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Visiting Cinque Terre with Family

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We are planning a trip to Italy in Sept/Oct. The current plan gives us 3 nights in late September between Venice and farm stay in Tuscany. We would like to viist Cinque Terre and am trying to determine the best way to get there from Venice and where to stay.

We are a family of four with two boys aged 6 and 8. This is part of a larger trip through Europe so although we will attempt to travel light we will have more than just overnight bags to cart along.

My original plan was to hire a car from Venice and drive to Cinque Terre. My boys don't do more than a few hours in the car too well so we had thought we'd take is fairly easy and maybe stop around Parma or Bologna for the night to have a fairly short trip the next morning. This would give us 2 nights somewhere in CT. However, I think having a car in CT is probably a waste of money (even if we don't stay in one of the 5 villages there seem to be plenty of places near the train). My other option therefore is to get the train from Rome to Levanto (or La Spezia) and not worry about hiring a car until we leave for Tuscany. This would mean a long train trip (circa 6 hours) but would give us an extra night and I think will be tolerated better by the boys (not to mention us) than a similar length car trip. What I would like to know to make up my mind is:
- do we need a car when visiting CT?
- what's the train trip like from Venice to CT?
- is the drive interesting such that taking a couple of days to do it would be worth just the two nights in CT?
- anything else you think we should consider/other alternatives.

The other thing is about where to stay in CT. I've seen plenty of comment about different accommodation options in the villages but I'm still not sure whether it would be better to stay in CT ( leaning towards Vernazza) or just outside - probably North in Levanto but open to suggestions. My concern is that the boys will use up all their energy and enthusiasm treking to and from acccommodation rather than exploring the area. Any thoughts/suggestions would be much appreciated. If we had the extra night could we get to Pisa for the day without a car? Wasn't something we were planning but could be a bonus?



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