If you’ve done your research, you already know that Cinque Terre is actually a region made up of 5 small villages, not an actual city. (It means five lands in Italian). You can check out my last blog post for more info, A Weekend in Cinque Terre.
What you probably don’t know is that it is a hassle and a half to get in and out of the area. I, being the inexperienced traveler that I am, spent far too much time traveling to the region than seeing it. So I am writing this blog post in hopes that you are able to enjoy your trip more than I was.
For starters, there are not a whole lot of large airports in the area. And wherever you fly into, you’ll still have to take a train into the area (which will probably be La Spezia but more on that later). We flew into Bergamo-BGY (outside of Milan) and then took a bus into Milan, and then took the train from Milan to La Spezia. This made for a super, super tedious day.
BGY or the other airport in Milan are larger and have better flight times, but it can be super inconvenient. For starters then you have to take the bus into the city which took us around an hour. Then the trains were delayed and running on Italian time so that delayed us further. Out of Milan we also couldn’t get a straight train connection so then we had to switch trains part way through. It was just a shitshow all the way around.
I would recommend flying into Genoa (GOA) instead because its a lot closer. The flight times are less convenient/frequent, but its less of a hassle than flying into Milan. Then you’ll take a taxi to their train station and take a train directly down into whatever city you are staying in.
Try and make sure your flight gets in no later than 7:00 p.m. so you have time to take a train into the area. Any later than that and you could be stuck in Genoa for the night. Everything in Cinque Terre closes around 10:00 so you will have trouble getting a bite to eat or checking into your hotel.
The Train Situation:
Italian trains run on what I call “Italian time”. They just run whenever they feel like it. They do check, so don’t black-line, but don’t freak out about it. Online it is really hard to figure out how to book the trains, but once you are in the area it is super easy. Also, many of the locals will help you out if you are really lost.
When you book trains, you’ll notice that you won’t be able to find a train directly into the town you’re staying in and they’ll all go to La Spezia (this is where I got so confused). La Spezia and Levanto are larger towns at the base and top of the five cities and are sort of a “hubs” in and out of the area. They run all the way through the five cities, but when you book them, you won’t be able to book directly into the town you want.
Don’t book your train tickets ahead of time, just wait until you get to the train station. Then just go buy one at a kiosk and select La Spezia. The train from Genoa to La Spezia stops at literally every town along the way, which is part of why the trains are so slow. Then just get off when the train stops at your town. It seems more complicated than it is but don’t stress about the train tickets. They are super cheap and run all day so just buy the next one leaving. Then you aren’t stressed about missing a train if your flight is delayed or you get lost, etc.
Italy is also laid back, so you’ll get there when you get there. If you get lost, that’s cool. You can see something you hadn’t planned on seeing. I accidentally booked my entire way home at a slightly different time than my friend and was alone all day. I met a bunch of cool people and read a good book and generally had a pretty awesome time. So if you find traveling to Cinque Terre daunting or confusing, just keep on going! Let Europe be the adventure that it is and don’t freak out about missteps along the the way.
Two last small tips:
- The trains are usually super packed, and if you don’t sit in the seat you are assigned people will ask you to move and its super awkward and embarrassing. Don’t think you can get away with sitting with your friends.
- They don’t really check tickets that often, but when they do you can get in a lot of trouble. Also, since the trains are packed it might become really obvious that you don’t have a seat and then a guard will come… not sure what happens after that but it looked really serious so just buy your own ticket!