Over the Easter break, I meticulously planned a 5-day itinerary of Italy; covering Florence, Cinque Terre and Milan.
Here is my breakdown of the Cinque Terre section of the trip, and how I squeezed it into under 24 hours!
First thing to note, your accommodation location is important. Staying in one of the villages of the Cinque Terre can be expensive, so if like me you’re on a budget, opt to stay in La Spezia; a town 10 km South-East of Riomaggiore.
Not only does La Spezia have great transport links to the rest of Italy (I traveled by train from Florence), it is also a good starting point for a day trip to the Cinque Terre as it is located at the bottom of the five renowned villages; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
Day Trip to Cinque Terre
I think many of us have seen the ‘picture postcard’ photos of this UNESCO World Heritage Site on Instagram, but in real life, it is just as pretty!
The five villages cannot be accessed by car, part of the appeal, so from La Spezia train or boat were my only options. I opted for the train as I didn’t have a full day to enjoy a boat trip.
By train, the easiest and most cost-effective option is to buy a 1-Day Pass from the La Spezia Central station (I am sure this is also available at other stations). The pass covers the train journey to/from La Spezia and in-between the five villages. The pass also includes the entry fee to the villages, so when arriving at the booths on the walking paths make sure to show your ticket and do not pay again!
With more time, I would’ve walked between all of the Cinque Terre villages, but to make the most of the time I did have, I took the train from La Spezia all the way to Monterosso, the most northern village of the Cinque Terre. The train from La Spezia to Monterosso takes 25 minutes.
It is worth spending some time in Monterosso as it is a pretty coastal village, and in the warmer months there is a beach so you can bring your swimsuits to cool off in the sea.
From Monterosso I walked to Vernazza.
Although the longest distance between villages, this walk is known to be the most picturesque and whilst I can’t compare, it was very pretty!
Be prepared for a lot of uphill walking and steps though. Wear suitable footwear and take water with you, I saw a lot of unprepared people on the trails with flipflops…
I am sure the walk takes longer in the peak season, but in early April it took 2 hours and this included water breaks/photo taking opportunities.
After wandering around Vernazza, I took the train to Manarola, skipping out Corniglia. The plan from here was to walk between Manarola and Riomaggiore, apparently a gentle 1km stroll, but I didn’t get to find out as the path was closed…
The villages of the Cinque Terre were severely affected by torrential rains in 2011, resulting in floods and mudslides that caused excessive damage to the villages. Work has been done to repair the damage caused, but this is still ongoing so it would be worth checking which paths are open before your visit.
Instead I explored Manarola, taking in the colourful houses, and got the train directly back to La Spezia at the end of the day.
After endless TripAdvisor and hotel comparison searches, I decided on Affittacamere Alta Marea (http://www.affittacamerealtamarea.it ), and I highly recommend it, for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the guesthouse is located within a 5 minute walk of La Spezia Central Station, which was key for the timescale I was on, and the price was very reasonable at 90€ per night (£70 in 2015) + standard Italian Tourist Tax of 1.50€ pppn.
Secondly, the price of the stay also included breakfast at a nearby café ‘Bar La Reserve’. I was leaving for Milan early the next day so I didn’t think that I would be able to take advantage of the breakfast. But even at 7am the café accommodated me, receiving juice and a delicious croissant to enjoy on my train journey up the coast.
Thirdly, the owner. Andrea is amazing. He is super friendly and even when I arrived at 11am, much earlier than the specified check-in time, the room was ready and I could check-in.
Andrea gave me a map and great advice on the best way to navigate the area, the best route for my day trip to the Cinque Terre, and even recommended places to eat in La Spezia. Andrea wants to help you make the most out of your time in his local area, and I think that many hotels and guesthouses lack this personal touch in today’s modern age.
During my 36 hours on the Italian Riviera, I purchased all of my food in La Spezia to save on costs.
Once I had checked-in early to the guesthouse, I grabbed some lunch from a bakery, Mister Molini, en route to La Spezia Centrale station. Prices were reasonable with doorstop sandwiches and quiches at approx. 3€. It was the ideal lunch to take with me to the Cinque Terre.
After spending the afternoon in the Cinque Terre, I was wiped out from the days walking with no energy to explore or research a restaurant in the town. Instead, I just went with the suggestion from the apartment owner; La Pia.
La Pia is a chain of four Italian pizza restaurants and it couldn’t have been any more authentic. There is a great buzz in the atmosphere, and the prices were amazing. I had a wood fire oven-cooked pizza, a beer and the local delicacy of Farinata (chickpeas, flour and egg) for under 10€!! It was delicious and just what I needed.
Clearly even when I’m tired, my sweet tooth still wins me over though as I followed this feast by going to a Gelato place I had heard about; Stella Marina. It was honestly some of the best gelato I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot! For a large cone and 3 massive scoops it was 3€. My recommendation wound be the dark chocolate (always) and the meringue. There was a local favourite called the ‘passe a due’ (hazelnut, caramel and chocolate) which I hear is great but my nut allergy doesn’t allow it!
I needed more time.
The accommodation was great, as was the food, but I definitely underestimated the time I would need in this beautiful part of the world.
I should have given myself at least one more day to explore and walk between the other villages. Take in the sights and ambiance of the place. I would also like to see what the boat trip is like, getting a different perspective of the villages.
Oh well, I guess it’s an excuse to visit again one day!
If you have any thoughts or tips on the Cinque Terre, please do get in touch by commenting on the post, or emailing me at email@example.com
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