If you’re traveling to Florence, chances are you have the rainbow colored fishing villages of Cinque Terre on your Italy bucketlist as well.
And I don’t blame you. Cinque Terre (or “Five Lands”) boasts dramatic cliffs, azure harbors, and colorful houses. Everywhere you go looks like a postcard!
Did you know that Cinque Terre is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a protected national park? This special status protects the beauty of this region and preserves it for locals and travelers like you.
And it’s all within reach from Florence.
The five villages of Cinque Terre (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) are located in Liguria on the northwest coast of Italy and are just 110 miles (178km) from Florence by car. The train route is even shorter, coming in at about 92 miles (148km).
The proximity of Cinque Terre to Florence makes this combo the perfect pairing for your Italy trip.
When I plan my travels, I love combining urban environments with seaside escapes. The relaxed, harbor life in Cinque Terre is a lovely respite after the hustle and bustle of Florence!
But if you want to make the most of your time exploring Cinque Terre, you’ll need to know the best way to get there from Florence.
And if you’re a savvy, budget-conscious traveler, you’ll want to know how much each option will cost.
I have researched and compared every option to get to Cinque Terre from Florence, and I’ve ranked each in terms of the time it’ll take, the ease of the process, and the cost.
Let’s start with the fastest, smoothest, and cheapest option to get to Cinque Terre from Florence: taking the train.
Getting to Cinque Terre From Florence by Train
By far the best way to get from Florence to Cinque Terre is by train!
Taking the train is my preferred method of getting to Cinque Terre because it ticks all the boxes:
- Time — taking the train is almost always the fastest option (about 2.5 hours)
- Ease — it is relatively easy (one transfer to get to La Spezia followed by a local train to get to one of the villages in Cinque Terre)
- Cost — it is cheap (you can find train tickets from Florence for as low as 14€; the local train transfer once you reach La Spezia is just a couple euros)
Heading from Florence to La Spezia lets you connect to any of the 5 Cinque Terre villages with ease.
You can see the Florence to La Spezia train timetable by heading to the official TrenItalia site.
Pro tip: I recommend avoiding sites that are not TrenItalia as they will charge a premium for their “services” while not necessarily showing you all of the route options!
Remember that the drop-down list of departure and arrival stations will be in Italian (even when using the English version of the site) so you should type in “Firenze” for Florence. You can select “Firenze ( Tutte Le Stazioni )” to see all the Florence train stations with departures to Cinque Terre.
Also, instead of typing in “Cinque Terre” for your arrival station, you should type “La Spezia Centrale” or the specific village you want to end up in.
I suggest playing around with the arrival station so you can see all of your options for getting into Cinque Terre. Once you’re in any of the towns, it’s really easy to hop between all of them on the local train or the ferry!
Pro tip: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT forget to set the “hour” in the search bar to an early time (like 5am) so you can see all of the scheduled trains for the day. I’ve made the mistake of leaving the “hour” at the default time thereby missing half of the search results!
If you time your trip to Cinque Terre for a Sunday in the summer, at around 7:45am there are direct trains from Florence (the Novella station) to all of Cinque Terre’s villages.
The direct option (which takes 2.5 hours) will shave anywhere from 20 min. to an hour off the other routes!
Pro tip: Download the electronic version of your train ticket onto your phone. This allows the conductor to simply scan the QR code and you won’t have to keep track of paper tickets!
If you have a paper ticket and it doesn’t have an assigned seat, you need to get it validated (stamped) at the train station before you get on your train. This proves that you’re not reusing a ticket!
I recommend arriving for your train with some extra time so you can get oriented and find the stamping machine (if needed). It also helps to have buffer time if you’ve never navigated the train station you’re departing from.
Once you find your train, the journey is a breeze!
I love sitting by the window and watching the countryside pass by as the train glides along the tracks. Seeing the sights makes me even more excited to reach my destination.
Pro tip: If you are planning to spend a couple nights or longer in Cinque Terre, you can get a fabulous rental on AirBnB. Whether you want a place right on the water or a cliffside spot to get away from it all, there are tons of options in this region, and I’ve written a post to help you find the best of the best when it comes to AirBnB rentals!
Getting to Cinque Terre From Florence by Car
When evaluating time, ease and cost, here is the breakdown for renting a car and driving from Florence to Cinque Terre:
- Time — if there are no issues, the drive will take around 2.5 hours; however if you will hit traffic, construction, an accident or all 3 your travel time will increase significantly
- Ease — in addition to the logistics of getting a rental and finding places to park the car, you may encounter other issues like those mentioned above (all of which can lead to a stressful journey)
- Cost — paying for the rental, tolls and parking will quickly add up and you may spend anywhere from $40-80 per day
Sometimes renting a car to get to your next destination has the advantage of greater flexibility and convenience over train travel. But this is not the case here.
Best case scenario: you won’t have any issues and you’ll arrive in Cinque Terre in about 2.5 hours.
But more likely than not you will hit traffic. Whether it’s busy on the roadway or there’s road construction / accidents, this seemingly quick road trip can turn into a very stressful drive.
Also, the coastal roads in this area are narrow and winding. At times you’ll feel like your car is barely clinging onto the road!
If drives like this freak you out then train travel may be your best option.
You should also consider what you’re going to do with your car once you get to Cinque Terre. Did you know that most of the villages are car-free zones?
Only Cornelia and Monterosso have areas that you can drive into. And even in those areas parking spots may be hard to find, especially in high season.
Do you really want to lose precious vacation time searching for parking?
And when you do find parking, it’s typically expensive (costing upwards of 25€ per day).
Pro tip: In Cinque Terre parking lots you can park within blue-lined spots (just make sure to pay the proper amount), but be careful not to park within yellow-lined spots as those are reserved for locals.
If you do decide to drive to Cinque Terre from Florence, I recommend leaving your car in a paid lot for the duration of your stay.
Buying a daily pass in advance and leaving your car can save you money as compared to moving your car from lot to lot and paying by the hour. Plus, this way you can take advantage of cheap, convenient train and ferry options to get between the villages!
Pro tip: The most cost-effective parking lot (where you can leave you car) is in La Spezia Centrale train station at the Park Centro Stazione. With a reservation, full day parking will cost about 18€ and half day parking will cost about 8€.
To recap, you certainly can drive from Florence to Cinque Terre. If you have the time and the confidence to navigate the cliffside roadways, you may actually find the drive scenic and thrilling.
But when it comes to our 3 key factors (time, ease, and cost), train travel wins every time!
Pro tip: If you’re going to drive in Italy, don’t forget to get an International Driving Permit. It is required under Italian law and you can face steep fines if the police catch you without one!
Getting to Cinque Terre From Florence with a Tour or Private Driver
When evaluating time, ease and cost, here is the breakdown for getting to Cinque Terre with a tour or private driver:
- Time — similar to renting a car, your tour or driver may encounter issues on the drive that will prolong your travel time (but as a local, they may know alternate routes that will avoid or mitigate some of these issues)
- Ease — going with a tour or private driver makes the process of getting to Cinque Terre very easy; it’s all arranged for you in advance so you don’t have to stress over the logistics
- Cost — using a private driver is clearly the most expensive option to get to Cinque Terre while going with a group tour may be comparable or even less expensive than a car rental depending on the tour you choose
Getting to Cinque Terre with a Tour
If you go with a tour from Florence to Cinque Terre, you’ll have the convenience of transportation and a professional, guided experience.
Many tours include a guide for the day, a comfortable van or bus, and local train and boat tickets for exploring while you’re in Cinque Terre. All you have to do is show up and enjoy the ride!
Guided tours by well-reviewed companies hover around 120€ per person (about $140) for a day trip. Whether this expense is “worth it” depends in large part on how much you value having a guide and someone to handle the logistics.
It’s hard to put a price-tag on the benefits of having a well-informed guide.
By sharing the history, culture, and cuisine of Cinque Terre, your guide can make your time here more meaningful. They can also steer you to local spots that you otherwise would have missed.
On the other hand, potential negatives of going with a tour include:
- having an experience that is tailored to a group rather than to you personally
- having to stick to a predetermined agenda even if you want to do something else
- having limited time to explore Cinque Terre (since most tours are day trips)
If you do decide that the positives of a group tour outweigh the negatives, I highly recommend checking out Prestige Rent.
Prestige Rent is the gold standard of small-group tours from Florence to Cinque Terre. They cap their tours at 25 participants so that you have a more personalized experience, and their glowing reviews speak for themselves!
Pro tip: If you want to halve the cost of a guided tour, most companies have a “transportation only” option from Florence to Cinque Terre. Walkabout is one such company offering transfers for just 55€ ($65) per person.
Getting to Cinque Terre with a Private Driver
Going with a private driver (as compared to a tour) has the advantage of ultimate route customization.
Do you want to see Pisa on the way to Cinque Terre? No problem!
Most drivers are happy to tailor a route to suit your interests and timing. They will also pick you up right from your accommodation in Florence.
Because you won’t be in a group, you will also have the advantage of a more personal experience. If a location interests you, you can stay longer. If you want to move on, you can.
You won’t be vying with other travelers for your guide’s attention, but this individualized experience comes at a cost.
A private driver for a full day tour can cost anywhere from 90€ ($106) to upwards of 220€ ($260) per person. I suggest shopping around to find the best value at your price point.
You can also save some money if you choose a private transfer to Cinque Terre without any touring. This option costs around 55€ ($64) per seat via Daytrip.
Many travelers have limited time and can only spare a day for Cinque Terre. If that’s you, a driver or a tour can be a great way to get a taste of this region.
On the other hand, if you have more than a day to spare, I highly, HIGHLY recommend taking the train and exploring at your leisure!
Taking all of our factors into account (time, ease, and cost), here is my ultimate ranking of all the transportation options we’ve discussed so far:
- Train — fast, easy and cheap, it’s hard to top this option
- Car — I personally love road trips and I’m not easily scared by cliffside drives; yes, a car costs more as compared to train travel, but it also allows for stops and adventures along the way from Florence to Cinque Terre
- Group Tour — if I only have a day to spare for the Cinque Terre, going on a group tour from Florence can be a great way to sample this region without worrying about the details of getting there and back
- Private Driver — if I stumble upon a pile of money, this is the option I’ll be choosing for a return to Cinque Terre (though I would still choose the one-way option so I can enjoy several days in Cinque Terre)
How would you rank these options for getting to Cinque Terre? Is there one that stands out as the clear winner??
If you’ve done any of these, I’d love to hear about your experience below!
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