Cinque Terre, an Italian Jewel, Lures in Travelers From Around the Globe

Cinque Terre ("Five Lands") promises Northern Italian culture, sun-drenched beaches and miles of freedom.

By: Judy Schumaker, La Nostra Voce

We were in the Cinque Terre for 4 days and got the 3-day pass for 41 euros. We arrived by train, and we purchased our passes to walk/hike the Cinque Terre trails at the La Spezia railway station. You may purchase passes at every station stop. Train times are listed at the stations and you receive a timetable with your pass. We also received a map of the trails and they mark the ones under construction.

If you do not purchase the pass, it is a couple euros per ride on the train. Check about validating your train ticket before the ride. You could pay a fine for not following the train rules. They take no excuses, only fine money. We saw it happen.

This colorful pass was our ticket to walk/hike any trails in the Cinque Terre National Park. Some are rugged and a few are moderate to easy. Hiking boots are a must! You could face fines if hiking in sandals or flip flops. The fines run between €50 ($56) and €2,500 ($2,806), depending on the amount of time and money inflicted on rescue teams. There will be posters and flyers warning mostly tourists about improper footwear. There will also be a warning online if you purchase a Cinque Terre card through the internet. In the summer, you will most likely be very close to other hikers. Some parts of the trails have one side with no edge and nothing to grasp. These trails go between the villages. It may take you several hours, but it is quite the adventure.

There are other bonuses like free bathrooms at each town’s train station. I never looked any place else because I had the pass. In Europe you usually need to eat or purchase something, and then you are permitted to use the bathroom.

Free Wi-Fi at the stations is included with the pass. The password is provided on the ticket. One of our party needed to take a short test and hand in homework, so she used the Wi-Fi at the train station. Wi-Fi is more difficult to connect to in the towns, but it works amazing at the train stations. It is slower when the train stations are jammed.

The trains are beautiful, comfortable and roomy inside. There are two levels as well. The views are breathtaking and worth many photos. They make the journey to your next adventure exciting. Our group of four took two seats on each side so we would not miss anything!

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You receive free train service from La Spezia to Levanto. The stops are La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso Al Mare and Levanto. The villages are separated by a 5-minute (or less) train ride. Be aware of the times of the day you are riding. Early morning 8-9 a.m. is not crowded. The end of the day (work day 3-6 p.m.) is jam packed.

Manarola train station, Cinque Terre

Bus service is provided once you get to the Corniglia station. We didn’t know this and walked about a mile up to reach Central Corniglia. We took 377 switchback steps to get closer to Central Corniglia. These steps are expertly carved into the stone and are evenly spaced. We walked another mile to get there.

The main square is quaint and smaller than the rest. If you want to go to the beach in Corniglia you must walk down from the square at least 377 steps. The beach is a swimming area surrounded by large boulders. Some are flat for sun bathing.

In Central Corniglia there was a small booth to buy a pass if you didn’t already purchase one. We found out in Central Corniglia that we could take a smaller bus back to the train station. Great news! We were overheated. Of course, we got a cold drink and a gelato in Corniglia. Be prepared to push your way on this bus that fits 30. You must have patience.

There is a rectangular spot marked off to stand behind, but as soon as the bus arrives —every 15 minutes — people come from everywhere. There is very little politeness. Our group of four got split up two and two. We made it on the second and third buses.

Scenic view of colorful village Vernazza and ocean coast in Cinque Terre, Italy.

While you are waiting, it is a good idea to make allies with other travelers from all over the world who also missed the bus. We formulated a plan with a woman from Germany and got on the third bus. It was worth it.

The more we rode the trains, the more we made new travel friends, as well as connections with the workers. It is always polite, respectful and wise to learn some or more Italian before you go. If you try to communicate in Italian, the local residents will work with you. It helps to create a better connection among the people who live there.

Vacationing in Cinque Terre is not for the faint of heart. This is a place where you become fitter. We got to climb 60 uneven steps carved into rock taking us up to our front door every night and loved it! Even riding the trains from town to town (La Spezia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso Al Mare and Levanto) we walked more than 15,000 steps per day.

Old stairway and narrow rock walls heading up to a mountain trail between towns in Manarola Italy

They included walking up and down mountains, some steep. Add to that all the sets of steps in each town to reach those amazing views! Remember you are on vacation and to enjoy, and not to make all the walking a competition.

Each town is different and there is so much to love about visiting each one. They are not set up the same. The Beautiful Ligurian Sea is a part of each one. There are so many happy colors, whether it be the buildings, flowers, signs, streets…

The locals do this like it is nothing. The best way to learn and fit in with the locals is to watch and follow their lead. Where do they stand and wait for the train/bus. Check out the busy gelato shops. Some shops serve more than one purpose. Sometimes the smallest restaurants have the most flavorful, delicious food. Each town has places that you can sit down or purchase food and walk.

Once you are immersed in one or all of these towns, it is a throwback to simpler times. No rush. Stroll, climb, relax, smell, shop, eat, people-watch and just plain enjoy.

Grocery store in Riomaggiore, one of Cinque Terre’s villages, on a bright day. Cinque Terre was included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

It helps to learn words and phrases to speak with locals and show your respect and love of travel. The vocabulary lists in each La Nostra Voce are super helpful. I am continuously studying Italian on the Babbel app. If you do this, once you get immersed in the Italian culture you understand more and . . .


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