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How to Do a Day Trip to Cinque Terre with Kids

How to Do a Day Trip to Cinque Terre with Kids

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Planning a day trip to Cinque Terre with kids and want a totally doable itinerary? Keep scrolling to check out my kid-friendly 1 day Cinque Terre itinerary from my last trip to Italy!
This kid-friendly day trip to Cinque Terre itinerary was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

My husband and I visited Cinque Terre on a babymoon when I was pregnant with our oldest. It’s such a gorgeous spot with beautiful villages and stunning scenery.

When our kids watched the Pixar movie Luca a few years ago, it reminded me of what a special place Cinque Terre is and I knew we needed to go back.

Luckily, we were able to manage a day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence on our last trip to Italy! Keep scrolling to see exactly how we did it!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Florence blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Florence with kids.

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Quick Guide to Santa Maria Novella Train Station

Santa Maria Novella (often abbreviated as SMN) is the main train station in Florence, Italy, and is a crucial hub for travelers exploring Tuscany and beyond. Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate the station:

Where is the Santa Maria Novella Train Station?

Santa Maria Novella is situated in the city center of Florence, just a few minutes walk from major attractions like the Florence Cathedral (Duomo) and the Uffizi Gallery.

Arriving/Departing

The station is well-connected, with high-speed trains (Frecciarossa, Italo) and regional trains offering services to various Italian cities like Rome, Milan, and Venice, as well as nearby towns in Tuscany.

Tickets and Information

You can purchase train tickets from the ticket counters, self-service machines, or the Trenitalia/Italo websites. There’s also a Tourist Information Office for inquiries.

Facilities and Services

Santa Maria Novella is equipped with amenities such as restrooms, luggage storage, ATMs, shops, cafés, and a pharmacy.

Food and Drink

Grab a coffee or a quick meal at one of the several cafés and eateries within the station. For a more local experience, step out to the nearby streets which are lined with restaurants and gelaterias.

Remember to arrive at the station with lots time to find your platform and train, especially during peak hours when it can be quite busy.

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Day Trip to Cinque Terre from Florence

Before I really get into the 1 day Cinque Terre itinerary, I wanted to note that we did a full day in Florence before and after this day trip.

Honestly, we wanted to spend the night at a cute hotel in Monterosso al Mare that we visited when I was pregnant with our oldest son. We figured that would be a great way to see all five Cinque Terre villages.

However, even though I looked 8 months in advance, they were sold out. In fact, ALL of the Cinque Terre hotels were booked. So, that’s why we opted to do a day trip to Cinque Terre from Florence.

Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre are actually fairly easy to do and totally worth the effort!

Morning

Breakfast at the Train Station

We knew it was going to be an early morning since our train left at 8:28 a.m. So, we planned on getting to the Florence train station a bit early so we’d have time to eat breakfast.

We ended up drinking our coffee there and eating some yogurt and we bought some pastries and water for the train rides.

Train from Santa Maria Novella

We actually had to take 3 trains to get from Florence to Cinque Terre. The first leg took us to Pisa where we had to get off and get on a different train to take us to La Spezia.

Image of a dad and son on a train to Cinque Terre Italy
Our family really didn’t mind the train rides to Cinque Terre. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Finally, we took another train to Monterosso al Mare. The whole journey took about 3 hours.

Arrived in Monterosso al Mare

We arrived in Monterosso at about 11:30 a.m.

Image of a woman in front of the Monterosso sign at the train station in Cinque Terre Italy

 

We made it to the Monterosso train station! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We decided to have Monterosso al Mare be our first stop because it’s the furthest town away. As soon as we exited the train station we were right in the heart of Monterosso!

It’s a really cute beach town that is pretty flat. It makes it easy to walk around and look at the shops.

Image of a boy on a colorful playground in Monterosso Italy
We found two awesome playgrounds in Monterosso. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There are also a couple of playgrounds there. It was super hot so my kids only lasted a few minutes playing, but they thought it was awesome.

We also spent some time searching for a restroom and ended up having to buy something at a shop to use their facilities.

Afternoon

Lunch at La Cantina di Miki

By the time we were done exploring, it was lunchtime.

We spent awhile trying to find the place where we ate when we visited 10 years ago but nothing we ringing a bell. So, we headed to La Cantina di Miki.

Image of a pot of mussels in Cinque Terre Italy

 

We highly recommend ordering at least one pot of mussels! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

I was nervous because we were the only people inside the air-conditioned restaurant right during lunchtime. But, I’m so glad we stayed!

We had the BEST mussels and ceviche I think I’ve ever had here! In fact, our kids gobbled them all up and wanted us to order more but our bellies were so full!

Image of a boy giving 2 thumbs up to Cantina di Miky in Monterosso al Mare Italy

 

We all give it two thumbs up! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

By the time we finished lunch, the whole restaurant was packed as well as their outdoor dining area.

My 9-year-old asked me to make sure I recommend this restaurant to everyone reading this!

Ferry to Riomaggiore

After lunch, we figured we’d check out some of the other towns. We had the option of taking the train, but there’s a cool ferry that looked like it would be a lot more fun!

Image of the ferry ticket office in Monterosso
It’s pretty easy to buy ferry tickets and hop on the next available ferry. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We bought ferry tickets and waited until the next ferry showed up at Monterosso al Mare. It was fun to chat with the people in line while we waited.

Then, we headed to the upstairs level so we could get the best views of Cinque Terre!

We originally thought that the ferry would stop at all the towns. Well, we knew it wouldn’t stop at Manarola because there was a sign stating that when we bought the tickets.

Image of a woman holding a fan on a ferry in Cinque Terre Italy
We loved riding the ferry in Cinque Terre! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

It did stop at Vernazza, but we figured we’d stay on board and get off at the next stop. Well, it skipped the rest of the stops and everyone got off at Riomaggiore.

This was already going to be our final stop because that’s where we were supposed to leave by train anyway.

Exploring Riomaggiore

I have to say, Riomaggiore is a beautiful town! It’s sort of the opposite of Monterosso (which is flat) because this is like one steep incline!

We saw a few families holding babies and lugging up their strollers. I would NOT recommend bringing a stroller to Riomaggiore.

Image of a woman in front of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre Italy

 

Riomaggiore is an adorable Cinque Terre town! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We climbed up a bunch of stairs to get to the base of the town. There’s a water fountain with bench seating there. A lot of people used the water to wash their faces and cool down. I’m not sure if the water was safe to drink.

Then, we continued walking up the streets to do a little shopping. They had a lot of cute things! Plus there were lots of restaurants and places to get drinks.

We stopped and got some gelato at Biro and rested our tired legs for a bit.

It was really hot outside and we weren’t remotely hungry for dinner. So we made a family decision to get new train tickets that left earlier than our original 7:30 pm tickets.

Evening

Took the train from Riomaggiore

We actually had to take 3 trains to get back to Florence. The first train took us from Riomaggiore to La Spezia. Then we went from La Spezia to Pisa.

Image of a dad holding a kid at the train station in Riomaggiore Cinque Terre

 

After a few hours in Cinque Terre, we were ready to head back. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We decided to get off at Pisa for a couple of hours so we could check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time. This was something our kids requested to do and it sounded like it would be a fun adventure. You can read all about it here.

Then, we took a final train to Santa Maria Novella. We were all pretty tired so we sort of zoned out for the hour ride back to Florence.

Arrived at Santa Maria Novella

By the time we arrived back at the train station in Florence, it was after 10 p.m. and we were wiped! So we got in the taxi line and took a taxi back to our hotel.

It was a crazy ride and our driver cranked up some music and the kids and I pretended we were in a band for the whole 10-minute ride back to our hotel. It was a great way to end a fun day!

Tips for Visiting Cinque Terre with Kids

Watch the Movie Luca Before You Go

So, one of the main reasons I pushed for a day trip to Cinque Terre is that our family has watched the movie Luca about 25 times.

The movie is set in a town that was inspired by Cinque Terre. When we watched the movie, it felt so familiar that I thought the kids would geek out visiting Cinque Terre in person and recognizing stuff.

We did see a few shirts with Luca characters on them while we explored the towns.

Ask Your Kids What THEY Want to Do

I’m a total planner, but I left our Cinque Terre day trip itinerary wide open so that the kids could help us figure out what to do.

Image of two boys looking at the beach in Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre Italy

 

Our kids really enjoyed watching the waves for awhile. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

They really wanted to eat mussels for lunch (yay!), get gelato, and take a boat ride.

When we sort of ran out of stuff to do around 4 p.m., they told us they wanted to stop and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa instead of just going back to Florence early or staying in Cinque Terre until dinnertime.

Take the Ferry

If you aren’t planning on hiking between the villages, the next best option is to take the ferry. It’s honestly the best view of the towns because you really can see them set into the cliffs.

Image of a boy walking on the pier at Monterosso in Cinque Terre Italy

 

This is the ferry pier in Monterosso al Mare. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The boat ride itself is really fun and my kids thought it was super cool! In fact, we got splashed a few times! (trendstees.com)

I will say, it’s quite a choppy ride out on the sea. So, if you get motion sickness, I’d definitely take something before you go. We actually waited on board for about 15 minutes before we departed and the boat was rocking so hard!

Get Gelato

If you are visiting Cinque Terre in the summer, you’ll definitely want to get gelato at least once. It gets HOT there and it’s an easy way for kids to cool down and regroup.

We did this after we arrived in Riomaggiore because we were overheated and need a break from climbing up all the hilly roads.

Consider Not Booking Return Tickets Ahead of Time

When I booked our train tickets to Cinque Terre, my options were to leave at 4:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. I wasn’t sure if we’d have enough time if I did the earlier departure, so I bought the later tickets to be safe.

In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have purchased our return fares for our Cinque Terre one-day trip. We ended up paying for it twice since we didn’t use our original tickets.

It was nice to have the flexibility to decide when we were ready to head back.

What to Bring on a Cinque Terre Day Trip

We really tried to pack light for this day trip to Cinque Terre. We did it all with one backpack and it was mainly to haul around drinks for everyone.

Something to do on the Trains

We brought iPads for our kids because we knew they’d need a screen at some point during our 5 hours of train rides.

I was going to bring my laptop but didn’t want to lug it around all day. So I opted for a paperback book instead.

Sunscreen

The sun can be really strong so it’s a great idea to bring some sunscreen along in case you feel like you need protection.

Sun Hats and Sunglasses

Again, it’s super sunny and bright during the summer. Make sure everyone has sun hats or sunglasses. Otherwise, there are plenty of places to buy them once you arrive.

Swimsuits and Towels

If you want this to be a beach day, you’ll definitely want to bring swimsuits. Monterosso al mare is one of the best places for families to swim in Cinque Terre.

You can either bring your own towels or buy some when you get there. We saw tons of cute options.

We didn’t bring swimsuits on this trip because my kids like the beach for 30 minutes and then they want to be super clean. We just didn’t feel like hauling extra clothes and lugging back wet/sandy clothes.

Portable Chargers

You’ll want to take lots of photos and videos because Cinque Terre is such a cute place. You might run through your battery faster than normal, so bringing along a portable charger is really helpful.

Snacks/Drinks

You’ll want snacks and drinks for the train rides. Once you arrive in Cinque Terre, it’s easy to reload your drinks and snacks.

Where to Stay in Cinque Terre

Are you considering spending a night or two in Cinque Terre? This can be a great idea if you are looking for a “vacation” between visiting Italy’s amazing cities. Personally, I think Monterosso al Mare is the best place to stay in Cinque Terre.

Hotel La Spiaggia

This is where I’ve stayed twice in Monterosso al Mare and it’s pretty fabulous. It’s right next to the beach and the rooms have a lovely view of the water. Plus, they have amazing customer service.

Image of a yellow hotel in Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre Italy

 

We really like Hotel La Spiaggia. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

In fact, the owner still sends Christmas cards to my in-laws! Check the latest rates and availability.

Locanda Il Maestrale

This is another great option if you want to stay in Monterosso al Mare. It’s just a few minutes from the beach and it includes free breakfast. Check the latest rates and availability.

Vernazza Sea View

This is a great option for people wanting to stay in Vernazza. It’s a townhouse right next to the beach and the ferry terminal. Check the latest rates and availability.

Cinque Terre Itinerary FAQs

Is it worth visiting Cinque Terre with kids?

It really depends on your family and how you like to travel. Our kids had fun taking the ferry around Cinque Terre, but they told us they weren’t in a rush to go back. They had a much better time exploring Venice and told me to include that opinion in this blog post.

Is 1 day enough for Cinque Terre?

If you just want to see the villages and capture some photos, then a well-planned Florence to Cinque Terre day trip might be enough. However, 1 day in Cinque Terre won’t allow you to fully experience the trails or beaches.

How many days to spend in Cinque Terre?

Many travelers find that spending 2-3 days in Cinque Terre provides a more fulfilling experience. This allows time for leisurely exploration, hiking some of the famous trails between the villages, and relaxing by the sea.

Additionally, spending more days can help in avoiding the rush and truly immerse yourself in the beauty and ambiance of the region.

When we went 10 years ago, we spent 2 nights in Cinque Terre and really relaxed and enjoyed a leisurely pace.

What are the five villages in Cinque Terre?

Cinque Terre is a stunning coastal area in the Liguria region of Italy, composed of five charming villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.

What is the Cinque Terre Card?

The Cinque Terre Card is a pass that visitors can purchase to access various services and amenities in the Cinque Terre National Park.

One of the most popular versions of the card includes unlimited travel on the Cinque Terre regional trains, which is ideal for visitors looking to explore all five villages in a day or over several days. That’s why it’s often referred to as the Cinque Terre train card.

The Cinque Terre Card also grants access to the famed hiking trails connecting the five villages of Cinque Terre.

You can learn more about it HERE.

Is Cinque Terre the best place on the Italian Riviera for families?

Cinque Terre is a beautiful and popular destination with picturesque landscapes and a relaxed atmosphere. It can be an excellent choice for families who enjoy outdoor activities, like hiking and swimming.

However, the terrain is rugged, and getting around might be challenging for families with small children or strollers.

There are other family-friendly locations on the Italian Riviera, like Santa Margherita Ligure and Portofino, which may be more suitable for some families.

Is there a direct train from Florence to Cinque Terre?

No there isn’t a direct Florence to Cinque Terre train. Travelers usually need to change trains in Pisa or La Spezia. The entire journey typically takes around 2.5 to 3 hours.

Are there boat trips to Cinque Terre?

During the spring, summer, and early fall, a ferry service operates between the villages, excluding Corniglia, which is perched on a hilltop and does not have direct sea access. The ferry service typically runs from La Spezia to Monterosso, stopping at the other villages along the way.

What are the top attractions in Cinque Terre?

The top Cinque Terre attractions include the scenic hiking trails, Monterosso’s beaches, town squares in Vernazza and Manarola, and the views from Corniglia.

Which Cinque Terre town is best for a day trip?

Choosing the best town for a day trip in Cinque Terre depends on personal preferences. However, Vernazza and Manarola are often considered as favorites among travelers.

Vernazza has a charming harbor and is one of the most photographed, while Manarola is known for its scenic beauty and is slightly less crowded.

If you’re planning on bringing a stroller, you’ll have the best luck visiting Monterosso al Mare because it’s flatter than the other towns.

Can Cinque Terre be a day trip from Rome?

Yes, it’s possible to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip from Rome, but it will be a long day. The train journey from Rome to La Spezia (the gateway to Cinque Terre) takes about 3 to 4 hours one way. From La Spezia, you can take a local train to explore the villages.

Considering the travel time, it’s a hectic schedule for a day trip, so some people choose to stay overnight to enjoy Cinque Terre more leisurely.

Visit Cinque Terre in One Day Wrap Up

A day trip to Cinque Terre with kids can be a lot of fun if your kids are up for an adventure.

Despite the logistics of one day in Cinque Terre, with careful planning, it’s feasible to explore Cinque Terre and soak in the essence of its enchanting atmosphere.

Take advantage of the well-connected train stations to hop between all the villages and ensure that you get a glimpse of each picturesque village.

As you visit Cinque Terre, embrace the splendid views, the vibrant colors, and the charming alleys, and don’t forget to capture these precious moments with your family.

The allure of Cinque Terre is bound to leave an indelible mark on the hearts of both young and old. Buon viaggio!

Looking for more Italy travel content? Check out my top Florence travel tips, things to do in Florence with kids, best day trips from Florence, how to do a day trip to Pisa, how to spend 10 days in Italy with kids, tips for visiting Italy with kids, best weekend trips in Europe, Europe travel tips, and where to stay in Florence with kids!

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