When I began to plan my trip to Italy I knew I wanted to visit Cinque Terre. I was going to be spending 6 days in Milan and wanted to take a day trip from there. At first I was debating on a guided tour but after some research I decided to do it on our own. I was concerned a day was not enough to see all that I wanted to see and do. But yes it can be done, in fact it was all I needed to experience the beauty of Cinque Terre, we even had a chance to lay by the beach and get in the water!
How to get there from Milan: Cinque Terre is only about 3 1/2 hrs by train from Milan, we decided to take the very first train (6:10am) from Milano Centrale to Monterosso. We purchased a roundtrip first class ticket online from the Italia Rail website. They will send you the tickets by email which I recommend printing in case they do not accept electronic tickets. For the return we took the train departing Monterosso at 6:54pm arriving in Milano Centrale at 9:54pm. Yes, this is a long day trip but totally worth it.
Cinque Terre is composed of 5 beautiful seaside villages Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. For this day trip we spent about 1hr-2hrs in each town and decided to start the town hopping at Monterosso and skipped Corniglia . We were amongst the first batch of tourist to arrive in Monterosso which was really nice because it allowed us to walk the old part of town without the big crowds. BE AWARE, they get extremely busy during the summer. After snapping some pictures and drinking some lemonade we decided to head over to the farther village, Riomaggiore.
Cinque Terre Card: We purchased a Cinque Terre train card at about 12 euros per person at the Monterosso station in order to hop from village to village by train. You can also hike the trails but this will probably be very hard in one day. The train takes literally 2-3 minutes from village to village and they pass every 30 minutes.
Once we arrived to Riomaggiore we headed straight towards the marine in order to see the colorful town from the water. It was so crowded here that we decided to snap a few pictures and head over to the next town.
We took the train from Riomaggiore to Manarola. Once arrived in Manarola we walked through the town towards the water. Head to the right side of the village to see the stunning views of the city from the ocean. In this area you will also find the famous Nessun Dorma restaurant. Although they had a big line it was totally worth the wait. So delicious and nothing could beat the view.
After lunch we headed to Vernezza. We walked through the main street towards the beach and sat by the the water. After some time people watching we headed towards the trail to see the town from the top. You will find the stairs to the trails on the right side of the village. Walk the trails for 10 minutes and you will get to the very famous area for the perfect shot.
After visiting the 3 villages we headed back to Monterosso al Mare where we were fortunate enough to find two chairs and and umbrella for rent. By the time we arrived back here it was about 3:00pm and the beach was very full. We hung out by the water until it was time to take our train back to Milan.
For us this was the perfect day trip. We had enough time to experience each of the towns without the rush of a tour.
Hope you guys find this helpful and feel free to ask me any questions