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 of not you should buy the Cinque Terre Pass to stop at the Cinque Terre train stations to explore the sea side villages in Italy.
The 5 villages that make up 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 when you research your visit to Cinque Terre, you sooner or later come across the concept of the Cinque Terre Pass. I’ll explain what it is and if you need it to travel on the Cinque Terre train.
Short introduction to Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is the name of the 5 village 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 el 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.
Read more: Best Gelato of Cinque Terre
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).
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 their own card: the Cinque Terre Pass.
This is a card for tourists to be allowed to hike in the Cinque Terre National Park and use the buses in the park.
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.
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.
Read more: See Pisa without the crowds
Cinque Terre Train Stations
Each of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre are 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 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 gruelling 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 centre 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 harbour and can climb the castle. As the train station is very small, it can happen that your carriage stops inside one of the connection 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 advice 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, rest rooms and luggage storage. You can walk from the old part of Monterosso el 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 travelled in 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 long, full. Luckily, the train rides are only short.
Read more: Why trains are better than planes
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 economic for you.
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 off-season, I have a budget tip for you.You can purchase your train tickets in advance, online at trenitalia website. 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 in 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.
Read more about Cinque Terre Italy
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!