What to Know Before You Go:
Cinque Terre, or “five lands” in Italian, is not just one city. It is actually a collection of five charming towns on the Italian Riviera. The beautiful coast is a “must” when visiting Italy, and it is sure to be a major highlight of your trip.
Many travelers have questions about touring the region, and I’m here to help answer those questions. From hiking information, to deciding where to stay, to train schedules and the Cinque Terre card, this is a one-stop-shop for What to Know Before You Go to stunningly beautiful Cinque Terre.
Bus: There are no busses that run between the five towns. Take my advice and take the train.
Plane: There are multiple airports in Italy, the most popular being in Rome, Milan, and Venice. There is no direct flight to Cinque Terre or La Spezia (the nearest city), so you’ll have to fly and take public transportation or hire a car from there. Although not as large, Pisa, Florence, and Genoa have international airports that are relatively close to Cinque Terre. You’ll still need to catch a train, bus, or hire a car to reach the towns. Check out this website for more detailed information.
Train: In my opinion, the train is the easiest and most affordable option for reaching Cinque Terre. My recommendation is to buy your ticket to La Spezia. Once you are there, check the most recent train schedules and buy your ticket to one of the towns right at the station (or opt for the Cinque Terre card for the best value). The first town of Riomaggiore is literally 7 minutes away. Train schedules can be found on www.trenitalia.it.
Car: Driving to Cinque Terre is another option; however, know that Italian drivers are crazy (no offense!), roads to the five towns are narrow and windy, and there are very few places to park. If you take a car, I highly recommend you park it in La Spezia and take the train to the towns from the La Spezia station, whether you’re staying in a town overnight or not. I can’t stress this enough – trust me. There’s reasonably priced, covered parking right at the station as well as multiple parking options around the city.
Where to Stay:
There are multiple options for accommodations while in Cinque Terre. Many decide to visit Cinque Terre solely as a day trip from other areas like Pisa or Florence. If you’re wanting to spend more than a day in the towns (I recommend it, especially if you want to hike), here are my recommendations.
In the Towns: You can absolutely find accommodations in the five towns, although they are expensive and limited. Most accommodations are apartment style. Look not only into hotels via the regular websites (www.hotels.com, www.booking.com), but check out AirBnB. You’ll be amazed with the selection and price when compared to hotels – although it’ll still be relatively expensive. If you want to stay in one of the five towns, make sure you book well enough in advance, especially in tourist season, as rooms book up quickly!
In terms of which town to stay in… there are pros and cons to each, depending upon what you are after. Personally, I think Monterosso and Riomaggiore are your best bets. They have more to see and do than the other towns and have the best selection of bars and restaurants for dinner. Vernazza would be my next choice. I don’t recommend staying in Corniglia or Manarola. They are certainly beautiful, but incredibly limited in terms of restaurants or anything to see or do after 8 PM.
La Spezia: La Spezia is the closest major city to Cinque Terre – a mere 7 minute train ride from the first town of Riomaggiore. If you are looking for a convenient and inexpensive place to stay while exploring Cinque Terre, La Spezia has you covered. Again, look on hotel sites but also on AirBnB. Ideally, look for a location very near to the train station. This is also the area of town where there are plenty of restaurants, the old city center, and night life.
You made it! Getting Around the 5 Towns Once You’re There:
Hikes: Cinque Terre is a hikers paradise. The main hiking path (blue path) stretches over 12 kilometers along the coast. That being said, there are paths that are closed off from time to time. At the time of this post, the blue path between Corniglia and Manarola and Manarola to Riomaggiore are closed. They have an anticipated opening date of Summer, 2018. There are alternative paths you can take between the towns that are more difficult – intermediate to advanced.
I like this website for a summary of the paths, the distance, how long each hike takes, and the difficulty level.
The hikes between Monterosso and Vernazza and Vernazza and Corniglia are paid. It costs between 7.50 and 10.00 euros to walk these trails (total), depending on if it is high or low season. If you are exploring Cinque Terre for the day, I would highly recommend buying the Cinque Terre Pass. This includes any trains, hikes, or busses (from the Corniglia train station to the city center), you may need. It’s a great value! You can find more information HERE.
Train: Trains run between the five towns and La Spezia often throughout the day. You don’t have to hike the trails, and you can easily see all five towns in one day by taking the train. All train travel between Levanto and La Spezia is included in the Cinque Terre card, so I would recommend buying it. The train trips are very short (between 2-5 minutes each), but every so often there is indeed the “train police” ready to hand out tickets, so I advise you buy train tickets or the Cinque Terre card. FYI – you can get a train schedule at any of the tourist information centers in each town, but know… the trains have a habit of running late!
Car: Don’t do it.
Cinque Terre Card: In my opinion, the Cinque Terre card is 100% worth it, especially if you are aiming to see all five towns or plan to hike at all. This website sums it up quite well.
Do you have any specific questions about Cinque Terre that I haven’t addressed? If so, please feel free to comment below and I will provide you with an answer ASAP!
Also, don’t forget to check out a great overview of the towns and Our Favorite Local Spots!