Cinque Terre is a place that I have always wanted to visit ever since I saw it on my instagram feed showing the pictures the colourful village houses hugging the cliffs of the jagged rocky coastline.
I took a night bus with Flixbus from Rome arriving in La Spezia just outside of Cinque Terre National Park at around 5am. It was a cold morning and we were dropped what seemed to me was in the middle of nowhere. Luckily I had mobile data and was able to use Google maps. I was a few kilometres from the La Spezia train station which is where I need to go in order to start my exploration of the area.
Unfortunately, the buses used the prepaid ticket system. Since it was early in the morning, no shops selling transportation tickets were opened. Lucky for me, the bus driver just allowed me to board the bus for free (maybe after seeing my sad and clueless face)
I dropped my bags at Hotel Aurora where i was staying for the night. Considering that I only booked my accommodation the night before and it was the summer peak season, the €35 a night for a twin bed room was cheap compared to the prices you’ll find at the 5 villages in the national park where you might only get a bed in a hostel dorm.
Since I arrived early in the morning, I was able to have an early start to visit. I bought an unlimited train ride valid for 1 day that would enable me to take the trains plying the La Spezia – Monterosso al Mare route ( €16 in June 2017 ). This is different than the Cinque Terre trekking card that allows you to trek from one village to another. Because I was here for only a day, I did not have time to do any of the treks. Throughout the day, the trains are frequent with a train around every 30 minutes.
The Five Villages of Cinque Terre
The 5 villages of Cinque Terre National Park from west to east are :
i. Monterosso al Mare
The Cinque Terre villages can get really crowded with tourist hence, it’s better to have an early start or just stay there for the night. Prices are geared more tourist and can be quite pricey. Along the seafront and beached, there will be a lot of hotels, restaurants and chairs for their guests to enjoy their meals. The villages are small so you might need just an hour to see the most important stuff.
As I went up the narrow flight of stairs going deep into the heart of villages, you can see the way of life of the residents living there. Laundry being dried outside of balconies and windows, the neighbourhood cat just chilling next to crowded stairs and there are some art galleries that you can check out away from the centre of the villages. I imagine property prices must be quite high and living there can be quite stressful especially in summer when hordes of tourist are just passing through your front door.
The homes here are painted of multiple colours like yellow, red and pink which contributes to a very colourful landscape. Couple this with the pristine blue colours of the sea as a background, it really is a stunningly breathtaking view to enjoy.
I started my journey by going to the village that is the most furthest away from La Spezia, Monterosso al Mare. It’s located the most west of all the villages that I can go to with my Cinque Terre train card. There was not a lot of things going on because it was too early in the day when I arrived. However, there was a local market selling food and other daily goods in the town square.
Second village was Vernazza to the east of Monterosso al Mare. Trek a bit to one of the vantage points looking over the village located along the Vernazza-Monterosso trekking path. There you will find a famous spot where all those pictures in instagram were taken.
For the third village Corniglia, be prepared to trek a few hundred steps up the stairs from the station to the town centre. On the way down, it can be frustrating when you can see that you just missed the train that you wanted to take.
Manarola is another village that has a famous instagram picture vantage point. It’s located along the west of the village along the trekking route to Corniglia.
The last village, Riomaggiore is a beautiful village that has a small harbour. Views from the harbour looking inwards towards the village ( or equally from the village looking outwards towards the harbour ) might be something that a lot of people might have seen in tourist brochures and online.
My favourite villages were Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore because of the gorgeous views.
Public toilets are hard to come by in the villages or in fact in Western Europe ( or it’s expensive ). Actually, I didn’t see any public toilets apart from the ones at the train station. Even these are limited so queues are long. Entrance is pricey too but with the unlimited train ticket, you get to enter for free.
Your ticket is valid for the service buses ( but I didn’t take any of them ) as well as containing your username and password to enable you to use the public wifi.
Prices of things were expensive for me so I bought my food and drinks from La Spezia.
I started my first train ride around 7.30am and I was back in La Spezia by around 6pm. I wished I can stay longer. I imagine the night time atmosphere would’ve been great.
You will need a ticket to trek from one village to another as there are booths that will ask for a ticket at the start of the trekking paths.
The long distance bus terminal is a few kilometres away from La Spezia train station. You will need to take the bus or a taxi. I walked to get there as I had a few hours to spare.
More picture at :