Summer is around the corner and some of you are beginning to plan your trips to Italy. Many of my friends and family that come to visit during the summer months usually have one thing in mind: the beach. Excellent plan. While there is lots of “coastline” to choose from in Italy, Cinque Terre (chink-way ter-re), or the five earths (aka towns), has risen to the top of the popular spots for tourists. This is an especially great escape from Florence (which can be very hot during the summer) and can easily be done in a day!
Recently, while writing to a friend who is planning just such a day trip, I was trying to remember all the ins and outs and I realized that there were maybe a few more than the average person can just “pick up, ” especially if the Italian is limited. So I thought, why not make it easy (for me and for others) and put it all in one place. Below you will find all the need-to-know info from how to get there for less to what you can skip to save time and from where to hike to where not to. Of course we’ll tackle the food, I mean, the cuisine is worth the trip in itself, but we’ll also be sure you know how to make it home without getting stranded there (unless that is part of the plan). Enjoy and see you there this summer!
First things first.
1. How to get there and things to know about taking the train
Cinque Terre is in the Liguria region of Italy, which is a very narrow region that runs up towards France on the left side of the boot. It is directly north of Tuscany but also abuts parts of the Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont regions.
The easiest way to get there from Florence (and most other locations) is by train. Grab a train to a city called La Spezia, which is just east of the main towns of Cinque Terre. Depending on where you are arriving from, you may be able to grab a Eurostar, but from Florence these are rather few and far between as La Spezia Centrale is a rather small station. The regional (also intercity) trains will be cheaper, though you should compare to see just how much of a difference it makes, as there are a couple downsides to grabbing that super cheap regional train. The main caveat is that these slower trains can get very crowded on popular days. They also do not usually have seat assignments, which means you may be in for a train ride sitting on the floor or leaning against a wall. If you can, try and not go on a weekend or pick an odd train time (super early or super late) to avoid some of the crowds.
2. Getting the Cinque Terre Card and saving yourself a headache!
Once you arrive at La Spezia Centrale (make sure you don’t get off at the other stops called La Spezia + something else) you will need to change trains. The train you switch to will be the one that takes you to the coast and through all five of the towns in Cinque Terre (sit on the left side for the best view).