Cinque Terre is definitely one of Italy’s most famous attractions. The quaint villages, with the narrow houses all painted in different colors, the fishermen boats and the azure waters are the definition of picture-perfect Italy.
Many try to include a day trip to their Italian itinerary, but is it possible if you’re based in Cortona?
Yes, it is indeed possible, but you’ll get very little time to spend there.
Let’s see in detail why.
How long does it take to get there?
You may think Italy is small but it’s not quick to get around, as roads, even highways, aren’t as large and straight like in other countries and there aren’t many high-velocity trains either.
If you drive there, whether with a private driver or on your own, it will take approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes and that’s each way. This doesn’t count for traffic, getting lost or even finding parking – virtually non-existent – if you’re the one driving. Even if you get an early start, say at 8 am, you’ll likely get there around 12 pm. And if you want to get back for 8 pm, you need to leave around 4 pm.
An 8-hour drive will leave you about 4 hours for you to enjoy Cinque Terre.
It takes about 5 hours and 3 connections on average to get to one of the Cinque Terre towns and that’s each way. You’ll also need to get a taxi or catch the bus from Cortona to Camucia in order to get the train.
Even if you get an early start, say at 8 am, you’ll likely get there around 1 pm. And if you want to get back for 10 pm, you need to leave around 5 pm. This schedule doesn’t count for any delays, which unfortunately are very common in Italy.
An 11-hour train journey will leave you about 4 hours for you to enjoy Cinque Terre.
What to do in Cinque Terre
If you look at a map, you won’t find a single town, village or island called “Cinque Terre”. The name actually indicates five different places: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso.
And if you look again at that map, you might get the impression that they’re very close to one another. However, getting from one town to the other is not quick. This is because the trail that connects all of them has been closed. Floods made it dangerous and repair works are underway to make it accessible to the public and safe once again. The trail allowed to walk from one village to the other quite easily, there are other trails but they don’t cover the same distance and some are quite difficult and uphill.
There are 2 ways to move between villages: by train and by ferry. The train is faster than the ferry, which runs only in Summer.
Now, if you remember, we mentioned earlier that you’re likely to have approximately 4 hours to spend in this area, if you want to visit a few of the villages you’ll need to deduct even more time from those 4 hours for transfers.
We can hear you say “Well I’ll just stay in one place!”, which is totally doable but also a bit boring. These fishermen villages are super tiny and packed with tourists in Summer. There’s not a lot to do if you don’t intend (or have the time) to trek, besides a stroll and a meal at a restaurant. There are no sandy beaches (only a small one in Monterosso), just cliffs and rocks which make sunbathing not that comfortable. And if you arrive at lunchtime most of the boat tours will already have left.
In short, we don’t recommend planning a day trip to Cinque Terre from Cortona. It’s quite tiring to travel there to only then have such a short time in the area.
If you want to visit Cinque Terre we can help you plan an overnight stay in the area, before or after your stay in Cortona. This is definitely the best way to enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll then have plenty of time to discover how wonderful the area is, without the hurry and the stress. Just contact us and we’ll take it from there.