We weren’t going to visit Cinque Terre on this trip. It seemed hard to find a good spot to stay, tough to tackle with a toddler and most of all because of the crowds. A few days into our time in Florence, the kids were asking when we could go to the beach. We had fond memories of our last time on the Italian Coast and they were itching to swim in the sea. That’s when I decided on a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence.
When I started looking at easy beaches to get to from Florence I realized Cinque Terre was closer than I remembered. Then I found a bus option with Get Your Guide. They host a day trip and tour through Cinque Terre but you could opt for a “bus only” option. It’s a great price and you get a comfy bus direct from Florence to Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Day Trip From Florence
We got on the bus at 7am and we were in La Spezia before 9am. Then we had the whole day and just had to meet back at the bus at 5pm. I have been to Cinque Terre before (but not with kids). I knew it would be crowded and not feasible to do the hikes with all the kids. Since we were mainly going for a beach day, I decided to keep it super simple.
We’d hit the two towns with beaches that you easily swim at: Monterosso and Vernazza. They are next to each other but very different. It would give the kids a great taste of the Cinque Terre with lots of swimming.
From La Spezia we took the 15 min train to Monterosso. The trains are very crowded (August!) as are the stations. I prepared the kids and went with the hiking baby backpack for Teddy vs a stroller.
As soon as we got off the train we picked a beach club. I’d love to say we picked a beach club based on excellent research ahead of time… but I chose it based on it’s cute umbrellas. There are free beaches in Monterosso but we wanted chairs & an umbrella and less of a crowd.
The beach club we went to was $35 for the day for 2 chairs and an umbrella and was a big area with amazing snorkeling for the kids. They were “sold out” by 10 am and majority of the chairs on the beach were for monthly rentals and they were empty. Therefore the beach club stopped letting people in at 10am and it felt only about half full at most. This felt like a huge win during a crowded summer day in Cinque Terre and well worth the $35.
The beach club we went to in Monterosso was called Bagno Eden. It was also right next to La Terrazza Cigolini which is a great spot for lunch and gelato. We went to lunch early: 11:45am because no one really had much breakfast when we left the house at 6:45am. We got a table right away… by the time we left there was a line out the door waiting for tables. So go early! The view is wonderful and they have a good menu. You can also get sandwiches to go and eat at your spot on the beach.
The beach in Monterosso is truly amazing. The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming. The kids all snorkeled around saw so many fish. The view of Monterosso from the water is like looking at a painting. It’s a huge beach so even though the Cinque Terre is very crowded in the summer, while enjoying the beach at Monterosso we didn’t feel that at all.
After a few more hours swimming we packed up and hopped on the train to Vernazza. You can also get to Vernazza by boat. Some of the kids really wanted to do that but it definitely would have taken a lot longer and we wanted time in Vernazza to enjoy it before leaving. You can also hike to Vernazza. It’s a long hike and from what we could see the trails looked packed. So it made the most sense to just hop on the train: 2 min walk and 3 min train.
The kids loved walking off the train in Vernazza and into the little town. It reminded the girls of when we went to Portofino and it reminded the boys of the movie Luca. We walked through the town to the water. The beach in Vernazza is totally different. It’s small and in a little cove near where boats pull in. People put towels out on the rocks too.
Instead of snorkeling in crystal clear water it’s more jumping off of rocks and swimming near boats (which makes me pretty nervous). The kids loved it and loved the “small town” and colorful buildings. No one wanted to leave when I told them it was time to get going.
There are a few really cute gelato spots in Vernazza and the kids wanted to get some there before we left. They also wanted to get changed before the bus ride back. So we stood in line at Amore Mio for gelato and then found the first spot we could that sold sandwiches. I ordered 2 sandwiches to go so we could take turns using their bathroom (and getting changed).
Then we hopped the 4:45 train back to La Spezia to get on the 5pm bus back to Florence. It was a great day and the kids are begging to go back. I was really nervous about the crowds and whether or not we could have a fun beach day in Cinque Terre with kids but I am so glad we went. We kept it simple, saw the 2 towns where we could swim and someday we’ll return and hike all 5 towns!