One day in Cinque Terre doesn’t give you enough time to see every corner of the region, but you’ll see most of it.
Cinque Terre started as a collection of fishing villages. It’s now one of the top travel destinations in Italy, known for its cliffside villas and endless hiking and walking paths. People also flock to the area for the dramatic coastline.
Cinque Terre maintains an authentic atmosphere. While the touristy areas near the coastline feature recently built retreats, the surrounding meandering trails along rugged cliffsides remain mostly untouched. It’s the perfect vacation for hiking and relaxation as you explore most of the villages in Cinque Terre.
While most hike from village to village, a railway cuts through coastal tunnels to help those with sore feet travel between each place. You won’t find traffic here: cars were banned over a decade ago.
Over the course of millenia, locals have shaped, chiseled, and layered complicated systems of fields and gardens as well as steep cliff-side buildings.
Need help deciding where to begin? Plan your entire trip with this 1-day Cinque Terre itinerary!
What to do in Cinque Terre in 24 hours: A complete one-day itinerary
This Cinque Terre itinerary gives you a chance to see some of the main attractions the area has to offer, as with most of our one-day city travel plans.
You’ll start at one end of the coastline and work your way from one village to the next. Unfortunately, 24 hours isn’t enough time to visit each of the five villages without hopping on a ferry or boat after each stop.
During the trip, you’ll have time to see a few historic sites, shop at small markets, and try the local delicacies.
Walk around the streets of Monterosso al Mare
You’ll start your trip around Cinque Terre in one day in Monterosso al Mare. It’s the northernmost village along the coast and the most popular.
Monterosso is divided into two parts. The old town contains most of the old buildings and historic sites while the new town features numerous hotels and resorts. During the summer, the area is swarming with tourists. They mostly come for the beach, as it’s the only sand beach in the Cinque Terre area.
Another reason to visit is the old town. The historic buildings help the village retain its old fishing village atmosphere. The centre of the town even has a small public square surrounded by a few cafes and shops.
Take a trip around the old town and then walk down to the beach to continue your trip. It’s technically possible to see all five villages with just 24 hours in Cinque Terre, but that doesn’t give you time to explore the sites a little deeper. It’s a half-day trek along the trails from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore.
Instead of spending all your time on the trail, you’ll hike to a couple of the villages. First, walk over to the Tourist Information Center. It’s directly opposite the beach, inside the railway and bus station.
When you reach the information centre, ask which trails remain open to the public. Throughout the year, portions of the path may not be open, requiring you to skip the hike and take a ferry.
Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza
After a short trip around the streets of the old town in Monterosso, start trekking to Vernazza. When trying to see most of Cinque Terre in 24 hours, you can’t spend too much time in each village, as you never know how long a hike might last.
This leg of the journey typically takes about an hour and a half to two hours. You’ll start on the path along the coastline before venturing into the hillside.
The path starts to narrow and includes a few steep spots. While the paths are safe for people of all ages, always use caution when travelling over rocky or slippery terrain.
Along the way, you’ll have a few chances to view the ocean from open lookout points. Unfortunately, most of this hike takes you behind foliage and into the landscape.
View the coastline from the hills around Vernazza
As you reach the end of the hike from Monterosso, you’ll see the top of the clock tower extending from the Church of Santa Margherita in Vernazza. It’s the first attraction that you’ll visit as you enter the small village.
The smaller village only covers 12 square kilometres and includes a cluster of colourful buildings built near the waterfront. In front of the buildings, there is a tiny stretch of beach, often filled with locals during the warmer months.
When you arrive, head straight for the main square and the church. The church is typically open to the public. As with the other buildings in the village, the exterior of the church is colourful, but the interior is rather plain.
It’s a simple church without any ornate decorations. Most of the interior features exposed stone pillars and walls. It’s a quiet, peaceful place to spend a few minutes before exploring the rest of the village.
Along with the church, the village has a few other historic sites. Take a trip to Doria Castle and its lookout tower or the stone Chapel of Santa Marta on the main street.
One of the best sites in the village is the Sanctuary of Madonna di Reggio. The problem is that it takes about an hour to ascend the hillside to reach the sanctuary and its expansive views of the region.
Instead of travelling up to the sanctuary, visit the central part of the village and browse the shops. You’ll find many boutiques and small local shops selling handcrafted goods. You should also buy a few snacks and bottled water to take on your next hike.
Stretch your legs before continuing from Vernazza to Corniglia
Don’t wait too long before continuing your journey from Vernazza to Corniglia. This hike is a little shorter, taking about 60 to 90 minutes. It’s a 3.6-kilometre trek, and taking a train isn’t an option.
Some of the best things to do & see in Cinque Terre are found between the villages. As you travel to Corniglia, you’ll find wide-open paths that offer views of the coastline. You’ll even be able to look back and see the houses built on the hillside in Vernazza.
If your legs get tired, find a spot to rest for a moment. You’ll pass a few different clearings and flat areas where you could stop for a few minutes and eat a snack or enjoy the view.
Don’t worry about getting lost on the trail. It’s a single path from Vernazza to Corniglia. However, if you come back for a longer trip, you could explore some of the longer hiking trails.
The villages connect to a system of trails that go much deeper into the landscape. Hidden in the hills are a few historic churches and many camps, apartments, and hotels.
Grab a bite of authentic Italian cuisine in Corniglia
After about 60 to 90 minutes on the trail, you’ll eventually reach Corniglia. It’s smaller than both Monterosso and Vernazza and surrounded by vineyards and various terraces.
Most of the village is located high up on the hillside, instead of down by the sea. For those that arrive via boat or the train station, you’ll start near the sea. It’s a steep climb up 33 flights of stairs to reach the village of Corniglia.
Luckily, when you arrive in Corniglia via the hiking trail, you enter the village directly instead of needing to climb the stairs.
There isn’t a lot to do in Corniglia. While it’s the oldest village in Cinque Terre, it doesn’t contain any historic sites or specific attractions to visit. It’s mostly known for its locally grown white wine.
The only other major attraction is the Church of St. Peter. Built in the 14th century, the building has a combination of Baroque, Gothic, and Ligurian architectural elements.
Walk around the village and grab a bite if you’re hungry, but you’ll also have a chance for food in a few minutes when you reach Riomaggiore.
Relax with drinks and snacks near the waterfront in Riomaggiore
After trying the food in Corniglia, you’ll get to compare the dishes in Riomaggiore. The final stop on your one day in Cinque Terre is the area’s southernmost village.
Several years ago, you could walk the path from Corniglia to Manarola and then hike from Manarola to Riomaggiore. Unfortunately, the path is now closed.
As Corniglia is located at the top of the hills, it’s not easily accessible by boat. To reach Riomaggiore, you’ll need to hop on the train.
If you’re lucky, you can catch a train shortly after you finish touring Corniglia. The ride only takes a few minutes, allowing you to reach Riomaggiore before it gets dark.
When you arrive in Riomaggiore, you’ll see a landscape covered in brightly coloured houses rising from the hillside around the coastline.
It’s one of the largest villages in the region and contains a few old castles and churches. If it’s already dark, skip the historic sites and find a place to eat. If it’s still light outside, walk around Riomaggiore. All the attractions are within a few minutes of each other.
Finish off your trip with drinks or food near the waterfront. Several of the restaurants in Riomaggiore offer outdoor seating with views of the ocean, giving you the perfect ending to your tour of Cinque Terre.
Where to stay: The best hotels for 24 hours in Cinque Terre
While researching this unique set of villages, it can sometimes be a little confusing trying to pinpoint where to stay in Cinque Terre. For the best selection of accommodations and the most entertainment & dining options, Riomaggiore is one of the top choices for travellers in the area. Here are a few ideas…
- Locanda Ca Dei Duxi: Set in a 15th-century building, this no-frills hotel is located in the centre of Riomaggiore and is a short walk from the beach and the city’s top attractions.
- Hotel Del Sole: Another simple hotel in the centre of town offering bright comfortable rooms with plenty of space. A free Italian breakfast is offered each morning.
- Stellio Affittacamere Guest House: One of the hippest options in Riomaggiore, this boutique-style guest house charms visitors with modern furnishings and private balconies with sea views. The beach is a short walk away.