Travelling to the Cinque Terre can be draining on the wallet. Accommodation prices are at a premium in these tiny but popular villages, and there is an access fee for the coastal trail. But it is possible to keep the costs down if times are tight.
Here are my top tips for visiting the Cinque Terre on a budget:
1. Stay in Levanto or La Spezia.
Just a few minutes on the train from the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre, accommodation prices drop and you’ll find a wider range of options in these larger towns. It’s also easier to find ingredients if you’re planning on cooking your own food. Both of these towns are included in the extended Cinque Terre Card train pass.
2. Hike the Coastal Trail in one day.
You’re required to buy a one or two-day Cinque Terre Card to walk on the famous Coastal Trail between the five villages (currently €16 including trains, €7.50 without). Bear in mind that sections of the trail might be closed due to landslides (check the Park Authority website before you go), so it makes sense to hike the open sections of the Coastal Trail in one day to save on card costs. You can then spend the rest of your trip exploring trails which are free to access.
3. Use the ATC buses to explore the hills behind the villages.
Single tickets are about half the price of the train. Catch the bus up to Volastra, Groppo, or San Bernadino, and then take one of the trails back down. Check at the Tourist Information offices for schedules.
4. Hike from Levanto to Monterosso.
The Coastal Trail is beautiful, but if you’re looking for a free alternative you’ll find the same beautiful views on this stretch of trail which is free to access. A single train ticket to Levanto is only a few euros.
5. Stock up in La Spezia.
The food market in La Spezia is much cheaper than the stores in the villages. You’ll find it on Piazza del Mercato, every morning except Sundays. Consider a trip if you’re souvenir-shopping.
6. Visit Portovenere by bus.
As an alternative to the main villages, this gem is similar in style and spirit. It’s a popular day trip by ferry but for a cheaper ride you can catch a bus from La Spezia.
7. Stay in a hostel.
Whilst accommodation prices are generally high, the popularity of the area with backpackers means that there are a few decent options for budget travellers. I stayed at the Hostel 5Terre in Manarola. It’s a bit institutional but in a great location at the back of the village.
Several new hostels with superior facilities have opened over the past few years. If you don’t mind being up in the hills then there’s 5 Terre Backpackers in Corvara and Ostello Tramonti up in the hills behind Riomaggiore. Both run a shuttle bus service for guests. As hikers tend to be early risers these are not party hostels and curfews are common. Night-owls might be better off finding dorm beds offered in converted apartments. There’s a smattering of these in Riomaggiore and the other villages. Further afield there is the Gran Hostel Manin in La Spezia and Hostel Ospitalia del Mare in Levanto.
8. Grab a takeaway snack.
With so many perfect picnic vistas here’s no need to eat out for every meal. Each village has stores selling focaccia, farinata, arancini, pizza, and ready-made pasta dishes. Fresh fruit is also widely available. You’ll also find fried seafood to take away, and of course gelato. Grab a bottle of local wine and a pizza and watch the sunset.
9. Step away from the sun lounger.
Sunbathing can an expensive past-time in Monterosso, the only Cinque Terre village with a decent beach. Rates can be extortionate in July and August, but there are a few public sections of the beach where you can lay your towel for free. If you must have a sun lounger then go in the afternoon to take advantage of half-day rates, or head outside the Park to Levanto or Bonassola.
Do you have any tips for visiting the Cinque Terre on a budget? Leave them in the comments below.