Cinque Terre in a nutshell: things to know before discovering the Italian Riviera on a budget

HI! Here in Travelinch we know the positive power of getting some days-off from our casual lives. However, mostly we have a very limited amount of time and budget in our hands. And what to do if our chosen destination is as beautiful and ever gorgeous as Cinque Terre in Italy? We came up with this easy guide and some suggestions on how to make the most of your trip to the five breath-taking lands without breaking your bank.

Tickets and other inevitable purchases

First things first. Grab one of our offers. A round-trip flight ticket from Kaunas or London will cost approx. 20-30 Eur/£.  Next, you should think about a place to stay. Accommodation in Cinque Terre comes quite expensive, especially in high season, thus our suggestion is to try hostels and Airbnb’s in La Spezia and Levanto, since traveling to villages is very easy from here. We stayed in Genoa as it is a perfect base to explore the Ligurian coast and it is only an hour away from Cinque Terre. You should check the English version of the Italian railways here for personalized journeys. If you have just a couple of days in Italy, do not miss the chance to see this port-city.

We also highly recommend buying the multi-service pass which costs 13Eur for one day. It includes such services as shuttle buses, entrance fees to the trekking trails and it also allows unlimited travels with trains between any of the villages (Levanto-Cinque Terre-La Spezia line). They even have special offers for families too. For more information on types of tickets, and special offers check their page.

How to get around Cinque Terre? Trains, Trails, and hiking tips

The easiest and the most cost-effective way of getting around Cinque Terre is your own feet. Make no mistake – we are no super-fit hikers by any means, but we are happy to spend a considerable amount of time outdoors and admire beautiful surroundings whilst enjoying a glass of wine in between. However, you should really re-assess certain parts of the Cinque Terre trails and make decisions on your fitness levels accordingly.

The most beautiful and popular way of experiencing the five lands on foot is to follow the Sentiero Azzuro or the Blue Trail. This scenic coastal stretch covers all five villages and the total length of it is 12 km – approx. 6 hours. You can find the map here.

However, if you have just a single day in Cinque Terre, you should start your hike as early as possible to allow some rest time in between. Do not also forget to check the status and condition of certain parts of trails as it might be closed for reconstruction or security purposes.

If you are more fit and willing for an adventure and a bit of a challenge, you should try the High Path – the second most visited stretch in Cinque Terre, however, it is considerably longer than the first one – 35 km and it may require a longer stay in the five lands.  Either way, if you change your mind and decide that hiking is not your cup of tea, you may catch one of the trains that run frequently between the villages. These trains stop at every village and cost about 4 Eur per way. Catching a train might not be the best option money-wise (in case you don’t have the multi-service pass for 13 Eur), but it saves time and energy. It takes only half an hour to cover the whole stretch of villages from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore by train. And if you feel that you are not fit enough, but still wish to get a taste of hiking experience, we strongly advise you to start your mini-hike from Monterosso to Vernazza – it takes about 2 hours depending on your pace, but the views are absolutely gorgeous! Vernazza is even considered the most beautiful village so missing out on seeing it from above is a big no!

When is the best time to see Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is not a secret hideaway, on the contrary, it is one of the most visited places in Italy with up to 2,3 million tourists per year. Such an amount of visitors is quite overwhelming and crowds may become even more intense during peak months. Another con for making Cinque Terre your summer holiday destination is the Mediterranean warmth aggravating the hike along the trails – those steep steps may become physically challenging even for the fit ones. And the third reason to avoid visiting the five lands in summer is the significant increase in costs – restaurant and hotel prices are booming during summer.  So, the best time to see this national park and fully embrace the whole experience is either in the early spring or late autumn. Weather is still very mild and pleasant for walks and hikes during this low season.  We visited in mid-March and still were able to enjoy this lovely Italian sunshine, less crowded villages, and amazing views over the Ligurian sea.

What to pack in your luggage/bag?

The foremost important item to pack into your luggage is your comfortable walking shoes. If you are planning on embarking on the Blue Trail, ordinary sneakers will suffice, however, other trails require more serious hiking boots with reliable ankle support. Get some water and snacks before entering Cinque Terre as drinks and food in the villages tend to be overpriced. Certainly, you should not forget to wear layers of comfortable and breathable clothing. And finally, your camera is your no. 1 friend to capture one of the best views in Europe.

Where to eat and what to do?

Staying away from the regular sit-down restaurants is a necessity for those on a budget in Cinque Terre. The best option is to stick to take-away places and simple groceries stores. These places usually offer some inexpensive and delicious local foods, like pizza, focaccia/panini or fried octopus served in special paper-cups. You simply cannot go wrong with the food – it is absolutely delicious and fresh almost everywhere. Talking about the liquor – we had regular glasses of wines for 2 Eur, a pint of draught domestic beer costs 4-5Eur, a cup of espresso is also cheap – about 1,50 Eur.

When it comes to suggesting you some definite places to see and numerous things to do I guess we are out of ideas here as the best thing to do and see in Cinque Terre is absolutely nothing. No specific plans or agendas, just soak up the atmosphere. Enjoy your glass of limoncello. Dig into your pasta or fried octopus. Take beautiful pictures and selfies. Just be in the moment.