Cinque Terre in 2 days – 2021
And ideas to combine it with Rome, Pisa and Milan
Are you debating on how many days to dedicate to Cinque Terre region? Have you already googled Cinque Terre more than once in search of your dream itinerary, but got disappointed by the prices? Let me break it down one by one, from trains, hotels, restaurants and everything with a price tag on.
Travel period: 19/6 – 23/6/2021
Travelers: 2 girlfriends
Expenses : 336euro/person
After almost 15months with Covid-19 , quarantine after quarantine, it was about time to travel abroad. My plan which I will break it down in detail was:
1st Day: Arrive at Rome Ciampino airport
2nd Day : Pisa and arriving at La Spezia
3rd Day : Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia (Cinque Terre)
4th Day : Vernazza, Monterosso (Cinque Terre)
5th Day: Milan, Return from Bergamo airport
1st DAY : ROME
Fly from Athens to Rome Ciampino in the afternoon with Ryanair for only 24euro. Avoid paying for this extra hand luggage; you can stuff all your shorts and swimsuit in your backpack. Thankfully Cinque Terre is a summer destination.
From Ciampino Airport the easiest and cheapest way to Rome Termini Train Station is with Ciampino Airlink, booked through trenitalia. It’s a relatively new service since 2019, combining train + bus with the winning price of 2,7euro. Frequent buses from the airport, kiosk inside the arrival level, and the most helpful worker who indicated to each and one the bus stop and the specific bus to hope on. The trip in total lasts 15minutes and there is a bus every 20 minutes, leaving from the airport.
In Rome we only stayed for the evening but decided to make the most of it. If you are new to Rome, certainly you will need to stay more. You will fall in love with this city, believe me. Moreover, choose to stay near Municipio I area or Trastevere.
We had an early train to catch the next morning so decided to stay near Rome Termini. It’s not the most beautiful neighborhood but on the other hand, we didn’t feel unsafe or insecure coming back to the apartment around midnight. The apartment at the Meile House was at 36euro / night, it was booked through booking, and it was a decent one regarding its price.
Sightseeing in Rome is endless and you can never have enough. This city is a freaking walking live museum, one of my favorites cities in the world. I won’t bother you with all the details, since the focus of this post is mainly Cinque Terre but I have 3 little hidden gems for you:
- Do try Tiramisu from Two Sizes and don’t just take a small cup. Have the big one (3, 5 euro) in whatever flavor suits you. Original, caramel, strawberry, pistachio. It has been the best tiramisu I’ve tasted.
- Ice cream from Giolitti. You will lose your mind while trying to decide which ice cream flavor to indulge in. 4euro for the medium size with 3 scoops of ice cream.
- Dinner at the hype neighborhood of Trastevere. Be wise and make a reservation at Trattoria Da Enzo al 29 or Trattoria da Teo. We weren’t and ended at Ristorante le Mani which was pretty good actually. We had a seafood plate for appetizer, a plate of amatriciana pasta and one of carbonara pasta accompanied with 0,7lt wine for 51 euro.
2nd Day: Pisa & La Spezia
If you would like to follow my itinerary, take the train from Rome Termini to Pisa Centrale Station. There are direct train rides that you can prebook through trenitalia.com. It took us 4 hours and the ticket costs 24euro.
Pisa is best known –or maybe even know- for the Leaning Tower at Piazza dei Miracoli. What I would admit didn’t know was how many jaw-droopingly beautiful white marble monuments are on that square. The Baptistery, Campo Santo Cemetery and Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. All with a paid entrance which we would like to avoid. So we just admired them from the outside while licking our delicious ice cream from La Bottega del Gelato. There are two ticket offices located at the square with individual or combined ticket offers. Also you can purchase your ticket online via opapisa .
The Piazza dei Miracoli is situated 30 minutes by foot from the train station of Pisa. It’s a beautiful walk through the city center, passing by Borgo Street filled with fashion stores, the banks of river Arno and the Knights Square.
Tip: If you find yourself wandering hungrily around Pisa, go sit down at Numerounidici or Ristorante all Bandienne for a delicious plate of fresh pasta.
Next Stop La Spezia
Take the train from Pisa to La Spezia with a ride of 1hour 15 minutes and the ticket ranging from 8euro-13euro.
The hotel we chose in La Spezia through booking was Affitacamere a Poasa right in the middle of the city center for a price of 40euro per night which was actually really worth it.
Tip: Accommodation in Cinque Terre is really expensive and for no good reason, since the price doesn’t correspond with the amenities. You can always pick your hotel at La Spezia or Levanto and from there take the train. It’s super close and trains pass every 15minutes.
If you do visit La Spezia, make yourself a favor and go eat at Al Quadrato. Order their tagliata. I swear I had the best mouthwatering juicy tagliata I have eaten. Accompanied with an appetizer of baked bread, local cheese and prosciutto and a pizza we only paid 41 euro. It is a bargain!
3rd Day : Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia
The day has come for the actual Cinque Terre part of this trip.
Cinque Terre as the name implies consists of 5 villages on the Italian Riviera coastline. Five small fishing villages now have become one of the most famous coastal landscapes in the world with millions of tourists passing by each year. Obviously all this has changed its traditional character and has resulted in rocket-sky prices.
First things first
How to get there
There is a regional train passing by every 15minutes which connects these villages. Each time you ride the train, even for the fraction time of 2 minutes between two villages you have to pay a ticket of 4 euros. Apparently with so many tourists and such a small period between the stops, I admit that there is no control of the tickets whatsoever. The choice is yours considering your budget and your ethics.
There is also a Cinque Terre daily card costing 16euro which gives you access to all the open and paid trekking paths and unlimited use of trains or buses within the Cinque Terre region. The Cinque Terre Trekking Card costs 7,5 euro per day and allows you access to the two controlled hiking trails, that are Monterosso- Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia.
Arriving at the train station at Riomaggiore with a few dozens of tourists, you will take the path leading to town. It’s a 5-10 minute walk. After that you can explore this little village. Don’t forget to go to the point of the best view, google it as Vista Panoramica di Riomaggiore and take the most fabulous instagram photos of the charming little harbor. As for every hot spot, the best time is early in the day to avoid the crowds.
You got the first glimpse of Cinque Terre.
Leaving for Manarola by train. By now you will be accompanied by more and more tourists. Embrace it. Unfortunately, since 2012 the Via dell’ Amore , the trail that connects Riomaggiore and Manarola has been closed due to a major landslide. Manarola remains the village that most photographers prefer for their shoots since there is a walkway north with one of the most remarkable coastal scenery.
In Manarola it’s possible to swim near the reef, just below the town. The waters when I visited weren’t the best, although most tourists seemed to enjoy them. I am not sure if that’s the way it is in general, with a thin layer of microplastics on top, or it was due to the currents of the day. Go and check it and let me know.
In Manarola you will sit down at Nessun Dorma for antipasti. This place is in every travel guide and for a reason. It doesn’t take reservations but the waiting is worth the view you will get after that. We got 4 types of bruschetta (2 of each), a Caprese salad and 0,5lt of house wine for 38euro.
Corniglia is the only hilltop village with no direct access to the sea, and because of that many tourists neglect to visit it. For us, it was our overnight stay that proved a hidden gem. Corniglia is such a small medieval village, really authentic and with the subtle understated beauty of its own. In general, Corniglia has a bit better-priced hotels regarding the rest of the villages and it’s also in the middle, so it seems pretty reasonable to check Riomaggiore and Manarola the first day, stay at Corniglia and visit Vernazza and Monterosso on your 2nd day.
We chose to stay at Cecio 5 Terre, booked through booking for 79euro. It was a renovated apartment, excellent bathroom and a sea view from the bedroom.
Tip: Arriving at Corniglia Train station, you have two options to get to the village. Either get the bus which is free with the Cinque Terre Card or pay 3euro or climb the 382 stairs to the top. Although we arrived late in the afternoon and it was really hot, climbing those stairs was quite manageable.
In Corniglia we have to try the lemon & basil ice cream or if you are brave enough the plain basil ice cream from Alberto Gelateria.
Later in the evening enjoy the sun setting with a glass of wine at Bar Terza Terra di Cadario Alison.
4th DAY: Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso
You should know that my friend on this trip is athletic and actually enjoys hiking, which on the other hand I find quite boring. Nonetheless, I got away with 3 days without hiking, so today is her day.
The Azuro trail between Corniglia and Vernazza is considered an easy hike of about 1-1,5hour. Most of it is shady, without many uphills. The views of both villages from the trail are spectacular. This trail requires a toll ticket of 7,5euro or a Cinque Terre card. There was a control point at Corniglia but it was closed when we passed around 9 am and there was another one at the end at Vernazza where all tourists entering the trail paid the ticket to get to Corniglia (we didn’t!).
Vernazza for me was the crowning jewel among the five villages. It was like a fairytale postcard with its pastel-colored houses, the steep alleys, the little harbor and the children diving from the cliffs. Like how I have the summer in Italy on my mind. Just lose yourself in this beautiful village and forget about the map.
Our last stop of the day is Monterosso.
Again you can take the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso, with a toll ticket, if the ticket office is open to paying. This trail was quite demanding for me despite my good physical condition due to the really hot weather (and it was only June) and the lack of shadow. It took us around 2 hours to arrive sweaty and lightheaded to Monterosso, where we headed straight to the beach.
So surprise! Monterosso is the only village in Cinque Terre which actually has a large sandy beach to swim but wait for the price you pay for that. The entire beach except for a tiny part is privately filled with sunbeds from hotels and bars. The free part is enough but there is no shade there whatsoever. So either you carry your own stuff or you come to terms with paying 40euros for 2 sunbeds and an umbrella.
Our accommodation at Monterosso was at Affittacamere Alle 5 Terre for 103 euro/night which I certainly recommend. The price is not justified in general but you should know that it was among the cheapest in the area. Moreover, the owner was the sweetest and she even woke up really early to prepare for us a fresh homemade breakfast.
My recommendation for dinner at Monterosso is Da Eraldo restaurant, which opens at 7 pm. We couldn’t wait until that time, so we ate nearby at San Martino Gastronomia, a little sweet bistro. We paid 37euro for a seafood salad, a plate of pesto pasta and a plate of seafood pasta.
5th DAY: Milan, Bergamo Airport
To get to Cinque Terre by plane you have many options. The closest airports are Genoa and Pisa, but you can also choose to fly to Milan, Bergamo, Rome or whatever suits you, considering that the train in Italy is a fast, reliable and affordable means of transport. Therefore choose to fly to an airport and from there you will ride the train. Check it beforehand at the website of trenitalia.com.
We flew from Bergamo Milan with Ryanair low-cost airline for 20 euros. The train from Monterosso cost 40euro and in 3 hours it took us to Milan Train station.
You have a day or several hours to explore this city.
Let’s see what is there to discover.
No trip to Milan is complete without seeing the Cathedral Duomo di Milano. This gothic masterpiece is Milan’s trademark and around it all the high-end fashion shops have developed. There is a ticket to get inside Duomo, one you can get in advance online. It’s best to arrive early to beat the other tourists and have the most astonishing photos of the early sunlight.
Just a few meters across Cathedral is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the oldest and most exquisite shopping malls. Depending on your budget, stroll inside or sit down for a sip of an expensive coffee. Many restaurants have been here since 1867, that’s more than 150years and you having some tea or coffee, gives you a chance to a better glance at these historic restaurants. You will also find some of the most expensive brands worldwide, like Louis Vuitton and Prada but better be going than spend all your money and time here.
La Scala opera theater of Milan is another box you can tick on your bucket list. Its interior is impressive and there are official guided tours of the theatre and the museum every day at 4 pm. Better yet try to book tickets for the opera itself to have one of the most amazing experiences.
Check out Braidense National Library, a 18th-century library, Sforzesco Castle and Navigli district with its unique canals.
We only had 5 hours in Milan and I think there are so much more to explore in this city and not just in the city center.
For our flight with Ryanair from Bergamo airport (10 euro each!!), we took Terravision bus from Milan Train station. We had already booked the ticket in advance for 8euro and the trip lasted about an hour, easy and comfortable.
Back to base then…
Cinque Terre is totally worth visiting. It’s colorful, unique and picturesque with its pastel building hanging on cliffs along the ocean.
Go if you are into trails and national parks
Go if you chase the best photogenic landscape
Better go on a romantic trip
Better go for 2 or 3 days and combine it with some other place in Italy
Don’t go if you are super tight on your budget
Don’t go if you are looking for crystalline waters or lively nightlife
Did you like the idea of combining Cinque Terre with Rome, Pisa and Milan? Let me know and stay tuned for the next post