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JeanneB Oct 5th, 2004 06:01 AM

Back to the drawing board---Cinque Terre questions
We had our Italy itinerary all laid out for Feb/March '05, but now have put it off until early May. Since the weather will be much nicer we want to add Cinque Terre. I've read many threads about CT, but would appreciate some help.

Leaving Siena on a Saturday morning, we want to drive to Volterra and then on to CT, arriving late afternoon. Stay 2 nights b/4 going to Florence. This will give us only one full day/2 nights in CT.

Where to stay? Considering Levanto for ease of driving/parking. Will we regret not staying in one of the CT towns? How difficult is it to schlepp one's luggage (1 suitcase each) to and from the CT towns?

Most of the best photos of CT are taken from the sea/bay. Will we be able to appreciate the scene as much if we train in from Levanto? Lastly, with all the talk of "hiking the trails", should we plan to wear athletic shoes in CT (I hadn't planned to take any)?

Thanks for all your helpful advice!

Patrick Oct 5th, 2004 06:09 AM

My personal opinion is that the CT is unique in its isolation. But that means that actually it isn't five lands but only four. I don't count the northernmost town of Monterossa as part of the true CT (which of course it really is) because it is the tourist center, filled with hotels and pensions and restuarants all catering to tourists. The other four towns are very limited in places to stay -- which is what I find the main attraction. Of those the busiest and probably "prettiest" is Vernazza -- still fairly touristy, but not nearly so much so as Monterossa. So from what I've said, obviously I don't consider staying at another town "near the CT" such as Levanto actually staying in the CT.

To me the ideal is Manarola. After you arrive late in the afternoon, take the short and easy hike to Rommiogiore and back as a little introduction. Spend you full day hiking all the way to Monterossa (or if you give out, it wouldn't be unforgiveable to stop at Vernazza, since Vernazza to Monterossa is the hardest of the segments). Take the train back. Hiking shoes are best, but you can do fine with athletic shoes. I've seen people walking in sandals or tennis shoes, but I simply can't imagine!

Patrick Oct 5th, 2004 06:11 AM

Ooops. Instead of taking the train back, if possible I suggest taking a boat back to Manarola. It's really nice to look at the coast and see where you've hiked! You'll be very impressed with yourselves!

JeanneB Oct 5th, 2004 06:26 AM

So, you would stay in Manarola? Please tell me about parking and transport to the town. We will be coming up from Volterra.

We were considering going to CT without reservations and just finding a place. But I just noticed it's Sat/Sun nights. In early May, do you think that would be too risky?

Patrick Oct 5th, 2004 06:56 AM

It's been a few years, but we stayed at the Picolo Marina Hotel. There have been recent posts here about other places in Manarola, so you might do a search and find those.
We parked on the edge of town, but they gave us a 30 minute or so permit to drive as far as possible past the gates down near our hotel and unload, then bring the car back to park in the lot.

I'm never big on spending the first few hours or so on arrival seeking out a place to stay, I have better things to do with my limited time. I'd try to book in advance.

strass Oct 5th, 2004 07:32 AM

I hiked in sturdy brown leather sandals and had no problems! And I thought most of the best views were from the trails--I never saw the towns from the sea, which I'm sure is a beautiful sight, but I was very happy with what I saw while walking/hiking.

Hana Oct 5th, 2004 07:48 AM


I hiked the CT trails back in 1996 and all I wore is a pair of running shoes. I had no problems although I can't talk to the condition of the trail today. Unfortunately, I can't talk to your question about accommodation as we were 5 young people that shared an apartment in Vernazza. We loved Vernazza! At that time the CT was not as well known so it was probably quieter but we loved the small, charming town! Enjoy the CT - my husband and I are hoping to return in 2005.

isabel Oct 5th, 2004 08:50 AM

I don't think it's all that necessary to stay in one of the CT towns. Many of the other towns in the area are also wonderful. We stayed in Camogli and loved it, actually even better than the CT towns themselves. We took the train and stopped in each of the towns.

Unfortunately for us it had been raining for a couple of days before we were there so all the trails (even the easy one) were closed. We were able to walk a short way out of several of the towns on the trails before we reached the "closed" signs (and in one case, a locked gate). And the views were wonderful. so don't worry about not taking a boat, just make sure you walk about 5 minutes of the trails at least, that will give you the best views. (to see the photos I took from those locations go to and click on the first Italy gallery, the CT shots are at the end).

You hear a lot about the CT towns, and they are very nice, I'm glad I went. But the other towns on the coast in that area are also spectacular so try to see some of them too.

Huitres Oct 5th, 2004 10:00 AM

I disagree in regards to Monterosso al mare being the tourist center, I think Vernazza has taken that title. In addition, there are tourist offices/booths in each of the CT towns now (located at the train stations) so they are really up on assisting the many tourists coming to their towns. It is true that Monterosso al mare is the largest of the Cinque Terre towns and yes, there are more hotels there, but I think that makes it easier to find lodging options in the CT. Manarola is nice too, Vernazza is the most touristy of the 5 towns and therefore the most expensive. I would definitely book a hotel room in advance, I would suggest looking at

Cars are not recommended in the CT due to limited space, however, there are a few public parking areas in the towns that charge by the day. I would suggest leaving your car parked there since they are not driven from town to town.

One full day/2 nights in the CT should be alright, although it is not enough time (IMO) to fully explore the region. I would definitely walk between Riomaggiore and Manarola on the Via Dell'More (only 25 mins, very easy) then take a 5Terre boat to a neighboring town, then a train back. That way you can experience the CT from both the land and the sea, as the others have suggested. You don't have to hike and do the mountain thing if you don't want to. You may not have enough time! Don't forget to eat some trofie al pesto (specialty dish of the CT) and try the fried seafood platter (very fresh fish). My recommendations would be "Il Portociello" in Manarola (if walking down to harbor, it is on your R side) and "La Grotta" in Riomaggiore (as you leave the train station and make your way into the main street - Via Gasperi, it is on your R side).

My fiance and his family live in the CT and I can refer you to hotel options in Riomaggiore if you are interested, let me know. Buon viaggio!

Aine Oct 5th, 2004 10:41 AM

Hi Jeanne
We have driven to Vernazza twice, left our luggage in the trunk of the car and just brought an overnight bag down to the village without a problem. People who have not done it make a HUGE deal out of it but its really easy and IMO much less time consuming than waiting for trains and lugging your bags around. When you get to the car park above Vernazza you can either walk down or there is a bus for about E1.50 every twenty mins or so.

Plan to do the same for a night next week. Staying at

MyriamC Oct 5th, 2004 11:25 AM

We stayed at Deiva Marina, which for us was a perfect location, right in the middle between the C.T. and Portofino/Rapallo.
I agree with Huitres: Vernazza was the top tourist town (Sep 04). Monterosso was much quieter and didn't look like the typical C.T. town.
If you don't want to hike the full trail of the Sentiero Azzurro, I would vote for taking the boat from one town to another rather than the train. The views from the water are absolutely magnificent.
You can buy a daypass (Carta Cinque Terre) that is valid for 24 hrs on the boat AND on the train, from Levanto up to La Spezia. It cost 13 euro last month.

Patrick Oct 5th, 2004 11:42 AM

My how time flies! I have posted recently about "a few years ago" when we visited the CT. I just looked it up -- oops. 1997! So in 7 years I suppose it has changed a lot, especially regarding that idea that Vernazza is now a tourist center more than Monterossa. In 1997 we looked around thinking we'd come back in a year or two (we haven't) and couldn't find a place we'd stay in Vernazza, except two or three places that let rooms.

bobthenavigator Oct 5th, 2004 12:01 PM

Jeanne, As you see, everyone has a way to see the CT. I happen to think it should be named Sette Terre. I prefer staying in either Portovenere as the south gateway, or Levanto as the north gateway and seeing the coast from the water. Of course, stopping at any or all villages at will and hiking what suits your tastes. Both have easy parking and are flat--not like the other villages. But, I am not a teenager nor a backpacker and hiker.

JeanneB Oct 5th, 2004 12:49 PM

Is there a boat from Levanto to CT and back? Or is it just the train?

Huitres Oct 5th, 2004 01:59 PM

JeanneB: Yes, there is the same 5Terre boat I referred to earlier that you can take from any of the CT towns to Levanto, even to towns further up the Riviera di Levante coast, including Portofino, etc. Also, they have a nice day cruise from the CT all the way to Genoa and a visit to the aquarium for only about 20 euros per person. (I was just there 2 weeks ago and took lots of boats back and forth in the CT and environs).

I second BobtheNavigator, I too love Levanto and Portovenere. (Incidentally, Levanto was where Mussolini had his summmer home). Note that it is the largest of the towns in the CT area (except for La Spezia) so it won't have that small, charming feeling as the other 5 towns have, but I think it is equally nice and not as touristed as the other 5. I would recommend taking a 5Terre boat down to Portovenere for the day, walk up to Lord Byron's Grotto (he died swimming across the Golfo di Poeti to Lerici to visit Percy Shelley). There is also the Genovese fortress built to defend the town from the Saracens and pirates, not to mention all the fine seafront restaurants lining the promenade. A truly delightful place!

MyriamC Oct 5th, 2004 02:07 PM

Another vote for Portovenere. We drove to Portovenere (by car) after a visit to Lerici (very nice as well!), we arrived in the late afternoon and stayed for dinner. The whole town (it is smallish) is lit up at night and there weren't many tourists left. It was just lovely.

dorkforcemom Oct 5th, 2004 02:31 PM

We are also considering including Cinque Terre in our May (first week) vacation plans. Would most of you agree that 4 nights there would be too long (week long vacation 2 nights of which will be in Tuscany which we've visited before)? Weather conditions at that time...?

bobthenavigator Oct 5th, 2004 06:43 PM

Yes, 3 nites is plenty.

okoshi2002 Oct 5th, 2004 07:32 PM

Jeanne, I have found which lists CT accomodations including Marina Picolo as Patrick mentions but I have not received a reply from them on several tries. Nor from Torreta, a B and B, both mentioned in posts here. If you make contact I'd like to hear what you find. We are planning a trip next June. Thank you.

MyriamC Oct 6th, 2004 12:12 AM

If you just want to see the C.T. towns, 4 days would be too much. You can hike the full trail (Monterosso to Riomaggiore) in about 5 hours. Just to give you an idea of how close the towns are to eachother and how smallish they are.
Of course you can take the opportunity to see a bit of the Ligurian Coast on the remaining days. Towns like Lerici, Portovenere, Rapallo, Portofino, ... are definitely worth seeing.

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