Cinque Terre is a series of picturesque villages perched along the rugged cliffs between Genoa and Pisa.
Driving to Cinque Terre is possible but difficult and not recommended. It is very hard to park and you can’t drive in the small towns. However it is easy to get there by train. La Spezia is the train station that connects to Cinque Terre and it is easily reached from Genoa, Pisa or other Italian cities. Then there is local puddle jumper or choo-choo train that runs in tunnels along the coast and stops in every one of the villages.
Cinque Terre is a National Park and there is a small fee (at the time of writing 5€) to walk the trail, which can be purchased at one of the many tourist offices or at the beginning of the trail. The walk between all villages takes the best part of the day, with the most difficult portion of the hike between Vernazza and Monterosso. The train is another great way to navigate between towns. Though not the most scenic choice, as the route mainly takes travelers through a series of tunnels, it is a great way to visit all of the towns for those who would prefer not to hike. The ferry boats running frequently between towns are a fun and more scenic way to venture from town to town. Both of Avanti’s Cinque Terre Packages include a “Cinque Terre Pass”, which is good for either the train or the ferry. The best of both worlds is a combination of walking and taking the train or ferry between the villages which is what many people chose to do, as it allows for more time to spend exploring.
Summary of the towns from North to South:
- Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. All the towns are sea level except for Corniglia which is perched on top of a hill.
- Riomaggiore – Southernmost of the towns. Has a small castello and bells chime during the day. Via Colombo is filled with cafes, bars and gelato shops.
- Manarola – Filled with boats. Lovely places to eat and have a drink. Nice swimming area off a small cement pier into the blue waters.
- Corniglia – Smaller and quieter but very quaint. There is a little piazza with a communal olive press.
- Vernazza – The town is a maze of tiny streets. Has two clock towers, a small beach, small port and is very lively at night.
- Monterosso – Has a large sandy beach with colorful umbrellas. Also in Monterosso we offer the Hotel Margherita, a few blocks from the beach, next to cute shops and restaurants. Contemporary, clean rooms, superb staff, great breakfast buffet… and a great base to explore the Cinque Terre!
Hotel space is scarce especially during the summer so we advise booking the Monterosso (click here) package well in advance. Avanti has come up with a package in Portovenere (click here) which is right outside Cinque Terre. From there you can quickly access the towns and both packages include a full day guided tour of Cinque Terre. Wonderful for people who want to hear the history of the area and the many anecdotes that only local guides can delight your clients with.
Last but not least…. Oui, there is a Rick Steves video! Please click here to view it on Hulu!