The five towns of the Cinque Terre sit in the cliff side of the Italian Riviera overlooking the ocean, and simply look like little tiny colourful houses tumbling into the water. While it’s not the easiest place to get to, it is definitely a more authentic part of Italy to visit, with local fisherman taking their boats out each day and the smell of pasta and pastries wafting out into the streets.
Central European Time Zone UTC+1, with Central European Summer Time UTC +2 in effect from the last Sunday of March until the last Sunday of October each year.
Definitely the easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre is by train, with trains running straight from Milan, Rome, Turin or Tuscany to Genoa. From Genoa you can take a local train towards La Spezia and there are two options – either the regular train which stops at all the stations along the Cinque Terre, or the express train which takes you directly to La Spezia and then you can get the regional train between the five cities depending on where you’re staying.
If you’re arriving by car (like we did), the easiest town to access by road is Monterosso which has a couple of big car parks with the most affordable fees. However, the drive into and out of the Cinque Terre are along winding cliff roads and are not for the faint of heart or for nervous drivers. Once you are there it is best to keep your car in parking for the whole time, as it is much more efficient to visit the five towns by local train.
As part of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre has a mild and pleasant subtropical Mediterranean climate. The summer season lasts from May to September, with the weather conditions being consistently pleasant with hardly any unbearable heat.
The easiest way to explore the towns is by train. Each of the five towns has their own small train station and they are only 2 to 5 minutes away from each other. The best way to get around is with the Cinque Terre Card which lets you ride the train between the five stations as much as you like, as well as unlimited travel on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line on the regional train line in second class, which is particularly helpful if you’re staying in a town outside of the main five. It also gives you access to shuttle buses and the use of the trekking trails. You can buy the card at any of the Cinque Terre train stations, as well as pick up a map with all the information you could need! It’s approximately € 16 for a one day pass or € 29 for two days. This year an express train was also introduced between La Spezia and Levanto, the two closest stations on either side of the Cinque Terre, which goes back and forth every 30 minutes. For an even more scenic journey a passenger ferry also runs between the villages, except for Corniglia. The ferry begins from Genoa’s Old Harbour, La Spenzia, Lerici or Porto Venere.
Currency is Euros €. I would recommend grabbing some cash out before you leave for the Cinque Terre. Some of the restaurants and cafes offered credit and debit card facilities, but not all and there were very few ATMs around. It’s better to be prepared in this case!
Internet access was surprisingly quite easy to find, including at the train stations and in hotels and restaurants. If the wifi in restaurants and cafes has a password, the waiters are more than happy to give it to you if you ask.
Riomaggiore – the closest to La Spezia
Manarola – offering the iconic views that we all know and love (like the cover image above)
Vernazza – best views can be found from above, along the Cinque Terre hike
Monterosso al Mare – the biggest town and the main place to stay, with the best beaches, hotel and parking options and amenities
Corniglia – smallest and most easily overlooked, it is also the only town not built on the ocean
Best Time To Go
The summer months between May and September is the best time to visit, with the warmest weather hitting between July and August.
Good To Know
If you’re driving, petrol stations can be found in La Spezia, Brugnato and Levanto – but be ready for incredibly expensive fuel prices.