CINQUE TERRE: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GETTING THERE, WHAT TO SEE & WHERE TO EAT!
You know when you’re scrolling through Pinterest and you come across those beautiful places and you pin them to that ‘some day travel’ board? Well, let me tell you, Cinque Terre has been on that board for a long time my friends and last week I finally got to experience the unforgettable place! It was a Birthday surprise from James and I couldn’t have been more excited to get there, see the colourful buildings, explore the charming little streets and stuff my face with Italian food! While we were there I felt like we learnt a lot and definitely picked up some tips to make the entire trip run smoothly so I figured I would share as much of our Cinque Terre travel advice with you as possible, you might want to grab a brew guys, it’s a long one!
RENTING A CAR
When you arrive at Pisa airport take a right outside of the building and head to a tented area marked ‘car hire – shuttle bus’, this confused us a little but you basically need to wait here for a bus (they come every 15 minutes) which will then take you to the car rental terminal! We had already pre arranged to rent a car with Hertz so we just headed straight to the hertz station where we picked up the keys to our beautiful little fiat 500!
Our hotel, the San Ranieri Hotel, was then just an 8 minute drive from the airport which was perfect for us because it gave James chance to adjust to the car, driving on the other side of the road and driving on the other side of the car before we took a long journey! Also: how terrifying is it going around the round about in the opposite direction that you’re used to?! Luckily we had downloaded this free app on our phone called NavMii, which gave us a Satnav for Italy and without this we would not have survived! It was super helpful and gave us clear directions in English! It also used the GPS so wasn’t eating into our phone data.
The hotel was really beautiful; everything was decorated pure white with touches of blue that made everything look so clean and modern! Our room was pretty spacious and had a huge bed and a beautiful walk in shower!
It also included a breakfast of some of the best pastries and tarts I’ve ever tasted as well as fresh fruit, breads, yogurts, cereals, eggs, bacon, the works! I would highly recommend it!
GETTING TO CINQUE TERRE
We drove to Le Spezia Centrale train station which took us about an half and a half in the car from our hotel, it was supposed to be about an hour but our Satnav failed us at the last hurdle by trying to take us the wrong way down a few one way streets so we ended up just following the signs for the station at that point! You can park the car at the station in an underground car park, which is open 24 hours. We were parked there for about 9 hours and it cost us 13 euros. As we were there in June we didn’t reserve a space but if you’re in the height of summer we highly recommend that you do which you can book on their website here.
It’s also worth noting that if you’re driving from Pisa to Le Spezia then you do have to go through a toll, make sure you head to the toll booth with ‘biglietto’ above, this just means ticket and when you pull up at the booth the first time you just take the ticket and the barrier will go up, then once you get to the next toll near the end of your journey you pop the ticket back in and it tells you how much you owe. It cost us €8 there and then another €8 on the way back.
Once we got into the station we bought a ticket called ‘5 Terre Express Card’ – this includes travel to and from the main stations either side of the cinque terre, which is La Spezia (to the south) or Levanto (in the north). I always thought that Cinque Terre was one place but it’s actually 5 separate towns all with their own unique traits! This ticket allowed us to hop on and off the train at all the separate towns and it cost us 16 Euros each. You can walk in between them of course and I hear the treks are absolutely beautiful! We would have loved to walk them but unfortunately for us it was pouring down torrential rain the entire time we were there and it just wasn’t a good idea! There’s ALOT of steep steps, which can be slippy so make sure you wear appropriate shoes if you are walking!
We did actually attempt one of the trails but about 20 minutes in we decided it was a very bad idea! Especially as I was in sandals!
The first town we went to was Riomaggiore which was one of the most famous of the towns! They have a beautiful little harbour which is surrounded by the gorgeous colourful buildings either side!
We took refuge from the rain in a lovely little restaurant called La Lampara where we both indulged in pizzas! James had anchovies all over his and we overheard somebody say that anchovies were the specialty here which became quite clear once we had tried them! We didn’t eat starters at this place but I wish we had because I was getting some serious food envy watching the beautifully presented dishes come out of the kitchen!
Our next stop was Vernazza, which was the fourth stop on the train from the station and had some of the prettiest streets! It was so nice just to aimlessly walk through them exploring!
It also had a lovely little beach but for obvious reasons we did not go on it! There was a man down there having a little walk with his umbrella though and he seemed happy enough! We didn’t eat here because we were still full from lunch but some recommendations and highly rated restaurants, salad bars, etc are Lunch Box, Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre and Belforte.
We decided to save Manarola for last which is arguably one of the most iconic towns of Cinque Terre! It has that classic photo spot which is all over Pinterest! When you get off the train and you walk through the tunnel turn left and follow the restaurant & shop filled streets down to the sea front, if you keep following the path along you’ll see the iconic and beautiful scene! We also had a little walk up the hill (which is right when you come out of the tunnel) and this has some beautiful views of the town from above! There’s also a restaurant up there called Billy’s Trattoria which came recommended from a couple of other blogs I read, the menu looked amazing!
We actually ended up eating at a restaurant called Marina Piccola though where I had anchovies to start (they were amaze) and squid ink pasta for main, I must admit neither more or James were THAT impressed with the pasta so perhaps try Billy’s instead. The panacotta I had for dessert though was delicious and the restaurant did have a beautiful view over the sea!
MONTEROSSO AL MARE & CORNIGLIA
Unfortunately we didn’t get chance to visit the other 2 terres; Monterosso Al Mare and Corniglia because we were only in Cinque Terre for a day but here’s a few recommendations from others for these villages:
Monterosso Al Mare is divided into two distinct parts: the old town and the new town is most famous for it’s castle, the parish church of St. John the Baptist and it’s beach! If you’re heading here for some food then check out Enoteca da Eliseo and Da eraldo!
Corniglia is considered the ‘quiet town’ out of the five, to get to it, you need to climb a long flight of steps, apparently it’s quite the climb though! There are 33 flights of stairs, with nearly 400 steps. YIKES! Don’t worry though, If you don’t have quads of steel then the alternative is to follow a road from the train station that gets you there! The top rated places to eat are Osteria a Cantina de Mananan and Bar Terza Terra, and for a spot of gelato head to Alberto Gelateria!
If you’ve made it to the end then I salute you and I hope you found this guide helpful! If you’ve visited Cinque Terre before and have any more recommendations then please pop a comment below! Don’t forget to check out the rest of our honeymoon and travel guides here and be sure to pop back to the blog this afternoon when I’ll be sharing our video diary of Cinque Terre xxx