How to Get to the Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is located in the municipality of La Spezia, which is part of the Liguria region in northwestern Italy. The five towns of the Cinque Terre are distributed along the coast at about 2 km distance between them in a straight line. Here are the ways to reach there:
Flights to Cinque Terre
Neither the towns of the Cinque Terre nor the nearby cities have an airport. The closest ones are: Genoa (100 km, 1h 30′ by car), Pisa (98 km, 1h 20′) and Florence (155 km, 1h 45′). Of all of them, Pisa is the most convenient due to its proximity and number of direct flights to Spain.
By Rental Car or Own Vehicle
If you arrive at any of the above airports by plane, one way to go to Cinque Terre is to rent a car. It is not really necessary, since the towns are easily accessible with public transport and access by road is complicated, but it can be helpful if you are en route through the area. The most sensible thing, in fact, would be to get to La Spezia (south) or Levanto (north), park the car and from there take the local train that runs through the towns.
If you come from the north (Spain, Turin, Milan, Genoa), you have to drive on the E80 motorway towards Rome and take the Levanto exit. Then you just have to follow the signs to Cinque Terre or Monterosso al Mare (the first town if you start from the north).
If you arrive from the south (Pisa, Florence, Rome), you should also take the E80, but in this case, your exit would be for La Spezia and from this town, you would have to follow the signs for Cinque Terre or Riomaggiore, which is the first town starting from the south. If you are going to Cinque Terre from Rome, it is probably more convenient for you to take the E35 inland to Florence than to go up the E80 along the coast.
By Train (our recommendation)
All the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre have train stations located in the closest cities to the north (Levanto) and to the south (La Spezia). It is the best way to get to the Cinque Terre and move between the towns.
Of these stations, La Spezia Centrale is the best connected to the rest of the country, as almost all trains running from north to south stop there. There is a direct connection with Rome, Florence, Pisa, Genoa, Milan, etc. Also, in Levanto, many of these trains stop, and only some take a halt in Monterosso al Mare. The other four are served by the Regionale, the Regionale Veloce and the Cinque Terre Express.
As we will see in the next section, it is possible to move by boat between the towns of the Cinque Terre (except Corniglia), but the line only connects with Levanto, La Spezia and Portovenere. Therefore, you can not reach there by boat from more distant destinations. The most significant ports near the Cinque Terre are Genoa (98 km) and Livorno (111 km).
Tours and Guided Excursions
A very comfortable way to visit the Cinque Terre from different parts of Italy is to sign up for any tour offered in big cities. They have usually guided excursions that include round-trip transportation, so they can be ideal if you want to visit Cinque Terre in 1 day.
What to See in Cinque Terre
Of course, the region’s great attraction is its famous five towns located by the sea. In addition, walks along the paths that connect them are very popular, which hides other not-so-known attractions.
Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare, with almost 1,500 inhabitants, is the most populated town in the Cinque Terre. This town does not have the typical spectacular panorama of colorful houses piled on the mountain, but there are several good reasons to visit it. First of all, it is the one with by far the longest sandy beaches. Ideal for a late swim.
Secondly, it preserves its old town very well, which is home to several interesting monuments, such as the San Giovanni Battista Church (13th century), the Oratorio dei Neri and the Capuchin Convent (16th century).
Continuing south, you will find Vernazza, which is believed to be the most beautiful town in the Cinque Terre. Its colorful houses and narrow streets swirl around a small rocky peninsula whose best view is obtained from the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path). From the Central via Roma, you have to climb about 25 minutes to reach the most popular viewpoint, but the walk is well worth it.
3 km south of Vernazza is Corniglia, the smallest and most special village in the Cinque Terre. The reason is that it is the only one that does not have a port, not located at the foot of the sea but perched on a gorge of about 100 meters. In fact, to access the station, you have to decide between climbing 382 steps or queuing for the electric bus.
You walk from the station through a tunnel to reach the town of Manarola. After reaching there, you can go down the street to the sea while continuing to the right which leads to its spectacular views. There’s no way to get lost; you will see that everyone is heading there. You can even eat on one of the terraces with beautiful views.
Riomaggiore, the last of the five towns heading south, is perhaps the steepest of all five. Its streets go up and down on both sides of Via Colombo. Finding a good perspective of the whole is difficult. In fact, the best views are obtained at the foot of the sea, from the tiny fishing port and the breakwater.
Our Final Word
Cinque Terre is a wonderful area to stay and explore for a couple of days. We recommend taking a train and being prepared to walk. The views are breathtaking and it is just one more reason we think Italy is special.