My Tips for Travelling to Cinque Terre
I hate planning. I live for spontaneity. But this often means making riskier travel arrangements and occasionally learning the hard way. But sometimes I get lucky and everything goes perfectly. I got lucky in Cinque Terre but here are my tips for those who like to arrive somewhere a bit more prepared:
- Some people think the Cinque Terre is just one place. Some people are very wrong. Cinque Terre is made up of five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. They are all gorgeous and you should explore all five.
- The easiest city to get to the Cinque Terre villages from? Pisa. I flew into Pisa and the train took just over an hour. Many other larger Italian cities have connections to the villages though – the easiest village to find trains to is Monterosso (or La Spezia Centrale and then connect to the five villages from there).
- Don’t overplan. As I mentioned I tend to not plan anything except essentials but even if you are an organisationphile try to keep plans to a minimum. Book a place to sleep and take it day-by-day. You will fall in love with at least one place you will want to return to and you will hear advice from other travellers once you arrive.
- You can buy an ‘unlimited Cinque Terre Pass’ which allows you unlimited train and hiking trail access for the number of days you purchase. I bought one but I think I wanted some money. Two of the trails are currently closed (I visited in July 2016) and I didn’t really use the train enough times to make it worth it. You’re probably better of just purchasing one-way tickets as you go.
- Spend at least three days in the area. I spent three full days exploring and I think it was the perfect amount of time to see all five villages between hiking without feeling rushed at all.
- Pack light. I brought a small backpack for 4 days and it was perfect (it was the middle of summer though so i didn’t need much). Even if you are staying in a central location and plan to drop your bags off immediately you will probably need to carry your stuff up steep stairways and through cobblestone alleys.
- The best way to travel between the five villages (other than hiking, of course) is by train; traveling between each station takes mere minutes.
- Walk. Even if you are not a hiker give it a go. The views from the hikes (especially the coastal hikes between the villages) are simple breathtaking and I left the region determined to become a professional hiker. It was just that much fun.
- Drink and eat all of the local food and wine you can get your hot little hands on. The food here is fresh and fantastic and the wine is wine (need I say more).
- Pack good shoes to walk in. No you do not need hiking boots but make sure you have sneakers/runners/sports shoes/whatever you want to call them. I saw some people struggling to hike in flip flops or heels. Don’t be ridiculous.
- Avoid the crowds. I was worried that in such a popular destination it would be impossible to find a place to myself but I was very wrong. Of course the town centres fill up but once you start exploring the alleys and climbing the less popular hikes you will definitely be able to get that sense of ‘solitude’ in one of the most touristy regions of the country.
- Bring a camera. Trust me. It is an extremely photogenic place.