Getting from Venice to the Cinque Terre (and Vice Versa)

by Jessica on April 12, 2010

by | April 12th, 2010  

5ttransport1Let’s just say you’re on your first trip through Italy and you’re using my “Perfect 2-Week Italy Itinerary” as your guide. You’ve had a glorious introduction to the country through the seemingly-impossible dream-like qualities of Venice, and now you’re ready for the second stop on your trip – the five tiny towns of the Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast. You’ve heard about them for years, and all your friends have told you that you simply have to see them. But you peeked at a map of Italy and they look a little remote. How, exactly, do you get there?

That’s what I’m here for.

Your map-peeking served you well, because getting to the Cinque Terre from just about anywhere – save for another Ligurian coastal town, perhaps – can be a bit of a puzzle. Look at an Italy map again and you probably won’t be surprised if I tell you that the trip from Venice to the Cinque Terre isn’t typically a direct one, either. But it can be done, and it is done, countless times every year.

I’m going to cover your main options for how to get from Venice to the Cinque Terre in this article, but you’ll notice one glaring omission on the list of transportation modes covered: buses. Other articles I’ve written about getting from place to place in Italy have covered buses, so why not this one? The Italian bus network isn’t one big national network, so as soon as you leave one region of the country for another one you enter into the confusing world of trying to connect dots on the network maps of two bus systems that don’t typically overlap. It’s an exercise in frustration waiting to happen. So stick with the options I’ve listed below, and you’ll be fine.

Taking the Train from Venice to the Cinque Terre

5ttransport2You don’t have to read through many of my transportation-related articles on this site to learn I’m the girl who loves taking the train. I’ll tell you when it’s not the best option, or at least when there’s something else comparable, but if the train’s the best way to get from one city to another I’ll say it with extra glee. So, I hope you can hear the extra glee in my voice when I say that getting from Venice to the Cinque Terre is easiest if you take the train.

When I last looked at this trip, there were two routes for trains that connect Venice with the towns of the Cinque Terre – I see there’s a third option now, which I’ll include underneath the two I already knew about.

Whichever you choose will depend mainly on your preference and what suits your travel style best. The main difference between the routes is that one requires two train changes, and two require only one train change. The time the journey takes is roughly the same (less than a 30-minute difference, and the 2-change route is actually the faster one), as is the cost of a ticket.

The first 1-stop journey is from Venezia Santa Lucia station to Milano Centrale station in the big fashion and banking city of Milan, and then from there straight on to Monterosso (the northernmost town of the Cinque Terre). This particular route runs 3-4 times per day and takes about 6.25 hours all together (including the roughly 30-minute wait at Milano Centrale). A first-class ticket costs €71, and a second-class ticket costs €52.

The 2-stop journey is from Venezia Santa Lucia station to Firenze Santa Maria Novella in Florence, then onto Pisa Centrale, and finally on to the Cinque Terre. Other options include substituting Sarzana or La Spezia for Pisa. These trips take between 5.5-5.75 hours, depending on the exact route and time of day. A first-class ticket can range from €73-77, and a second-class ticket can range from €51-57.

The newer (at least newer-to-me) 1-stop journey is from Venezia Santa Lucia station to Bologna Centrale, and then from there straight to Monterosso. This journey takes about 6 hours all together, including the roughly 40-minute stop in Bologna, and it’s actually the cheapest of the three – a first-class ticket is just over €61 and a second-class ticket is just over €42. It appears this only runs once per day, and since it doesn’t even get into Bologna until nearly 5pm it’s not necessarily ideal for making that a 2-hour detour in Bologna before you continue on to the Cinque Terre – but if you’re so inclined, you can find a place at the Bologna station to stow your bags and walk around the city, tour a church or two, or (and this is what I’d recommend) get a meal before you go back to the station and get on a later train to Monterosso. There are trains leaving Bologna for the Cinque Terre town about once per hour (some of which require a further train change, so keep that in mind) – but the last one leaves around 7pm, so be careful you don’t miss it!

Driving from Venice to the Cinque Terre

These small roads are best left to the locals.

These small roads are best left to the locals.

I am including the option of driving to the Cinque Terre from Venice, because technically of course it can be done, and because I know plenty of people who just prefer to have their own set of wheels when they’re on vacation. But even though all the train trips I’ve outlined above require at least one train change – which probably sounds like a hassle – that pales in comparison to the hassle of driving a car between two places that were really not meant for cars.

Venice, for starters, is a no-brainer. You can’t drive there. There are no roads. So if you were to want to drive from Venice, you’d have to get to the mainland and rent a car there. The whole middle part, driving from the mainland down through the middle of Italy, would probably be really enjoyable if you’re someone who likes to drive and if you’re comfortable enough driving in a foreign country that you don’t feel you have to stick to the highways. Taking Italy’s back roads can be a blast – as long as you’ve got an excellent driving map or a GPS system. Italy’s highways can be quick, or they can be nightmarishly backed up.

But if you enjoy the drive through the midsection, getting from the main roads to the Cinque Terre is where it starts to get hairy. On the map it looks like quite a short distance. In reality, the winding and narrow roads take much longer to navigate than you think they will. And then you’ll have to park the car at the top of the town you’re staying in and walk the rest of the way (or get a shuttle, if that town has them and they’re running when you arrive) with all your luggage, as the towns are essentially car-free in the center, too. You can plan on paying roughly €20 per day to park, plus another few euro to ride the shuttle each time.

Should you still want to make the trip, the Via Michelin site that I love for driving directions in Europe says their recommended driving route is just under 400km (of which nearly 360km is on the highway), will take you roughly 4.75 hours (with no traffic), and cost about €30 in tolls. Their route takes you southwest past Ferrara and into Bologna, then northwest to Parma, and southwest again to the Cinque Terre.

Now that you’re in the Cinque Terre…

5ttransport5Here are some articles I’ve written and some other information that might be useful for when you’re in the Cinque Terre:

photos, top to bottom, by: Goldmund100, Peter M McKay, Jess & Peter, in da mood

{ 23 comments }

DM April 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm
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Hey Jessica, planning a 2 weeks italian honeymoon in June and your website has been real helpful. Thanks! Our trip is actually pretty close to the 2 week one you have outlined (same four major stops). One question, why do you suggest the order of ‘Venice to Cinque Terre to Florence to Rome’ instead of ‘Venice to Florence to Cinque Terre to Rome’? It’s seems that doing Florence ahead of Cinque Terre would cut out some backtracking and travel time.

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Jessica April 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm
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The Cinque Terre is northwest of Florence, so if you did Venice-Florence-Cinque Terre-Rome you’d be backtracking from Cinque Terre to Rome (going south again after going north to the Cinque Terre from Florence) which is why I route the itinerary that way.

But part of it depends on the route you choose to get from Venice to the Cinque Terre. Some trains run through Milan, others through Bologna, and there are other options – so by looking at a map you can see whether going that way makes more sense to you or going to Florence first and then the Cinque Terre. You can certainly flip the two if you like. :)

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Cecille April 14, 2010 at 7:31 am
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Very educational.

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tamara May 10, 2010 at 3:20 am
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We love what we see about Cinque Terre and are planning to modify our Italy trip at the end of May and add a day in Cinque Terre.
What hotels do you recommend?
We would be coming by train from La Spezia and only have 1 day we can spend in the area.
There are 4 of us, including our 2 sons, 19 and 21 years old.

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Jessica May 10, 2010 at 8:12 am
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Hi, Tamara:

Adding just one day onto Cinque Terre might be a challenge, depending on where you’re trying to fit it into your trip, but it’s definitely a pretty place and if you can get a couple quick hikes in during your one day then maybe it’s worth it. :)

Most of the accommodation in the Cinque Terre is apartment rentals – there are a few hotels, but the apartment rentals are usually a better deal. And with four people you should be able to find one that’s cheaper than renting enough rooms at a hotel. You can rent an apartment for just a night, too, in the Cinque Terre – most don’t require multi-night stays.

You can look for apartment rentals on this vacation rentals site:

http://vacationrentals.bootsnall.com/vacation-rentals/italy+liguria+2+91

That’s the page for Liguria, which is the region the Cinque Terre is in, and you’ll have to look for town names – not “Cinque Terre.” So make sure you know the names of the five Cinque Terre towns:

http://www.italylogue.com/cinque-terre/

You can also look for hotels in the Cinque Terre on this page:

http://hotels.italylogue.com/

And again, be sure to look for the individual town names instead of “Cinque Terre.”

Ciao,
Jessica

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Todd May 21, 2010 at 6:32 pm
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Hi Jessica,
Do you happen to know if the Eurail Italy Pass from Italia Rail will cover this trip (between Venice and Cinque Terre?) We’re considering a pass, but we’re trying to figure out if the pass is good for all the legs of our trip. Headed from Rome to Florence, then from Florence to Venice, then from Venice the Cinque Terra and back to Rome.

Thanks for all of your great, informational articles. They’ve been very helpful planning our trip.
Thanks,
Todd

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Jessica May 23, 2010 at 10:50 am
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Hi, Todd:

An Italy rail pass covers almost every rail trip in Italy (except for those special trains that connect cities like Milan and Rome with their respective airports), so it would cover the Venice-Cinque Terre trip. If you took a train that required a reservation, the rail pass would act as your ticket and you’d just have to buy a reservation at the station.

Here’s an article about when to buy a rail pass. And if you’d like to call the rail pass expert in my office, he’ll be able to tell you which pass is best for your trip.

Ciao,
Jessica

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Christy June 22, 2010 at 3:58 am
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Hi Jessica,
Our family of four (2 teenage daughters) are following your itinerary…leaving June 30th! We plan to take a train from Venice to Cinque Terre. Should we be trying to book these tickets while we are still in the US? Or will it be easy to do so once we are in Venice. Thanks so much.

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Jessica June 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm
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Hi, Christy:

It’s very easy to book train tickets as you go in Italy. If you’re at all concerned, swing by the train station the day before you plan to travel & get your tickets then – that way you’re not risking a long line at the ticket counter and not enough time before your train. (Or you can just arrive at the station with enough time to get tickets even with a long line – it depends on how busy the station seems to be.)

Have a good trip!
Jessica

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Ann Kalmey August 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm
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Jessica, My husband and I are traveling with another to Italy in September. we would love to include a visit to cinque Terre but aren’t sure if we can pull it off. We will be in Sorrento for several days and could make the trip from there. Is there a train from Sorrento to Cinque Terre and if so, how long is the trip? Thanks for your help! I love your comments about Italy.

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Jessica August 23, 2010 at 7:55 am
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Hi, Ann:

I would highly recommend that you get out a map of Italy to see just how far apart Sorrento and the Cinque Terre are. Yes, they’re both on the coast, but Sorrento is near Naples and the Cinque Terre is north of Pisa. To connect the two by train you’d need to transfer to Naples, then Rome, then up to the Cinque Terre. So, yes, it can be done, but with only a few days in Sorrento I wouldn’t suggest it.

It depends what the rest of your itinerary looks like whether there might be a better point at which to include a stop in the Cinque Terre, or whether you should save it for another trip. You might want to have a look through my article on how to create the perfect Italy itinerary:

http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/how-to-create-the-perfect-italy-itinerary.html

Ciao,
Jessica

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Vafirish February 4, 2011 at 5:59 am
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Hi there,

I have just played this game called Assassins Creed 2 which took place in 15th Century Italy and covered Venizia, Firenze as well as San Gimignano. Thus I was looking online to see how to go about visiting those cities because in the game those churches look simply beautiful and the game developers basically use the actual models for the basis of the game.

Thus upon googling I chanced upon your site which include a 2 week itinerary which covers most part where I would like to visit but I have not heard of cinque terre at all. (not covered in the game)

But from the way you write, it seemed that you truly enjoy visiting this small charming villages (although I did read how you prefer if the town has some sort of limits to the number of visitors per day) .

So I thought perhaps I should go visit the towns……… and see them for myself.

Thanks for all your writing.

regards,
V.

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Jessica February 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm
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I haven’t played the game, but I remember seeing images from it when it came out and yes, they were gorgeous. I think it’s really cool that the game is inspiring you to visit Italy, too.

I quite like the Cinque Terre, but there are so many beautiful places in Italy that you almost can’t go wrong. And, depending on how much time you have, a trip to Venice, Florence, and San Gimignano is an excellent introduction to Italy.

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Desmond March 17, 2011 at 6:54 am
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Hi Jessica,

I am arriving to Milan Airport and would be spending a night at Milan.
After that I will go to Cinque Terre. But I would like to stop by Pisa for a view of the tower.
Any suggestion to do it?
I also would like to have a night stay Florence or Venice. Which is better?
Should I go from Milan to Venice and then take a train to Cinque Terre (stop at Pisa for picture)?
Then I would miss Florence. Please give me your best suggestion.

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Jessica March 18, 2011 at 9:48 am
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You don’t say how much time you have for your trip, but it sounds like you’re trying to do too much in too short a time. I would strongly suggest you look up transportation times for the routes you’re considering, so you know how long it will take you to get from place to place – and then how long you’ll have in each place to explore.

http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/how-to-create-the-perfect-italy-itinerary.html

Also, it’s impossible to say which is “better” – Florence or Venice. They’re very different cities. It depends on what you want to do on vacation, and what you’re looking for. I suggest you read a bit more about each city and see which one appeals to you more.

http://www.italylogue.com/venice/
http://www.italylogue.com/florence/

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cindy May 18, 2011 at 1:40 am
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hi Jessica
My family, (me, husband. 15year old and 7 year old are considering a small trip to Italy. I would love to stay longer but unfortunately have only got 5 nights. I am most interested in Venice and Cinque Terre and was wondering what you would suggest as a basic itinerary. We would possibly arrive in Venice around mid day 6th October and was considering 2 nights in Venice, leaving early on the 8th to make our way to Cinque Terre. Thought we could stopover for one night on the way somewhere so all time is not taken up with travel and then spend 2 nights in Cinque Terre. We would then fly back to Paris via either Milan or Pisa. Does this sound realistic or too rushed? We have to be back in Paris for midday international flight to Malaysia on 12th October (check in by 10am). There is an early morning flight on 12th from Milan that would get us there on time but perhaps a bit too much to ask of the kids. Any thoughts appreciated.

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Jessica May 20, 2011 at 10:16 am
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Unfortunately, I don’t do trip consulting, so I won’t be able to suggest a detailed itinerary for you. I would suggest that you look at my tips for creating an Italy itinerary here:

http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/how-to-create-the-perfect-italy-itinerary.html

The biggest thing is to look up transportation times so you know how long it will take to get from city to city – then you’ll know how much time you will have to spend in each place, and when you’d need to leave to get to your flight back to Paris. I think you can get from Venice-Cinque Terre in one day, so you wouldn’t need to stop over somewhere on the way, and flying back to Paris would be easier from Pisa, which is closer to the Cinque Terre.

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alvin September 26, 2011 at 8:08 am
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Hi Jessica

Am hoping you could shed some light on a trip from Cinque Terre to Venice instead – would it be the same route as above? i.e passing by Milan/Bologna/Florence – because both Florence and Milan are on my itinerary too.

Our problem lies in the fact that we are arriving and departing out of Rome. So we’re heading upwards but we were thinking that we’d venture northwards and lastly take a flight out of Milan back to Rome where we will do the final part of our vacation. Seems like we’re traveling on a zig-zag if we do Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice then Milan and fly back to Rome.

What’s your take?

Alvin

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Jessica September 29, 2011 at 3:00 pm
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I’m always in favor of limiting back-tracking – it just means more time in transit and less time on vacation. And yes, the route options are basically the same in both directions (hence the “vice versa” in the title of the article), you’d just need to verify departure times. I’d recommend looking up the schedules on your possible options – trains and flights – to see which one feels best to you.

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Patricia September 30, 2011 at 11:09 am
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I am going to Milan with my daughter the second week in October. She has business meetings for 3 of the days., I would love to see Cinque Terre but it doesn’t appear that one day is enough time to see the villages and and still return to Milan. Also what can we expect the weather to be like at that time of year.

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Jessica September 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm
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Yeah, the Cinque Terre isn’t a great option for a day trip from Milan – it’s 3-3.5 hours one-way on the train. If it’s water you’re interested in, you might consider Genoa – that’s a 1.5-hr train trip from Milan, and although it’s a bigger city than the Cinque Terre villages it’s on the same coast. Check out what’s on offer in Genoa and see if it might hold your interest for a day. You could also go inland and visit one of the lake towns, which are even closer to Milan – it’s still water, it’s just a lake instead of the sea.

Here are some other day trip ideas from Milan:
http://www.italylogue.com/things-to-do/day-trips-from-milan.html

Here’s more information on the weather in Italy in October:
http://www.italylogue.com/planning-a-trip/italy-in-october.html

And here’s my Italy trains page, where you can look up transportation times using the search box at the top:
http://www.italylogue.com/train

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JANET February 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm
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Jessica,
We will be leaving from Monterosso at 7:35 a.m. or so on May 20, 2012, going towards Bologna. One of us will continue to Venice, the other continue to Salzburg. What can you tell us about the name of the rail line leaving Monterosso? Will it get our Salzburg traveler to Bologna in time to go onwards to Salzburg, without a long wait, and will the Venice traveller stay on the same train towards Venice, arriving in Venice around 1 p.m. or so? Where can we find these train schedules? We don’t think the rail line is EuroStar or Trenitalia, but what is the rail-line?

We will be leaving Monterosso on May 20, 2012. Does the Monterroso train to Bologna function at this time of year. We are both seniors. How do we buy tickets on-line, and do we need to buy tickets in advance? If we don’t buy in senior tickets (called Vorteils in Austria) in advance, will there likely be tickets available on that date? Thnak you so VERY much. Janet
Can we buy Senior Passes here, on-line or must we buy them in Italy/Austria?

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Jessica February 14, 2012 at 11:40 am
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You can look up train schedules for both routes using the Rail Ticket Search box on this page:
http://www.italylogue.com/train

Keep in mind that the schedules aren’t available more than about 90 days in advance of a travel date, so for a May 20th trip you may not be able to find exact information for a few more days. You can search other dates in early May (same day of the week) to get an idea of what the schedule would be, since they aren’t likely to change.

That page linked above also has more information about train travel in Italy, including how to buy tickets online beforehand (if you want to do that) or in Italy as you travel (if that works better for you).

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