Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Italy Cinque Terre & Pisa 3 day Itinerary (

Tania_S_Smith Aug 8th, 2011 01:23 PM

Italy Cinque Terre & Pisa 3 day Itinerary

We are first-time travellers to Italy from Canada, a couple in our 40s, and really enjoyed our July 2011 trip to the Cinque Terre region to see the villages and walk between them. We'd like to share our experiences and offer a few tips.

Two of our three days were spent taking the train and hiking between the 5 villages of the Cinque Terre using a 2-day Cinque Terre "card" for transportation which we bought at the information center in Levanto upon arrival.

Day 3 was a day-trip to Pisa.

All 5 villages and the trails between them were well worth seeing and we had a great time. We enjoyed the 5 villages and trails well enough for an introductory visit in only 2 days, and our day trip to Pisa was also well worth it.

Maybe you can share your experiences and tips here too. I see there are a few other threads on the forums from 2010.


We stayed in Levanto at Hotel Europa, good value and very good location for bed and breakfast, only 4 minutes away from Monterosso by train, 15 minutes to the southernmost village by train. Nice hotel with marble floors, great breakfasts, balconies overlooking the main street.

Levanto is a great home base for the Cinque Terre and a very nice town to enjoy evenings -- It's not as big as La Spezia but has a wealth of things to do during a good-priced hotel stay of 4 nights, has many historic buildings, huge public beach, good restaurants and shopping facilities stay open late and it's fabulous for walks on the well-lit beachside promenade.

I think it's better to stay at Levanto than La Spezia, though I didn't stay at La Spezia, only saw it from the train and on the map, and looked for hotels in both towns. Another forum post here compares the two as home bases and maybe you have other tips to offer on that front.


The regional trains between the 5 villages at this time of year are absolutely packed with people but they come and go very frequently. The local buses included on the "Cinque Terre card" do not go between villages, only from the coast villages to the interior regions of the park where there are some more small settlements. They actually do check for your card as you enter the walking trails between villages. From Levanto you can get to the villages easily by train and even by boat. Apparently there's a tourist boat that cruises the region and lands in Levanto; something for us to try next time perhaps.



On day one we started at the southernmost village Riomaggiore, which was great for walking around, and took the shortest walking trail to the next village, Manarola. Manarola was a good place for lunch after the morning walk, and we watched them lowering a boat from the street to the marina several meters below a cliff. When we were there the trail between Manarola and Corniglia was temporarily closed for repairs, so we took the train to Corniglia instead.

Good thing we did take the train to Corniglia, because we still had to climb hundreds of steps from the train station to the village, perched atop a high hill, during the hottest part of day (wouldn't do that again). When we finally arrived at Corniglia village center, we were pooped and very hot. We found out that the bus service actually offers tourists a lift from the train station to the village and back again. Wish I'd known that.
My favorite scenic part of Corniglia was the path part way down to the Marina, branching off from the narrow main street in the village.

Back to Levanto to shower and enjoy the evening: narrow streets, restaurants and beach walk.


Day two we got on the train from Levanto and went to Vernazza, our favorite village of the 5, a V-shaped village right on the water, with the train station right in the middle, with a wonderful castle that only costs 1.5 Euros to see (not included on the CT card). We took the walking trail from Vernazza to Monterosso, which was quite onerous during the hot part of mid-day in July, with a lot of uphill stairs at the start and a lot of downhill stairs descending to Monterosso.

By the time we got to Monterosso we were exhausted and sticky with sweat and wished we had brought our bathing suits to experience the beach there. We would have enjoyed Monterosso better if we could feel cleaner and refreshed. After we rested, we still had further to walk through a long tunnel to get to the train station which is actually located a little bit north of Monterosso center and its beaches.

However, we got back to our hotel in good time and enjoyed a wonderful restaurant in Levanto and did some night photography on the beachfront. We had memories of a scenic trail through vineyards and natural areas with fabulous views of the villages and ocean.


Since it was our first time to Italy and we wanted to see the tower, the third day we decided to take a day-trip to Pisa by train. The trip was only about an hour and a bit long by train.

But don't do it on a Sunday like we did. Hardly anything is open outside of the main tourist area with the tower and church and museums, and it is quite a long and not-so-scenic walk from the train station.

It does get more scenic once you get past the main river. It was nevertheless quite busy, in fact quite packed with tourists, once we got to the main palazzo with the Tower of Pisa. Even on a Sunday, July tourism involved some line-ups and delays: without advance tickets the earliest time we could go up the tower was to buy tickets to enter 3 hours after arriving at the ticket office.

We walked around Pisa following an online walking tour but were disappointed with the walled garden because the garden is very small and its walking paths on the wall were locked shut (maybe because it was Sunday?). We also could not enter the small ruin of a Roman bath not far from the Tower area. (also locked shut). The Opera museum was a real joy and larger than expected and we wish we could have stayed at the museum longer rather than walking around the mostly empty areas of downtown Pisa on a Sunday. We were back in Levanto for supper.


Overall, we stayed in several cities of Italy during our 3 week stay (Bologna, Venice, Florence) and this was our favorite part, 3 days/ 4 nights.

We'd definitely enjoy staying in Levanto again. Next time we'll stay 4-5 days and do a day trip to Lucca, which I hear is fabulous.

Also, on the train between La Spezia and Pisa we could see from afar some wonderful mountain villages that would be worth visiting. Any advice on which nearby inland mountain villages we should see? and how you can get there from the train station without a car?

aussie_10 Aug 9th, 2011 12:27 AM

Thanks for your trip report. We are going to Cinque Terre at the end of September. We are staying in Manarola.

I was interested to read of your activities and thoughts. My son and GF will be staying in Levanto in October.

qwovadis Aug 9th, 2011 02:32 AM

Nice report go a lot my 2 favs Manarola prettiest town for me right at the ferry dock easy ride to all towns

and Portofino from there a wonderful hotel.

Budget Manarola gets crowded and hot in Aug

so early spring late fall better for me.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:50 PM.