When you think of the staggered, colorful houses lining coastal towns of Italy, you’re likely thinking of Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre, meaning five lands, is a national park and is especially popular among American tourists. Also written as Cinqueterra, the area is actually comprised of five main fishing villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. Getting to and between these towns is a feat in itself and even Frans (who is usually an awesome travel researcher) had a tough time finding good information on it. So, here it goes!
Travel Within Cinque Terre by Train
The absolute fastest and easiest way to travel within Cinque Terre National Park is by train. It only takes about five minutes to get to each town and the train station is centrally located, only a short walking distance to the town center. If you have a car, park at the station in Levanto (northwest) or La Spezia (southeast).
Make sure you get the “Treno” passes which allow for unlimited train rides until midnight. Make sure to stamp your ticket before you get on the train! Prices are:
- “Cinque Terre Treno MS” Adult €12.00
- “Cinque Terre Treno MS” 2 Adults €23.00
- “Cinque Terre Treno MS” Child (under 12) €7.30
- “Cinque Terre Treno MS” Senior (70+) €9.70
- “Cinque Terre Treno MS” Family (2 adults & 2 children) €31.50
Other Transportation Options
You can drive between towns but access is limited to non-residents and the roads are deathly scary! We were convinced that, if by our car broke down, we would d never be found on the narrow, two-way, unpaved roads and would be left to rot. Plus, a route that takes five minutes by train could take a good two hours by car (again, personal experience). Roads are really only meant for cars like this.
Some prefer walking along the paths by the coast. Be sure to check ahead of time the status of the routes at the train station as some routes might be closed. Another option is to take a ferry or a boat tour. This will allow you to get those postcard-perfect photos that you see online. It’s too tough to get a good angle of those hillside houses from land. I’d love to do this the next time we visit.
Is One Day Enough to Visit Cinque Terre?
It’s close to impossible to visit all five towns and fully enjoy them in the span of one day. I would suggest either staying over in one of the towns (one of our friends suggested Vernazza) or picking 1-3 towns per day. Riomaggiore and Vernazza are fairly small, basically made up of one shopping street toward the water and a modest docking area. Since were driving later in the day, we only saw Corniglia (no beach access) and Manarola (most photographed) from afar since car access to the villages is restricted.
But, if you really want to explore charming Italian alleys, stores, and restaurants and enjoy the coast with clear warm water, then plan to head to Monterosso al Mare. We stopped here first and absolutely loved it. We also found a delish restaurant, Da Eraldo, that had gluten-free pasta. But, the service took forever and sucked up the little time we had to visit the area.
Since we had four more towns to see, we left in a hurry to the next stop. The other towns seemed a bit gloomy and dwarfed compared to this one. They offered a few nice views but after taking one photo, we were pretty much done. So, if it’s your first visit, save Monterosso for last 🙂
Cinque Terre is a gorgeous area and a must see on your next Italian vacation. Make sure to plan a few days to explore and play in the area to fully enjoy all these town have to offer.