Julie Italy 30 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 €18.20, two days is €33, and 3 days is €47. Click here for updated pricing.

If you elect not to purchase the Train Card then you can purchase single tickets at €5 each. However, each time you ride the train, you must pay another €5. 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.

Manarola

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 these five towns. 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 30

  1. Avatar for Tiffany
    Tiffany

    Thank you for your info! We’re planning a trip soon and would love to know which part of Cinque terre has the pedal boats with the slides? Do you reserve ahead of time?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      We did that in Monterosso and were able to rent one right from the beach. This was in 2014. But I doubt that there is a way you can reserve one in advance. Have a great time! Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for San
    San

    Hi Julie,
    When you write about Budget trip, will it be possible for you to give us the idea of specific category of the budget/expenses so it can help us plan. It will be great if it has following things – When you traveled (the month/year), how long you stayed, How much money for food, transportation, lodging, etc was spent.
    Thanks.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      Great suggestion! In this case, we visited the Cinque Terre in 2014, so our pricing will no longer be accurate. But we are planning a return visit later this year, so I could update the post with updated info. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Feng W.
    Feng W.

    I am planning a trip to Cinque Terre at the end of this June, and found the hotel prices there is not necessarily higher than that of La Spezia. In fact, I ended up booking a hotel in Manarola for 3-night stay, for $196, while the hotel you recommended (Hotel Birillo in La Spezia) cost over $400 in the same timeframe.

  4. Avatar for Tina Mitchell
    Tina Mitchell

    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.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
      Author
      Julie

      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

  5. Avatar for Pierpaolo
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