Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Trip report: Cinque Terre and Tuscany with small children

Trip report: Cinque Terre and Tuscany with small children

Jun 7th, 2007, 06:00 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 218
Trip report: Cinque Terre and Tuscany with small children

We just got back from Italy a couple of days ago. Hopefully I can provide some useful information.

Travellers include myself, my husband, and our two children ages 3 and 5. We spent 4 nights in Monterosso and 3 in San Gimignano. We travel with a backpack/rollerbag, 24 inch rollerbag, and an all terrain double wide mountain buggy stroller. We used public transport on this trip (as we do most trips).

We took Easy Jet from London to Pisa on an afternoon flight. Re: Easyjet: It seems like every time we fly them they have huge waits to check in. The flights have always been late to take off. This one was about an hour late. They have pretty strict baggage requirements of 20 kilos each piece. We had one bag over and one under and they did not say anything on the flight to Pisa, but on the return I had to create a third bag by taking my toiletries bag out of the overweight suitcase.

The flight was late so after making the easy transfer from Pisa Airport station to Pisa Central we nearly missed the last direct train to Monterosso. My 3 year old is newly toilet trained and was screaming that he had to go, but we had no time - thanks to the "ziploc bag" thread from a while ago, I avoided problems by letting him pee in a ziploc bag.

We arrived at about 8:30 pm in Monterosso. We stayed at Hotel Baia, which is about a 2 minute flat walk from the train station. The train travels through a tunnel in the cliffs so there was no train noise. I was a bit hesitant about staying at the Baia because it got quite a few pretty bad reviews on Trip Advisor. However, my requirements are pretty specific in that I need connecting rooms, NO long trips up steps to get to the hotel, and I didn't really want to pay more than 250E per night. The Pasquale was booked and I really couldn't find information on any other hotel not up steps. The Baia is right on the beach and has its own little private plot of sand on the beach. We LOVED it there. Perfect location for us because we could wake up, play at the beach, get on the train in 2 minutes to go somewhere, play again on the beach in the evening. We had connecting rooms with 2 bathrooms. The main bedroom had a balcony and both had straight views of the ocean. We could see each of the 5 towns from our balcony. This was really amazing. Warning that the rooms themselves are very very basic. But we paid 220E a night for what we got and felt like it was a good value. I would and probably will stay there again in the exact room.

We ate the first night (and another night) at the restaurant with oceanside tables right next to the Baia. It had good food and a good location. I can't remember any of the names of the restaurants.

The first day was great weather. Sunny and upper 70s. We woke up and went straight to the beach, then trained 5 minutes to Vernazza. We really loved Vernazza. It is very beautiful. There is a small beach there and people were wading and swimming off and on through the afternoon. We ditched the buggy and walked up a bunch of steps to a pretty high end restaurant that overlooks the ocean and Vernazza. I can't remember the name, but there is only one there. We had a great lunch, but they require 2 courses and so we spent maybe 110E on lunch (which is a lot for us). But the view was really nice and my husband really wanted to go there. We walked up to where the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso starts and took pictures of Vernazza. Later the kids fell asleep in the buggy while we had a drink at an outdoor cafe. Really a good day.

The next day was cloudy and not as warm. We went to Portofino that day by training to Santa Margurita Ligure and then taking a 30E taxi to Portofino. We could have taken a bus or the boat, but we were all hungry and just wanted to get there. My husband has always had a burning desire to go to Portofino, so I am glad we went. It is such a tiny place, it is hard for me to imagine how much publicity it gets. It is really beautiful, but honestly I preferred the beauty in the cinque terre towns better. They seem more raw and real (although admittedly there are tons of tourists) vs Portofino which has very high end clothing shops, lots of restaurants, a few hotels, and not much else. The buildings are painted with these fake facades which are pretty but reminded me a bit of Las Vegas or Disney vs. a real town. Like they built it up just so wealthy people would like to come and look at it. . . Anyway, we ate lunch, walked up the hill to the church, took a bunch of pictures, and took the boat back to SML, then trained back to Monterosso. It was a good day trip for a partly cloudy, partly rainy day.

The next day we wanted to see the rest of the CT. We tried the boat that connects the towns, but it was not stopping at any of them and had not done so for a week due to choppy seas. A bit of a disappointment. We could have taken the boat a bit past the CT but decided to just train instead. We trained to Riomaggiore. It is a cute little town. We did not go to the harbor but went up the hill and explored the town from above. We ate lunch at a little sandwich/salad place right at the beginning of the trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola. (Similar view as the restaurant in Vernazza but this time we spent about 20E for the 4 of us!). We walked the trail with our stroller - it is paved and an easy walk. The views were unbelievably gorgeous. We walked down to the harbor when we got to Manarola and then up some stairs where we asked someone to take a picture of our family with the town - set in the cliffs - and the ocean in the background. It was really nice.

We skipped the 3rd town Corniglia because there are a lot of stairs from the train station to get to it, and it was getting late in the afternoon and the kids wanted to play on the beach. Fair enough. We went back to Monterosso and my husband played in the water with the kids for a couple of hours while I laid in the sun and watched them.

We were sad to leave Monterosso the next day as we all really really loved it. It was perfect for our family and what we like to do together.

We took the train to Poggibonsi - about 3 hours - and then bussed to San Gimignano. We thought we would take a taxi instead of a bus but there were none to be found and the bus was right there. We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and I have to be honest that my first impression was that this place is crowded like Rothenburg at Christmas. Unbelievably crowded. We stayed at the Hotel Cisterna right in the main Piazza. This is a Karen Brown recommended hotel but I was really really disapointed because I booked a room with a view of the hills and with a tub for our kids, and they gave us a view straight on the square with a shower only. They did not have any suites/connecting rooms with hill views available. . . So I felt like I left the sunny beautiful CT for this crazy crowded cloudy cold overrun town. I took advantage of ziploc bag use #126 and filled a bag with water to plug the shower pan and filled that with water for my kids to bathe.

San Gimignano did grow on me, however, as the next day it was not nearly as crowded and by Tuesday really it was like any other tourist town. We spent one full day in SG walking around. We did the walk around the outside walls of the town and it was stunning. THAT is what I wanted to see. The kids collected rocks and pinecones, ate tubs of gelato, and played soccer in the piazza. We day tripped to Siena one day, which was okay but we did not stay long. We went to the lookout near the duomo and that was the best part of it for us. We returned and my husband rented a Vespa and tooled around the hills for a few hours.

All in all, tuscany was so beautiful and we will go back someday, but I wish we had stayed outside the walls where you can actually see the countryside. I felt like I went there to see this beautiful scenery but you really have to go to a bit of an effort to see it, unlike the CT or Switzerland, or venice where it just hits you in the face. We wanted to stop at a small town but it seemed extremely inconvenient using the bus system and taking the kids into consideration(not interested in bussing a couple of hours each way).

The last day we flew out of Pisa at about 6pm so we stopped to see the leaning tower. Gave ourselves 3 hours to check luggage, get to the tower, take pics, have lunch, and return to luggage and it was way more than enough time. There is a manned luggage room at Pisa Central so it was easy. Easy Jet again had about 75 minute wait to check in and the flight was late again. (But it was cheap!!)

A couple of other notes: We generally always travel by train. We usually have tight connections and never have missed one. On one connection on this trip we got off the train and the next one literally pulled up on another platform as we were getting of the first train. We ran, the kids ran, we hauled the buggy and the suitcases, and we made it. I would never ever let concerns like connections keep you from travelling on trains with your kids.

I brought a dvd player with headphones and the kids watched this on the plane, train, and once they watched in the buggy after dinner while we had drinks at the winebar outside of our hotel in Monterosso. It gave everyone a bit of down time.

I take tons of pictures and buy postcards when I can't get a good pic on my own. I load pics and scan postcards into Shutterfly.com and make albums for our vacations with their online scrapbooking system. I HIGHLY recommend this - I have purchased about 10 of their albums and they are really high quality. We all love looking at them to relive our experiences.
where2 is offline  
Jun 9th, 2007, 08:17 PM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 26
Cool trip!

What was your favorite city?
Do you have any restaurant recommendations? What did your children enjoy eating?

Thanks for the trip report.

wabashcannonball is offline  
Jun 12th, 2007, 07:24 AM
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 41
I agree! It sounds wonderful to me too! We're traveling to Italy for 3 weeks this summer and 3 of the nights will be in Chianti in an aguriturismo & 3 nights in CT. (In addition to Rome, Venice & Sorrento.) We're just trying to figure out which of the towns (Montersso probably b/c it seems like there is the most to do there with kids). Baia? It sounds great, but you're right, the Trip Advisor reviews are not so great. I know this sounds dumb, but you said you'd even stay in the same room again...which one? Our kids are 6 & 8 so we're hanging on all of your advice....
We don't know anyone who has traveled to Italy anytime in the recent past & no one that has kids.
Thank you SO MUCH. Any more pearls?
travelmom68 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 01:06 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 218
Sorry I didn't see the comments until just now. Glad the report was helpful to you.

Our room at the Baia was #15. It is not a posh room but it served us well. I really cannot recommend it enough for the location and the connecting feature. I think with a 6 and 8 year old Monterosso would be perfect. And I liked the Baia's location as it was right on the beach. It is not in the "old town" section of Monterosso (a 5 minute walk away) but there were still restaurants, etc. by the hotel. And we liked the beach better there.

wabash...:As far as eating goes, our kids had some kind of pasta every day. They loved sprinkling the grated parmesean on top. This was fantastic because typically they beg for chicken nuggets and fries (not the healthiest) - I don't think I saw them on the menu once. I don't typically seek out or remember special restaurants so I really can't give any specific info as far as that goes. We definitely enjoyed the CT more than tuscany, and I would say Vernazza was our favorite town, but I would rather stay in Monterosso than Vernazza.

I just finished my online photo album and I can't wait to go back!
where2 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2007, 07:39 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 7,741
Great report. Now I really want to visit CT someday!
KTtravel is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 06:34 PM.