Before you go – deciding where to stay:
The Cinque Terre is formed by 5 little villages (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso) connected by a railway on the beautiful Italian Mediterranean coast. The distance between each of these little towns vary from 2 to 4 minutes by train. Finding a place to stay can be really challenging and expensive if you want to stay in one of the 5 little towns, this is why staying in La Spezia, a neighboring city just 8 minutes away, makes the most sense.
- La Spezia is a real city, equipped with everything you need, but the main attraction is the train station – that’s how you will easily reach the Cinque Terre. There are plenty of options of places to stay in La Spezia, making room on your budget and making sense logistic-wise.
- The train ride from La Spezia to Riomaggiore is only 8 minutes long and costs around €2 per person (kids younger than 4 don’t pay).
- Corniglia is another town that offers good accommodation prices. Be careful though, it is a very steep, hilly city, with lots of stairs everywhere you want to go. I do NOT recommend staying in Corniglia if you have kids (or if you are bringing a large suitcase).
* I recommend stay at Affittacamere Casa Danè in La Spezia
Day 1 – Riomaggiore
After checking in and grabbing everything you will need for the day take the train and leave on the first stop. Welcome to the Cinque Terre! Riomaggiore is not the most beautiful city of the Cinque Terre but it is comfortable to walk around, find a restaurant and relax from your trip. Spend the rest of your day checking out the little town and head back to La Spezia after dinner.
Day 2 – Monterosso, Vernazza
On your second day head straight to Monterosso, the 5th city. That’s where the best sandy beaches are! You can choose between finding a spot at the public part of the beach or paying €15 per day (prices vary according to season) to use an umbrella and a chair on the private beach. Spend your morning and afternoon absorbing some vitamin sea, let your kids enjoy the wave-free ocean. After a few hours you will get hungry. Time to get a delicious focaccia (typical from this region of Italy) or a fritto misto (mouthwatering mix of deep-fried anchovies, shrimp and calamari) to go.
*People here rarely sit down on restaurants to eat during lunch. ‘To go food’ can be found everywhere. You can eat it at the beach or sitting on a bench, by the shade, enjoying the ocean view.
Take the train to Vernazza, one of the most beautiful views of the Cinque Terre can be found there. It’s at the trail-head to Monterosso. Let your husband take care of the kids for 15 minutes (leave them in a Gelateria) and go pursue the most sought after picture of Liguria!
If your kids are like mine they will want more time at the beach, Vernazza has a great calm small patch of sandy beach. Not as beautiful as Monterosso, but perfect for kids. Enjoy the rest of your time strolling around and exploring the streets of this charming town.
Day 3 – Monterosso, Manarola
One day at the beach will never be enough for our kids, so here we go again spend the morning at Monterosso. When you are done with the beach, take the ferry to Manarola. This is a very scenic ferry ride, try to get a window seat (or go on the rooftop!) and have your camera ready!
*Alternatively, rent your own boat. Pay €100 for 4 hours (in 2 ours you can cover all 5 cities and you still have two more hours to relax and dive into the sea if you want. No previous experience riding boats is necessary since they are fairly small and they are equipped with infant/toddler life jacket sizes. Look for these boat rentals at Vernazza, Manarola and Monterosso by the Marina. It is advised to reserve in advance (and pay half of the amount upfront)
Arriving in Manarola by ferry is breathtaking. Explore the city and head to restaurant Nessun Dorma. You don’t necessarily need to eat there (although I do recommend that) but you just have to check out the views from the opposite cliff. Amazingly enough there is a playground for kids nearby and from that spot you will have the best sunset views of Cinque Terre.