Following my previous post about my misadventure in Cinque Terre, I received a couple of follow-up questions, from fellow travellers on instagram wanting to know more about this unique part of the world and in particular, the best way get there and around.
So here goes…
The Cinque Terre or “Five Lands” comprise five crazily-constructed picturesque fishing villages perched dramatically atop the breathtaking Ligurian coastline, each having their own distinctive essence and feel.
History is alive in the villages, filled with ancient churches and castles between narrow, crooked streets and squares, lined with colourful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other.
Infused with an old world charm, even nowadays the Cinque Terre are hard to reach. The rocky, rugged coastal cliffs keep this area in scenic isolation, and this contributes in preserving the surroundings in their characteristic Mediterranean appearance.
First thing you need to note –> Cinque Terre is the term used to describe the entire area/region and not just one particular place. You won’t be able to book a train or check accommodation rates for “Cinque Terre.”
You will need to decide which of the five villages, which make up Cinque Terre region, is your destination point and then work from there.
How To Get There
The closest airports are the Galileo Galilei international airport in Pisa and the Cristoforo Colombo international airport in Genoa.
If Milan Malpensa International Airport is your arrival point, the city of Genoa is about a 2-hour train ride away, where one is able to change to the local train line. but you will have to take a bus to the train station from the Malpensa Airport.
Arrival by train is by far the easiest and preferred method. La Spezia can be reached from anywhere in the country, using the state operated carrier, Trenitalia.
From La Spezia, take the local train, treno regionale, towards Sestri Levante, stopping at your chosen village in the Cinque Terre region. Riomaggiore is the first stop after La Spezia.
For example, from Genoa (Genova), take the local train towards La Spezia and get off at your Cinque Terre destination or take the express directly to La Spezia and the local train back to your destination.
The train is the best means of transport within the region. They run frequently, especially during the summer. All the Cinque Terre villages are well connected by rail and each village has a train station. Tickets can be bought at the station.
A more expensive, but very scenic option, are the ferries that run up and down this part of the coast. Ferries embark from La Spezia, Lerici, and Porto Venere; where connecting boats serve each of the five villages with the exception of Corniglia.
I wouldn’t recommend traveling by car. What little parking there is, lies well outside the villages. To get from one village to the next involves driving all the way up to the high road and back down again. It is much better to leave the car and use the train instead.
Walking/hiking is my personal favourite and for many, the highlight when visiting this unique part of the world.
Because of the difficulty of access, the park is a pedestrian paradise linked by a network of footpaths that traverse seaside peninsulas, vineyards, and olive groves offering the best opportunity to truly enjoy the beautiful landscape.
The coastal route, known as Sentiero Azzurro or Azure Trail, is the most admired itinerary. The path goes from Monterosso to Riomaggiore and walking from village to village is the best way to enjoy the sights and sounds. You’ll see majestic views overlooking the sea, and the hike can easily take up a day. The trails from each town vary in difficulty, with some, just a walk in the park (see what I did there? ;)), whilst others are a little more difficult, involving climbs over steep and rough terrain.
Note to check beforehand and see which of the trails are officially open. Some are still closed for repair since the landslides of 2012. In certain towns you might be able to enter the path at your own risk.
Should you have additional time or like me, a voracious need for further exploration, it’s worth discovering some of the paths that begin outside of the park like the route between Levanto and Monterosso or the coastal trail from Riomaggiore all the way to Portovenere. Alternatively, the higher paths within the area itself like Monte Negro (above Riomaggiore) or Volastra (above Manarola) are very scenic too.
The Cinque Terre tourist card allows an unlimited number of train rides along the La Spezia-Levanto line, access to all hiking trails/paths and free use of available public transport, such as the eco minibuses.
All that hiking and exploration is sure to leave you famished. No visit to Cinque Terre is complete without savoring some of the most appreciated native specialties of this region.
Freshly caught fish, enhanced with garden-fresh lemons from the surrounding foothills, is a must-have.
If like me, you’re a huge pasta fan, it’s almost mandatory to try a dish with pesto made from locally grown basil. This is one of the creations from this region now widely loved all over.
For a quick, cheap, and hearty snack be sure to try “focaccia.” A type of filling bread ranging from the plain variety, simply seasoned with extra-virgin olive oil, to richer versions with olives, pepperdews, feta, avocados and all kinds of other toppings.
For the perfect thirst quencher, try Sciacchetrà, a crisp white wine and a prized product of the local vineyards surrounding the villages or a tall glass of freshly made lemonade, for which this area is particularly well known.
Related reading: Where to find the best gelato in Rome
Even in Italy, a land of many wonders, Cinque Terre National Park is unique.
I had initially planned a jaunt on a yacht for the better part of my night, eager in anticipation of seeing the spectacular coastline and the five lands from a different point of view, but travel seldom goes according to plan. Even so, I had longed to visit this part of the Italian Riviera for years and had an excellent time here.
And I’m almost certain you will too.
Do you plan on visiting this part of the world at some point? Have you already been? I would love to hear your impressions and thoughts in the comments below.
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Here’s to la dolce vita at its finest,