A day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is a great and easy way to explore one of the most unique landscapes of Italy.
Cinque Terre National Park 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.
Some will advise against visiting Cinque Terre on a day trip – such a breathtaking place calls for slow travel. But let’s face it: you may not have all the time in the world to travel. Should you still go to Cinque Terre, then? Absolutely, I say! You can actually go on a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre. In this post, I will explain you how to do it.
The Perfect Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre
You can go on many day trips from Florence. The capital of Tuscany is so centrally located in the region that it makes it extremely easy to explore the rest of Tuscany, and even beyond. One of the most popular day trips is actually from Florence to Cinque Terre, in the region of Liguria.
Albeit popular, this is a day trip that requires some careful planning. The first thing you need to consider is how you are going to get from Florence to Cinque Terre. Here are the various options.
How to get from Florence to Cinque Terre
Guided tours from Florence to Cinque Terre
The easiest way of getting to Cinque Terre if you have limited time is on a guided tour. Be prepared though, as this is a very long day of up to 13 hours! Organized day trips will spare you all the organizational issues – you won’t have to worry about fitting everything into your schedule; you won’t have to bother checking the train timetable as the tour will include roundtrip transportation; etc.
To top this off, you will have an English and Italian speaking guide who will be sharing interesting information about the history, culture and architecture of the places you will be visiting; including tips on the best photo spots. The guide will assist you during the tour and take care of any possible isse there may be.
Of course, you need to pick a good company to go with, and keep your budget in mind – some tours are definitely more expensive than others. I recommend Ciao Florence, which offers a good Cinque Terre tour departing from Florence.
Other good options for day tours of Cinque Terre from Florence are:
- Cinque Terre day trip with Transport from Florence – at $68 USD per person this is the most budget friendly option. You won’t have a guide when visiting the villages, so it’s great if you want to explore independently.
- Private Cinque Terre Tour w/ Pisa – at around than $120 USD per person, this tour may seem expensive, but you get to see a lot in just one day! It includes a stop in Pisa to admire the leaning tower, hotel pick-up and drop-off in an air-conditioned minibus are included. You can cancel up to 24 hours in advance.
- Cinque Terre Hiking Trip – a perfect tour if you want to be able to walk, it’s on sale for $68 USD.
For more excellent tours of Cinque Terre departing from Florence, click here.
How to get from Florence to Cinque Terre by train
Let me start by saying that I don’t recommend getting to Cinque Terre by train if you are only planning to spend a day there. The reason I say this is that the journey is actually quite long, since there are no direct trains from Florence to Riomaggiore, the first of the Cinque Terre villages. If you are super lucky with all the connections, the trip will take around 2.5 hours. But it most typically take 3 and at times even 4 – not a good use of time, if you ask me.
If you are convinced that getting to Cinque Terre by train is the best idea, you have two main options:
REGIONAL+INTERCITY – From Firenze Santa Marina Novella (SMN) station, catch the Regional Train to Pisa Centrale. There is one every 30 minutes and the ride lasts about one hour. Once in Piza, hop on an Intercity Train to La Spezia Centrale. The ride lasts another hour. From La Spezia, catch a regional train to Riomaggiore, which is another 10 minutes. The furthest village is Monterosso al Mare, a 25 minutes train ride.
FRECCIARGENTO+REGIONAL – From Firenze Campo di Marte station take a direct Frecciargento train to La Spezia, and from there a regional train to Riomaggiore.
Get 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.
How to get from Florence to Cinque Terre by car
I don’t actually recommend driving all the way 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 from the other side of the Atlantic, accustomed to large roads – and there is a persistent lack of parking space.
If you still want to do it, you will need 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 in ideal conditions. Once in La Spezia, you have three options:
PARK YOUR CAR – You can leave your car at the train station for a fee, and take the train to Monterosso.
DRIVE TO LEVANTO – This small town is just outside Cinque Terre National Park and a great base to explore the area. There are direct trains to Monterosso, which is just 5 minutes away.
DRIVE TO MONTEROSSO – This is the only village you can reach by car, and the farthest. It will be an additional 30 minutes drive, and all the hassle of looking for a parking spot etc.
Check out the prices of car rental here.
How to get from Florence to Cinque Terre by train+boat
From mid-June, you can also get to Cinque Terre by boat from the coast of Tuscany (Viareggio, Forte dei Marmi, Massa and Carrara) or from La Spezia, Lerici or Levanto. If this is something you want to do, consider traveling to La Spezia by train or car and then get on the boat from there.
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 daily departures. Boats stop in Portovenere, Riomaggiore, Vernazza and Monterosso. The view of the villages from the sea is stunning!
The first boat departure from La Spezia is at 9:15 am, so plan to depart super early from Florence. A daily ticket costs €35; a one-way ticket from La Spezia to Riomaggiore costs €18.You can check the full list of prices, routes and timetable here.
What To Do On A Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre
Explore the Cinque Terre Villages
The villages of Cinque Terre all have something to offer. Here is a quick overview of each of them.
Riomaggiore dates back to the early 13th century. Its name 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.
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.
It 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. The main square houses the Oratorio dei Disciplinati and the Church of San Lorenzo and its beautiful tower.
Monterosso al Mare
Known as “the Pearl of Cinque Terre” and famous for its beautiful beaches, Monterosso al Mare is the largest of the five Cinque Terre villages and temporarily excluded from the Cinque Terre Trail in 1948 on allegations of being “too large.”
In the past 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, connected to it by a tunnel, Fegina, the modern one.
The old village has the remains of the old medieval fortifications (Fieschi Castle and Aurora Tower). You can also spot the 13th century Church of St. John the Baptist and the 17th century Capuchin Monastery. Fegina is home to a nice beach with a lovely promenade.
From Fegina you can take a boat to Vernazza, 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.
Vernazza was first recorded in 1080, when it was called Castrum Vernation and it was used as a naval base. You can still see some of the fortifications built during Genoa’s rule. Other attractions include the Doria Castle, 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. The surroundings are all terraced and used for the cultivation of olive trees (for oil) and grapes (for wine).
Less visited compared to the other Cinque Terre villages and not often included among the villages visited on organized day trips, Corniglia (a name that comes from Cornelia, the daughter of the Roman farmer who created the settlement) is the only village in Cinque Terre not directly located on the water: it sits on top of a 100 meters high promontory, and can be reached from the train station via the Lardarina, a brick stairway of 382 steps or a shuttle bus.
From Corniglia you can admire the rest of the villages of Cinque Terre.
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 and that 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 – you can do that in case you decide to spend more than one day in Cinque Terre.
Of the Sentiero Azzurro, the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia is one of the most difficult: the path is quite steep in certain points, and there is a fair amount of ascending and descending. It takes about 2 hours to walk it.
The longest (3 km that you can walk in around 2 hours) bit goes all the way to Monterosso: there are lots of stairs and narrow passages, but the views are very rewarding.
One of the most famous hiking trails of Cinque Terre starts in Riomaggiore and is called Via dell’Amore. It’s a short and easy trail that offers stunning views. Unfortunately, it has been closed to allow some much needed renovation work after it’s been damaged by the floods in 2012. It will open again in 2023.
Another short hike goes from Riomaggiore to the Sanctuary of Montenero, from where there are gorgeous views of Punta Mesco and the Island of Tino.
Finally, you can hike to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio: the views of the bay along the way are stunning.
Go to the beach
The Cinque Terre are 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 nice beaches, both Fegina and in the old town.
Vernazza harbor is another 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
Here are some of the specialties you could enjoy in Cinque Terre
- 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.
Other Useful Information
What to wear in Cinque Terre
Your day trip to Cinque Terre should all be about comfort. 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 are some recommended items:
- 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 Horizon Hiking Pants.
- Hiking shorts or just a pair of regular shorts. I like Kuhl Horizon Shorts.
- A t-shirt or tank top. I will never tire of my Juniper tank top. If you are going in the coolest season, you may need a long-sleeve t-shirt such as the Airkuhl Hoody.
- A sweater. I recommend a lighter one if you plan to do some hiking. I normally wear my Kuhl lea pullover.
- A jacket . for the spring Styrka jacket by Kuhl is more than enough.
- A hat.
- A good sunblock and a good moisture locking lip balm.
- A swimsuit and 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.
The Cinque Terre Card
There are two types of cards you can get which may come in handy when visiting Cinque Terre, 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.
Wherever you travel, make sure to always get a good travel insurance. Get a quote for your travel insurance here.
Legal Disclaimer: this post is written in cooperation with Ciao Florence.
Make sure to read my other posts:
- Where To Stay In Cinque Terre
- 67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy
- What To Do And What To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Italy