Your Day Trip Itinerary to Cinque Terra with Young Children
We have visited so many beautiful places around Italy and now I can add Cinque Terra to the “highly recommend” list. Consisting of five beautiful waterfront towns with hiking trails connecting them, Cinque Terre is an ideal spot for avid hikers and backpackers, but there are alternative ways to experience all the beauty Cinque Terre has to offer.
Cinque Terra is possible traveling with small kids- we did it with ours: ages 8, 5, and 3. In this blog post I’m going to share the best itinerary and modes of transportation to see Cinque Terra with small kids.
Cons to Cinque Terre with kids
Prior to coming we (aka: my husband) did a ton of research about how to navigate the five little waterfront towns with a stroller and small children. Originally, our plan was to stay at hotel? in Corniglia. I bet it’s beautiful there. But the more we read about that particular town, we realized it may be too difficult to accomplish with small kids. Firstly, we would be driving into town at night and the roads are narrow and windy; that didn’t sound fun. Also, the town is steep on the edge of a cliff overlooking the water which seemed stressful with a toddler. Lastly, we read that there are a lot of stairs which would make bringing a stroller rather difficult.
Accommodations Outside Cinque Terre
We opted to stay in Lucca at a cute little boutique hotel instead. It was gorgeous and perfect in every way, except when we arrived at 9pm that first night we discovered children under ten years were not permitted… and we had three of them. Somehow when we booked off a separate booking site it transferred our reservation to have all adults. As a family run Inn, we were able to speak with the owners, and they agreed to allow us to stay.
If you have older children or are traveling without kids, we would highly recommend this hotel. The breakfast was phenomenal and the owners were extremely hospitable in every way. We really enjoyed our stay and it was the perfect day trip distance (1.5 hours) to Cinque Terre and 3 hour drive from Rome.
Day Trip Itinerary in Cinque Terre:
Getting into Cinque Terre, we discovered the easiest, fastest, and most affordable option was to travel by train. To get between towns, the cost is only 4 EU and it certainly takes away the stressors of driving a car on windy roads and the hassle of finding parking spots in each town.
Another option is to travel by boat once you’ve arrived in one of the five towns (with the exception of Corniglia, which is too high above the Mediterranean to have a port).
Park at the train station in La Spezia
We drove our rental car to La Spezia. There is a large parking garage at the train station, so it’s pretty easy to park and get to the train station from there.
Purchase a ticket to Monterosso
Trains seem to run pretty often, there are monitors that inform you how many minutes before the next train arrives and the ride itself is not long. The trains are beautiful, clean and comfortable, multiple stories; the kids LOVED climbing to the second floor and the whole experience was an event for them. Riding the train in Italy was so special for the kids.
Monterosso is an adorable town and seemingly the safest of the five towns for children. It’s pretty flat with a long sandy beach with clear water, rock formations shooting out of the water and a number of shops, restaurants and gelato stands. We caught lunch on a water view dock and let the kids play in the sand before purchasing boat tickets at the dock to head to the next town.
Traveling by boat
Like the train, taking a boat between each town felt like an event for our kids. They loved being able to see the water, looking for whales and dolphins and seeing the waves crash into the cliffs back at shore. The boat ride is only about ten to fifteen minutes between each town so there’s little time to get sea sick if that is an issue for anyone.
If you can decide which towns you’d like to visit by boat ahead of time, you can purchase one ticket for your desired destinations and follow a time sheet to know when a boat arrives and departs from each town without having to purchase a boat ticket in each town. We decided the three towns we really wanted to visit with the time we had were: Monterosso, Vernazza, and catch Manarola (the most picturesque) as the sun began to set. I loved going in this order because each town got more scenic along the way, saving the best for last.
Visit to Vernazza
Taking the boat from Monterosso, the second town we visited, which is directly next to Monterosso is Vernazza. Vernazza is adorable, with a small beach area and a walking path around the outside of the city walls with a number of large rocks to lay on and swim in the water. There were a number of people swimming and snorkeling in the water, the water was so clear you could see everything.
The town is small and you really only need an hour or two to walk along its narrow streets, grab a gelato or coffee and pastry and shop in little trinket stores. Our kids had so much fun in this town! The streets were mostly stroller friendly and our older boys loved climbing on the rocks by the edge of the water.
The most scenic with colorful buildings staggered along the steep cliffs of Manarola makes for the perfect picturesque town in Cinque Terre. Our boat pulled into dock as the sun was about to set across the Sea and the sun illuminated the colorful town. What’s nice about Manarola is the coastline forms a big “U” and you walk along a path along the side of the coastline and get the perfect picture of your family with a backdrop of the water and colorful buildings of the town.
Train back to La Spezia
The train station in Manarola is only a 5–10 minute walk from the boat dock and it was easy to purchase a return ticket and take the 10 minute train ride back to our car.
We are happy we opted to only make Cinque Terre a day trip rather than staying multiple days. Unless you wanted to sit by the beach and spend extended time swimming and soaking in the sun or decided to do the hiking trails between the towns, I would say making Cinque Terre a day trip with kids is the best way to go!