Whether you are planning your 1sttrip to Italy with kids or whether you have already visited Italy with kids many times, I believe the romantic, colourful and breathtaking Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera coastline has to be seen at least once.
There are not many places on earth that are so unique, beautiful and so often listed in a traveler’s bucket list.
Over the years this place has been visited by thousands and thousands of people and during peak times it is literally swamped by tourists coming from far and near. The official tourism board actually urges travelers and visitors not to visit the Italian Riviera Coastline during peak summer times, as they cannot cope anymore. It is kind of sad that due to mass tourism the region is suffering.
I certainly urge you to do the same. However, if this is not possible during your travel arrangements here is how you can visit the Cinque Terre with kids in one day and most importantly stress-free with or without kids.
This will give you a taste of how beautiful the Cinque Terre is and a first experience of what could be done on a second visit. If you follow our guide “Cinque Terre with Kids – How best to visit in one day – Stress free” you will still experience the beauty this unique stretch of Italian Riviera Coastline has on offer and experience the best day in Italy with kids.
Where is Cinque Terre in Italy?
For sure you have seen the photos all over the internet when searching for the Italian Riviera Coastline, but you might not be quite sure where this beautiful place actually is.
Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged North Italian Riviera coastline. There are five towns, all equally beautiful with colourful houses and vineyards clinging to steep terraces, tiny harbours filled with fishing boats and local artisanal shops turning out the freshest seafood specialties along with the famous sauce from the Liguria region, Pesto.
The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What are the five villages of the Cinque Terre?
Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, listed from left to right when looking at the National Park from the sea.
Already just writing this makes me want to return.
How Best to visit Cinque Terre with Kids in One Day – Stress-Free even in Peak Season
Start your trip in la Spezia, which by the way is also a nice place to discover before or after your magical stress-free Cinque Terre with kids excursion.
The train to Monterosso departs from La Spezia Centrale Station. If you want this best day in Italy with kids to be stress-free and super enjoyable then do take the train and boat as the villages are not car accessible. The kids will love to spend time on the train and later on the boat and so will you. Trust me.
There is affordable off-street parking around the station just drive around until you find a place. Over the weekend and in the morning, you should have no problem at all to find a place. If you plan to visit during the week you might just have to drive around a bit longer to find a parking as the locals are using them as well for commuting to work.
The 22min train journey will pass through tunnels to each of the Cinque Terre villages. You do not see much of the villages from this journey, but in the sections between you will see the azure blue of the Ligurian Sea shimmering through.
Arriving in Monterosso in Cinque Terre
Depending on the time of the year you visit, the train might be quite full and so will be the station. Don’t worry as if you follow the way we visited the Cinque Terre with kids in one day then you will soon lose most of the crowds.
When you exit the station, the blue sea lies straight in front of you. Several small shops are offering souvenirs, postcards and real Italian coffee.
Walk along the path (sea on your right) to bring you to the 2nd bay and the less crowded one. The short walk on its own is a beauty in itself as it brings you over the hill where earlier there must have been a castle or some kind of royal building. The view is breathtaking.
Just before the path is taking you over the hill you will see the inviting beach with the famous Monterosso Rock. During peak season this beach has sun-umbrellas and sunbeds. I think this is a hotel beach and not accessible for Cinque Terre one day tourists. No problem, take some photos and head on. Just for info if you visit during off season the beach has no umbrellas nor sunbeds, perfect to enjoy the nature without any colourful obstacles in the way.
As you carry on walking the path splits. One path is through the tunnel and the other recommended one will lead you on a beautiful short path over a small hill, offering stunning views and a bit of a medieval feeling.
On the other side you will find a Piazza with restaurants, shops plus a small port with a public beach. There is also a play area for the kids with much needed shade.
Now, I hope you packed your swimming costumes. Spend some time at the beach and absorb the surroundings. Especially if you’re not planning on doing the two hours hike to Vernazza.
How to get to Vernazza in Cinque Terre
After you have enjoyed Monterosso book your boat ticket. Our suggestion is to cruise all the way to La Spezia which costs about 35 Euro. With the hop-on hop-off ticket, the boat stops at all other Cinque Terre Villages except Corniglia as it has no port. Check out the different possibilities with the office right at the 2ndbeach in Monterosso from where the boats are embarking.
Vernazza is often considered the most beautiful of the five villages in Italy’s Cinque Terre, it dates back way in to the Medieval time and the village has beautiful stony narrowed passageways leading up to the hillside vineyards.
If you happen to be there at noon, listen out for the sound of harbour church bells rolling across the centre and out over the shimmering waters of Vernazza’s harbour. I love it when traditions like these are kept not only for the tourists but also for the few locals that are calling Vernazza their home.
Have a stroll through the village, enjoy an ice cream or two and head back to the harbour where it is well worth just to sit down and people watch whilst the kids can play at the harbour beach.
Check the timetable for the next part of your journey which will pass in front of Corniglia and stops again at Monarola.
Seeing the villages from a boat gives you a superb perspective of how tiny and cramped these villages actually are and with the colourful houses, the azure sea and the forestation behind, this is a view long to be remembered.
Our suggestion for Cinque Terre
Stay on the boat until PortoVenere which you simply cannot miss. As this is your Cinque Terre one day trip, and probably you travel Italy with kids, then make the compromise of skipping the other two Cinque Terre villages, enjoy the Italian Riviera coastline on the boat ride and get off again in Porto Venere. You will thank me for it.
Arriving in Porto Venere by Boat (Portovenere)
You have now spent a good hour on the boat and hopefully enjoyed the beautiful cruise along the Italian Riviera coastline. Your best day in Italy might soon be at an end but never the less you still have the “bonus” visit of this itinerary “Cinque Terre one day visit with kids” before you. Portovenere is the lesser known medieval fishing village and mostly overlooked. It is situated just south of the Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera coastline. A charming village well worth the visit.
Already when the boat turns the corner and enters in to the harbour area you are in awe. Although very similar to the Cinque Terre villages we found Porto Venere less crowded and you do have a bit more space to actually walk around without standing on each other’s feet all the time.
Head up the hill from the ancient city gate through the narrow medieval streets lined with shops to the Doria castle and the picturesque church of San Pietro which is situated on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea.
Portovenere has so much to offer that it is well worth to spend the night here or if not definitely to pencil it in for a longer visit on your next trip to Italy and the Cinque Terre with kids.
Wow this is it, your best day in Italy comes slowly but surely to an end. Hop back on the boat to La Spezia to finish your journey. I believe that this Cinque Terre one day trip itinerary with or without kids was stress free and that you could all enjoy the beauty that Cinque Terre has to offer without getting frustrated at the thousands of tourists stressing through the villages. I hope you also enjoy Italy’s Portovenere and maybe are already planning to come back and visit Cinque Terre and Portovenere for more than just one day.
Alternatives & Suggestions in the Cinque Terre with Kids
Hike from Monterosso to Vernazza – If you visit off-season and have time to do some hiking and your kids are seasoned hikers, then I would definitely suggest to make the two hours hike starting from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza. There are some steep steps involved and if it is a hot day you need to ensure to take plenty of water. But the path is amazing and offers beautiful views. The best part has to be when you approach Vernazza and the 1stview down to the harbour. Again, a super iconic photo-shot seen many times on the web. Well now it can also be your photo that can be featured. Note that for all hiking you need a hiking permit which you can buy at the beginning of the path.
Hike from – Vernazza to Corniglia– this part has slightly a shorter walking time at only 90 minutes and has some very impressive sections. The trail is more open compared to the 1sthike so be prepared on a hot day. The hike offers breathtaking views along the Italian Riviera coastline whilst the vegetation mixes olive trees with vineyards. A hike in the Cinque Terre with kids you will certainly remember for years to come.
Stop at Corniglia by train – In the morning when you’re taking the train to Monterosso you might want to stop at Corniglia as the boat will not stop there.
There are a fair set of stairs bringing you up to the romantic village of Corniglia. Just check the train time to Monterosso and ensure not to miss the connections with the boat later on.
Enjoy the sunset and have dinner– Now this is possible but you would have to skip Portovenere and schedule it in for the next day. Why not?
Our kids were too young when we visited to stay out for a sunset and dinner activity but we have done it pre-kids. Manarola would be your Cinque Terre village for this. There is an amazing restaurant- Nessun Dorma– which offers uninterrupted views over to the village and its harbour. We strongly recommend that whichever restaurant you choose, to book in advance to ensure a table. Trains run past midnight so you can make the most out of your one day in Cinque Terre.
Did you got inspired? What I wanted to show you with this “Cinque Terre with Kids – How Best to visit in One Day” guide, is that sometimes less is simply more.
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