View of Manarola's harbor from trail above the village in the Cinque Terre, Italy.

How to Take a Day Trip to the Cinque Terre from Florence – 4 Ways

Are you in Florence (or heading there soon) and dreaming of a day trip to the colorful villages of the Cinque Terre?  The colorful cliffside villages, breathtaking views from the hikes between the five villages, freshly baked focaccia and handmade pesto…

I’m a mamma of three living in Tuscany and I’ve been helping plan trips to Italy since 2004. I have worked in the Cinque Terre and have visited many times with friends and family.

I’m often asked how to visit Cinque Terre on a day trip from Florence – for those who don’t have enough time to dedicate a few days, but really want to see the area.

I’m not overly-enthusiastic about Florence to Cinque Terre day trips, because it’s a long journey to and from the area, but I understand that it’s on many visitors’ bucket lists.  So, let’s see how we can make it happen for you!

Below I’ll walk you through some pros and cons of a Florence to Cinque Terre day trip, and then we’ll go over the four main ways to day trip to the area.

Fun Fact:  Cinque Terre in Italian means ‘five lands,’ for the five main villages of the area: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

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Florence to Cinque Terre – A Visual

As you can see, Florence and the Cinque Terre aren’t that close to each other.  Florence is about 170km (just over 100 miles) from Riomaggiore, the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre.

Reasons to Visit the Cinque Terre on a Day Trip from Florence

You don’t have enough time to dedicate a few days to a visit to the Cinque Terre but you dream of seeing them!

You’re craving pesto and focaccia from the source!

You’ll be happy to see them and visit a village or two but you’ll be ok if you don’t see everything (or all of the villages).  There’s just not enough time in a day.

Reasons to Skip a Florence to Cinque Terre Day Trip

You’re visiting during the winter.  It’s not worth it to get all the way there and spend the day in the rain.

You’re looking forward to taking epic photographs of the area.  It’s best to photograph the area in the morning or evening, and the timing won’t work out on a day trip from Florence.

You or someone in your group has mobility issues. The Cinque Terre is a challenging place to visit with mobility issues. It can be done, but requires extra planning and extra time while you’re there.

You’re traveling with small children.  If you want to have an enjoyable family visit with little ones, plan on spending more than a day. Otherwise, you’ll feel rushed trying to see the area while changing diapers, making time for naps, etc. Also, one of the best parts of the Cinque Terre are the walks between the villages, which require hiking (except for the Via dell’Amore).

You want to see all of the villages. There’s not enough time to really see them all in a day.

You want to hike between all of the villages and spend time in them. You can do the hike in a day, but don’t plan on spending time enjoying the small villages or really soaking up the area.

How to Get From Florence to the Cinque Terre

There are four main ways to take a day trip from Florence to the Cinque Terre:

  1. Take the train
  2. Drive
  3. Hire a private driver
  4. Join a day tour

Let’s take a look at each of them.

 Easy?Cost?Flexibile?Family Friendly?

Take the Train from Florence to the Cinque Terre

Boy stands at window on bus looking out at Cinque Terre village.

If you’re an independent traveler and feel confident on trains in Italy, you’ll have no problem taking the train to the Cinque Terre from Florence. 

This is the least expensive option, and there are plenty of trains to and from the Cinque Terre. 

You’ll need to purchase tickets for the train from Florence to the Cinque Terre.  The closest Cinque Terre village to Florence is Riomaggiore.  There are no direct trains between Florence and Riomaggiore.  The journey takes between 2.5 (2 changes) and 3 hours (1 change).  You will change in Pisa and/or La Spezia. 

I buy my train tickets online or using the Trenitalia app, but you can also buy them at the Florence train station at the ticket window or using the machines. 

Please note that La Spezia is not part of the Cinque Terre, so you need to get to one of the five villages (see the chart below).

Good To Know:  Since the 2-change journey is shorter, I recommend taking it.  Don’t get stressed about the changes – you have plenty of time (usually 20-30 minutes).

Helpful Tip:  If you’re planning to start your village-to-village hike in the north, take the train to Monterosso al Mare.

Good To Know:  If you plan on purchasing the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card (it covers the trail fees between Monterosso – Vernazza – Corniglia and the regional trains between Levanto and La Spezia), just buy your train ticket from Florence to La Spezia (and back).  Once in La Spezia, use your Cinque Terre Treno MS Card.  Please note that you do not have to have the MS Card to travel by train in the Cinque Terre – you can also buy regular train tickets!  If you’re hiking a lot, it may make more sense to buy individual tickets. 

Train Station Names

Florence – Santa Maria NovellaFirenze S. M. Novella
La Spezia CentraleLa Spezia Centrale
Monterosso al MareMonterosso

Good To Know:  Corniglia is tucked into the hills and isn’t attached to its train station.

Good To Know: Buying your return ticket doesn’t save you any money, but it will save you from waiting in line to buy your ticket back to Florence.

You may want to check out
Train Travel in Italy
Travel Apps I Use in Italy

Drive from Florence to the Cinque Terre

View of countryside and Apuan Alps from the road in Versilia, Italy.
Enjoy the view of the Apuan Alps as you head toward La Spezia

Another option is to drive from Florence to the Cinque Terre and back for your day trip.  This option gives you flexibility for your day and timing, and if you’ve already got a rental car, it may make sense financially.  The extra costs will be gas, tolls, and parking.

The major disadvantage is you have to stress a little bit (or a lot) about parking.

I have driven into the Cinque Terre (years ago) and was able to find a place with a very expensive parking rate. I would not recommend this as the roads are hairy and parking is scarce.

I have also driven from Florence to La Spezia, parked there, and used the trains from La Spezia to access the Cinque Terre.  This is a much better option, and it’s surprisingly easy.  Here’s the lot where I park.  There’s a Coop grocery store on the short walk between the lot and the La Spezia Centrale train station so you can pick up snacks if you need to.  You can also park in the garage under the La Spezia train station. 

Remember – don’t leave any valuables in your car (even hidden).

Hire a Private Driver to Take You to the Cinque Terre

Hiring a private driver (NCC – noleggio con conducente) is the priciest option, but it also allows you do be totally hands off and just enjoy your day.  You can be flexible with timing and where you go (to some degree – it’s not easy for drivers to move from village to village).

You can see my recommended Tuscany NCCs on my Resources Page.

Take a Day Tour from Florence to the Cinque Terre

Boy walks down stone street in Vernazza, Italy.

Taking a day tour to the Cinque Terre is a great not-too-expensive option if you don’t want to worry about organizing anything, catching trains, etc. 

However, you also lose flexibility in your schedule.  You don’t get to choose which villages to visit, and you may not get as much time as you want in some villages.

While this option is less pricey than hiring a private driver, it will cost more than taking the train to the Cinque Terre on your own.

Here’s an example of a day tour to the Cinque Terre from Florence:
From Florence: Cinque Terre Day Trip & Optional Light Hike
The 12-hour tour includes:

  • a comfortable bus ride between Florence and the Cinque Terre
  • train tickets for the day for travel between the villages the tour visits
  • stops in Vernazza, Monterosso, and Manarola
  • an optional guided hike (additional cost) or free time in Manarola

I just went on this day tour with my son and we had an amazing time! You can read all about it in Cinque Terre Tour From Florence – Our Experience.

What to See and Do On Your Cinque Terre Day Trip From Florence

Hike Between the Villages

Boy runs on trail above the colorful village of Manarola on the left.
My son, loving the trail above colorful Manarola

Spend some of your time of the trails of the Cinque Terre National Park.  The well-maintained trails give spectacular views of the villages and the sea.  I’ve done the main hike (the Blue Trail – 12 kilometers, 7.5 miles) many times and never tire of it! 

If you want to go off the beaten path, that’s also possible, usually by hiking a little higher up.  Grab a trail map or just look at the wall maps in each village (take a photo so you can bring the map with you). I’ve done upper hikes with friends and we’ve had a blast but also encountered less well-marked and manicured trails.

I prefer to hike the Blue Trail from north to south (starting in Monterosso) because you get the harder hiking done first. 

If you just want to stroll and enjoy the views, walk the Via dell’Amore (path of love).  It’s closed as I write this, but is expected to open in July 2024.

Important:  Always check for trail closures.  Sometimes there is too much rain and the possibility of landslides.  For safety reasons, trails close (it happens often, especially in the spring).

Good To Know:  You’ll be asked to show your Cinque Terre card if you’re hiking on the trails between Monterosso – Vernazza – Corniglia.  Keep your card accessible.

Go on a Ferry Ride

Taking a ferry in the area is highly recommended, as it gives you a new perspective on the Cinque Terre that you can’t get from land.  Choose any of them!  If you want a more private experience, you can also hire a private boat ride.

Good To Know:  The ferries don’t run in the winter.

Eat Pesto

Hand holds up bread with pesto in a village in the Cinque Terre in Italy.

Did you know pesto is originally from Genoa in Liguria, just north of the Cinque Terre?  The sauce, made up of basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil is a treat you can’t miss on your day trip!  If you don’t sit down for lunch, you can get takeaway pizza or focaccia with it as a topping (this is what we usually do!).

Snack on Focaccia

Along with pesto, the region of Liguria is also the birthplace of focaccia!  My boys love getting focaccia in the Cinque Terre because it’s different than what we get where we live in Tuscany (schiacciata – like a ‘squashed’ focaccia). 

You can get it in the Cinque Terre at any of the villages, and you can take it with you on your hike between the villages.  Focaccia is a perfect portable snack or meal for the trail!  Or, grab some and enjoy it at the sea.

Take a Dip in the Sea

Waves crash on pebbly beach. Rocky cliffs in back right.
The beach in front of the old town of Monterosso al Mare

Speaking of, it seems a bit silly to visit the Cinque Terre without dipping at least your toes in the sea! 

The water can be chilly, but you’ll see plenty of tourists in the water in the spring, and the beaches are crowded from June through early September (and sometimes longer!). 

The easiest beach for a swim is Fegina Beach in front of the new town of Monterosso al Mare (it’s sandy and big), but you can also swim at the beach in front of the old town of Monterosso or from the rocks in the villages of Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Manarola.  Vernazza has a tiny beach (sandy), but it’s so small that it gets packed quickly.

Helpful Tip:  If you don’t feel like packing a bulky towel, bring a scarf to use as a beach towel. I bring a thin muslin baby blanket.

Explore the Villages

The villages, from north to south, are: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

Monterosso al Mare – This is one of the easiest towns to visit and the large, sandy beach (the main one of the five villages) is perfect for a swim or relaxing rest under a beach umbrella.  There are public and private beach options. 

Vernazza– You’ll likely see plenty of people carrying around Rick Steves’ turquoise guidebooks here.  He’s a big fan of the area and is a big fan of Vernazza.  I love spending time in the small piazza on the harbor, walking out along the left side of the harbor, and wandering the tiny lanes. 

Corniglia – I think tiny Corniglia is the most underrated village in the Cinque Terre.  It’s one of the quietest (but it’s not quiet, don’t get your hopes up) because it’s a little more difficult to access from its train station.  Admire the lemon groves and get a lemon gelato or granita!

Manarola – Relax on the rocky shore (if you can get comfortable), take a dip in the sea, and take photos of the colorful village.

Riomaggiore – The largest village in the Cinque Terre, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less charming than the others.  Check out the views from the castle.

Tips for Your Florence to Cinque Terre Day Trip

Check the Weather – And pack appropriately!  If rain is called for, make sure you’re dressing appropriately.  If you’re traveling outside of summer, I’d bring a rain jacket just-in-case.  If you’re day tripping to the Cinque Terre in the summer, make sure you’ve got sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, etc), as there’s not a lot of shade, especially if you’re out hiking.

Bring Water and Snacks – Yes, you can buy water and food in the Cinque Terre, but you’ll want to have some with you at all times.  And, you’ll enjoy your Ligurian focaccia more if you’re not hangry.  You can also refill your water bottle at public fountains in the villages.

Wear Comfortable Shoes – Even if you’re not planning on hiking, you’ll still be walking in the villages, and possibly on rocks at the sea.

Cinque Terre Card – First, there are two different cards – one includes trains and the other doesn’t.  Second, you may not need one!  You only need one if you’re planning on hiking Monterosso – Vernazza and/or Vernazza – Corniglia.  And, don’t buy one if you’re hiking in the off-season!  The off season is typically November through mid-March (but always check the official site).  You do not need the special Cinque Terre train card – you can also buy single tickets – do the math to see if the card makes sense for you and your group!

Stay Flexible with Dining – While the food is amazing (think seafood, pesto, and snacks like Ligurian focaccia), the draw of the Cinque Terre is the scenery and the hiking.  So, spend your time on those, and make the food second tier here.  For example, choose a restaurant with a view vs a place where you’re eating inside and downstairs.  Or, get lunch to go and picnic on the water or on the trail.  Make the most of your day in the Cinque Terre!

Be Prepared for Crowds – Unless you’re visiting in the winter, expect to see crowds in the Cinque Terre.  The trails and towns now begin to get crowded in April and they remain through late September (or even October).  Crowds mean you’ll see lots of people on the trails, you may need to wait to take photos at certain spots, you may need to wait for the next train, and some restaurants may be booked at lunch.

Don’t Cut it Close With Transport – I can’t stress this enough if you’re planning a day trip to the Cinque Terre.  Allow some ‘breathing room’ for your day.  For example, don’t plan on taking the last train back to Florence (and risk missing it).  As someone who’s missed ‘the last train’ a few times, I can tell you it’s not fun (or cheap) to find alternate ways back to your city and hotel.

Day Tripping from Florence to the Cinque Terre with Kids

My husband and baby on a ferry during our visit to the Cinque Terre

While I think adults can pull off a day trip to the Cinque Terre from Florence, it gets a little more complicated with kids.  Whether or not it’s a good idea for your family depends on:

  • The ages of your kids – it’s a tough place to visit with toddlers; it can be hot for hiking with a baby in the summer with no shade; you’ll need to spend time changing diapers, organizing naps, etc.
  • How active your kids are and if they enjoy walking
  • What you plan on doing in the Cinque Terre – hiking, swimming in the sea, exploring the villages
  • The time of year you’re visiting – visiting when you can’t swim is less exciting for kids
  • The predicted weather – avoid the big journey to the Cinque Terre if it looks like it may rain

I’ve visited the Cinque Terre with a baby and we had a pleasant time that didn’t include any hiking.  We took boat rides, had leisurely lunches, and lounged at the beach. 

Take a look at
Fun & Easy Day Trips from Florence with Kids
Where to Stay in Florence
Florence with Kids – Complete Guide

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