With just one day to explore the five Italian towns that make up Cinque Terra, I was at La Spezia station bright and early, facing the epic queues to buy my Cinque Terra Card that would allow me unlimited train travel between the towns for the day. Not wanting to waste my day queueing, I quickly googled quicker ways to do it and found an option to buy it online. Not 100% whether it’d mean I’d have to print it to show any ticket inspectors, I decided to risk it, and just bought the online pass before cramming myself on to the next train to leave.
The five towns are on the same line from La Spezia, and I decided to head to the furtherest town of Monterosso first and then work my way back to La Spezia. With each town we stopped off, the train slowly started to empty and by the time we arrived at Monterosso it wasn’t such a case of sardines in a tin.
Stepping off the train and making my way down to Monterosso beach, I reached for my sunglasses to find that I had lost yet another pair. Sunnies number 4, gone forever. I could probably stay another day somewhere with the money I spent on sunglasses I keep losing!
I sat on the beach for a short while before really regretting my decision to wear a black dress. As it was super sunny, I ended up wandering along the beachfront, stopping in several stores to pick up a new pair of glasses that I liked and weren’t super expensive. By the time I got to the end, I was out of the tourist area and turned around to head back, through a tunnel in the cliff and into the main town area.
Exploring the colourful streets, I found a charming church, shops, a small market and plenty of cafes and restaurants. As I walked up one street I spotted a cute sign down an alleyway and thought I’d have a look what was going on. What I found was a great little bakery with the most delicious little pizzas that I bought to keep me going through the day. Keeping in my mind that I had five towns to visit today, I didn’t hang around for too long before jumping back on the train for the short journey to Vernazza.
A smaller town than Monterosso, I wandered down the colourful and crowded main street, had a look around the harbour and in the church that sits there before trekking up 157 steps – yes I counted them – to see the ‘castle’. I got a bit lost on the way up so probably did half again before finding the way I wanted to go, and when I eventually got to the top I was a little disappointed with what I found. However, the views out to sea and across the town more than made up for the castle, and after soaking up a bit of sun and the views, it was back to the station again to go to the next town.
Another short journey and I was at Corniglia station. I had no idea where to go and this was the first town where we didn’t walk out of the station and straight into the town. Following the crowds, I found myself at the base of a huge staircase known as the Lardarina. 33 flights of stairs. 382 steps. As I stood at the bottom I seriously contemplated skipping Corniglia and just going back to the station and going to the next town.
If I’d known then that it was 382 steps I probably would have gone back to the station, but as half of the stairs are hidden behind some trees halfway up, I decided that I might miss something amazing if I didn’t make a little bit of effort, and so trekked up the stairs. Corniglia is probably the most hilly of the towns and not set on the seafront, instead taking pride of place on top of the hill. Once I arrived at the top, I was desperate for a cold drink and made my way into town trying to find a cafe that had a table free. Following signs for a cafe that never materialised, I called it quits when I got to a staircase down to what I think was the harbour, and just sat on the stairs looking out over the sea and enjoyed some warm water I’d been carrying around and a bit of my tasty Monterosso pizza.
With a bit more energy, it was back to the main town centre where I found a cute square with cafes to have a cold drink. Reminding myself that I had two more towns to visit, I didn’t sit around too long and quickly visited a couple of the churches in Corniglia before heading back down the staircase to the train station where I found a bus that takes travellers to the town. Of course I’d find that as I was leaving!
Another short train journey and I arrived in Manarola. This was one of my favourite towns – super pretty and as I followed the hiking trail for a short while I found myself at the spot to get the typical Instagram shot of the town. Of course I took a few photos there, then took a seat and watched everyone bustling about trying to get their perfect selfies, including a couple who tried to get a photo with their completely uninterested dog, which was very amusing to watch.
There wasn’t a huge amount going on in Manarola, so once I’d got a good feel for the town I made my way back to the station for my last town – Riomaggiore. By now I was so tired, and really regretted trying to see everything in just one day. But I soon arrived in Riomaggiore and followed the crowds into the city centre.
I’d read online that Riomaggiore was the most popular of the five Cinque Terra towns, but I don’t know why other than the amazing sunset it offers. It was getting late in the day and after a look around the town I made my way down to the harbour. I’d found a tip online that the best place to get the photo of Riomaggiore was from the stones on the other side of the harbour. I could see people clambering across the rocks and followed down to where they were all getting on, but I had sandals on and generally have the worst balance ever – not a great combo for clambering across rocks. I decided it’d probably be best to skip it, and settled down on a concrete platform near the water to just sit and soak up the chilled vibes as the waves broke below and the water lapped off the rocks.
I had thought about grabbing a pizza from the town and coming back to the platform to watch the sun set, but I was absolutely shattered and didn’t fancy waiting around for another 45 minutes to catch the sunset, so decided I’d come back tomorrow for pizza and sunset. Instead, I wandered back to the train station and made my way back to the hostel. I was absolutely shattered from a jam-packed day exploring, but had really had the best day seeing all the different towns!
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