Actually walking is what the Cinque Terre is all about! There are lots of fabulous footpaths that will get you from one village to the other. They are clearly marked and you will get good information about the difficulties and distances and approximate time of walking.
The easiest portion is the Via Dell'Amore - the (paved) footpath between Riomaggiore and Manarola, the most difficult path is the portion between Vernazza and Monterosso. Please note that all these paths are within the Cinque Terre National Park, so you need to get a ticket to get in!
To be quite honest: we only walked the Via Dell'Amore and really enjoyed it! In Vernazza we walked a few yards on the footpath #2 in both directions and loved the views! But since both of us are afraid of heights we decided to just not overdo it and find other ways to enjoy this beautiful place!
Trenitalia has trains running all along the coast. It is easy to get on a train from Genoa to a smaller resort town in the neighbourhood.
We flew into Genoa airport from there took the shuttlebus to the trainstation. (It stops at several trainstations, just ask for Principe Station, one of the larger ones.) At the trainstation we bought a one way ticket to Arenzano. Arenzano is about 25 km away, and it costed 2,40 Euro (in 2010)
The only problem is there are no announcements made (not in italian or english) to state at which station you are. That can be difficult as the regional trains stop at every (small) station. Luckily we had downloaded a train schedule from the website and knew what time we were supposed to be at Arenzano. That made it a lot easier to find the right station to get out.
We found trains to be very long, with enough space, even on 8:30 on a working day. But we also found the schedule is not very regular as sometimes it took almost an hour for the next train to come at other times as little as 15 minutes.
There is no trainstation at the Genoa airport but there is shuttlebus service between the airport and the main trainstations in Genoa. The service is called Volabus. The tickets cost 6 Euro (2010 price)and can be bought in the bus or at the ticket machine outside the terminal.
There is a timescedule but we found that the bus waited until the passengers collected their bags. For no known reason we had to wait 30 minutes for our bags, while we were the only plain landing at that time. We thought we missed the bus by 5 minutes, but it was still there waiting for the passengers of our flight.
Busstops at Principe and Brignole stations. It wil take 30 minutes to Brignole station from the airport.
The airport of Genoa is very small and has its runway next to the sea. It is a great sight landing here, that is if the weather is OK and not cloudy as we had for our trip.
As it is a very small airport not many international flights go to Genoa. Lufthansa operates a flight from Münich and Air France from Paris, but most of the time you have to transfer on an italian airport.
Take the ship in order to explore Cinque terre, as this is the traditional way to arrive there.
In the ancient times only a secret system of paths led to the 5 villages and the ship was the main means of transportation of the local goods.
Landing is NOT always safe in these small ports, and when I remember the lovely , calm waters we had when I took this cruise from Portovenere to 5terre, and still it was some kind of an adventure to disembark in Vernazza with the help of that lousy "bridge" that is shown on my picture...
...I might simply suggest to take such a cruise ONLY at perfect weather conditions !!
Check out for the itineraries - especially out of the high season boats might be chartered by groups and in addition tickets to single travellers will be sold as well.
These cruises might differ slightly from the normal times / itineraries.
And while stops to the other 3 small villages were on the schedule, we just passed by them without landing.
To figure out what works best with your schedule, Go to http://www.trenitalia.com/en/index.html
Type in your departure town, and Arriving at either riomaggiore (southern of the 5-terre) or Monterosso (Northernmost), your travel date, and see what the schedules are.
From say, Lucca: You'll have to make to train change(s), one at Viareggio, and perhaps 2nd at La Spezia- the switches are all at the same station.
Depends on where you want to start at in the 5-terre, north or south.
From the south, for example - Lucca, to a Riomaggiore, the first of the 5-terre that you'll hit coming from La Spezia, takes an hour & 37 minutes for the most frequent trip offered.
Lucca to Monterosso Al Mare (northern most of the 5terre), generally takes more time, about 2 hrs, though there is the possibility to do it in an hour 23 minutes. Though that's just one train leaving Lucca at 1:30.
Either way, getiing there is not to challenging, and once there, getting between the towns is also easy, and fun. But don't just stick with the train- use your feet and the boats as well...
The Cinque Terre can easily be explored by train!
We arrived at Pisa airport and took a train from the trainstation Pisa Aeroporto to Pisa Centrale, on to La Spezia and then to Vernazza. Since we had an evening flight we did not have much choice but to take the Eurostar train (1st class only, reservations compulsory), but it was no problem to get a ticket for the train at the counter within the airport. Despite reservation and first class we only paid 11 € per person! On the way back we took a regional (2nd class) train and only paid € 4,85 for the same 92 km!!!
To go from one Cinque Terre village to the other, the train is very convenient as well! Just don't expect great views: it is mostly tunnels!
The closest airport to the Cinque Terre is Pisa, which was very convenient for us, since Ryanair just started to fly from Karlsruhe/Baden to Pisa in 2006! There are a lot of budget airlines flying into Gallileo Gallilei Airport, but of course all the regular airlines as well!
There are buses and a trainstation right there at the airport, so it is as easy as can be to get from the airport to whereever you want to go!
There's no vehicle traffic in the towns themselves, and driving and parking is a little tricky. We've driven and parked a couple times at different locations.
The views along the road connecting the towns (SS370/SP51) are splendid; go slowly as the road is narrow and curvy.
Riomaggiore - there is a fairly new, multilevel garage at the edge of town. When you exit off to follow signs to the town, continue down and you will make a sharp left to the garage area. There is a booth and traffic arm. Pick up the ticket and pay here when you leave. It's not cheap, about 15 euro for the day. Get here early as I imagine this lot fills up quick in high season. Note, there were also cars lined up on the road down to town, before you get to the parking area. I didn't see any parking tickets on their windows.
Manarola - follow signs to the town and the parking area is before the town on the right. It is about a 1km walk down hill to the town. This one was a little cheaper than Riomaggiores. Again, it likely fills up quick.
Vernazza - has a decent size lot 500 meters above town. A shuttle bus connects the lot to town every 15 minutes. Next time I drive, this is where I'll head to.
Monterossa - The new part of town (to the North) has a large parking lot by the water. This is the largest town and the only one with car traffic.
Being a national park, it is a nominal fee to enter the walking paths (spring 06 it was 3 Euro). For just over 5 Euro you can get access to the paths as well as transportation in the trains/busses for the day.
Even for those not in top physical condition, there's a path for you. There are a number of trails connecting the towns (you get a free map with the entrance); this is the most popular, red & White marked trail. Starting from the southern most town:
1st stretch is a breeze, completely flat and we could push the stroller the whole way.
2nd stretch is more difficult, narrow in spots. Our 2 1/2 year old was happy walking the entire stretch.
The final 2 stretches get more difficult (see image), but all walks reward you with views over the sea, olive and citrus trees, cacti & variety of flowers. Remember, at any town you can hop on the train to continue further or return.
If there have been recent rains/bad weather, the trails could be closed...
This picture shows me at the train platform of one of the five Cinque Terre Villages. Their train system is really unique because there are lots of tunnels right through the cliffs.
We would catch the train from the depot in Levanto to go to the particular village that we wished to visit. Sometimes, we would walk between two villages, then take the train to the third and so on. It's all so convenient, and it makes it ever so nice for those people who cannot walk the trails.
We took the train from La Spezia to the Cinque Terre towns to start our hikes. The train was on time and only took a few minutes to get to the first village. The ticket costs 5.20 Euro for one day, which includes the trail fee. You can also buy a pass that covers you for 3 or 7 days. Make sure you validate your ticket at one of the little yellow machines at the train stations.
Genova is built on several hills and for some of them you will find lifts and cablecars to get up quickly.
You may enter the house on my picture on the right and walk a rather long corridor backwards into the mountain, where a lift will take you on top of the small hill called Castelletto, where you have a great view over Genua.
The fee for the lift was moderate - I think it was just as much as the ordinary bus-fare.
Walking down the hill is nice and shows some nice streets and old palazzi, you might otherwise miss.
On my link you may see where to find Galleria Giuseppe Garibaldi - where you see the sign for the tunnel, you may take to lift to go up :
This is a very special way of transportation for the local workers and farmers inside of their vinyards in the area of Cinque terre.
It is a small train running on a single-rail running up and down the hills like a rollercoaster, taking down the grapes on these small wagons.
Just imagine the effort without such clever vehicles.
This is the terminal of one of them, close to the train-station in Vernazza.
The trainsystem in Italy offers good connections to all important destinations for a tourist.
Click on my picture and you will see :
6)the direction to 5terre
Have a look for special offers like e.g. there is a dayticket to 5terre, including all trains,buses and even the entrance-fee to the national park of 5terre (this is ONLY necessary to pay, when you walk between the 5 different villages!)
Something very important - and a bit different from other countries :
Cancel your ticket at the station in one of the many small machines, BEFORE you enter the train, otherwise you might be fined in case they catch you.
It's good 3* hotel, rather centrally located (about 15 min walk to Duomo and 25 min walk to the...more
Via Telemarco Signorini #177, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Italy
Good for: Business
Piazza Marconi 26, Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy
Good for: Couples