Navigating Cinque Terre

The Amalfi Coast, the French Riviera and the Greek islands all come to mind when people associate the beach and Europe.  Yet tucked away among the rugged cliff sides on the western coast of Italy is Cinque Terre.   The Cinque Terre is a beautiful patch of land comprised of five villages (hence the name Cinque Terre, “five lands”) that was denoted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

My family in Cinque Terre. 
I visited Cinque Terre back in March of 2012 while I visited my sister who was studying abroad in Florence.  Before heading to Italy, my family was unsure if we would visit Cinque Terre as we would have to do it in a day and not sure if it was possible.   Although I had wished we were spending more time there (ideally a night), a day trip is very doable.   You are still able to spend 6 – 8 hours and explore each one of the five sea side villages.

If leaving from Florence, you will have to catch an early train to La Spezia which is about a two hour ride.  From La Spezia, you can catch the local train which runs throughout the day and takes about 20 minutes to get to the first village, Riomaggiore.

In the cove in Manorola. 
Cinque Terre is known for a number of walking paths that connect the villages that overlook the ocean from above.  The only problem with the paths is that they can take a long time to walk from one village to the next.  Therefore, if you are trying to do Cinque Terre in one day, the amount of paths you explore may be limited.   That being said, the most efficient use of your time during a Cinque Terre day trip is to utilize the local trains, as there are no roads.

We learned the train times by the time we reached the second village and the rule of thumb is that we could catch a train every 80 – 90 minutes (I believe they run more frequently though).  This gives you more than enough time to walk around town, grab some gelato and drink a little vino.  And if you want to spend more time at a certain village just plan accordingly.    

Walking down a street in Cinque Terre. 
In October 2011 there were torrential down pours in the Cinque Terre region that caused devastating landslides.  Two of the five villages were especially devastated and were still under the rebuilding process during March of 2012. We knew this ahead of time so planned to spend less time in Vernazza and Monterosso and more times at the others. 

If I were to do a day trip over again I would take the train from La Spezia to the Monterosso and then work my way back to Riomaggiore.  When we did our day trip, we started in Riomaggiore and worked our way north and then had to back track cutting away some time from touring around.  We still had plenty of time but when being logistical, starting in Monterosso makes the most sense.   

The beach in Moterosso. 
In general, my favorite village was Manarola”.  The small cove at the foot of the town illuminates the vibrant neighborhood with its crystal blue water.  This is also a great place to stop for a bite to eat.  Cinque Terre is known for Pesto and there is a fabulous restaurant called, Il Porticollo,  where my mom claimed it was the best Pesto she ever had.   On top of that, when you are either leaving Manarola to get to Riomaggiore, or vice versa, you can enjoy a walking path that I described above.  Lover’s Road connects the two cities in a short 30 minute walk so it is very doable during a day trip. I would have also really enjoyed Monterosso as it boasted a beautiful strip of beachfront.  However, this was one of the towns that were in a rebuilding phase due to the mudslides. 

Cinque Terre may not be the Vatican or the Statue of David but it is certainly one of Italy’s gems.  Spending a night or two would be the ideal scenario but if you only have a day, don’t hesitate, train it to the Italian Riviera and embrace all that Cinque Terre has to offer. 

The entrance to lover's road. 


Popular Posts