Where Is Cinque Terre?
Situated on the Italian Riviera, there is a rugged portion of coastline consisting of five fisherman villages, Monterroso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These five towns, hence the name Cinque Terre which is directly translated to “Five Lands”, carry some of the most dramatic and picturesque backdrops of Italy while maintaining its laid-back and secluded nature. These colorful towns as well as the surrounding hillsides make up Cinque Terre National Park.
Most feel a day is not really enough time to do this beautiful stretch of coast justice, due to its hiking trails and noteworthy beaches. However traveling in the cool month of October, without a desire to hike or swim, I felt a day trip could definitely be successful.
How To Get There:
Cinque Terre does not have an airport, therefore it only accessible by train or car. From major cities like Milan and Florence it is an easy 2 hr drive, and a little longer by train. You can rent a car depending and where you are heading next or book a tour which will take you back to you departure point. We rented and car and drove from Milan because we were heading to Tuscany right afterwards.
Now whether you decide to drive, take a tour or go by train, the best way to see the five towns is to start in Le Spezia. Its is nearly impossible and very dangerous to drive the winding roads that interlink these cliff-side towns, with many access points unreachable by car. Italy has put a direct train line that runs from Levanto to Le Spezia and down back, allowing you to hop on and off at each town as you please. They also have water taxis in place the go to most of the five towns as well as Porto Venere and La Spezia.
Once you reach Le Spezia Station, the first thing you want to do is get a day pass. We got a train day pass and if we wanted to catch a water taxi at any point we just paid at the pier. If you want to do go mostly by boat, there is a day pass for that as well. They will hand you a schedule and your good to go!
Once you get your schedule you can plan out your stops. My advice is to start in the furthest town and work your way back the La Spezia to see the most amazing sunset in Riomaggiore. My plan was to see Vernazza, Manorala, Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre and the Castle at Port Venere if we had time at the end. We got a late start (3pm) so we didn’t have time to visit all 5 towns but it is possible if you arrive early. Also plan exactly where you going to have lunch or dinner. I recommend Nessun Dorma in Manarola, they have amazing tapas with an amazing view. We didn’t plan it in advance and passed on that place thinking we could eat in last town but when we got there most of the restaurants were closed and didn’t reopen until 7pm. I also recommend going to a small shop, buy food and drinks to go, and sit on the pier and enjoy the view. Also if you adventurous there a many hiking trail that connect the towns, however it takes a lot of time for a day trip and you will waste precious moments.
Must see and do:
I believe the 3 most picturesque towns are Vernazza and Manorala and Riomaggiore. Montaresse is flat beach town and Corniglia sit up high so it doesn’t have the dramatic decline to a the water.
You must get a foccacia pizza! It was so delicious and flavorful and a great snack to eat while your walking and enjoying scenery.
At some point you must take a water taxi! The views you get from the water does not compare to anything you will see in town and there is practically no views on the train. We took the taxi from Vernazza to Manarola and we were able to see Corniglia from the boat.
Make sure you use the restroom at a large establishment or try to go before you start the journey. You might end up using one of these…
The sunsets in Cinque Terre are not to be missed! I believe that Riomaggare has to best but I was willing to see it other towns as well.