We have been to Naples a few times and we’ve always loved this city. Its got great places to stay, great food and drink, great trips out of the city and a history that is captivating and keeps you wanting more.
How to explore the Cinque Terre | 5 Quirky little towns
Cinque Terre, La Spezia & Pisa
On this trip to Italy we head to the west coast of where we based ourselves at La Spezia. From here we an explore the Cinque Terre and Pisa, both of which we plan to visit.
How to get to La Spezia
We drove down to La Spezia as part of our Italian road trip. If your not driving you can fly into either Pisa or Genoa, Pisa airport has a train link with La Spezia. Italy has an extensive and relatively cheap rail network which makes it practical to reach the area from most places in Italy. You can check out the internal rail Links Here and trains to and from the uk Here
Where did we stay in La Spezia?
Previously on this trip we’d been camping but after an evening of searching for a campsite in the area we decided to look for a hotel. In the centre of La Spezia we found Hotel Venezia. It wasn’t the fanciest of hotels but you know what, it was right by the railway station. The room and bathroom were clean. The staff were lovely and it had free parking. So we checked in and parked up and got ready to explore the area by train, by boat and on foot. You can check out hotels Here
What’s the best way to explore the Cinque Terre?
Our first venture out was to the 5 ports. Along with every other tourist in the area we boarded the train that would take us to the towns of Riomaggorie, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso al Mare.
Train info for Cinque Terre
You could get a day ticket that was valid for all stops along the line. The trains run every 20 mins so if you miss one you won’t have long to wait till the next one. However, at certain times of the day the platforms can get pretty busy so sometimes its best to wait for the next one rather than squeezing on. More information regarding the trains and schedules can be found here Cinque Terre train timetable
You can also walk from town to town and mix it up with the train as there are some really well kept footpaths between each of the towns Cinque Terre Hiking. Alternatively you can take a boat from La Spezia to the towns and vice versa Cinque Terre boat timetable. So many ways to see and travel to the individual towns and lots to explore.
There is no entrance fee to the Cinque Terre National Park. There are 48 hiking trails and you will only need a special ticket, a Cinque Terre Card, for the two most famous trails: Monterosso – Vernazza and Vernazza – Corniglia. All other trails are for free. The Cinque Terre Trekking card costs 7.50 Euros a day and the Cinque Terre Train Card costs 16 Euros a day and can be bought from any of the train stations along the route or online here. From November until Easter all the hiking trails are free of charge.
Here’s a quick guide to the Cinque Terre towns
This is the first town you’ll come to on the train line and is considered to be one of the most peaceful and quiet villages of the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is a cascade of multi-coloured houses, all tightly clustered around a tiny natural harbour carved out between the rocks.
The next town on the line is Manarola which you can access by train or if you want to be a bit more active you can walk. There’s a famous path Via dell’Amore (Lover’s Lane) which is very scenic path and gets you to Manarola in 20 mins. Its a great path to walk with some fantastic views.
The second town on the line and has a tiny harbour with a boat ramp. Like the other Cinque Terre towns it has wonderful picturesque multicoloured houses facing the sea and a tiny piazza with seafood restaurants.
There is a path here also that links Manarola to the next town on the line Corniglia and again you have the choice of taking the train or walking through the lush green countryside of Cinque Terre.
This town is located in the middle of the five towns. It is the only village which is not built directly on the sea Its build on a cliff 100 metres above sea level. Corniglia is probably the most genuine town of the five and with the least amount of tourists.
Corniglia is connected to the other villages of the Cinque Terre by some great footpaths and of course the train leaving you to choose your transport options. I must say when we walked on some of the footpaths the were almost deserted and a pleasure to walk.
My favorite of the towns, Vernazza has a natural pier with an amphitheatre shape making it maybe the most photographed village of the Cinque Terre. The tiny port is surrounded by colourful houses and the charming piazza is lined with really good restaurants and bars. I must say Vernazza and Monterosso were the 2 towns with the most choice for restaurants and cafes and we’ve had some cracking meals here as well as fantastic gelato.
Monterosso al Mare
The last of the Cinque Terre on the line and is the biggest of the five towns and has the most amenities. In the old town you will find seafood restaurants and nice shops. Monterosso has the only long and sandy beach in the area where you can rent chairs and umbrellas or canoes or paddle boards to explore the many coves around the coast. Its here we first sampled one of the most famous Italian seafood dishes Fritto Misto and we used the beach a couple of times. The sea is a delight to swim in so don’t forget your swimming costume.
La Spezia – What did we do?
Before I finish this blog post I want to tell you a little bit about La Spezia and the town we were based in. La Spezia is a port in the region of Liguria and on the border of Tuscany. It has a massive maritime history with a large part of the current Italian Navy being based hereLa Spezia has maritime museums, art museums and great walks down by the waterfront and through town.
The Main Street has all shops a regular city would have as well as the usual tourist shops selling local Ligurian fare such as limoncello, oils and of course the obligatory fridge magnets.
La Spezia – The Food
La Spezia does have a large tourist trade as its the gateway to the Cinque Terre as described above and some really cool restaurants. Two of our favourites I would love to recommend are: La Taverna del Metallo this quirky little restaurant/pub is tucked away up a side street in the centre of La Spezia.
It had some great reviews and they weren’t wrong. Great food, a fantastic selection of meats, cheeses, fantastic wine and a good all round experience. The only downside and its not really a downside unless you’re really clumsy The restaurant is lit by candlelight and its advisable to keep your napkin on your lap as its easy to set it alight with the naked flame on the table. Oops!
Trattoria Bellavista was a wonderful little find and again had great reviews. The lovely thing about this restaurant was that they didn’t have a published menu. The menu was created on the day with whatever ingredients they could get from the market. They then devised a varied menu for you to choose from on the night.
Lovely people, lovely restaurant and excellent food. Chris had the best wild boar ragu he’s eaten anywhere and emailed the restaurant when he got home for the recipe, which they sent and once we’d found a wild boar supplier, we had the dish at home. Perfecto!
La Spezia is an ideal place to base yourself to explore the Cinque Terre you can easily reach the five towns by train. Also towns further afield such as Florence and Pisa.
Booking resources for your trip
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
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We had a list of things we wanted to do and try in Bologna and 99% of them were food related. Bologna is a foodies paradise. Some of the most recognisable Italian food items come from this region and we planned to taste them all.
If you are looking for a traditional Italian holiday hotel then look no further than Villagio Albergo da Ciccio sul Mare It really is a true Italian experience.