Julie Italy 25 Comments

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.

Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

The Cinque Terre was one of our favorite spots in Italy. In fact, we preferred it 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.

Hiking the Cinque Terre Italy

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.

To purchase your Cinque Terre Card in advance, click here.

For more information about hiking the Cinque Terre, read our article Hiking the Cinque Terre: What You Need to Know

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!!

Monterosso Beach

Monterosso Free Beach

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!

Monterosso Beach Umbrellas

Each town has a “beach.” In Manarola, people lay their towels out on the hard concrete down by the water.

Sunbathers Cinque Terre

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.

Paddle Boat Slide

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, two days is € 29, and 3 days is €41. These are the prices for the peak season months of April 1 to November 1. For the remainder of the year, the prices are cheaper. Click here for updated pricing.

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.

Riomaggiore Market

Snack Time

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.

La Lampara Cinque Terre

Seafood Pizza

Have fun exploring the Cinque Terre!

Do you have any questions about visiting the Cinque Terre? Let us know in the comment section below!

More Information for Your Trip to Italy:

Planning a trip to Italy? Read all of our articles in our Italy Travel Guide.

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Cinque Terre on a Budget


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Comments 25

  1. Hello. You’ve written the best travel blog! I truly appreciate your perspective. And so I was wondering, how feasible would it be to travel the Cinque Terre with a scooter? My daughter and I are scootering in Tuscany (using Sienna as a home base for 2 nights). It feels like it could be fun and more flexible.

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      I suppose you could get around by scooter. I honestly don’t know what the roads are like in the Cinque Terre because we got around on foot and by train. You could use Google Maps to see what the roads are like that connect the towns. But I don’t have any advice on parking and how much time it would take to get from town to town. Another alternative is to drive to Riomaggiore and then use the train to get around from here. Have fun in Italy! Cheers, Julie

  2. Hi,
    Just came across your blog today and have to say its Amazing and well written with lots of usefull info.

    I therefore would like to do the Cinque terre hike and enjoying all the beautiful views in between and
    stroll through the villages and take a swim in the sea.

    I read that your base was in La Spezia. How many nights did you stay there and how many nights would you recommend to stay in La Spezia in order to having explored the Cinque terres in full ?
    Also would you think that good sneakers are sufficient to do the hike ?

    Keep up the great vlog.

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      Hello Marcel. We spent 3 nights in La Spezia. On the evening of the first night we went to Riomaggiore for dinner and sunset views. On the first full day, we hiked the Cinque Terre. On our second full day, we hung out at the beach at Monterosso. Two nights is sufficient because this gives you one full day to explore all 5 towns. But if you want a more leisurely experience, 3 nights is ideal. Another idea for the second day is a day trip to Portofino. And yes, a good pair of sneakers will be just fine for the hike. Cheers, Julie

  3. Really enjoying your articles! Very useful and clear info. I’ll be visiting Rome in November. I’m planning to spend a week in Northern Italy and am thinking about hiking Cinque Terre. I will be traveling solo, so I’m wondering how you found the trails/the towns. Relatively safe? Should I be nervous hi

    Also how was the language barrier in the towns (and other part of Italy more off the beaten path)? Did you find there was a good amount of English speakers? Or were people friendly if you tried to communicate with them? I was recently traveling in Paris where the locals did not appreciate my attempts at speaking French. 🙂

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      I laughed when I read your last sentence…I feel the same exact way in France. But that is the only country where we have felt that way. So far, in all of our travels, people in other countries are very appreciative when you make an attempt at their language, Italy included. Knowing some basics and common phrases is a good idea, but there are plenty of English speaking Italians so you don’t need to be fluent (even off the beaten path). The trails along the Cinque Terre are very safe. You will have no issues doing this solo. The Cinque Terre is very touristy so you will hear a lot of English and you will be on the trails with many other hikers. I hope you have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  4. We’re planning on going end of March 2020 with our 8month old. Do you think hiking the trails is do able with her? Also if we purchase the cinque Terre Treno card do we also have to purchase the cinque Terre trekking card to hike (the website you linked says the trekking card is currently suspended) ?

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      I see what you are talking about with the trekking card sales being suspended. I do not know if that is only online or also at the point of sales in the Cinque Terre. There is an email address on the website where you could email them for more information. But it might not be necessary. The Cinque Terre Treno card covers the full trek through the five towns plus the ability to ride the trains when you want to. With an 8 month old, I recommend getting the Treno card so you can ride the train when you get tired or when a trail is closed (trails close very frequently so you most likely won’t be able to hike the entire Cinque Terre even if you wanted to). But yes, you can do this with an eight month old. We have not done any hiking with our kids when they were that small, but I recommend getting some kind of baby carrier (a stroller would be a nightmare). Hope this helps! Cheers, Julie

  5. I’ve been reading your articles and they’ve been very helpful.
    Question, how much should we budget for food ? About $50 per adult per day?


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      Hello Rose. If you have breakfast at your hotel, or have an inexpensive breakfast, buy food in a grocery store for a picnic lunch, and go out to dinner and have one drink, $50 USD is good estimate. Dinner can cost anywhere from $15 to $30 per dish, depending on where you eat, and alcohol will be more ($6 to $12 per drink, roughly). Cheers, Julie

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      The Cinque Terre will be quiet and cool. You won’t have crowds to deal with, so that will be nice! I think that there is a chance that it could be rainy, but we have not been there in November so I don’t know for sure. But if you like the idea of a nice, quiet hike when the towns are less busy I think that this is a good time for hiking. Cheers, Julie

  6. I noticed you have been to South Africa. If you’re interested in Kenya for a safari and beach, my friend Isaac lives in Nairobi and has a safari company. Please check him out. I’m in Florence now but I can get you his correct email when I’m home next week. I also know a safari guy in Tanzania. I’ve traveled with both of them, with 2 friends, also on a budget.

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      Thanks! Yes, Tanzania and Kenya are high on our list. Almost did the Kilimanjaro trek this summer…maybe next year? You can email us at info@earthtrekkers. That would be wonderful. Thanks again, and have fun in Florence! Cheers, Julie

  7. I’m taking the train from Florence to LaSpezia, per your advice. A friend said then we could get a boat ride to Positano and back and it’s a great way to see the 5 towns, better than the train between each. Do you know about that?

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      I don’t know about that, and they probably meant Portofino (Positano is on the Amalfi Coast 🙂 ). It’s worth looking into…would be nice to see the towns from the water and to avoid the lines for the trains. I hear that they are getting to be quite long and crowded. Cheers, Julie

  8. Hi,
    A group of us (5 adults) are planning a trip to CT while we are in Florence. We would like it to be just a day trip. I have looked at some posts but most of them are a bit dated.

    So what is the preferred route? We take a train from Florence to La Spezia and then which CT town should we start with?

    We would like to walk the trails to get the scenic beauty – so which trails are a must do and if there are a vantage point in a town where we must go to get a view of the town then please let us know about that.

    How about taking a ferry from one town to another? Would that not give us great views with the water in front and the town in the background? Is there a day pass for ferries too?

    I guess we can catch the train from the last town to Florence.

    If we also want to do Sienna then should we move from Florence and make our base La Spezia or some other town? We will be going to Venice from here so is it better to rent a car or take the train?

    Thank you

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      If you are traveling by train, you will arrive in La Spezia and then take the commuter train to the towns of the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is the first town from La Spezia so it makes sense to start here (or you could take the train out to Monterosso, the last town, and work your way back to Riomaggiore). As far as the scenic walks, take a look at our hiking the Cinque Terre post, you can see our photos along the way. Not all of the trails are open all of the time. Half the trails were closed the day we did this due to rock slides. I do not have updated info (because it changes day by day) but you can check out the closures once you get to the Cinque Terre. We only hiked and did not take the ferry so I can’t offer any info but you can take a look at this website. Siena is near Florence, not the Cinque Terre. You can visit Siena on a day trip from Florence. From La Spezia, you can take a train to Venice (it may go through Milan). Enjoy Italy! Cheers, Julie

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      I am not sure. I am not familiar enough with the Eurail Global Pass to be able to answer this. You should contact someone associated with Eurail to get an answer to this question. – Julie

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