Our Cinque Terre family holiday – 2-day itinerary & where to stay

I have been obsessed with visiting the Cinque Terre since I attended an event in Genoa 12 years ago and never made it to this famous coastline.

The Italian region of Liguria is famous for its beautiful architecture, pesto pasta and cheese focaccia (aka 3 of my favourite things) but arguably most famous of all is its Cinque Terre.

For the unfamiliar, the Cinque Terre is a string of 5 colourful seaside villages that cling to the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera. They are part of a UNESCO heritage national park that is popular with hikers as scenic trails allow you to walk between the villages.

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is a string of 5 colourful seaside villages on the Italian Riviera

For those short on time, or travelling with kids, you can also get a train between the villages. Some people visit them all in a day but for us 3 nights and 2 full days in the Cinque Terre gave us the right amount of time to explore without feeling rushed.

If you’re considering visiting Cinque Terre with children here’s the exact itinerary we followed in May half term.

Cinque Terre with kids – 2-day itinerary

Day 1

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre
Mid-morning in Riomaggiore

For our first day in the Cinque Terre we bought the Cinque Terre train card that allows you to hop on and off the trains and visit as many towns as you like between Levanto and La Spezia.

We got to the station around 9.30 and having just missed a train had to wait 30 minutes for the next one. (They get more regular as the day goes on.) I was really impressed with the trains though. They are clean, fast, efficient and have 3 levels so we got a seat everytime we boarded.

We decided to head to the furthest town from us and make our way back. So, we started at Riomaggiore, then headed to Manarola for lunch, Vernazza for a gelato and a paddle and were back at our Airbnb in Levanto by 4.30 for prosecco and a game of cards on the balcony.

I loved each town equally because they all had their own unique architecture and landscape and incredible viewing points to soak it all up from.

My top tips for each town would be:


This town has the smallest harbour so you might find it’s a bit of squeeze getting photos on the waterfront. I really enjoyed the perspective you get from the piazza directly above the train station exit. Not many people were taking the steps up there because they were heading down towards the water.

If you fancy a snack, the fish n’ chips in a cone at Tutti Fritti comes highly recommended.

We saw people setting off on kayak tours from here, which look incredible if you have the time and skills. This particular kayak tour from Monterosso to Vernazza gets amazing reviews.


Our second town was Manarola, which I really loved because it had easy a short and easy walk around the waterfront to this gorgeous viewpoint.

We stopped here for lunch with a knock out view at Nessun Dorma. They only serve bruschetta, meat and cheese platters and drinks at this terrace restaurant but it’s incredibly popular because of the views and the fact that everything on the small menu is delicious.

We got a table without queuing by downloading their app (scroll down the home page of the website) before even arriving in Italy. When you are near the restaurant you can use the app to join a virtual queue for a table. It will tell you how many people are in front of you and when the number goes down to less than 10 I recommend you stand close to the entrance as they call out the numbers quickly and if you’re not there they move onto the next.

We arrived around 12.15, I joined the queue virtually, and then we discovered a lovely playground right next to the restaurant that Miles could play in while we waited for a table. The queue went down quickly and we were seated by 12.30, which is when they officially open.

If you fancy something more substantial for lunch then consider making a reservation at La Regina di Manarola, which offers delicious pizzas, pastas and desserts with views of the colourful stacked houses.


Vernazza I would say is one of the slightly more child-friendly Cinque Terre towns as it has a step-free walk from the train station and a small sandy beach. It’s also the town that looks most similar to Portorosso in Disney’s Luca (in my opinion) so if you have any Luca fans they’ll enjoy noticing the similarities here.

You can get a really beautiful view of Vernazza from the hiking path to Monterosso. This trail is chargeable so you’ll either need to pay or show your Cinque Terre train pass, which has the hikes included. You’ll also need to be wearing suitable footwear.

Beware: On the Cinque Terre hiking trails it is prohibited to wear open-toe shoes and/or shoes with smooth soles. If you’re found hiking without a non-slip ‘Vibram’ sole you could be fined.

I really wanted to hike to this viewpoint but by this point our son just wanted to have a paddle and eat gelato and I could not blame him. Something for next time!

After Vernazza we were ready to head back to Levanto and have some chill out time away from the crowds. The Cinque Terre wasn’t as busy as I expected it might be in May half term, we moved around quite quickly and easily and got to see and do everything we wanted without any stress. But there were some challenging bottle necks getting into and out of the train stations that I could imagine really holding you up in peak season.

Back at the apartment in Levanto, having clocked up over 17k steps, we decided to get takeaway focaccia and pizzas from a place called Focacceria Domè, which was absolutely incredible. I think this meal will go down as one of my favourite ever in Italy.

Day 2


For our second day in the Cinque Terre we decided to just visit one town and hang out at Monterosso, which has the biggest beachfront in the Cinque Terre. To mix things up we took the ferry from Levanto as the pier was a very short walk from our apartment and we wanted to see a little of the Cinque Terre from the water without spending lots of money on a private boat tour.

If we were visiting at a warmer time of year I’d have loved to do a sunset cruise but in May it was a but nippy on the water even in the daytime. (Miles wore a towel on the ferry to Monterosso!)

The ferry to the Cinque Terre departs from Levanto at 9am, 10am and 13.40 and it cost us 12 euro per adult and 5 per child to get to Monterosso. We didn’t make the 9am departure as we stopped for coffees at the park in Levanto. We got to the pier about 9.30 to buy our tickets for the 10am departure and I would not recommend arriving any later as the queue was long and spaces were limited.

We set off at 10am and arrived in Monterosso at 10.30. The ferry docks near the old town which has a smaller and quieter beach. We spent a bit of time relaxing and skimming stones there before walking through the tunnel near the train station to get to the longer stretch of beach at Monterosso al Mare.

I thought Monterosso was beautiful. I loved the iconic umbrellas and turquoise waters but my son was disappointed that the beaches all had stones/shingles. (Beach shoes are essential.) We had just come from sandy Levanto so Miles was initially questioning our decision to come here for the day. However, he soon made friends with some other kids that were making castles out of piles of stones. And we found 2 playgrounds on the beachfront to test out after lunch so he recovered from the shingle disappointment quickly.

We ate on the waterfront, enjoying a Ligurian special of pesto pasta. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we ate at but have since read that Cantina di Miky comes highly recommended.

We hopped on the train back to Levanto, once again enjoying some downtime at our Airbnb before heading out to dinner locally.

At this point you might be thinking, but Jayne are there not 5 towns in the Cinque Terre – the clue being in the title. Well, the truth is we skipped Corniglia as it is the only town without direct access to the water and we’d read it has the most steps from the train station. We wanted to enjoy some down time during our 2 days in the Cinque Terre rather than endure doing ALL the things possible. So Corniglia was sacrificed, but I have no regrets.

Where to stay in Cinque Terre with kids

When I was originally planning this trip I booked to stay in Riomaggiore. Struggling to find parking, however, I cancelled our booking and secured a stay at this apartment in Levanto, which turned out to be the best decision ever.

Found in a period building in the heart of Levanto, the Portovecchio Apartments are 6 self-contained studios set amongst gorgeous gardens that sleep between 2 to 6 people.

We stayed in Totano, which is a 1-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to 4. (There is a sofa bed in the open plan living area.) The apartment itself is compact but well-maintained with the private terrace being an absolute showstopper. After busy days exploring the touristy Cinque Terre towns we loved coming back to this peaceful jasmine-scented terrace with views of Levanto’s medieval church and castle.

The location of this apartment is absolutely perfect for families. You are mere minutes away from the beach, a playground, supermarkets, numerous well-priced restaurants and that highly rated focacceria I mentioned earlier. (You must go to Dome!) Literally everything you need is within walking distance.

While still somewhat touristy, Levanto has a much more laid-back vibe than the Cinque Terre towns and you see just as many locals in the parks and restaurants as you do visitors.

Find the listing for our Airbnb here and more information about all our best ever Airbnb stays in Europe here.

Is Cinque Terre good for families?

Our 5-year-old loved this holiday as much as we did and made friends with other children wherever we went. For us, 5 was a good age to do it. Most other families we met had children aged 4 and over with them.

I did see a handful of families with strollers or babies in carriers but I think it’s worth bearing in mind that even without doing the hikes between the towns we clocked up around 17k-20k steps a day, which could be very tiring for younger children. (Or parents who end up carrying them!).

I was quite surprised that Miles walked so much without complaining once. He is a child of boundless energy who has been raised on holidays to hilltop villages though. He was skipping in front of us saying hurry up and asking if he could go to the park again after dinner!

With hindsight, I wish we had attempted at least one of the trails between the villages but I couldn’t find any accurate information online about which one would be the safest/easiest to do with a young child. We also hadn’t packed hiking boots and didn’t want to be caught wearing the wrong footwear!

I was pleasantly surprised by how many playgrounds we found and also how many restaurants had children’s menus – not that this is necessarily a requirement in the land of pizza, pasta and gelato.

Read about our trip to Puglia with a toddler

How to get to Cinque Terre

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

We flew to Genoa from London Stansted with Ryanair, which is one of the cheapest ways to get to the Cinque Terre.

From Genoa you can get a train to the Cinque Terre or hire a car, which is what we we did because we were heading to Tuscany afterwards. (We flew back to London Stansted from Florence with BA using Avios points redemption.)

We always use Discover Cars to find the best car hire deals and have never had any problems.

The drive from Genoa to Levanto takes approx. 1 hour 10 minutes. We stopped at Portofino for lunch along the way. Santa Margherita and Rapallo are also beautiful towns you could break up the drive by visiting on the way.

Where to buy the Cinque Terre train pass

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy

The Cinque Terre rail card can be purchased at every train station in Cinque Terre, Levanto & La Spezia and online at the Cinque Terre National Park website, which is recommended to avoid queues at the train stations.

The rail card includes unlimited train travel between La Spezia & Levanto, plus access to the chargeable hiking paths.

If you’re planning on visiting the Cinque Terre by train be aware that the rail card has a 3 tier price structure for low, medium & high season days. (Categorised as red, yellow and green.)

In March, April, May & October, in particular, you can save a huge amount by travelling on a ‘green’ week day instead of a ‘red’ weekend.

Being the organised person that I am, I booked our Cinque Terre train card online in advance but what I didn’t realise is that I had chosen a ‘red’ day to travel. So, it cost us 86 euros for a train pass for 2 adults and 1 child, but if I’d bought it for the following day it would only have cost 51 Euros.

In hindsight, because we had 2 days to explore the Cinque Terre, we should have switched our plans around and bought the train pass on a cheaper day and used the ferry/ single train tickets at the weekend.

To avoid my mistake, simply check the Cinque Terre rail card price categories before planning your trip. Download the calendar for 2024 with all the red, green and yellow dates and prices. (Some months, like May, are a mix of all 3 and some months, like July, are all red!)

If you can’t avoid travelling on a ‘red’ day bear in mind it might be cheaper buying single tickets for your train journeys depending on how many towns you plan to visit in one day.

So that’s everything we did in the Cinque Terre. I’ll be sharing more CT tips plus what we got up to in Tuscany soon. Follow on Instagram for updates.

You may also like:

Where to stay in Tuscany with kids

Our Puglia family holiday

Taormina travel guide

Our best ever airbnb stays in Europe

About the author

I’m Jayne, a travel blogger, content creator and mum to a 4-year-old son. I’ve been blogging since 2010, travelled to 65 countries and share travel guides and tips to help you plan stylish, stress-free trips.

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