some much needed renovation work after it’s been damaged by the floods in 2012, and it is said it will open again in 2023.
Another hike that leaves from Riomaggiore and that can be enjoyed on day tours from Florence to Cinque Terre is the short (though uphill) hike to the Sanctuary of Montenero, from where there are gorgeous views of Punta Mesco and the Island of Tino.
A short and sweet walk that can even be enjoyed during Cinque Terre tours is the one that goes to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio: the views of the bay along the way are stunning.
Here are some guided hikes through Cinque Terre:
- Cinque Terre Hiking Day Trip – a highly rated tour that is actually quite budget friendly. You will get round-trip transportation; a ticket to access Cinque Terre National Park; a professional guide; a boat along the Riviera and free time in the villages.
- Hiking Tour of Cinque Terre from La Spezia – similar to the tour above, but with a different departure point.
Go to the beach
Guided day trips that go from Florence to Cinque Terre typically include the possibility of going to the beach (usually Monterosso al Mare) and for a swim. After all, the area is packed with lovely, small beaches and clear waters.
Riomaggiore has a small, lovely pebbly beach. Manarola is thought to have the best deep water swimming in the area. Monterosso al Mare has some lovely beaches, both in the new part of the village (Fegina), where there’s a beautiful sandy beach (where day tours from Florence to Cinque Terre typically stop) and in the old town.
Vernazza harbor proves to be a good place to soak in a bit of sun and enjoy a swim. There’s also a stony beach to the east of the village. Guvano beach, not far from Corniglia, is possibly the least crowded one, though a bit harder to reach so possibly not a good idea when short on time.
Eat and drink
Food and wine are delicious all over Italy, and you will certainly enjoy it in Cinque Terre, where you should simply not miss the opportunity to try some of the local specialties. The good news is that all villages have some lovely restaurants where to try typical food. Among the must tries there are:
- Monterosso anchovies;
- aa turta de risu – a salted rice cake;
- aa menestra de cian – a soup made with potatoes and herbs;
- musculi cin – a dish made of mussels which are stuffed with bread, eggs and parmesan;
- Torta dei Fieschi – a cake made with rice, eggs and cheese;
- Gelato al basilico – basil ice-cream;
- Sciacchetrà – a sweet white passito wine endemic of the region;
- Vernaccia di Corniglia – a white wine made with vernaccia grapes.
Practical Information For Your Trip To Cinque Terre
Where to stay in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is packed with incredible accommodation options. Should you decide spend a few days, instead of simply going fore a day, you will find no shortage of beautiful places to stay.
Here is a selection of the best places to stay in Cinque Terre:
- Santa Marta, in Vernazza, is a nice affittacamere which has beautiful rooms that have been renovated recently. Rooms are spacious, comfortable and clean. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews
- Hotel Palme is hands downs the best place to stay in Monterosso. It has beautiful rooms, and since it is located on the hill the views are gorgeous. Some rooms have a balcony. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews
- Hotel Marina Piccola, in Manarola, has comfortable and modern rooms. The quadruple also has a balcony and sea views. It’s very close to the train station. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews
- Scorci di Mare, in Riomaggiore, has modern rooms with wood-beamed ceilings. Some rooms have a balcony and most of them are overlooking the sea; others have a kitchenette. All are very spacious and comfortable. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews
- Le Terrazze is a lovely guesthouse in Corniglia, in a gorgeous setting and with quaint, cozy rooms. Some have access to a terrace from which the views are incredible. Click here for the latest rates and here for reviews
What to wear in Cinque Terre
Regardless of when you are planning to visit, or even how long you plan to stay in Cinque Terre, you have to make sure to wear comfortable clothes and, more than anything else, comfortable shoes. If you plan to do a bit of hiking, you will need to wear appropriate footwear. The trails, though well marked, can be challenging and the last thing you want to do is navigating them while wearing flip-flops and sandals.
Here’s a list of essentials you should be packing for a trip to Cinque Terre:
- A pair of good hiking boots
- A pair of hiking sandals – if you are visiting on the hottest days.
- Hiking pants. I am a fan of Kuhl Horizn hiking pants.
- Hiking shorts or just a pair of regular shorts. I like Kuhl Horizn shorts.
- A t-shirt or tank top. I will never tire of my Kyra by Kuhl and I love the Harmony tank. If you are going in the coolest season, you may need a long-sleeve t-shirt such as the Trista hoody.
- A sweater. I recommend a lighter one if you plan to do some hiking. I normally wear my Kuhl Lea pullover.
- A jacket. What you wear really depends on the season, but for the spring Stryka jacket by Kuhl is more than enough.
- A hat.
- A good sunblock and a good moisture locking lip balm.
- A swimsuit – remember that some tours go to the beach and you can swim!
- A quick dry towel
- A camera – I have a Nikon D3300 with a 18-105mm lens. Alternatively, a smartphone with a good camera will do.
Getting to Cinque Terre independently
If a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is not for you, and you want to spend a few days there, the best option is to get there by train. Traveling by train in Italy is safe, easy and very convenient, and you can even book your train tickets online on ItaliaRail. Get your train tickets in Italy here.
How to get to Cinque Terre from Florence
There is no direct train from Florence to Cinque Terre but keep in mind that direct trains aren’t necessarily going to be faster in Italy – I know, weird.
To get to Cinque Terre from Florence, you will have two options:
- Catch a combination of regional and Intercity from Firenze Santa Maria Novella (SMN) train station to La Spezia. Trains from there depart every 30 minutes, and it’s about one hour to Pisa Centrale, where you will have to change and catch one of the many Intercity trains to La Spezia Centrale. The ride to La Spezia is another hour. Once in La Spezia Centrale, get a regional train (local train) to whichever village you want to go to. I recommend stopping in Riomaggiore, as it is the closest one to La Spezia.
- Alternatively, you can depart from Firenze Campo di Marte station and from there take a Frecciargento train to La Spezia, which will be direct.
TIP: I recommend getting your train tickets to Pisa and La Spezia online here. However, opt to get those to Cinque Terre at the station, just in case your train gets in late.
I actually don’t recommend driving to Cinque Terre. The villages are quaint and beautiful but the other side of the coin means that the streets are terribly narrow – which can be scary for drivers used to large roads – and there is a persistent lack of parking space.
Having said that, if you have a car, you will have to drive from Florence along highway A11 to Viareggio; then change to take A12 northbound to La Spezia and Genova. It will take you about 2 hours to drive to La Spezia; 2 and a half to drive to Monterosso. Your main options are:
- Drive to La Spezia, park it at the train station (for a fee), and then take the train to the villages.
- Drive to Monterosso, which is the easiest village to reach, and book your accommodation there and just walk everywhere else.
From mid-June, you can also get to Cinque Terre by boat from the coast of Tuscany (for example from Viareggio) or from La Spezia, Lerici or Levanto. Cruises are run by the Consorzio Marittimo Turistico 5 Terre – Golfo Dei Poeti; they run like a hop-on hop-off service and have several departures each day. Boats stop in Portovenere, Riomaggiore, Vernazza and Monterosso. Needless to say, the view of the villages from the sea is stunning!
The first departure from La Spezia is at 9:15 am, so completely doable if you are up for an early departure from Florence. A daily ticket costs €35; whereas a one-way ticket from La Spezia to Riomaggiore costs €18.
You can check the full list of prices, routes and timetable here.
How to get to Cinque Terre from Milan
You can get an Intercity train (long-distance train) from Milan to La Spezia – it is a direct train ride that is just over three hours, so not exactly high-speed.
Alternatively, you can get a “regionale” to Genoa, and then a Frecciabianca to La Spezia – the overall time of the train ride is about the same. Once you get in La Spezia, the directions are just the same. You may want to check the timetable on Trenitalia website and get the final leg of your train tickets directly at the station.
Should you want to get to Cinque Terre from Milan by car, my suggestion is to follow the directions to La Spezia.
Getting a Cinque Terre Card
There are two types of cards you can get, each of them useful.
TRAIN CARD: It allows unlimited train travel in the Cinque Terre region on the La Spezia – Levanto line for 1, 2 or 3 days, so you can access all the hiking trails. A one day card costs €16. The overall saving is great, if you consider that a one-way ride costs €4 already!
TREKKING CARD: It gives you access to all the footpaths of the national park, guided tours and more. It costs €7,50 for one day, €14,50 for two days and €16 for three days. You may want to get it online here for skip-the-line access.
Other useful information
Wherever you travel, make sure to always get a good travel insurance. Get a quote for your travel insurance here.
For more reading on Cinque Terre, try these guidebooks
- Rick Steves Pocket Guide to Italy’s Cinque Terre
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Italian Riviera
- Lonely Planet Italy (Travel Guide)
There’s More Than Meets The Eye In Italy
As I have already said, Italy is best enjoyed a bit and a region at a time. Unfortunately most foreigners who visit Italy do the typical tour that includes Venice, Florence to visit the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo; Tuscany with Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, Rome (by the way, those interested in visiting Rome and skipping a few lines should read this post), Naples and little more. And here’s a great itinerary for those spending 3 days in Florence.
Yet, there’s much more to see in Italy. Smaller cities like Bergamo deserve a visit. Sicily is a must, with all its volcanoes and smaller islands – Etna, first and foremost; but also Vulcano and Stromboli. And let me not even get started about the beauty of my very own Sardinia.
The good news is that now it is easier to explore some of the most beautiful places even when time is limited – hence why I recommend doing a day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre.
Legal Disclaimer: this post is written in cooperation with Ciao Florence.
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