Two days is the perfect amount of time to spend exploring Cinque Terre proper, and in this post, I’m going to prove to you why. I’ll show you how to spend two days in Cinque Terre, one day in Cinque Terre, and three days in Cinque Terre, so that you can see for yourself why two days is just right.
Before I start, I am assuming that you are visiting Cinque Terre for the same reasons I did: to hike, to swim, and to see insanely beautiful towns. I am also assuming you prefer not spending precious time souvenir shopping in cliche souvenir shops. If those two assumptions describe you, then two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Cinque Terre. And if you’re not fit enough for or interested enough in hiking any extra trails, that’s actually all the more reason you only need two days!
CINQUE TERRE TWO DAY ITINERARY
Make sure you have your two-day Cinque Terre Trail pass, and start the morning in Levanto. Don’t dwindle too long though, because you’re really only in town to start the three-hour hike to Monterosso. What?! Three hours?! Yes, it’s a lot, and I questioned the entire way up why my hostel reception (a local) recommended this to me! But instantly upon reaching the top, all doubts subsided about whether the hike was worth it. I did five hikes during my four days in the area, and this was the best. You have sweeping views from Monterosso, to all the other four villages, all the way to Portovenere’s island at the far end.
Related Reading: The Best Alternative Cinque Terre Bases – way less crowded and less expensive.
Once in Monterosso, eat! Then, explore the only flat town of the Cinque Terre. Swim for a bit if you fancy, and then, time to hit the trails again. Hike two hours to Vernazza, many visitors’ favorite village of the five. Reward yourself with insanely affordable gelato from Gelateria Vernazza and a swim. Stick around all evening, have dinner in Vernazza, and enjoy sunset there, too.
Start in Vernazza, and hit the trail to Corniglia. This trail is quoted as two hours, just like Monterosso to Vernazza, but I finished in 1.5 hours flat. Once in Corniglia, explore. If you skipped breakfast and are hungry, I can recommend A’ Càneva. It was probably my favorite Italian meal I had during my trip! Though what I got wasn’t take-away, they do have other take away options, so that you can keep on schedule.
When you’re ready, make your way to the last hike from Corniglia to Manarola. Normally, the Cinque Terre paid trail would continue along the sea, but the portion from Corniglia to Manarola to Riomaggiore is closed. This free trail you can do instead is much more difficult but much more rewarding. It took me about 2.5 hours total, and the first forty minutes were straight uphill. But after that, it was definitely the most enjoyable hike from my trip. You’ll be cruising through flat vineyards, until eventually descending down into Manarola.
Once in Manarola, you’ll be hungry, so get lunch! Afterwards, go for a swim. Keep an eye on the clock though, because I recommend taking the (super-short) train-ride to Riomaggiore with at least two hours left before sunset. That way, you have time to train back to Manarola for the most cliche sunset view of Cinque Terre.
Recommending reading: The Complete Liguria Travel Guide – there’s a lot more to Liguria than just Cinque Terre!
Why You Should Spend Only Two Days “Seeing” Cinque Terre
So as you can see, two full days really is all you need to spend a couple hours in each of the five towns, hike both paid trails, hike two (better) free trails, and even swim in the three most popular towns. Now that you’ve knocked all the “must-dos” out of the way, you can use day three (and four, and five) to either:
- find a secluded swim spot and pack a picnic
- hike or boat to and explore Portovenere
- day trip to Portofino in the north
- return to your favorite town if you REALLY loved one and feel it’s worth a third day
The possibilities of things to do in the area are almost endless, and that is actually my main point of this post. It’s not that Cinque Terre doesn’t deserve more time than two days. It’s not that you’ll be upset having spent more than two days there. It’s just that the five towns and the two paid trails are only a “must-see” because we’ve decided they are. Any other place or trail in the area could easily have been a “must-see” too. And by only allocating two days to “seeing” the most
annoying touristy parts of Cinque Terre, I’m confident you’ll leave more impressed with the area overall. Also, you don’t need to spend extra money to get a three-day Cinque Terre pass!
WHAT ABOUT ONE DAY IN CINQUE TERRE?
Is it possible to “see all of Cinque Terre in one day?” Absolutely. Yes, you can see every single one of the five towns, plus hike the two paid trails, all in one full day. Does that mean you should? No. All you would be doing is literally SEEing. Yes, you can post a pic or two (or five, technically) on Instagram to make your friends jealous, and yes, you can cross it off your bucket list to breathe a sigh of relief. But I’m a firm believer that travel should be more than that. Not only should you visit a place to truly experience and enjoy it, but this way of travel is more polite to the locals too.
Cinque Terre One Day Itinerary
That being said, I have studied abroad and even worked abroad in Europe, so I know what it’s like to be limited on either funds or vacation days. If one day is all you have to see Cinque Terre, and you’re hell-bent on “doing it all,” this is roughly how I would recommend accomplishing that.
- 7:00am: arrive in Monterosso. Literally everything will be closed, so there’s the pro of empty pictures but the con that you’re essentially viewing a skeleton of a town.
- 8:00am: begin hike to Vernazza
- 10:am: arrive Vernazza. Grab gelato, explore
- 11:00am: begin hike to Corniglia
- 12:30pm: arrive Corniglia, eat lunch, explore
- 2:30pm: take train to Manarola, arrive, and explore
- 4:30pm: take train to Riomaggiore, arrive and explore
- 6:00pm: take train back to Manarola, the most popular town for sunset, and have dinner
I would tweak the start time depending on what time sunset is during the week you are visiting, but the gist is that you can “do everything” in roughly 12-13 hours.
WHAT ABOUT THREE DAYS IN CINQUE TERRE?
Three days spent solely inside the original five towns is honestly way too much time to spend in such annoying crowds. Yes, I know Manarola at sunset looked so serenely empty in your friend’s Instagram post, but, trust me, it’s not in person. And don’t even get me started on the trains.
Don’t get me wrong, Cinque Terre is worth the hype. I recommend visiting it, and it’s crowded for a reason. But there is so much beauty outside the five towns and the two paid hiking trails that I’d recommend using a third day, if you have one, to do something else in the area. Some personal recommendations include, checking out Portovenere to the south, Portofino and Santa Margherita to the north, doubling-back to your favorite beach from days one or two.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is two days for Cinque Terre blasphemous? (My hostel desk actually recommended just one day!) How many days did you spend, and were you happy with your decision? If you can’t tell from my post, I found the towns underwhelming due to the Instagram-tourist atmosphere, but I loved the hikes and swims. But what do you think? Let me know in the comment section below.