loaderWit
11 minutes

The top 5 things to do in Cinque Terre with kids

Cinque Terre consists of 5 fishing villages on the Ligurian coast that can be found in between the cities of Pisa and Genua. It’s known as a parco nazionale, aka national park. What is special about these villages is that they are built on the cliffs and the houses are painted in the most vivid colors. It is hard not to fall in love with Cinque Terre! The food, the colors, the hiking trails and the picturesque little harbors make Cinque Terre a bucket list destination for kids and their parents. That’s why I present you with the top 5 things to do in Cinque Terre with kids!

Dramatic coastline villages in the Italian Riviera

The dramatic coastline villages that make up Cinque Terre are Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (from North to South). More than 2,5 million visitors flock to this UNESCO World Heritage Site every year and it’s easy to see why. All five towns have their own charm and are very picturesque.

Why Cinque Terre is a great choice for a family visit

Italians love children. Everywhere you come kids will be welcomed with a smile. As a traveling family you feel welcome right away in a country where families are regarded as the most important thing in life.

The food in Italy is very child friendly. Gelato, pasta, pizza, focaccia, all dishes kids love to eat. Because eating out is considered a family affair in this country, you’ll find high chairs for your kids in every restaurant. Very rarely have we found a kitchen that is so accessible for children as the Italian kitchen.

There’s lots to see and explore for kids in Cinque Terre. What about all the rainbow colored buildings? And climbing up and down countless stairways and narrow pathways discovering new things around every corner.

You can easily take the train between the 5 villages, an activity most children will like. And what about traveling to another one of the villages with a boat? It gives the whole family a different view of the gorgeous towns, with a welcoming cool breeze as a bonus.

Unfortunately there’s one downside to visiting Cinque Terre with kids. When you travel here with a baby or toddler that still uses a stroller, you might run into some trouble. The terrain is a bit kid-unfriendly, with all the elevation and steep stairs and alleys. A solution is to carry you small ones in a baby carrier on you belly or your back. Ideally one with a built-in sunscreen you can pop up.

Walking with a toddler in a back carrier through Cinque Terre is better than a stroller

When to visit Cinque Terre

The best time to visit Cinque Terre is in May and June or September and October. The temps are cooler and the crowds much smaller.

We visited Cinque Terre during high season in July, but to be fair that was during the summer of 2020, when the world was just recovering from the first lockdown. This was in July of 2020, when there weren’t a lot of visitors there. If you go to Cinque Terre now, you’ll see that the huge crowds have returned. If you have to travel during high season, know that the heat was manageable, even though it was about 30-35 degrees. This is mainly due to the cool sea breeze and the fact that we did the sightseeing in the early mornings and early evenings. We hung by our pool or at a shady terrazza in the afternoon.

When traveling to Cinque Terre in July and August, make sure you make reservations for restaurants you’d like to visit and start your exploring and hiking around 7.30am/8am.

Now let’s dive into the best 5 things to do in Cinque Terre with kids!

Monterosso Al Mare

New town of Monterosso al Mare in Cinque Terre - Italy

Our home base was a villa in the most northern village of Cinque Terre: Monterosso Al Mare, more commonly known as Monterosso. A great starting point with lots to see, do and eat (you are in Italy after all). Monterosso is the only village with a proper beach and you will see lots of bronzed Italians parading around the beach and boulevard.

This village has an old town and a new one. The new part of this town is where you will find the beaches, most of the hotels, home rentals and the villas of Italians that have a second home in Cinque Terre. A tunnel for pedestrians divides the old and new town.

Kids will be eager to play in the sand and the sea, but there is also a little playground for kids up to around 8yo. You can find it in front of kid-friendly restaurant Barabba In White, where we had some great dinners.

Monterosso Al Mare's public beach in Cinque Terre - Italy

Old Town

The Old Town is very charming with lots of cute balconies, small eateries and tourist shops. From the harbor in the old part of Monterosso you can take the ferry to other parts of Cinque Terre, except for Corniglia because it doesn’t have a harbor. There are also connections to Portovenere, La Spezia, Levanto, Portofino and to the island of Palmaria.

If you have kids, check out the little playground. You can’t miss it as it is centrally located in between the harbor and the entry to the old town.

Statue of St. Francis at Monterosso al Mare its Convent of the Capuchin Friars in Cinque Terre - Italy

Convent of the Capuchin Friars

After you strolled through the Old Town, head back to the harbor and walk up to the Convent of the Capuchin Friars, where you will find the convent, but also a great view of Monterosso Bay and it gives you a closer look of Vernazza.

Looking for more information about visiting Italy with kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Italy

You might also like:

Or check out some of my other Europe family travel guides, filled with articles about Iceland, Scotland, Sweden and more!

Torre Aurora in Monterosso Al Mare - Cinque Terre, Italy

Hiking from Monterosso Al Mare

If you want to hike, Monterosso is a great starting point. We did two hikes from here.

Monterosso Al Mare to Punta Mesco

When you start from the beach next to the Statua del Gigante the total of your hike will be about 2,5 to 3 hours (up and down). It is a beautiful walk and I suggest you start as early as you can to avoid hordes of hikers. And to avoid the heat. It is quite a climb and in the heat it will probably be to0 hard for the youngest to complete on their own 2 feet.

If you start from the Old Town this hike will be about 20 to 30 minutes longer (depending on what part of the Old Town you start your hike from).

We started at 7.30am and didn’t see anyone at all. It was so serene. As I stated before, some parts are quite steep and the steps high, but it is absolutely doable for beginners and is also suitable for children.

View of Italy's Cinque Terre from Punto Mesco

When you get to the top of Punta Mesco you are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Ligurian Coast and you will spot all five villages from up here. It was an amazing sight and I highly recommend it.

While you’re there you can also visit the remains of a church named Eremo di Sant’Antonio del Mesco, believed to be built during the 11th century. These ruins are located 311 meters above the sea and the view from up here is just as magnificent as the one around the corner with views of Cinque Terre.

Punto Mesco views over Monterosso Al Mare - Cinque Terre, Italy
Monterosso Al Mare to Vernazza

The second hike I did was the one to the next town over: Vernazza. Starting your hike from the Old Town this trail will take about 3 to 4 hours. It’s called the Blue Path and the 7,5 kilometers long path is not hard to walk, but can be pretty steep at times.

I say I, because I did the walk on my own. Our 2 year old wasn’t able to walk long distances like this yet and it was way to hot to take him with us on our back in his child carrier (both for him and the parent that has to carry him around). The hike was beautiful. And definitely doable for kids ages 5 and up.

Views while hiking from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza in Italy's Cinque Terre

Lots of vineyards, great views of both Monterosso as Vernazza and of course of the Ligurian coastline. I highly recommend this hike, but I do advise to start as early in the day as possible, because the summer heat can definitely exhaust you. And very important: bring enough water with you.

Vineyard at Vernazza in Cinque Terrre - Italy

Things you need to know

  • You used to be able to walk from north Cinque Terre all the way up to the south of Cinque Terre, but a few hiking paths between the villages are closed off because of safety issues. Before you start your hike check out your possibilities on the official Cinque Terre site.
  • This site is also great to get more in depth information about all the trails available in this National Park.
  • You have to buy a Cinque Terre Trekking Card to be able to visit the park and walk the trails. You can either buy this card online or at the Welcome Centers in all five villages.
  • The Cinque Terre Trekking Card fees are:
    • 1 day, adults: € 7,50 (for 12yo/69yo)
    • 2 days, adults: € 14,50 (for 12yo/69yo)
    • 1 day, kids: € 4,50 (for 4yo/12yo)
    • 2 days, kids: € 7,20 (for 4yo/12yo)
    • 1 day, family: € 19,60 (for families of 2 adults and 2 children between 4yo/12yo)
    • 2 days, family: € 31,50 (for families of 2 adults and 2 children between 4yo/12yo)
  • If you want to take the train and have access to the park and its villages it is better to buy the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card. You can also buy this card online or at one of the Welcome Centers in all five villages.
  • The Cinque Terre Treno MS Card fees are:
    • 1 day, adults: € 16,00 (for 12yo/69yo)
    • 2 days, adults: € 29,00 (for 12yo/69yo)
    • 3 days, adults: € 41,00 (for 12yo/69yo)
    • 1 day, kids: € 10,00 (for 4yo/12yo)
    • 2 days, kids: not available (buy a new one every day)
    • 1 day, family: € 42,00 (for families of 2 adults and 2 children between 4yo/12yo)
    • 2 days, family: not available (buy a new one every day)

Vernazza

Beautiful colored buildings at the harbor of Vernazza in Cinque Terre - Italy

After my hike from Monterosso to Vernazza it was time to explore this town. Vernazza has one small beach and a harbor that is just as small, but very charming. Both can be found next to each other and around it you will find a center plaza where you will find lots of restaurants where you can get great seafood and of course regional dishes like Trofie Al Pesto.

Trofi al Pesto, a local dish in Cinque Terre - Italy

I can highly recommend restaurant Gambero Rosso. Here I had a delicious tagliatelle with lobster. And one of the best starters I ever had in Italy: a large bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, burrata, anchovies, extra vergine olive oil with lemon and fresh basil.

There were loads of kid friendly pasta’s on the menu as well.

Bruschetta with tomatoes, burrata, anchovies and lemon in Vernazza - Italy

Lemon and anchovies

Fun fact: lemon and anchovies are very common in dishes served in Cinque Terre. The anchovies are locally fished and the lemons grow all over Cinque Terre. Every year in May you can visit the Lemon Festival in Monterosso where you can buy all the lemons you could ask for and of course liters and liters of Limoncello.

Back to Vernazza: you don’t need lots of time to explore it. In about 1,5 hours you’ve seen it all. In all honesty, the highlight is the harbor and the plaza in front of it, where you will also find a church that is worth a visit, the Santa Margherita di Antiochia.

Viewpoint at Vernazza in Cinque Terrre - Italy

Corniglia

Next on this top 5 things to do in Cinque Terre with kids is a town that is most skipped on trips to Cinque Terre. Corniglia. This is mainly because the walk up to the town of Corniglia, from the train station is quite the challenge. It’s a steep ascent via a 377-step brick stairway. The other reason is that it doesn’t have direct access to the sea.

Even though we visited Cinque Terre for a full week, halfway through our stay we realized we had to skip one of the towns and chose to safe Corniglia for another visit to this region. There is simply too much to see and do.

But I have heard from multiple other travelers that Corniglia is well worth a visit. We’ll have to come check it out some other time.

Manarola

Scenic viewpoint in Manarola in Cinque Terre - Italy

We loved Manarola more than we anticipated beforehand. Having seen numerous pictures of Manarola taken from a terrace across from the village, but we didn’t think there was much else to see. We were wrong.

Scenic viewpoint

The walk to and from the harbor was very picturesque. And if you walk up to the scenic viewpoint next to restaurant Nessun Dorma you pass by a playground where you get a closer look at the Manarola vineyards and also of Corniglia.

Vineyard in Cinque Terre's Manarola in Italy

So if you walk up to the viewpoint with the goal of taking that postcard picture of Manarola, make sure you also look to your right and admire the view on that side.

We stayed in Manarola for about 2,5 hours, including a short break for an espresso.

Riomaggiore

The most famous village of Cinque Terre has got to be Riomaggiore. A visit to this village is on top of this list of 5 things to do in Cinque Terre with kids. It is an easy ride from La Spezia and also from Pisa. People who visit the region and don’t have more than a day to spend in Cinque Terre usually choose to visit Riomaggiore. It is also the most photographed of all the villages.

Strolling through Cinque Terre's Riomaggiore - Italy

Visiting Riomaggiore by car

If you want to visit Riomaggiore by car and are not staying in Cinque Terre, make sure you come early. I tried to visit Riomaggiore back in 2018 and arrived at 11.30am to find that the road down to the village was closed. It was already overrun by visitors. So, make sure you arrive around 9am to make sure you don’t have to turn around and change your plans for the day.

Coming early is also a great trip if you visit this town with public transport. It gets really busy around noon and you stand in line everywhere; for pics, shops and a table at a restaurant.

Another option is to arrive around 16am. That is the time that most visitors go back to their homes or hotels/rentals and gives you the time to admire Riomaggiore in relative peace. Stay for dinner and you will be rewarded with a great sunset.

Cinque Terre's hilly town Riomaggiore - Italy

Picturesque harbor

Now on to the fun part. If you’re smart and avoided as much of the crowd as you possibly can, good for you! Start by walking to the small harbor and enjoy the view of the colored houses first and take your pics second. Because, before you realize it, the crowds start to form and you are already enjoying your coffee at one of the many restaurants with great views of the sea and the village.

Vineyards behind the village of Riomaggiore in Italy's Cinque Terre

After enjoying the most famous part of Riomaggiore it is time to see the rest of the village. Cobbled streets take you through small and wide alleyways with loads of souvenir shops, restaurants and fruit stalls. Walk up to the Church of San Giovanni Battista. Not only is this a beautiful church to visit, but this area rewards you with great panoramic views of the whole town and the vineyards behind it.

That’s the end of this list of the best 5 things to do in Cinque Terre with kids. A magical bundle of picturesque towns that you’ll probably want to visit again.

About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook group


You might also like

Comments (2)

    Saskia posted on 12 Sep 2020 at 5:47 pm

    It really is a lovely location with great food!


About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

Get FREE ebook The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road TripBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook group

Get my FREE eBook!

The Ultimate Beginners guide: Planning a Family Road Trip

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.
    error: