Cinque Terre by Rail

Five captivating villages perched along rocky, rugged coasts in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and national park. Cars are forbidden within the villages, so trains offer the best way to see them.

I visited in late October, which avoided the almost Disney-like crowds and allowed for a more leisurely pace of travel. Here’s how I got to know Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola by train.


Coastal train adventures are a perfect way to enjoy Italy’s beautiful Liguria region without the hassle of traffic and parking. It would be easy enough to reach Cinque Terre traveling from Florence or Pisa, but the longer journeys would miss out on a lot of scenery and limit your travel time. Luckily, Trenitalia and Italo high-speed services get you to Genoa or La Spezia in comfort, and the regional Cinque Terre Express trains connect La Spezia with Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, and Vernazza.

The first stop on the train is Monterosso, the most accessible of the five coastal villages. It’s also the largest, and its hilltop old town is a picturesque collection of pastel houses. A stroll along the cobblestone streets and waterfront promenade gives you a sense of the village’s laid-back atmosphere. The small town square, complete with an obligatory statue of Italian hero Giuseppe Garibaldi, feels even more relaxed and inviting.

From here, it’s easy to explore the area on foot, but the most popular hiking trail is Trail #2 (the Sentiero Azzuro), which winds its way through the five villages and cliff-side trails. Hiking the full route takes about six hours, but keen walkers can spread it out over a few days if they prefer.

While it’s possible to take the train from Monterosso all the way to Paris, you’ll need to make a few connections and add an overnight stay in Turin, making this a good option only for adventurous travelers who are willing to spend more than two full days in transit. For a more streamlined trip, you can also take the afternoon TGV from La Spezia to Turin Porta Susa, then catch the morning TGV to Paris.

Another great option is to book a guided Cinque Terre tour that includes the train and walking tours of all five villages. The best ones are operated by experienced local guides, who know the best routes and sights and can help you get the most out of your visit.


Tucked into a mountainous kink in the Ligurian coast, Cinque Terre’s brightly painted seaside villages can bolster even the most jaded spirits. The towns are hemmed in by steep cliffs and hills that have been carved into terraces for cultivation. Walking trails web through the landscape, and a 19th-century railway line, descending through coastal tunnels, moves visitors from village to village. Cars are banned inside the villages, and the only way in or out is by train or foot.

The Cinque Terre National Park includes five small villages in the mountains, each with a unique character and charm of its own. They were inhabited by fishermen until the end of World War II and then transformed into tourist resorts, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Located in the north of the region, Vernazza is one of the most picturesque and traditional fishing villages in the area. The town is surrounded by vineyards, which produce the delectable local wine called Vernaccia.

It also has a pretty harbour that’s filled with colourful fishing boats. In fact, Vernazza is the only natural port in the Cinque Terre and remains one of the most authentic fishing villages that still exists today.

The town’s original train station was opened in 1874 and replaced in 1959, as the route between Sestri Levante and La Spezia was extended. The new station is unique on the Cinque Terre line, as it’s located above street level and accessed via a flight of stairs. The platform is in the centre of the town, and tracks run on either side.

This is the main stop for travellers who want to do some hiking along the popular Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path) that connects all of the five coastal villages. It’s a scenic walk with spectacular views, and it will take 4-6 hours to complete the entire route. The hike is only recommended for experienced hikers, and the entire trail is closed during rainy conditions.

If you’re planning to explore the Cinque Terre by train, we strongly recommend purchasing tickets in advance online, before you arrive in Italy. It will save you time in the long ticket lines in the villages, and it’s often much cheaper. This is especially true if you’re travelling in a group of 10 or more people.


The coastal villages of Cinque Terre (pronounced chin-kwe ter-re) capture the imagination like nowhere else in Italy. Perched atop rocky cliffs and steep, cobbled streets, their seaside vistas can bolster even the most jaded travelers. Sinuous paths zigzag between seemingly impregnable cliff sides, while a 19th-century railway line shuttles visitors from town to town. And cars have been banned from the towns for over a decade, so the villages remain unspoiled by traffic.

While all the Cinque Terre villages are stunning, Corniglia may be the quietest and most authentic. Its location, furthest from the water, helps keep the village a bit less crowded than its neighbors. It’s also the most difficult to reach from the other villages, as it doesn’t have a harbor and requires climbing over 380 steps to get into the town center. But if you can manage to make it here, the rewards are immense: sweeping views of the coastline, and a beautiful, ancient hilltop town to explore.

Once you do find your way into the town, you’ll find winding streets opening onto private vegetable gardens, tiny patios and terraces, arches, hidden passageways and a few small piazzas. It’s a lovely place to just stroll around and watch the world go by.

One of the highlights is Chiesa di San Pietro, a simple but beautiful Romanesque church that overlooks a pleasant square and offers great views of the village below. Also worth a visit is the Oratorio di Santa Caterina, which features a pretty, simple interior with a lovely belvedere. The town is famous for its wines, too. Sample a dry white or a sweet red made from the local Sciacchetra grape.


There’s a reason this UNESCO World Heritage Site is so famous. Its quaint villages and sweeping coastal landscapes are enough to lift even the most jaded spirits. Its tranquil aquamarine waters, pastel-hued buildings tumbling from impossible heights, rugged vineyard cliffs, and winding cliff pathways are an iconic evocation of the quintessential Italian summer.

A visit to the five coastal villages that make up the Cinque Terre is not to be missed. Located in a mountainous kink on the Ligurian coast, the villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarola are carved into steep cliff sides and terraced hillsides, teeming with vineyards and sea views.

The best time to visit the Cinque Terre is autumn. This season is ideal for those who want to avoid the peak-season crowds but still want warm weather and the chance to enjoy all the hiking in the region. I visited in late October and it was just about perfect — walkable streets without the throngs of people, cool breezes, and beautiful sunsets over the vineyards.

To get to Cinque Terre, fly into Milan or Pisa (the closest airport) and take the train to La Spezia. From here, you can hop on the local Cinque Terre Express train to Manarola. The trains run from La Spezia to all five villages, making it super easy to navigate between the towns!

Once you arrive in the tiny village of Manarola, you will be immediately charmed by its picturesque multicolored houses and tiny harbor. The tiny harbor becomes the main sunbathing and swimming area from morning until dusk and is dotted with colorful rowing boats. It is surrounded by lush greenery and makes for one of the most idyllic and romantic towns in the entire region.

The train station in Manarola is just a short walk from the center of town. There are also several small parking lots around the town, but they fill up quickly in high season. You can also reach the village by driving, but this requires nerves of steel as the roads are narrow and winding along the cliff-edge. Private vehicles are not allowed past the entrances of the villages, and in high season, the roads between the villages may be closed.

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