A Cruiser's Guide: Doing Cinque Terre in a Day
Cinque Terre is the picturesque region along the Italian Riviera made up of five small villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernaza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Known for its rugged beauty and colorful cliffside villages, this is a sought-after destination for many. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself on a cruise in the Mediterranean, your cruise line may offer costly excursions that can be crowded and lacking in authenticity. Since this little tresure is about an hour and a half away from major ports such as Genoa and Livorno, you can absolutely get a taste of this breathtaking place on your own, saving you money and time! I will be writing this from the perspective of porting in Genoa, but this itinerary could apply to other non-port cities such as Pisa or Le Spezia as well.
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Where to stay
Hotel Porto Roca
A hillside stunner in Cinque Terre, home to 43 balconied rooms, a popular terrace restaurant and seawater infinity pool all overlooking Monterosso Bay.
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8:00AM: Disembark your ship, grab a taxi and make your way to the Genoa train station, Genova Piazza Principe, to purchase your round trip ticket. (It's about a 10 minute taxi ride.) Be sure to note the various departure and arrival times of your train as you do not want to miss getting back on the ship. You will also want to have a little extra local currency on you for local souvenirs or public restrooms.
Magical towns on the way
9:00AM: Board your train and sit back and relax as you admire the gorgeous Italian coastal cities along the way. Rapolla, Chiavari and Sestri Levante are just a few of the magical towns you will pass through, so be sure to take your pictures (and enjoy the people watching.)
10:30: Your stop is Monterosso, the first of the villages of the region. Walk about 5-minutes until you come upon the sandy beaches of Monterosso al Mare lined with colorful umbrellas and beachcombers swimming in the turquoise waters of the Ligurian Sea. You will likely want to stop right there, but you are on a schedule you need to keep going. Not to worry, I've built in some fun in the sun later!
Open-air markets & water taxis
10:30AM: Take some time to wander around the lively open-air markets and take in the colors, scents and sounds of the variety of goods that are sold. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, ceramics, clothing, artisanal cheeses and other local culinary fare are available for purchase.
11:00AM: Make your way over to the water taxi. This is visible from the beach and markets, but look for signs directing you to Consorzio Marittimo Turistico to purchase your daily ticket valid for stops at every pier (about $40.) Various pier times will be listed so that you can keep track of the time.
11:30: By now you have probably realized that you are in love and don't ever want to leave this "fetti di paradiso" since you are suddenly surrounded by azure seas and pastel-colored houses clinging to the cliffside. Unfortunately you do, so you want to make the most of your time. Make your way to the easternmost town of Riomaggiore to have a relaxing lunch and do some shopping.
12:00: I recommend having lunch at Dau Cila, a traditional Italian eatery with a patio overlooking stunning views of fishing boats, quaint homes and cliff jumpers cooling off in the sea. Choose a bottle of the local wine and be sure to be adventurous when selecting all of the fresh seafood offerings on the menu. We selected one of each appetizer and later watched as my husband hung with the locals while partaking in some cliff jumping himself.
1:30: Save room even more wine as you visit your next pier, Manarola. Order a bottle of Sciacchetra wine at the restaurant, Nessun Dorma, as you enjoy their terrace and watching the sailboats dotting the gorgeous seascape.
Unfortunately the next village, Corniglia, is not on a pier, but that's ok because by now you have already begun planning when you will be returning for a longer stay. When you do you can enjoy one of the quaint hotels such as Amare Il Mare or il Magan in the region's tiniest village.
2:30: Stop in Vernazza for a quick visit to the beautiful Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church that dates back the to the 14th century. After that I recommend Stopping by Gelateria Vernazza for a quick dessert before you return to Monterosso al Mare.
3:00: Now, throw on your swimsuit, grab a towel and sit yourself beneath one of the colorful, striped umbrellas to enjoy the beach and swim in the Ligurian Sea. We visited Beach Bar Stella Marina to enjoy some final libations and a quick "cicchetti" before preparing for our train's departure.
Return to ship
4:30: Catch the train back to Genoa so that you are not late getting back to your ship, and be thankful that although it was a short you had the fortunate opportunity of spending the day with friends in "Angolo di paradiso italiano."
Need to Know
Cinque Terre is an absolute must if you happen to find yourself in this part of the world. It is a busy itinerary, but you can accomplish an authentic Italian day trip while saving some euros. Ready to experience the majesty of Cinque Terre? Contact me to book your mediterranean cruise! Ciao! Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Guide to a Couples Getaway to Savannah, GA.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Cinque Terre.