Last Updated on June 28, 2019
Cinque Terre with Kids
The Cinque Terre 5 villages absolutely blew us away! What an incredible place to vacation with the family, we stopped here on our winter tour in Europe with a little caravan.
Built around the 11th century and accessible only by boat or footpath for centuries, the villages were quite isolated until the train lines were started in 1870 and by the 1960s the road between the villages was opened.
The kids loved the Cinque Terre hiking trails between the villages, playing on the beaches and exploring the five villages that make up this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cinque Terre Trip – Self Drive Travel Advice
The first piece of advice!
- It might be a bit of a joke on us tourists, combined with my neglect to plan efficiently. Our navigator app and off-line maps were miss-firing (for most of the European adventure), and when the clearest road signs we could recall seeing in weeks were there, beckoning us to head for the Cinque Terre and leaving La Spezia behind, we followed…
Friends who owned a property in Corniglia, along the Cinque Terre walking trail, had said ‘do not drive into the villages, take the train’. That piece of advice I recalled easily and expected to simply follow this well-signposted road and arrive, happily, at a train station somewhere.
Attempting to be sensible, we stopped at the clearly marked information center along the road, only to find it closed as it was the low season still. No signs indicated to be wary of driving further or suggesting not to, and buses were going the same way as us, initially.
Scary roads, with impossibly steep sections and hairpin bends, do not faze me, though this one was a bit on the hairy scary side of life. Towing a little 2 berth caravan added to the ‘fun’!
With few turning areas anyway, we plowed on. Reveling in the unbelievably beautiful scenery – the Mediterranean Sea was a perfect blue with sun sparkles reflecting off it, the steep, terraced hillsides were to be seen to be believed. To say it was breathtaking, does not do it justice.
Then we arrived in Vernazza, to the surprise of the parking attendant. He was aghast and flapping his arms to say we could not drive further as the road narrowed further on (crikey, could it really narrow anymore than it had been?) and was only suitable for the itty bitty cars of the world. Not medium-sized vehicles with itty bitty caravans.
We returned the way we had come and traveled via the highway north to Levanto. On the way out we passed a large motorhome being driven down into Vernazza! The driver did not seem to understand our hand gestures warning him to turn and not go further… we heard the scrape of the tail end of the motorhome on the road as he negotiated the tight bend, continuing down the hill…
A simple (big) sign near the closed information center, with a graphic to suggest no cars past this point unless they were tiny, would have been handy. Having said that though, we would have missed some scenery that, I for one, was so thrilled to see! One day, I plan to drive it again, out of season, without towing a van.
The 5 Villages of the Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre in Italy is made up of five beautiful little villages, clinging to the rugged coast of Liguria on the Italian Riviera. Declared a World Heritage site since 1997, the villages date from early medieval times. The oldest, Monterosso, was founded in AD 643. The other villages are Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Manarola.
Steeply terraced cliffs contain vineyards and olive groves, etched into the landscape over nearly two millennia.
The Cinque Terre means “five lands” The five villages are:
- Monterosso al Mare
Corniglia is the only village of the five that is not really close to the sea, it sits about 1000 feet above the coastline.
Best hikes in Cinque Terre
The best Cinque Terre walking trail runs between the villages, this can be done as a whole or in sections. Walks of Italy is a good starting point for further details of the walk.
The most popular walking trail in the Cinque Terre is called the Blue Trail (footpath no. 2). It is 13 km (8 miles) winding through all of the gorgeous five villages and takes about five hours.
The walking paths are open all year round, but very often it seems, some sections may be closed due to landslides or events. We were told the day we planned to walk, that there was a running race on and the trail between Corniglia and Vernazza was closed. Luckily, by the time we headed off from Corniglia, the race was over and we enjoyed the trail to ourselves. The only other people we saw were two local girls. Bliss.
The Cinque Terre trail is known to be insanely busy in the peak season when most of us have our vacation time, we were there in March – superb weather and crowd-free.
Beautiful late afternoon sun as we did our self-guided Cinque Terre walking tour.
Cinque Terre for Kids
This part of Italy is perfect for families. Kids can hike and rock scramble for hours along the trails and on the beaches. It is easy to get around by using the train and the walking paths and each of the villages are compact enough to explore with children.
Accessing the Cinque Terre
As mentioned above, I personally loved the experience we had driving part of the road along the Cinque Terre. Realistically though, it can be a dangerous road with some sections only wide enough for one car to pass at a time. It is steep, with very sharp bends.
Parking in La Spezia at the new car park by the train station or in Levanto to the north of the Cinque Terre and then catching the train is the best option. Parking in any of the little villages is very limited, expensive and not advised.
Train Travel – Cinque Terre
The train between Levanto and La Spezia takes about an hour or so, stopping at the five villages along the way. Passing through tunnels and clinging to the coastline, it is a great rail journey. It is easy to stop and start at each village, check the timetables carefully for connections.
The train journey between each of the five villages takes only a few minutes:
- La Spezia – Riomaggiore 9 minutes
- Riomaggiore – Manarola 2 minutes
- Manarola – Corniglia 4 minutes
- Corniglia – Vernazza 4 minutes
- Vernazza – Monterosso 5 minutes
- Monterosso – Levanto 5 minutes
How do you get to Cinque Terre from Florence?
By train from Florence, the trip takes about 2.5 hours. Ciao Florence offers some fantastic tour bus options to the Cinque Terre and may be an ideal choice for many travelers short on time, though we definitely recommend taking at least two days to enjoy the region.
Boat Travel in the Cinque Terre
A great way to experience travel in the Cinque Terre is by using a combination of train and boat. Seeing the coast from the sparkling Mediterranean is superb!
Villas and Hotels in the Cinque Terre
One of the best villas in the Cinque Terre and a family favorite is the Villa Helvezia in Levanto. It is spacious, sparkling clean, beautifully furnished and a balcony with gorgeous views across the rooftops of this pretty village and out to the Mediterranean Sea. It is a 600m stroll to the beach.
Cheap Accommodation in the Cinque Terre
Rooms and whole homes can be rented in all the villages of the Cinque Terre. Each of the five villages has a unique character and it would be hard to say one is better than the other – they are all simply stunning.
Air BnB is one way to find not only budget accommodation but somewhere unique to stay. Browse listings to see some of the amazing accommodation on offer.
Accommodation in La Spezia
It is cheaper to stay in La Spezia yet it is still close to the 5 Villages, just 9 minutes by train to the nearest village, Riomaggiore. This is a good option if you are on a budget.
The Hotel Birillo is quite a good choice and less than 10 minutes walk to the train station. Another hotel close to the train station and one with some rather quirky features is the Albergo delle Spezie
Camping and Hostels in the Cinque Terre
One of the best and highly rated backpacker hostels in the area is the 5 Terra Hostel
Located in the little town of Corvara just outside the Cinque Terre National Park, The 5 Terre Backpackers is super popular with a friendly vibe, stunning views and a friendly host.
The Mar-Mar hostel is a super cozy little backpackers in the village of Riomaggiore, right in the center of the action and ideal for singles and couples in particular.
Camping and Caravanning – We had a little caravan, so stayed for two days in the Cinque Terre at the Camping Aqua Dolce site in Levanto. Close to the village, train station, shops, and beach.
Search more Cinque Terre Accommodation options
Find some of the best deals and where to stay in the Cinque Terre. With so many places to stay within the five villages of Cinque Terre, it is easy to find budget accommodation up to the very best luxury hotels and apartments.
After our stay in the 5 Villages region of Italy, we continued our drive around the coastline and into France.
One of the highlights was riding ponies in the Camargue and then heading north to Chamonix for some skiing time again.