My compliments on a very informative and well put together site. We consulted your site before visiting the cinque terre and found it very helpful. In return, we’d like to share our experiences with your readers and perhaps offer some tips on anyone else planning to visit this fantastic place.
I’m a Canadian currently living and working in Milan. My girlfriend and I decided to visit the cinque terre this past Easter holiday (April 2003).
We went by car and had a great adventure but, that’s a long story. Let me just jump to some advice for future travelers based on what I learnt from our trip.
If you want a hassle from excursion that will allow you to see all of the cinque terre, We suggest going directly to Levante. From here, you can buy a train ticket that will take you from Levante to La Spezia and stop at all the cinque terre. This special ticket allows you to get on and off the train as many times as you want. Tickets are available as one day, three day or one week passes. I think I paid about 6 or 7 Euro for a one day pass, well worth it.
We took the train to Riomaggiore, got off and walked the Via dell’amore to Manarola. We boarded the train from Manarola and went to the next village, Corniglia. Be warned, when you exit the station, you have to do about 500m of steps uphill to reach the village. My favorite village by far was Monterosso al Mare. Really nice beach! There’s a little bread shop next to the docks in Monterosso that serves foccacia al Pesto FANTASTIC!
A couple of negative points. The trains don’t necessarily run on time. Pay attention to the schedule because it’s divided according to the season. Some trains don’t run during some parts of the year. Also, the fantastic trails that run between the villages are not free. You will be charged 3 EURO per person if you want to use them. This is a fairly recent development according to the reaction of the tourists around me. It seems that since cinque terre was recognized as a National Park, this fee was imposed on tourists to be put towards the maintenance and protection of the park. However, we experienced more good than bad.
One last tip. If you can, stay in one of the many Agriturismos located in the outskirts of the villages. You will pay much less for a better room then you would get in a two or three star hotel in town. I stayed in “Agriturismo 5 Terre” located about 4 km from Levanto towards La Spezia (just before Vernazza.) Phone #; 0187 888087. The rooms are rustic mountain style and the views are spectacular. They also offer tours on horseback along the cinque terre trails. If you stay in one of these Agriturismos, you MUST have dinner there. The atmosphere and food is equivalent to being invited to an Italian families house.
I hope my experiences encourages others to visit this truly incredible national park and, perhaps, some of my tips can help you improve you visit.
Have a great visit, we sure did!
Andy and Silvia