After our first three days in the Dolomites, we spent one day in Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a string of five seaside villages on the coast of the Italian Riviera. While there are five towns to see, we chose to only visit two because of our limited time here.
From the Dolomites, we drove about five hours to the small village of Arcola, where we stayed the night in an Airbnb. Arcola is a tiny, car-free town, which required us to carry our heavy suitcases quite a way down cobblestone stairs. I would not recommend staying here if you aren’t able to walk very far with your luggage! It was a great location for us though and was only about 30 minutes driving from La Spezia, where we would be taking the train from the next morning.
La Spezia Train Station
We slept in a little and checked out of our Airbnb at 10am. We arrived at the train station around 10:30 and parked our car there for the day. Just like all the other parking we encountered on this trip, we took our parking ticket with us and paid as we left that evening. It ended up costing about $10 for the day.
From the parking lot, we made our way into the train station and waited 15 minutes in line for the Cinque Terre card. This costs 16 Euros and allows you to take the train as many times as you want for the day, as well as use the WiFi and bathrooms at the stations. Note that the bathroom at the La Spezia train station, however, is not included in this pass.
Trains usually run every 20 minutes, but they mentioned to us when we bought our card that the train workers were on strike that day and it may be a little more time in between trains, or they may stop running at some point. We would’ve been able to take a boat back to La Spezia if that had been the case.
Our first stop was Riomaggiore, which is the furthest south of the five towns and is the closest to La Spezia. It only took about ten minutes to get there. When you exit the train station, turn right and a long tunnel will take you right into the heart of town. We made the mistake of wandering up through the village on the way in and it took us a while to get there. We found the tunnel on the way back and couldn’t believe that we missed it the first time.
We spent most of our time here along Via Colombo, the town’s main street. There are a ton of cute shops that we picked up souvenirs at. We also ate lunch here and got the best gelato we had on the trip at Gelate Rio La Spezia.
After we ate and shopped, we walked down to the rocks by the water to get a great view looking up at the town. From here, the next town was a five-minute train ride.
Vernazza is the third of the five towns (geographically). It is the most touristy and dramatic with a beautiful natural harbor. The train station in this town is on the main street. We wandered around a little and then climbed up to a viewpoint that looked down on the harbor. I think there are a few different viewpoints, but to get to the one we saw, turn down the alleyway to the left of Pizzeria Fratelli Basso and keep climbing stairs until you can see the view below you.
We got nice and sweaty on this climb, so afterwards I cooled off with a lemon soda as we strolled through town. We walked out on the rocks of the harbor and spotted a few restaurants along the water that looked fun. Since we had planned to eat dinner late once we arrived in Tuscany that night, we decided to have a drink and some appetizers before we left Vernazza.
Ananasso Bar had the best-looking appetizers, so we sat down under their yellow umbrellas and enjoyed the view. I got an aperol spritz and we shared bruschetta and a focaccia bread sandwich. It was a beautiful day!
From here, we took the train back to La Spezia and drove two hours south to Tuscany. Even though we only visited two of the Cinque Terre towns, they seemed similar enough that it didn’t feel like we missed out on the other three. I’d recommend picking the top two or three that look the most interesting to you, so you don’t have to rush if you only have a day!