How to Get from Florence to Cinque Terre (Guide + Tips)

Lured by the picturesque charm of Cinque Terre‘s pastel houses perched atop rugged cliffs and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, many travelers find themselves planning a trip to the Ligurian coast from Florence. Not only is the region fairly close geographically to the Tuscan capital, but it’s also quite easy to get there by car, train, or tour.

While the car can be a convenient option for people already doing a road trip through Tuscany’s countryside, the best option to travel from Florence to Cinque Terre, in my opinion, is to ride the train.

Tours are also a nice option if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of driving there or taking public transportation. Or if you are short of time and you’re thinking of doing a day trip.

But let’s see how exactly you can get from Florence to the iconic Cinque Terre villages, one of the top destinations for which Italy is well known all over the world.

riomaggiore cinque terre

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The 5 fishing villages of Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a stunning area located on the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region. Its name roughly translates to “five lands” and it refers to the 5 small villages located here. These are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Coniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.

Located right on the coast, Riomaggiore is the southernmost village. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for stunning sea and mountain views. In addition, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy while you’re there.

Situated just north of Riomaggiore, Manarola is known for its picturesque streets and buildings, as well as amazing sunsets. It’s a great place to wander around and explore, with plenty of photo opportunities. Here you’ll also find the popular Nessun Dorma restaurant.

The smallest village of the five, Corniglia is located on a hilltop, so you’ll need to do a bit of climbing to visit it. It offers stunning views of the surrounding area and sea below, but it’s also the only village that can’t be visited by boat.

Vernazza is quite popular with visitors because of its colorful, picturesque harbor. Since it has a tiny beach, Vernazza is also a decent option if you want to swim, sunbathe, and relax for a few hours.

Lastly, Monterosso al Mare has a wide beach, so it’s a great place to base yourself if you plan to do a beach and sightseeing vacation. The village is also known for its lively atmosphere, but some people consider it to be the least picturesque.

vernazza, cinque terre, italy

Visiting Cinque Terre by car from Florence

The distance between Florence and Riomaggiore, the southernmost Terre is approximately 168km (around 104 miles), which translates on average, into around 2 and a half hours of driving.

However, while visiting the 5 villages by car can be scenic and convenient, I’d really advise against getting a rental with the sole purpose of traveling to Cinque Terre.

The roads in the region are quite difficult and narrow even for an experienced driver while parking inside the villages is practically impossible since many Italian towns and villages (and Cinque Terre is no exception) have restricted zones, called ZTLs (zona a traffico limitato).

Therefore even when there’s parking available, it’s usually located outside of the villages and most of the time they can’t accommodate the large number of daily visitors. Besides, residents also use these. So it’s really a gamble if you’ll be able to find an empty spot to park your car.

corniglia, cinque terre, italy
Corniglia | Fun fact: I only wore this dress once as I left it at my accommodation in Manarola by mistake

Parking in Cinque Terre

Having said all that, I’ll still list the main parking spots and conditions for each village, in case you visit during the off-season or if you want to try your luck.

MonterossoParking Loreto Terrazza2.5€/hNear the old part of the village.
Parking Fegina2.5€/hDecently sized parking near the beach. Has a toilet (1€), though it’s not always open.
Monterosso Parking20€/daySmall, but you can make a reservation on their site (it’s in Italian though).
VernazzaParking 1 & Parking 22.5€/h1.4km away from Vernazza’s harbor (uphill), but there’s also a shuttle. They usually ask for the car key to be able to maneuver cars around to make space. Call +393484432040 for availability or reservations.
CornigliaVia Stazione2.5€/hLimited parking on the side of the road, most is for residents. Use the blue marked spots (meaning paid parking) and pay at the machines.
ManarolaPark Manarola Loc. Posella3€/hRight before the ZTL, but still 900m away from Manarola’s harbor.
RiomaggioreRio Park3.5€/hRight before the ZTL barrier. You can use both cash and credit card.

If you want to spend a few nights in one of the villages and you’d like to bring the car with you, then I’d suggest staying in Monterosso al Mare since is the largest and also more flat.

But be prepared to pay a considerable amount of money, since parking is as you can see, quite expensive in the region.

Alternative to parking in Cinque Terre

If you are still set on driving or if you are already doing a road trip through Tuscany and want to add Cinque Terre to your itinerary, my suggestion is to leave your rental in one of the bigger towns nearby and visit the villages by train.

Since you’ll be arriving from Florence, the obvious choice is La Spezia.

The entire journey time from Florence to La Spezia is approximately 2 hours with tolls and 2 hours and 25 minutes without tolls. You can leave your car at the parking garage under the train station, called Park Centro Stazione. It costs 1.5€/hour.

If you don’t know yet what to do and see in Tuscany’s capital, then you should also check my itinerary for spending 2 days in Florence.

manarola cinque terre italy
Manarola at sunset

La Spezia to Cinque Terre

From La Spezia, you can board the Cinque Terre Express which runs between the villages with numerous connections every day, or opt for the ferry (it runs from the end of March to the beginning of November).

Remember though: Corniglia doesn’t have sea access (since it’s located atop a steep hill), so you’ll miss seeing it if you decide to visit the villages by boat. However, you can choose to visit Portovenere instead, which is dubbed by many as the 6th unofficial Terre.

Since there are many boat trips every day, you usually don’t have to worry that you’ll not be able to secure a ticket. The ferries leave from the harbor, so after you arrive at La Spezia train station, head directly there.

Lastly, if you have enough time on your hands, my top tip is to first travel to all the villages by regional train, and afterward (preferably around sunset) take the boat trip to see them from another angle.

cinque terre ferry
Cinque Terre ferry

How to get to the Cinque Terre from Florence by train (Best option!)

Visiting the 5 villages of Cinque Terre by train is hands down the best option, in my opinion. Every village has a train station and there are many connections every day, running at regular intervals. The journey between 2 adjoined Terres is usually around 5 minutes.

Besides it only takes a few minutes to travel from one tiny village to another since the distances between them are pretty short.

Since there are no direct trains from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella Station to the villages, you will have to switch to the Cinque Terre Express at La Spezia Centrale Station. Many routes require an additional change in Pisa too.

The total travel time between Florence and La Spezia by train is about 2 and a half hours and it starts at 15 euros (check for tickets here or here). If you want to take advantage of the cheapest price, you should buy your ticket in advance as long-distance trains in Italy tend to get more expensive as the departing time approaches.

From La Spezia, it then only takes 7 – 8 minutes to reach Riomaggiore, the first Terre.

monterosso al mare cinque terre
Monterosso al Mare (newer side)

When you hop around Cinque Terre you can get train tickets as you go from the ticket machines located at every station.

But if you plan to hike between the villages, then you can buy the Cinque Terre Train Card which also grants you unlimited train travel for the Cinque Terre Express trains on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line.

You can get the Cinque Terre card at every train station or from the tourist information points. I shall note that a hiking card is required only for the Monterosso to Vernazza and Vernazza to Corniglia hiking trails (which are also the most popular), the rest are free.

Florence to Cinque Terre by tour

I’m a big advocate of spending at least 2 days in Cinque Terre to have enough time to leisurely explore the five villages. Not to mention that staying one or even a few nights in the region will allow you to witness a quieter, less busy face of the Terres, as the day trippers leave.

However, if you are really short of time and plan to visit Cinque Terre in a single day from Florence, then booking a tour might be your best bet.

Not only will the journey be hassle-free in terms of planning and navigation, but most tours are organized in such a way that you can see all of the highlights within a single day, even considering the rather long distance between Florence and Cinque Terre.

Still, be prepared to spend quite some time on the bus.

Here are a few good tour options that can take you from Florence to the picturesque Cinque Terre:

Manarola viewpoint

The best time to visit Cinque Terre

Long story short May, September, and October are the best months to visit Cinque Terre in my opinion. The temperatures are perfect for exploring and the villages are not as crowded as in the high season.

If you plan to do water activities on top of sightseeing, however, then you should aim for the summer months. They’re as busy as they can be, but the water will be warmer then allowing for a more comfortable swim in the sea.

Strategies to avoid crowds in Cinque Terre

As already mentioned, the summer months attract the most visitors. A good compromise between crowds and good weather for sightseeing is traveling during the shoulder months.

Visiting Cinque Terre in the off-season will guarantee the least crowds, but the weather could be quite unpredictable. While you’ll avoid the peak tourist season hordes, rain and cooler temperatures are more common from November through early March.

Not to mention that some of the hiking trails that connect the villages may be closed due to weather conditions as well.

However, there’s one more aspect when trying to avoid the crowds, that many people don’t really take into consideration: the nearby harbor of La Spezia receives quite a fair amount of cruises, especially during summertime.

To avoid sightseeing at the same time as the passengers of these large ships, check their arrival schedule on a site like cruisemapper or cruisedig and plan your visit (if possible) on a day when there’s no cruise stop.

Riomaggiore viewpoint

Final thoughts

If you’re looking for an unforgettable Italian experience, you should add Cinque Terre to your itinerary. These five colorful villages, perched on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea offer stunning views, delicious food, and plenty of activities to keep you busy.

Getting from Florence to Cinque Terre is easy thanks to the convenient train system in Italy, so don’t miss out on this amazing part of the country. However, you can also drive or book a tour if either of these options fits your schedule better.

Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your favorite village?


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