The Cinque Terre consists of five beautiful hillside towns (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso) on the west coast of Italy. This area is extremely picturesque and shouldn’t be missed. However, it is also a bit expensive. There’s only a few hostels and most accommodation and sit down meals are pricey. But with such breathtaking scenery, you will be able to find plenty of nature walks, trails, exploring, and vineyards in the surrounding areas that make it possible to visit on a budget if you stick to these free activities and the cheaper food. This part of Italy is probably my favorite and during summer time there is no where else I’d rather be!
Hostel prices – Dorm rooms cost between $30-40 USD a night and private rooms from $70 for a single bed and $120 for a double. The region isn’t cheap and there are only a couple of hostels between the five towns. If you want to find more hostel options, you need to stay in nearby La Spezia.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels start at $80 USD per night for a double room with a private bathroom, or $60 USD in the low season. For the most options, stay in Monterosso.
Average cost of food – Cinque Terre is an expensive place to eat. Generally, restaurant meals cost between $27-40 USD for a meal with drinks. Most restaurants open for lunch, close for their siesta, then open again around 7 pm for dinner. You can get cheap wine at the store for around $5 USD a bottle. In all the towns, you can get cheap pizza and paninis for $4 USD. A whole pizza will cost about $12 USD.
Transportation costs – Cinque Terre has several ways to get around. There is a system of walking and hiking trails that connect all of the towns. This is the best way to get around, but trails do vary in difficulty, so bring your tennis shoes! Trains also link the towns – if you’re going between all 5, purchase a Cinque Terre Card ($15.50 USD). This card grants unlimited access to the trains, buses, and the footpath that connects the villages. Make sure to buy a ticket because they check and fine!
Money Saving Tips
Hike the area – The hiking trails are the best and cheapest way to see the area. The red trails are free, and views are amazing!
Drink the tap water – Every town has a fountain with drinkable water. Refill your water bottles here and save yourself while helping the environment.
Eat the pizza and paninis – Sit-down meals in this region are very expensive. Stick to cheap sandwiches and pizza if you want to save money. Picnics from grocery stores in town of fresh pesto, cheese and focaccia is the way to go! (Though, the food is really good here so do try a restaurant meal at least once.)
Top Things to See and Do
Hike the Cinque Terre – Any traveler or local will tell you that you must hike the Cinque Terre. There really is no other way to see it. In fact, most people come to the Cinque Terre to go hiking. The views are amazing and simply can’t be described until you see them yourself. The coastal walk (the blue trail) is the easiest path and the best way to see the towns. If you want something more difficult, walk the red path through the steep hills and vineyards. (Path #8 is the most difficult.)
Go swimming – The water is so blue that you will just want to jump in. The cool waters also attract the locals especially the children who like to jump off of the nearby rocks. During Italian holidays, the beach areas get very crowded.
Rent a kayak – Being on the water makes the cliffs more dramatic, the colors more intense, and the water a deeper shade of blue. It’s a very different way to see the five towns.
Visit Torre Guardiola – This is a bird watching center and nature observation center, located just southeast of Riomaggiore marina, on Fossola Beach. There is a ton of local flora and fauna to be seen here, as well as lots of pretty birds flying about. There is a beautiful trail that leads down to the coast from the center, which ends at a great swimming spot.
Have an authentic Ligurian beach picnic – Grab yourself a basket and shop around town for some local goodies. There are some great little restaurants the serve fresh, hot focaccia and plenty of cheap local wines available. After that head to one of the beaches, where you can eat, swim, and be merry.
Check out Chiesa di Santa Margherita – This is a picturesque harbor with a water front piazza. This is a great spot for people watching and for taking a break from walking around. The gothic church, Sata Marghertia di Antiochia can also be found here. Originally built in 1318, it has a bell tower that is still intact.
Nativity in Manarola – If you happen to be visiting between December 8th and the end of January, this scene is worth a quick visit. The Nativity Manarola is the world’s biggest lighted nativity scene. The opening ceremony is a big event. Many locals come out and light candles.
Go camping – The spring through early fall is a beautiful time of year to go camping here and bookings tend to fill up quickly. There are a few campgrounds to choose from, which offer inexpensive tent set-ups, which include beds and linens. Camping Aqua Dolce is a hotspot, which is near town, but also very close to the beach.
Visit the Museo delle Cinque Terre Antiche – This is a small local history museum located in Riomaggiore. It talks about everyday life, and the region’s background as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance is free with the Cinque Terre Card.
Have a seafood dinner – You can’t get seafood fresher than from a restaurant overlooking the water. It may be expensive, but it’s worth a splurge at least once. Try the prawns, as they’re incredible in the Cinque Terre.
Explore castle ruins – In Monterosso, you can visit the ruins of a 16th-century castle built as a defense system after a Saracen attack. The ruins lie by the cemetery on San Cristoforo Hill.
Visit the churches – Every town along the Cinque Terre has its own collection of churches, which vary in age and architectural style. Take a peek inside the Church of San Lorenzo (Manarola), Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church (Vernazza), or San Pietro (Corniglia), for example.
Learn about Italian naval history – The Technical Naval Museum is located in La Spezia. The collection takes up two levels, and contains a lot of information and artifacts from the province’s naval history and naval warfare.