When I first heard of Cinque Terre, I thought it was one town along the coastline of Italy. After further research I found out that Cinque Terre actually means 'Five Lands' in Italian. So the five pastel-hued fishing villages that are perched high on the Italian Riviera make up the Cinque Terre which is located in the region of Liguria.
These iconic fishing villages are no longer isolated; thanks to magazine photo shoots and cruise ships into La Spezia, Cinque Terre is now at the top of everyone's list for european summer. Since 1997, Cinque Terre has been a Unesco World Heritage Site, and recognised as a National Park and protected marine area aiming to preserve its natural environment and cultural heritage.
How to get to Cinque Terre?
The Cinque Terre does present a few challenges for accessibility. The easiest way to arrive at and travel between the fishing villages is by train. If you are traveling from Rome, Genoa or Pisa, there is a train line that directly connects to all five of the villages.
I would recommend that if you are wanting to do few day trips to the different villages that you buy the Cinque Terre Train Card as it includes the following:
- Use of ecological park buses
- Access to all trekking paths
- Wi-fi internet connection
- Unlimited train travel on - Levanto, Cinque Terre & La Spezia lines (2nd class regional trains)
Adult price (as of 2017, no new information for 2018 prices):
from 2/11/2016 to 31/03/2017 and from 2/11/2017 to 31/12/2017:
1 day Cinque Terre Train Card: € 13
2 days Cinque Terre Train Card: € 23
from 1/04/2017 to 1/11/2017:
1 day Cinque Terre Train Card: € 16
2 days Cinque Terre Train Card: € 29
3 days Cinque Terre Train Card: € 41
The price is quite high for the summer months as this is peak season, however it is worth it if you are going to explore the towns and do multiple day trips. I would suggest that if you buy the Cinque Terre Train Card that you take advantage of the access to the trekking paths. Unfortunately Dylan and I weren't able to go on any of the trekking paths as the weather was too wet and stormy, which resulted in the paths closing.
In comparison, a normal train ticket price, for example one way from La Spezia Centrale to Riomaggiore is € 4 ($6.37) per person, however you could find yourself paying € 8,50 ($13.57) per person one way from La Spezia to Monterosso. So if you are going to take advantage of using the trains and trekking paths then I would recommend buying the card rather than individual tickets.
If you were driving through Italy, I wouldn't suggest trying to park near any of the Cinque Terre as the cliff-edge roads are extremely narrow and parking costs an arm and a leg. Cars were banned over a decade ago, so you would have to park in designated spots near the villages. Leaving your car in La Spezia would be the best option as there is secure parking at the train station and if it costs money, it wouldn't be as expensive as near the villages.
How long should you spend in Cinque Terre?
I would say allow for three or four days in Cinque Terre as there is so much to do. Swimming in the beautiful ocean, hiking through the villages and tasting all of the delicious food (definitely try their calamari, octopus and chips in a paper cone). If you're tight on time, then one or two nights will be enough to open your eyes to the beauty that is Cinque Terre.
Where should you stay?
Dylan and I stayed in an Airbnb in La Spezia which is right next to the Cinque Terre villages. It was a lot cheaper than staying in one of the fishing villages; plus Cinque Terre has a lot of steep walkways and stairs which looked quite difficult for those travelers trying to wheel their suitcases up to their accomodation. If you did want to stay in one of the Cinque Terre villages then I would recommend booking early.
If you decide to do day trips into the Cinque Terre then I would suggest staying in La Spezia like we did as it is far closer than Pisa or Genoa. From La Spezia to Riomaggiore (the closest of the five villages) it is only a seven minute train trip and around 25 minute max trip to the furthest of the villages, Monterosso. La Spezia was great to return to at night as it is less expensive than the Cinque Terre villages and has some lovely restaurants and bars.