by oz chinita
(Sept 13, 2013)
Spending 2 days in Florence pretty much covers the highlights of this place already. So when planning the itinerary I wanted to squeeze in one more place we can go to in Italy that would be doable as a day trip from Florence. (I wanted to minimize the moving around we had to do).
My initial plan was to do a side trip to Pisa.. which is famous for the leaning tower. But luckily my well traveled officemates then suggested a place called Cinque Terre.
I’ve never heard of this place before, and didn’t know anything about it. But after doing some research, this became one of the places I was looking forward to in my Europe trip. Eventhough it would take more effort to get here than Pisa, it looked more interesting than just going to see a lopsided tower to do a pose to pretend to be pushing it. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” and is comprised of five fishing villages located in the coast of Italy. To get here and get around is a bit challenging.. By train only the La Spezia station had a train to take you into this area. You can get in by car, but only at certain villages and you would still need to either walk or take the train to go between the 5 villages.
(warning: LOTS of images to follow.. I’m trying to filter and select a few only but can’t help it this place is just so photogenic!)
To get here from Florence, we took around a 2 hr 15 min train ride (one way) from Florence, to Pisa, and then to La Spezia for around 12.50 EUR each way. Once in La Spezia you then need to get another ticket to be able to ride the trains to any of the 5 villages. Our plan was to start with the furthest village from La Spezia and work our way down.
By then it was already around 1 pm and we were HUNGRY… We didn’t research on restaurants so we just ate at a random restaurant we passed by and ordered dishes that made use of their specialty ingredients.. Maybe it’s the hunger talking.. but I really enjoyed the food!
After that we headed next to the fishing village Vernazza, very busy place with lots of shops, restaurants and colorful buildings to see.
After Vernazza, we went to Corgnilia.. Big mistake though, because apparently the village takes a bit of a walk to get to.. From the train station there’s a long flight of steps uphill that I think would take 30-45 minutes one way. The trains doesn’t stop by this station often, and we were worried that we would miss the next one if we tried to climb it. So I just took a photo of what we can see from here, and then went back to wait at the station.
Final village we managed to squeeze in was Riomaggore.. Its similar to the views in Vernazza but I found it less crowded here.
Overall there were things about our trip to Cinque Terre that I wish I could have done better. But I didn’t regret adding this to our itinerary 🙂 It offers a different atmosphere to what we have already seen from cities like Florence and Venice. So if you want a change of pace and scenery from all the churches and historical buildings in Italy, this is a must add to your trip 😀
1. If I had a chance to do this over (and I had more time), would have done this as an overnight or 2 day stay in Cinque Terre. A daytrip is just not enough to really get a feel for the atmosphere of this place. Plus there are SOOO many tourists doing it as a daytrip that it just lessens the fun of exploring when you have to worry about timing for the train ride back.
2. If you DO end up doing this as a daytrip, don’t try to cover all the villages. Pick 2 (max 3) of the 5 villages you want to go to.. And just take your time to enjoy the scenery and the shops and the food.
3. The timetable for the trains isn’t fixed. Get their current timetables, and if you’re short on time check and make sure you get on at the time you want. If you miss it, you might end up waiting for another HOUR just to get the next one. Plus there are specific villages that even have LESS trains stopping there. This is what happened to us in one of the villages and I was so bummed out to have wasted an hour just waiting for the train.. 😦
4. If you are up for it, rather than taking the train you could walk from one village to another. I was told it’s doable, but at the time we went all the walking trails were closed, so we really had to rely on the trains.
5. Another option to get here rather than entering from La Spezia (south), you can go via the other station Levanto (north). The best route I saw to get to Levanto was from Milan. Which is why we didn’t do it anymore because I still wanted to go to Venice. I didn’t want to backtrack back to Milan anymore just to get here.