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catj Jan 3rd, 2016 01:07 PM

la cinque terre - May 2016
Hi fellows,

Thank you so much (!) for all the help with a trip to la cinque terre.

After reading all of your suggestions, we decided that February is not for visiting that lovely place.

I read in different forums that May would be a good month, since it's not crowded, and the day time is long, is that right? it says here average days without rain in May are 24:

We got 7-10 days, which seem too much for the la cinque terre (the 5 towns) and perhaps 2-3 more towns around it (we are not interested in museums or other indoor attractions).

Would you recommend going to other area during that trip? as a few days in Venice?

Thank you.

Peter_S_Aus Jan 3rd, 2016 01:37 PM

You can see each of the five towns in an hour or two - they are really villages. We visited two years ago in May, travelling from Venice, and stayed for two nights. A boat trip on the first afternoon (we arrived from Venice around 13:00), a walk on the second day, back to Venice via Florence on the third day.

I wrote a trip report:
Cinque Terre, left venice Tuesday 6th May, returned Thursday 8th. Pretty simple, train to Florence, train to La Spezia, and then a ten minute train ride to Riomaggiore, where we stayed for two nights.

We took a ferry ride from Riomaggiore to Monteresso Al Mare, and really enjoyed it. The ferry calls at four of the five towns (Corniglia does not have a harbour), and you can get a really good idea of the terrain when viewing it from the sea. The mountains seem to rise straight out of the Mediterranean, cut by very steep gullies and ridges. You can clearly see how the land has been terraced for horticulture and it is this terracing, some dating back a thousand years, which has made the cinque Terre as World Heritage site.

The towns themselves are quaint and fun to see, with their tiny harbours. The church in Vernazza is really worth visiting, very simple, massive stone columns and cut rough stone ribbing to the vaulting, a construction that I have not seen before.

But it is the horticulture that grabs me. The pure physical work that has gone into creating and maintaining the terraced plots - think a stone wall maybe one and a half metres hight, and a plot maybe two or three metres wide - and you can get an idea of how steep the hillsides are. Olives, grapes and many different vegetables - harvest must be back-breaking. The plots demonstrate a great deal of social cohesion, an undertaking that must have been shared by all the people working together, and many of the walls are several hundred metres long.

Each of the villages has a train station (Corniglia station being at least a couple of hundred metres below the town, great if you are going down the switchback set of steps), and the train trundles between all the villages, about every hour or so.

We trained back to Riomaggiore from Monteresso, and next day trained to Vernazza and walked to Corniglia along the coastal path. "Coastal path" might give one the impression of a beach stroll, but it is not exactly like that. The path is only 3.5 kilometres, but took us a full hour and a half, maybe a bit more. Much of the path is stepped, and climbs steeply out of Vernazza. Approaching Corniglia, the path runs through olive groves, and the views are spectacular.

Some will say that the Cinque Terre have been ruined by tourism. I did not see a lot of non-tourism activities, no shops selling ordinary stuff like electric drills or bags of cement. Maybe people go to La Spezia for those things. Many hikers, hiking poles, tanned, leathered complexions and leder-hosen (actually, no leder-hosen, I just made that up). A lot of American accents, and in the more popular times, the footpaths must be very crowded.

We ate twice at the same place - Vecin Muin on Via Colombo in Riomaggiore. Good food, local wine, and friendly service.

PalenQ Jan 3rd, 2016 01:45 PM

Have you been to Venice? If not YES - go to one of the world's most gorgeous and unique cities - 3 days is about enough to explore the city itself and islands - be sure to get off the main drag and sneek a peek at some incredibly romantic untouristed nooks and crannies.

Cinque Terre itself for the average traveler is 2 days tops IMO - but cities along the Italian Riviera north of it are great - Camogli, etc. and Santa Margherita Ligure and Portfino to the south are neat and Portovenere right near the Cinque Terre -

Are you going by car or train - cars are useless in the 5 Lands and must be parked at remote lots in some cases and cost a lot to park - trains trundle between the 5 Lands constantly and are dirt cheap (check out the Cinque Terre Pass). You would go to Florence for the fastest train links to Venice though the route via Genoa and Milan, though slower, would allow you to stop off even if just for a few hours in say lovely Genoa or Milan if nothing more than to see the famous cathedral.

Verona would make a lovely one-night stop too or few hour - one of the nicest cities I've seen in Italy.

But May is perfect for the 5 Lands for the reasons you give.

PalenQ Jan 3rd, 2016 01:50 PM

About trains - regional trains serve the 5 Lands and from Genoa and Milan (along with IC trains) - these have a flat fare - dirt cheap sop just buy tickets once there. But if doing say Florence to Venice you can save a bundle by booking well in advance - or even Milan to Venice (though less because there are no high-speed trains yet on that route).

check for schedules and advance fares which can be as low as 9 euros regardless of distance - those are few and far between but if you book right when they come on the system you'd have a chance - but by pre-booking weeks in advance you should get something about half-price of full fare- but these ducats are train-specific and can't be refunded nor changed I believe so be sure of your dates. For lots of good info on Italian trains check great info on discounted tickets; and

First-class tickets also are discounted and sometimes cost about as much as the cheapest available 2nd class - if the difference ain't much go first class - in many ways a much more relaxed ride and you also get free drink and snack and Italian newspaper (only on high-speed trains, not regional nor IC I believe.)

BirdiesTravels Jan 3rd, 2016 02:10 PM

My wife and I were in Northern Italy in May. We flew into Venice (2 nights), took the train to Florence (3 nights), picked up rental car and drove to Cinque Terra (3 nights - parked at La Spezia train station and took train into Cinque Terra), then drove into Tuscany (stayed in Montepulciano for 3 nights), and finally drove into Rome (2 nights - actually to the airport where a driver picked us up and took us to our hotel).

With all of that being said, we loved the Cinque Terra. We did a lot of research in advance of our trip and very much recommend staying in Vernazza. We stayed at Affittacamere Tonino Basso (simple room) which is at the top of Vernazza. Vernazza is small, but serves as a nice getaway. It's a beautiful town with several great restaurants and very friendly people. During the day, there are LOTS of tourists in each of the 5 towns, so get an early start to your day and know that the towns will empty out before dinner.

This area is an attraction for it's scenery. On our first full day we hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia and then took the train into a couple of the other towns. On the second day, we hiked from Vernazza to Monterrosso. The hikes are not terribly difficult, but there is a steady elevation increase so you'll want to have a good pair of tennis shoes (you do not need hiking boots). Also, start your hikes out early. There were not many people on the trail when we started, but when we were getting near the finish each day there were many more people on the trails.

On our drive in to Cique Terra, we made a 4-hour stop over in Lucca. This was a highlight of our's a walled city where you can rent bicycles and bike the 1.5 mile wall for views outside of the city and down into it.

If you are thinking about Venice too, we initially thought about Venice-Cinque Terra-Florence, but changed that because the trains from Cinque Terra to Venice will eat up an entire day. If you are open to another city, you could easily travel from Cinque Terra to Florence and have a side trip on your way there in either Lucca or Pisa (depending on your amount luggage or if you are driving).

We thought 3 nights in the Cinque Terra was just right. Why not spend 3 nights in Florence and even a couple in Venice (2 was just right). You can take the fast train from Florence to Venice (more costly, but it's much newer and runs on time as opposed to the regional trains which can run hours behind).

Some of the above will depend on where you fly in and out of...we flew into Venice and out of Rome.

StCirq Jan 3rd, 2016 02:17 PM

I agree with all the good advice above, but do note that it's LE (plural) CINQUE TERRE - the five lands, in Italian.

neckervd Jan 4th, 2016 02:58 AM

There is no fine weather guarantee for May. Most probably, there will be some change between sunny and rainy days. As you don't need more than 2 days for the most popular 5Terre hikes and as each of the 5 villages can be visited within less than 1 hr, you may pass days with bad weather in historic centers of towns like Genoa, Pisa, Florence, Lucca, etc.

virginiafish Jan 4th, 2016 08:57 AM

Fully agreed with BirdiesTravels's reply. We spent 2 nights in Vernazza in May, hiking the whole trail in segments. It was the right amount of time there. I would suggest going to Venice and Florence, especially. The trains worked well for us and I do not think you would need a car.

PalenQ Jan 4th, 2016 10:43 AM

Check trail conditions too as some have been closed for various reasons - mud slides and the most famous one the Via Dell'Amore (sp?)- a mainly flat seaside esplandae between Riomaggiore and Corniglia has been closed now for a few years I believe - friends visiting just last November said it was still closed.

catj Jan 4th, 2016 11:55 AM

Hi everyone,

Thanks a lot for all of your great comments!

Seems like 2-3 nights in le Cinque Terre are enough, thank you!

It seems like a challenge to get from le Cinque Terre to Venice, if you don't stop in a big city in between, which as you said has fast trains to Venice, so I'll research which colorful towns with strolling and outdoors activities are in between.

I have a question please.

Some say to stay in one of the 5 villages, as Vernazza, like BirdiesTravels, and some recommend to stay in a larger flat city nearby in case of bad weather.

I'm a bit confused about it, could you say a few words on the ads and cons please?

The thing is that we're not interested in Museums, but rather in colorful streets, markets, etc, so not every big city would attract us.

Thank you so much.

mama_mia Jan 4th, 2016 12:27 PM

In your other posts, you were talking about visiting Le Cinque Terre in winter for a week. That is why many tried to steer you to other, larger towns.

But if you plan to stay only a few days in May, one of the villages in the park, say Vernazza or Manarola, makes sense because you can enjoy the towns after the tourists leave and you would also be less likely to be bored.

But, of course, no guarantees of good weather.

jent103 Jan 4th, 2016 12:44 PM

We stayed in Vernazza last May and I was very glad we did. Even though May isn't peak tourist season, it was a very different experience being there in the early morning and evenings vs. when the day trippers were in town. (We were, of course, day trippers ourselves when visiting the other villages!)

We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon from Florence and left on Friday morning. That was a good amount of time for us. We explored Vernazza a bit that first afternoon; hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia the next day, then visited Manarola and Riomaggiore via train; and hiked from Vernazza to Monterosso the third day. The Vernazza-Monterosso trail was much more crowded (possibly because, as we discovered only after the fact, the Vernazza-Corniglia section was technically not open at the time!).

If you haven't visited Venice, that would be my pick personally. Florence was also a good stop for us.

kja Jan 4th, 2016 04:19 PM

I was glad to stay in Manarola for it's lovely setting. I like staying in the heart of the place I want to see, and I wanted to see the Cinque Terre. If you are serious about hiking in the area, give it at least two days so you have a "spare" if one day is rainy and the trails are closed. And realize that both days could be rainy. :-(

catj Jan 4th, 2016 11:56 PM

Thank you very much fellows!

I enjoy reading your wise words!

Are there other cities than Florence (and Milan) that have fast train connection to Venice (or Verona which we'd also like to see)?

Reading about Florence, its galleries and architecture, it's not that much our taste (we like cities as Verona, Venice).

Thank you.

TrendGirl2 Jan 5th, 2016 05:11 AM



catj Jan 6th, 2016 12:41 AM


I'd love to read your recommendations on colorful cities between Venice and Le Cinque Terre that are nice to stop for a night or two.

(Since the train ride from Venice to Le CT is too long).

kja Jan 6th, 2016 12:50 AM

What guidebooks have you consulted? The better ones should give you a great idea. You should be able to look at several at your local library....

catj Jan 6th, 2016 05:15 AM

Hi kja,

since i'm on the road, I have no access to library, but I read a lot on the web.

I read about Lucca and Ferrara, but was not that impressed.

What I am asking is for towns in between, for outdoor activities (colorful streets, markets, rivers).

I'll of course do the research on these towns :)

mama_mia Jan 6th, 2016 05:32 AM

You might look at Bologna, since your train will likely go through there. It is called Bologna the Red because of the color its roofs (and possibly its politics). There are outdoor markets to visit.

catj Jan 6th, 2016 06:02 AM


Thank you so much!

I will check if there's an easy connection between Bologna and Le Cinque Terre

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