The Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most scenic spots. It is here that five colorful, gorgeous towns precariously sit on the hills that tumble into the Mediterranean Sea. The popularity of the Cinque Terre has exploded in recent years, with photos of Riomaggiore and Vernazza plastering the internet.
The Cinque Terre was one of our favorite spots in Italy. In fact, we preferred the Cinque Terre over the Amalfi Coast. The Cinque Terre is just as scenic as the Amalfi Coast but it is much easier to get around, especially during the summer months, when so many tourists flock to Italy.
For budget travelers, there is a way to visit Cinque Terre without spending a fortune, and we are going to tell you how.
The Cinque Terre for Budget Travelers
Stay in La Spezia
La Spezia is a small city that sits just to the south of the five towns of the Cinque Terre. Most travelers will arrive in La Spezia by train before catching a second train to one of the five towns.
Accommodations are significantly cheaper in La Spezia than in the Cinque Terre. Sure, it may not be as scenic or as romantic as staying in Manarola or Vernazza, but it does not take long to get to these towns by train. In fact, it takes only 9 minutes to get to Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns on the train route.
We stayed in Hotel Birillo, a small, budget hotel. It was decent, with small rooms, an interesting bathroom (you actually had to walk through the shower to get into the bathroom…LOL), but it was only a five minute walk to the train station.
Hike the Cinque Terre
Hiking is the cheapest way to get from town to town and you can’t beat these views.
It takes a full day to hike the entire length of the Cinque Terre but it is an awesome experience. One of the best parts of hiking here is making a pitstop in each town for a gelato break. Yum!
It is important to know that it is not unusual for a section (or two) of the hike to be closed because of rockslides. The main routes are relatively flat so they are not too strenuous. If the main route is closed, you can skip to the next town by train or hoof it up and over the mountains, taking an alternate hiking route. Climbing the hillsides is tiring and can be very hot during the summer months. But you will have these trails almost to yourself and you will be rewarded by stunning views of the coastline.
In order to hike the Cinque Terre, you will have to purchase either the “Cinque Terre Card” or the “Cinque Terre Card Train (Treno).”
The Cinque Terre Card gives you access to all of the hiking paths and access lifts.
The Cinque Terre Train Card adds train travel to the Cinque Terre Card. With the Train Card, you get unlimited train travel between Levanto and La Spezia. For updated prices and more information about the Cinque Terre Card, click here.
For more information about hiking the Cinque Terre, click here.
Go to the Beach
This is the perfect way to cool off after a day of hiking. Monterosso al Mare has the largest beaches and the only beach with sand in the Cinque Terre. What’s even better is that it is free!!
The beaches in Monterosso are free, but there are private beaches as well. You will have to pay extra for an umbrella and beach chair, but it sure does look nice!
Each town has a “beach.” In Manarola, people lay their towels out on the hard concrete down by the water.
If you are traveling with kids, it’s worth spending your money on one of these paddle boats with a slide. I think Tyler and Kara’s favorite memory from Italy was our one hour rental with this super fun contraption.
Use the Train to get Around
Other than hiking, the train is the most convenient and cheapest way to get around the Cinque Terre. By purchasing the Cinque Terre Card Train (Treno) you get unlimited rides on the train while your card is valid. You can purchase the card for up to 72 hours. Family cards are also available.
For a single traveler, one day is € 16 and two days is € 29. For full details on prices and timetables, click here.
Until recently, there was a weekly pass that gave unlimited travel for one week for only € 11. Since the Cinque Terre Express Light Rail was introduced in 2017, this one week pass is only available to residents of the area (proof of residency is required).
If you elect not to purchase the Train Card then you can purchase single tickets at € 4 each. However, each time you ride the train, you must pay another € 4. If you are planning on hiking the Cinque Terre and riding the train more than three times in one day, purchasing the Cinque Terre Train Card is your best option.
Cheap Eats in the Cinque Terre
Buy your food at co-ops and grocery stores. The grocery stores and markets are stocked with fresh fruit, bread, chocolate, and snacks…the perfect food to fuel your journey through the Cinque Terre. Assemble a picnic lunch, grab a bench with a scenic view, and enjoy your meal.
Eat pizza and sandwiches. They are delicious, cheap, and you can find them everywhere.
Go to a foccaceria. For just a few euros you can have warm focaccia bread. Yum! Add to your meal some fresh fruit or deli meat and you have a tasty, cheap meal.
Eat the gelato. In every town. Seriously.
Many restaurants can be expensive, but for those travelers on a budget, dining at a nice restaurant, eating seafood while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, may be worth the splurge.
Have fun exploring the Cinque Terre!
Post updated June 2017.
You might also like:
- 15 of the Best Places to Visit in Italy
- Milan in One Day
- Day Trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- 10 Days in Europe: 5 Amazing Itineraries
Want to learn more about traveling in Italy? Check out our Italy Travel Guide.