Because of the lack of parking in the Cinque Terre, wise folk avoid driving from Lunigiana and take the train instead. But it needs a bit of planning.
The three most useful sites to do this are:
- Trenitalia to check train times (available in English)
- Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre – the official Cinque Terre site (available in English) including bus timetables
- The Consorzio Maritimo Turistico for information on ferries (available in English).
A typical itinerary for a day trip from Lunigiana would involve taking the train to La Spezia, switching to the local train for the Cinque Terre villages, walking one or more of the hiking trails, finding a spot of lunch, and taking the ferry to get a sea view of the coast before returning to La Spezia to get the train back to Lunigiana. Obviously, that can be mixed up in any combination of hikes, train journeys and ferry rides.
Key things to consider when planning a day’s outing:
Trains from Lunigiana to the Cinque Terre (using Aulla as a central starting point)
- There are two early trains from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre leaving before 08:00, presumably for those working there. This is a good option if you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking but you’d have to get a train from Aulla just after 06:00 or just before 07:00 to make the connection. There is then a gap until around 10:00 for the next train from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre. So presuming you don’t want to arrive with the workers, you’re looking at a train from Aulla to La Spezia at around 09:30, which takes about 30 minutes and costs just under €2.50 one way. Your only other option would be a train about 30 minutes later. After that, there are no direct trains until the afternoon, although there is an option to go via Sarzana, which takes longer and costs more.
- If you want to avoid queuing in La Spezia to buy the Cinque Terre Card (which includes the train between La Spezia and the Cinque Terre), buy a train ticket from Aulla to Riomaggiore (or one of the other villages), the price is usually the same, and buy your Cinque Terre Card there instead. You’ll still have to change trains at La Spezia but you can avoid the horrible queues. If you’re taking the train that leaves Aulla at around 09:30, you can zoom through to Monterosso in about 45 minutes without changing trains, as that train is the fast train to Genova. It does stop in La Spezia too, so you can still change for there one of the other villages.
- Morning trains from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre villages are not as frequent as you might expect considering the number of visitors. In May 2011, there were trains at 10:01, 10:07, 11:10, 12:00 and 12.22. Times are subject to change, so double check.
Return trains from the Cinque Terre to Lunigiana
- You will need to return to La Spezia to catch the train to Aulla.
- There is no particular pattern to the train times for returning from the Cinque Terre villages to La Spezia. There tend to be two an hour and not particularly well spaced out. So back to the timetables, which you can normally pick up at the railway stations.
- From mid to late afternoon, the Aulla train from La Spezia leaves around 12 minutes and 27 minutes past the hour, but again check the timetables.
Cinque Terre Card
- You will need a Cinque Terre Card, which is basically your entry fee to the park. Don’t begrudge paying it – it goes towards the maintenance of the park and a number of services. There are a variety of cards available, which you can buy at the information offices at the train stations in the park, as well as at La Spezia station. You can also buy them at the check points on the hiking trails.
- Cinque Terre Cards are available for individuals, pensioners, children and families. You can buy a basic card that includes use of the buses between the villages, access to the lower paths (you don’t need a card for the high paths), entry to museums, discounts at shops and more. A train card includes the above plus unlimited use of the trains between Levanto and La Spezia, while a ferry card includes everything the train card does as well as unlimited use of the ferries.
- Obviously, there is a whole range of prices, but for one day in the week you’ll pay €5 for the basic card for an adult and €10.00 for the train card.
Ferries in the Cinque Terre
- The ferries run between Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso from roughly the beginning of April until the end of October, subject to the weather. There is also a ferry to Portovenere in the Gulf of Poets.
- Single tickets are available at the ferry pick-up/drop off points, and prices start at €3 for a ticket from Riomaggiore to Manarola to €8 for one between Riomaggiore to Monterosso. A return ticket from Riomaggiore to Monterosso is €11.50. You can also buy a day ticket for €15 or an afternoon ticket for €12.50.
- For more detailed information visit The Consorzio Maritimo Turistico site.
Local buses in the Cinque Terre
You have to ask the Information Centres for the bus timetables, or look for timetables at the bus stops.
Cinque Terre hiking paths
The Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre provides detailed information on all the paths in the park, together, in some cases with elevation maps.
If you want to avoid the crowds as much as possible, head for the high trails.
Everyone has their favourite restaurant in the Cinque Terre, so I’m not even going to try recommending one. If you’re looking for ideas, mycinqueterre.com has a pretty comprehensive list of restaurants and pizzerie.
Planning a day trip to the Cinque Terre from Lunigiana appeared on Ciao Lunigiana on 19 May 2011. All rights reserved.