Before professing my love for Cinque Terre, let’s start with the bad news. Cinque Terre on a budget is very difficult as it’s not the most welcoming place for budget travelers. Steep prices don’t drive travelers away from this Italian paradise though, for obvious reasons. Just search “Cinque Terre” on Pinterest and that’s enough to put it on the top of your bucket list! Here’s what you can expect…
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Due to its recent discovery and social media obsession, the secret is now out about these once quaint and quiet coastal villages! After word spread about Cinque Terre, it brought an influx of tourists and an inflation of prices along with it. So, like I said, Cinque Terre on a budget can be challenging!
BUT, don’t write it off just yet. This guide offers a way to get around the regions costly price tags! It will make a vacation to Cinque Terre on a budget not only doable, but action-packed as well! Even if you have ample funds to spend, this guide will still help you plan a well-rounded trip and avoid unnecessary costs ?
Here’s my ultimate guide to Cinque Terre on a budget!
About The Area
Cinque Terre literally translates to “Five Lands” in English, representing the 5 villages that make up the region. Each is located along the coast and is connected by both local trains and hiking trails. They all have the quintessential colorful buildings that Cinque Terre is renowned for, but each one has different and unique qualities.
Here’s a breakdown of the 5 villages, in order of location (from South to North)…
- Riomaggiore: The first of the five villages! It’s one of the smallest villages, but has the most youthful vibe out of them all. Don’t miss its daily pizza and wine gatherings on the rocks to watch the sunset, as well as its bars and late-night restaurants that stay busy into the night! Another thing to note is that Riomaggiore is one of the only two towns that has an official beach. Although- it is rocky rather than sandy!
- Manarola: Manarola is bigger and wider than it’s neighbor Riomaggiore and a bit more lively than it’s other neighbor Corniglia, making it the perfect medium! It’s home to some of the best authentic Italian food in Cinque Terre and offers snorkeling in its bay. Note though that there’s no beach that leads to it- just a cement platform or rocks!
- Corniglia: Corniglia is the smallest of the five villages and the only one that sits on a cliff rather than on the water. It’s the hardest to reach since you still have to climb a few hundred steps after hopping off the Corniglia train stop. Because of this though, Corniglia has remained the most authentic and calm of the five villages. I recommend coming here to witness what Cinque Terre must have looked like before the tourists invaded!
- Vernazza: Vernazza seems to be the favored of the five when it comes to looks. It’s undeniably the most postcard-perfect with its grand marina, old and elegant church, and iconic cluster of colorful buildings. This “favorite” status though means you’ll find the most expensive restaurants and hotels here, as well as the most tourist traps. Something to keep in mind!
- Monterosso: This village is all about the beach, as it’s the only village with a sandy beach! It’s more famous for its umbrella-dotted coastline rather than it’s colorful buildings though, so it’s better for beach fanatics and sunbathing day trips.
How To Get Around
The easiest and cheapest way to get to Cinque Terre is by train. If coming from the North, you take the regional train to Sestri Levante. If you come from the South, you take the regional train to La Spezia. From both of these major train stops, you then take the local train that connects all 5 villages.
If you’re coming straight from the airport, the closest airport to fly into is Pisa, where you’ll then need to hop on a train to La Spezia. From Pisa, the train will take about an hour and costs anywhere from $13-$20.
If you’re traveling to Cinque Terre on a budget, the cheapest method of getting around is by foot, AKA via the hiking trails that connect the villages! The entrance fee to the trails is 7.50 euros, but this is barely advertised, nor is it regulated. So, handle that one as you please! Just know though that it will take an entire day [and ample athletic skill/energy] to hit every village!
The other option of getting around is train travel, which is easy and quick. Make sure you grab a printout of the train schedule though since they mainly arrive every 20-35 minutes. It’s 4 euros for a one-way ticket and 8 euros with a return ticket, but like the hiking trails, this appeared to never be checked or regulated. So again, use your own judgement with this one!
Money-Saving Tip: If you plan on using the train quite a bit one day (over 4 times), then you can buy a Cinque Terre Tourist Card for 16 euros.
Where To Stay
It’s only possible to sleep in Cinque Terre on a budget if you stay at either an AirBnB/rental or a bed and breakfast. The only hostels available, I believe, are outside the 5 villages in Levanto or La Spezia. So, these two types of accommodations are your only budget options if you want to stay in one of the villages. Otherwise, you’ll be paying at least 100 euros/night, even for a crappy budget hotel! Expect to pay around 50-70 euro/night for most budget rentals or B&Bs (depending on the season and how many people you’re traveling with).
In terms of getting the most value for your money, I recommend staying in Riomaggiore. It has great cheap eats, an abundance of affordable markets selling local produce, and it’s the hotspot for sunset-watching & nightlife! Plus, it’s considered by most as the starting point of Cinque Terre (rather than Monterosso on the other end), and has the best of both worlds when it comes to both looks and activities. It has the iconic colorful stacked houses, plus a marina and a beach, which means swimming, sunbathing, and water sports come easy.
If you’re searching for the overall cheapest village of the five though, opt for Corniglia. Its cliffside location makes it the least popular village, and this shows in its discounted prices.
Money-Saving Tip: If you can’t afford accommodation in Cinque Terre, stay in the neighboring town of Levanto or La Spezia. They’re both under 10 minutes away by train, making day trips to Cinque Terre still easy and accessible.
What To Do
Luckily, Cinque Terre on a budget is easy when it comes to activities! There’s really not much else to do besides take in the sights, hike, and relax at the beach! Try completing these activities though to make the most of your visit:
- Feast on the local classics: Pesto, focaccia & calamari
- Sunbathe and swim at the beach
- Go camera-crazy!! ?
For a more detailed Cinque Terre budget activity guide, check out my other post: The Best Cinque Terre Budget Activities
Where To Eat
There’s plenty amazing expensive restaurants in Cinque Terre, but the cheap eats are a rare find. The great thing though is that, generally all over Italy, you can find pasta dishes priced at a semi-affordable range of 7-12 euros.
The cheapest food can be found at the restaurants that offer takeaway (Il Pescato Cucinato for the best callamari!) and at the local markets.
To save the most money though, cook your own meals at your AirBnB! Also, picnics of fruit, olives, caprese and seafood salad are super affordable. These items, as well as great local wines, are all sold in abundance for cheap at the local market.
If you’re eager to eat out and trying to choose a town to wind up in around lunch or dinner time, pick Corniglia for both affordable and authentic restaurants!
Money-Saving Tip: A lot of restaurants offer takeaway pasta and pizza menus that cost half their original price, so search for takeaway signs! These meals make for the best cheap picnics ?
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I hope this guide makes your visit to Cinque Terre on a budget both affordable and stress-free! Please let me know if you have any other money-saving tips/reccomendations to add in the comments below! ?