What is the Cinque Terre Card and do you need it to travel on the Cinque Terre Train in Italy? Read my guide about train travel in Cinque Terre and whether or not you should buy the Cinque Terre Pass to stop at the Cinque Terre train stations to explore these colorful seaside villages in Italy. I give you a practical comparison to determine when it is worth it to buy a Cinque Terre Train card when you visit Cinque Terre!
The 5 villages that makeup Cinque Terre in Italy are immensely popular and for a good reason. Colorful buildings sit edged on craggy cliffs, overlooking the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, all connected by the Cinque Terre Train. The food is amazing, all 5 village ooze cuteness and it is an amazing experience to hike from one village to the next. Cinque Terre is included in a lot of Italian itineraries and I stayed for 5 days at a lovely boutique hotel in Riomaggiore and made good use of the Cinque Terre train card. I’ll explain what this pass is and if you need it to travel on the Cinque Terre train.
A short introduction to Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is the name of the 5 villages on the Ligurian coast. 80 km (50 miles) south of Genua and 100 km (62 miles) north of Pisa, this region can be easily incorporated in your Italian travels.
Cinque Terre is made up of 5 villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. All 5 villages of Cinque Terre are connected via the La Spezia – Levanto railway. To travel from La Spezia train station to the other end of Cinque Terre doesn’t take more than 30 minutes.
The best way to get around Cinque Terre is by train as cars are not allowed in the villages and driving from one village to the next is nearly impossible. Another option is to hike between the villages. The Cinque Terre is part of the National Park Cinque Terre and within the park, many hiking trails are set out.
The most popular and famous one is the trail connecting each village with the next (*due to heavy landslides, not all routes are open. Check accessibility of the trails. At the moment, you can only walk from Monterosso to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Corniglia or vice versa).
What is the Cinque Terre Pass
City cards and passes are very popular in bigger cities these days. I loved the Granada Card and recently took full advantage of the Istanbul Museum Pass. Cinque Terre has its own card: the Cinque Terre Pass.
The Cinque Terre Card comes in 2 variations: the Cinque Terre Trekking Card and the Cinque Terre Train Card. I’ll briefly discuss them below.
Cinque Terre Card for Trekking
This is a card for tourists to be allowed to hike in the Cinque Terre National Park and use the buses in the park. It comes in 1-day or 2-day passes and there are discounts for youths and family. You can buy your card online or at the park’s entrances. You validate the card by adding your name to the back and a date.
Cinque Terre Train Card
The Cinque Terre Train Card also includes free (unlimited) travel on the Cinque Terre Train from La Spezia train station to Levanto that connect the towns of Cinque Terre. It offers you the change to hike the trails in the National Park and take the train between the villages. The Cinque Terre Train Card comes in a 1-day, 2-day and 3-day pass with special discounts for youth, elderly and families.
Buy your Cinque Terre Card online in advance here.
La Spezia train station to Levanto – the Cinque Terre Train
The five villages of Cinque Terre are connected by rail and are part of the La Spezia-Levanto train line. In high season, almost every half hour a train leaves La Spezia train station in the direction of Levanto and vice versa. There are regional trains stopping at all 5 train stations of Cinque Terre or an intercity with only a stop in Monterosso.
La Spezia is well connected to the bigger Italian towns and cities in the north and east of the country, so you can easily take the train from Pisa to Cinque Terre or travel by train from Rome to Cinque Terre. Levanto is connected to Genua and the north so you can also take the Milan to Cinque Terre train.
Cinque Terre Train Stations
Each of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre is tiny, hence, the train stations of Cinque Terre reflect that. From south to north on the la Spezia-Levanto train connection you’ll find:
Riomaggiore Train Station
The first train station in Cinque Terre when you travel from La Spezia to Cinque Terre. The village of Riomaggiore is famous for it’s red and yellow tall houses near the small harbour. The Riomaggiore train station only has 2 tracks, one north, one south. The train station of Riomaggiore is connected to the village via tunnel with a passageway. You can find several machines and a ticket office at the train station. The Cinque Terre tourist office is right next door.
Manarola Train Station
From one tunnel to the next, you’ll just have found a place to sit (or more likely stand) and you’re already in Manarola. At Manarola, there are 2 tracks and it can get crowded when you need to descend the underpass by stairs when everyone else leaves the trains. At Manarola train station, you’ll find the ticket machines and there is a restroom (€1). When you go right, behind Manarola train station, you can walk towards a restaurant with a view and see the Via dell’Amore path towards Riomaggiore. At the moment of my visit, this part of the Cinque Terre hiking trail was still closed. It might open in the future. If you go left into the tunnel at Manarola train station, you’ll find the village.
Corniglia Train Station
The part of the Cinque Terre train line before Corniglia is almost the only part where you’ll have an ocean view and can see something of Cinque Terre. The train station of Corniglia is at sea level and there is a bus at Corniglia train station that can bring you to the village (and back).
If you don’t like waiting for the bus (or it is jamm packed) you can walk the pathway and climb up to the village. It was an easy hike up but for my sorry-as-f*ck-condition, it was a grueling ascend. The bus from the train station to Corniglia town is free when you have the Cinque Terre pass with train travel in Cinque Terre.
Vernazza Train Station
You don’t need to walk far to get from Vernazza train station to the town as it is right in the center of all the action. One part of the Cinque Terre trail is on one end of the train station, the next trail on the other side. From Vernazza train station, you walk straight to the harbor and can climb the castle. As the train station is very small, it can happen that your carriage stops inside one of the connecting tunnels.
Or when you’re waiting for the train, the platform can get very crowded as people only go into the tunnel to wait at the last moment. I found it a bit scary so I advise you to stand back at all times and take your time boarding and de-boarding the Cinque Terre train.
Monterosso Train Station
The biggest of the Cinque Terre train stations, Monterosso al Mare has 3 tracks and the intercity train stops here too. If you leave Monterosso train station, you can go straight to the beach. The Monterosso train station has a bar, restrooms, and luggage storage.
You can walk from the old part of Monterosso al Mare (where the train station is) to the newer part where also the Cinque Terre hiking trail starts.
Quick tips about the Cinque Terre Train Stations and Travel on the Cinque Terre Train
As you can read from the above-mentioned descriptions of the train stations of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre, they all have things in common. Here are some tips to make travel on the Cinque Terre train easier:
- All train stations are small. Most have only 2 tracks: one north, one south. Easy.
- All train stations are old. The first train stations were built in 1874. Most were renewed in 1959 which still makes them old. Don’t expect new shiny passageways or fancy stuff.
- Not all trains stop at the stations. There are trains running through the tunnels at high speed, passing the train stations of Cinque Terre without slowing down. Stand back! Keep behind the yellow line. It sounds childish but I found it quite dangerous.
- Always validate your ticket before entering the Cinque Terre train (or any train in Italy). It doesn’t matter if you’ve bought a ticket the minute before from the machine or from the ticket office. It doesn’t matter if you use the Cinque Terre Pass on the train or just a single journey ticket: ALWAYS VALIDATE IT. There are odd-looking egg-shaped-looking machines to validate at the train station and when entering the platform.
- Most of the Cinque Terre train stations have the platform in tunnels. You can wait partly in the tunnels (keep behind the yellow line) but most people do not do this. A platform can look very crowded but people will spread out.
- The Cinque Terre trains are super busy. I traveled in the off-season and have never seen anything like it. During the day, it is easy to take the train from Florence to Cinque Terre on a day trip so it is very busy on the train. Early mornings or later in the evenings, things calm down a bit but expect the trains to be very long, full. Luckily, the train rides are only short.
- Catch a last-minute train or avoid lines at the ticket machines and offices. Buy your Cinque Terre card online here.
- Needless to say, it is dangerous and illegal to cross the train track. As many people still do it to take sea-side selfies, no-trespassing barriers have been put up for your own safety.
Do you need the Cinque Terre Pass to travel on the Cinque Terre Train?
As mentioned before, if you wish to hike the Cinque Terre trails, you need the Cinque Terre pass. But they have 2 kinds of passes. You can buy a pass to hike Cinque Terre or you can buy a Cinque Terre train card that includes (unlimited!) train travel on the Cinque Terre Train between La Spezia and Levanto as well.
Read here for all information about what is included in the Cinque Terre pass and the prices.
Find here all the information and prices for the Cinque Terre Train Card. Obviously, the Cinque Terre Train Card is more expensive as you can travel on the Cinque Terre Train. A train ride from Riomaggiore to Manarola, for example, is €4,00 one way. You pay the same price if you want to travel from Riomaggiore to Monterosso.
I stayed for 5 days in Cinque Terre and based myself in Riomaggiore. We purchased a 2 day Cinque Terre Train Card and bought separate train tickets for the other days when we just went to another village to explore and have dinner.
You do not need a Cinque Terre pass to travel on the Cinque Terre train but if you plan to hike in the national park, the Cinque Terre pass is mandatory. If you plan to travel more than 3 stretches on the Cinque Terre train, buying the Cinque Terre train card might be more economical for you.
Calculation example for the Cinque Terre Card
So, do you need it or not? Of course, I don’t know your personal situation so I’m giving to examples of how to calculate if you need the Cinque Terre Card or not. It is based on 2 adults during the summer period.
Do you need the Cinque Terre Card for a 1-day visit to Cinque Terre?
Ok, for example, you’re coming for 1 day from Florence or Milan. You plan to stay 1 day with 2 adults. You want to visit 4 or even all 5 villages on this 1 day.
|Separate train tickets||Cinque Terre Train Card|
|La Spezia to Riomaggiore||€4,00||Unlimited train travel in Cinque Terre||€16,00|
|Riomaggiore to Manarola||€4,00|
|Manarola to Corniglia||€4,00|
|Corniglia to Vernazza||€4,00|
|Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare||€4,00|
|Monterosso al Mare to La Spezia or Levanto||€4,00|
As you can see from the above spreadsheet, if you take more than 4 train trips in one day, the Cinque Terre Train Card is already cheaper.
Do you need the Cinque Terre Card for a 2-day visit including hiking Cinque Terre?
So, let’s say you’re staying overnight in one of the villages and plan to hike 2 sections of the Cinque Terre National Park trails and visit some villages by boat or train.
|Train from Levanto or La Spazia to Monterosso al Mare||€4,00|
|Hike Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza||–|
|mandatory trekking card||€14,50|
|Stay overnight in Vernazza||–|
|Hike Vernazza to Corniglia||–|
|Corniglia to Manarola by train||€4,00|
|Manarola to Riomaggiore by train||€4,00|
|Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare by train||€4,00|
In this example, a 2-day Cinque Terre Trekking card is €14,50 and the 4 train trips separately are €16,00. That makes €30,50 for 2 days when you only buy the Cinque Terre Trekking card and do the train tickets separately.
But the 2-day Cinque Terre Train Card has the trekking fee included and unlimited train travel for 2 days for €29,00. So in this case, the Cinque Terre Train Card is cheaper and allows for more train travel. If you plan to take the train less than 4 times, it’s cheaper to only purchase the trekking card.
Cinque Terre Trains and Interrail and Eurail
However, if you do wish to hike a portion of the Cinque Terre trails, you do need a Cinque Terre card, so you’re better of to save your Interrail and Eurail travel day for another time. As always, weigh off the value of a single train ticket against the price of your train travel days. It might be cheaper to purchase a single ticket out of pocket.
Budget Tip for Travel on the Cinque Terre Train (during off-season)
We purchased a couple of one-way tickets at one of the Cinque Terre train stations. We paid €4,00 if we wanted to travel for 2 minutes from Riomaggiore to Manarola or all the way to the other side of Cinque Terre to Monterosso. It quickly added up and we took full advantage of our Cinque Terre train cards as we hiked the Cinque Terre trails and took the train to all the villages.
But, if you travel in the off-season, I have a budget tip for you.
Check for train times and rates in advance and purchase your tickets here.
A single journey from Riomaggiore to Monterosso will cost you €2,20. From Riomaggiore to Manarola only €1,60. You need to make an account, pay online and show your ticket on your mobile device on the train.
The tickets are only valid for the day and time mentioned on the tickets, so you have to take that exact train. I don’t have any experiences with this myself and it only works in the off-season (November 1st to April 1st) but it is worth it.
Have you ever been to Cinque Terre in Italy? Did you take the train or only go on a day trip? Did you buy the Cinque Terre pass to travel on the trains? Share your experiences in the comment section below!