People who’ve never been to Italy rarely think to travel from Florence to Cinque Terre. They always assume, based on the location of the site, that Milan would be a better starting point.
(Spoiler alert: I’m going to explore how to reach Cinque Terre from Milan—and several other cities in Italy—in just a minute. Patience!)
Indeed, the colorful seaside ambiance of Cinque Terre’s five “lands” perfectly complements regal, golden Florence. Here’s how to travel between these two must-visit destinations, and what to do from the moment you disembark the train in Monterosso.
From La Spezia, local trains to Cinque Terre leave every 10-15 minutes. These are bound for various termini (usually Genova, but sometimes also Levanto), but always stop at each of the five “lands.” The journey time is between 15-30 minutes, depending on where you get off at. The trains stop in Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso—the reverse order I’m going to recommend that you visit them.
Cinque Terre’s Five “Lands”
For me, Monterosso is the most underrated of the five “lands,” particularly because of its beach. The dazzling beauty of its clear waters and white sand makes up for the fact that Monterosso’s buildings aren’t as colorful as those in the other four. I also recommend you come here first because morning light best suits Monterosso.
Your second stop on your journey from Florence to Cinque Terre and back should be Vernazza. Like middle children in human families, I find Vernazza often gets overlooked—this makes sense, since it has neither the impressive architecture of Manarola, nor Monterosso’s amazing beaches.
Corniglia, meanwhile, is the smallest of the five “lands,” although it sits upon an absolutely massive cliff that juts into the sea—you’ll only see this from far away. Corniglia is the best point of access for Spiaggia Guvano, the Cinque Terre nude beach that one friendly reader informed me has recently closed.
If you’re looking for the post-postcard perfect shot, then Manarola is a spot you won’t want to miss on your Florence to Cinque Terre day trip. I’ve put it near the end of my suggestion list because the afternoon and early evening light tends to suit its buildings, which face west, better than the morning’s.
Riomaggiore, on account of its size and closeness to La Spezia, is probably the most-visited place in Cinque Terre. It also has the most hotels, Airbnb properties and restaurants—calamari fritti, anyone? With this being said, Riomaggiore is probably my least favorite of the cinque terre, even if it’s still pretty impressive.
How to Visit Cinque Terre from Milan, Rome and Beyond
If you want to visit Cinque Terre on a day trip from Milan, you have to take a slightly different route. Specifically, ride any high-speed train from Milan to Genova, where you can catch the local train (bound for La Spezia) all the way through the five “lands.” Note that if you come this way, you will travel in the order I listed the stations above, starting in Monterosso and ending in Riomaggiore.
Coming from Rome, you would simply follow the same instructions for Florence to Cinque Terre, except you would first ride any high-speed train from Roma Termini to Firenza Santa Maria Novella. Note that although the one-way journey between Rome and Florence isn’t long, adding these extra 2-3 hours to your day means you should leave Rome as early in the morning as possible.
Other FAQ About Your Trip to Cinque Terre
How many days do you need in Cinque Terre?
Although I’ve written this post with the assumption you’ll be visiting Cinque Terre on a day trip, you can easily spend 2-3 days in Cinque Terre. I’d recommend basing yourself in Manarola or Vernazza, then using local trains and hiking trails to slowly explore the five “lands” over the course of your trip.
The Bottom Line
Whether or not you travel from Florence to Cinque Terre—you may come from Milan, or even Rome—is irrelevant. What is important is how you spend your time here. Some travelers will aim to visit all five “lands,” which is ambitious for a day trip, but definitely doable. Other travelers will focus on one or two—my favorites are Manarola and Monterosso, although your mileage may vary.