The fantasy towns of Cinque Terre had always been on my bucket list since like forever! Whenever I saw the pictures of those rainbow-colored houses stacked on hillslopes along the rugged Italian coastline beaten by the waves from Liguria sea, all I wanted was to be part of that scenery with my swimsuit, beach hat and a Limoncello.
My wish came true when we visited Milan and drove to Cinque Terre to witness the beautiful UNESCO heritage site.
It was a beautiful experience for us and all because of some smart planning in advance. If you’re also planning to visit these beautiful Disney villages in Italy, and you’re short on time, then read through the compiled list of tips to make the best out of your trip.
If you’re driving, park your car at La Spezia
If you’re planning to drive to Cinque Terre from Milan, Florence or Pisa, it can be an inconvenient drive after crossing La Spezia. The roads start getting very narrow and winding, moreover, the parking is extremely limited and expensive in Cinque Terre. Also, the historical attractions of the villages are accessible only by foot.
We parked our car in La Spezia before heading towards Cinque Terre. The La Spezia Centrale train station had a safe underground parking garage, and we just had to pay €18 for the whole day (or you could pay €8 for a half-day). It’s possible that rates are higher during peak months like July and August, but its way cheaper than Cinque Terre.
Get train tickets to all the five villages
The Cinque Terre express is the most convenient and fastest way to get to all the villages of Cinque Terre from La Spezia. Also, the views are breathtaking! There are trains run frequently all year round between the five villages, during the day. The local trains stop include Levanto, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore and La Spezia.
The trains run in each direction 1-2 times an hour. We purchased a Cinque Terre Train card which cost us €13 each and included unlimited train runs on the line La Spezia – Cinque Terre – Levanto (on regional trains in 2nd class) and it also gave us free access to all hiking trails and public transport.
TIP: Always remember to validate your ticket at the green stamp machine located in the stairs on the way to the platform!
Travel duration between Cinque Terre towns
Monterosso – Vernazza: 4 minutes
Vernazza – Corniglia: 4 minutes
Corniglia – Manarola: 5 minutes
Manarola – Riomaggiore: 6 minutes
You can go to the last station first: Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso is the last village on Cinque Terre and the only one with a big beautiful beach. The train station opens up to the beach promenade, where if you walk toward the left side, within few minutes you will reach the small city square and towards the right side, you could enter the main beach.
If it’s a beautiful sunny day, hit the beach, of course! I would advise you to carry your own picnic blanket, but you can always rent a towel or chairs, starting from €10 each. We didn’t use the changing rooms, instead, we took a sunbath until our swimsuits dried up.
Take a train back to Vernazza and for lunch
After spending a couple of hours in Monterosso, we headed for lunch to the next best village, Vernazza. The train ride was just a few minutes, and I must say, Vernazza has cafes and bars with some of the best views.
What to eat?
When in Italy, pizzas are the best! If you’re not a pizza person try focaccia with any vegetable of your choice. Several local cafes serve fresh focaccia (it’s very similar to garlic nans in India). However, if you are just an Indian food person, you won’t find Indian restaurants in Cinque Terre. But, you can find Indian restaurants in La Spezia where you can pick something up before heading to the five-village district. I always try to explore new food and culture; it was made easy with Italian food being so tasty! Lastly, if you got a sweet tooth, don’t miss the gelatos.
Hike through the Vernazza vineyard trail for the best view of Cinque Terre
After washing down our lunch with a couple of Sangrias, we hit the hiking trail between Vernazza and Monterosso to get a perfect view of Vernazza. The directions are clearly marked. On the right side of the main square is a 15-minute uphill hike through the vineyards, where we soaked in one of the best views of our life. It was surreal!
Don’t forget to buy limoncello, local wine and Italian seasonings
If you’re in love with oregano served at Dominos, you will be blown away by the quality of seasonings available here. There are several local shops, where you can buy them. Also, try to buy local wine, it’s quite typical but is sure to add a nice variety to your collection. Don’t forget to get yourself a customary Limoncello cocktail at the beach!
Corniglia and Manarola are good for views
If you’re short on time, maybe you can skip Corniglia and Manarola. Also, it’s difficult to access beaches in these villages as they are mostly rocky and craggy. However, if you’re adventurous enough, we won’t stop you 😉 Corniglia mostly has nude beaches which are accessible through boats.
Keep Riomaggiore as your last stop!
Riomaggiore is the first village of Cinque Terre, it might not have as beautiful views as in Vernazza, but it has its own charm. Especially the narrow streets, bustling with souvenir shops, cafes and bars. Also, this one is the busiest one out of all the villages. There’s no beach in Riomaggiore, but on the left side of the harbour, you can take the path for the best Instagram shots and bid goodbye to the beautiful, rusty, raw amalgamation of Mediterranean seaside villages – Cinque Terre.
Some more tips…
Don’t carry heavy luggage if you plan to stay in one of these towns
If you’re planning to stay in Cinque Terre for a couple of days, most of the pensions or Airbnbs with a view are located in unique locations, for which you might have to take steep stairs, which could be difficult with lots of luggage. I would advise to store the luggage at La Spezia station, and just carry the important stuff in a backpack to the hotel in Cinque Terre. It’s cheapest to store your luggage at La Spezia station, as it will cost €3 for 12 hours and additional €2 for each consecutive 12 hours. While keeping in the luggage storage of Monterosso or Vernazza would cost €1 per hour or €10 for a day.
Carry a sunscreen!
The best time to visit Cinque Terre is from mid-March to mid-October. We went to Cinque Terre in May, and the weather was great, neither too hot nor too cold.
Regular stuff like water, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats are a must and could cost a premium to buy in Cinque Terre, so I would advise carrying your own. Further, do bring a light jacket for evenings.
Toll rates are expensive
Renting a car is easy in Italy, but if you’re planning a road trip especially from Milan to Cinque Terre to explore the scenic mountain beauty of the Northern Italy, let me tell you that toll charges are expensive. It will cost you around €20 in tolls one-way. We used a Telepass – an electronic device to allow passing through these tolls and pay automatically. It was provided to us by the rental company and it was quite convenient for us.
All these tips are based on personal experience, hope they help you plan your dream holiday to Cinque Terre. I would love to know if you found the article useful. Share your thoughts in the comment’s section below. Also, if you’ve already been to the Cinque Terre and have tips and suggestions, do share with Europing.
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