A Cinque Terre day trip is one of our favorite things to do while we are in Florence. Escaping the heat and enjoying the beautiful Mediterranean Sea is something we could do over and over again. We have probably made about 10 different trips to Cinque Terre and we have stayed the night. So as you might imagine, we have become quite proficient in planning a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence.
Most people who visit the major cities in central to northern Italy (from Rome to Florence and even to Milan), find themselves longing for the seaside villages of Cinque Terre. The problem is, how do you plan a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre. Planning a day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence will require a bit of research and a lot of energy. Or, you can just follow the tips below!
From Rome and Milan, a day trip to Cinque is quite difficult as the journey is 4+ hours by train. However, from Florence, you can reach Cinque Terre in about 2.5 hours by train. So how do you do it? Well, here are our tips for the most efficient way to do Cinque Terre as a day trip!
Staying in Florence? Check out our Florence travel guide!
If you try to buy a train ticket from Florence to Cinque Terre you’ll quickly find that Cinque Terre isn’t an available destination. From Florence, you can either train to Pisa and then La Spezia, or directly from Florence to La Spezia. La Spezia is the main coastal town just south of the Cinque Terre and from there you can take a short regional train to any of the 5 towns. Depending on the time of day, it may be faster to travel through Pisa or it may be faster to travel directly to La Spezia. Be sure to check the total travel time and arrival time before purchasing your ticket. Just because one train departs a few minutes before the other does not mean that it will arrive before the other.
You 2 train options from Firenze SMN to La Spezia Centrale are a direct regional train from Firenze SMN to La Spezia Centrale or a route through Pisa with 1 change.
If you’re certain of your departure and return times, you can easily purchase your train tickets from Florence to Cinque Terre online. Typically, if we aren’t certain of our travel times, we will wait until we arrive at the train station to purchase our tickets. However, because the trains from Florence to Cinque Terre run through La Spezia, they’re all regional trains. In Italy, regional trains have only 2nd class cabins, and no seats are assigned. As such, your regional train ticket is an open ticket. You need to punch/validate the ticket before departure. Do note that some of the trains may require a reservation as the Pisa to La Spezia route does run as a fast train.
If you’re traveling through Pisa, note that you will be required to book an additional reservation as the leg from Pisa to La Spezia is a fast train and requires you to book a seat. The reason for traveling through Pisa would be that it is faster in certain cases. While it requires a change of train, you can sometimes arrive in La Spezia faster than the direct regional train from Florence.
If you prefer to wait until you get to the train station, the automated machines are quite good and you can pay with your credit card.
Each day there are direct trains from Florence SMN to La Spezia Centrale at 06:08 and 09:53. Granted, train times might change depending on the season so be sure to download the Rail Planner app and check the timetables. The app is an offline database and as such doesn’t require wifi or data, so you can check train times without service. Score!
In order to ensure you have a chance to see most of the towns, we advise you to take the 06:08 train, however, if you need to leave during the 07:00 or 08:00 hours, you’ll take the route through Pisa.
Italian trains can sometimes be canceled or delayed and in Cinque, this is unfortunately very common. Check the train timetables and be sure to know your return options. Depending on which town you are in before leaving Cinque Terre, be sure you know how long the train takes to arrive in La Spezia. It is probably smart to make room for a 10-20 minute train from any of the towns in Cinque Terre to La Spezia, and then time to make a connection to catch a train from La Spezia to Florence (which might require a change in Pisa). Our best advice is to leave 1 train of cushion. Don’t take the last train (you might get stuck without a train home)! Rather, eat an early dinner and take the penultimate train to ensure that you don’t get stuck.
If you miss the last train from La Spezia to Florence, you will be stuck in La Spezia or Pisa. Because of a canceled train in Vernazza, we once ended up training from Vernazza to La Spezia and arriving after the final train had departed for Florence that night. We had to organize a €250 taxi to Pisa with 5 different strangers from 5 different countries and from there we took a bus back to Florence. This took HOURS, cost us way too much money, and stressed us out. So, make sure you leave some room for error since the Italian train system isn’t perfect.
Cinque is Italian for 5, so as you can expect, there are 5 towns in Cinque Terre. If you’re making a day trip, we suggest you see the 3 most popular, which we believe are also the 3 most beautiful: Manarola, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. If you get off a train in a given town, know that you’re in that town for 45 minutes to an hour until the next train comes. Trains generally run once per hour each direction between the towns.
If you have time, be sure to visit Riomaggiore and Corniglia as well, but know that there is far less to do in the towns.
The hike between Vernazza and Monterosso is one of the most beautiful hikes in the world and hiking Cinque Terre is one of the most appealing reasons to visit. It can be time-consuming, especially if you are only doing a day trip! However, you can get the gist of the hike by simply hiking from the center of Vernazza up to the vantage point over Vernazza (which offers the most beautiful view in Cinque Terre). This should take no more than 10 minutes each direction versus the potential 2-4 hours one might spend to hike between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza.
*Do note that you will be required to purchase a Cinque Terre trekking card to hike certain portions of the trail*
There are very few things in this world that are more enjoyable than a delicious homemade gelato on a hot day. After hiking and swimming in the hot Mediterranean sun all day, you’re going to want to treat yourself to a delicious gelato. When we are in Italy, we eat gelato every day – usually 2-3 times per day. Considering you will likely have to rush to your train after dinner, be sure to treat yourself to dessert before dinner. Gelateria Vernazza is the best gelateria in Cinque Terre.
Eating dinner before 20:00 or 21:00 is not particularly common for Italians. Most restaurants in Italy don’t even open until about 19:30. However, if you want to have time to enjoy your meal and ensure that you don’t miss your train, you’ll want to sit down for dinner by 18:00 or 18:30. If you have followed our suggestions thus far, you’ll be hungry by this point of the day anyway. Any time we wake up around 05:00 and spend the day hiking and swimming, we tend to eat an earlier dinner anyway. There’s a huge benefit to eating an early dinner in Cinque Terre anyway….you’ll beat the crowds. Be sure not to get too caught up in wine and conversation. Otherwise, you might miss your train and have to get a hotel for the night. Hm…at the end of the day, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad?
The summer train timetables are sometimes different than those throughout the rest of the year. As noted above, be sure to check the Rail Planner app for up-to-date schedules. Typically in high seasons, the last direct train from La Spezia Centrale to Florence leaves at 19:09.
There are trains that go from La Spezia Centrale > Pisa Centrale > Firenze SMN at 19:23, 20:03, and 21:23. If you miss the 21:23 from La Spezia, you won’t be getting back to Florence until at least 02:34 the next day.