By Rail or By Sea? That is the Question

One of the most beautiful panoramas along the Italian coast, the Cinque Terre can be seen in many ways. By rail, car, boat, taxi or on foot.  However, the two best way I discovered in July were by rail and by sea. The Cinque Terre consists of five tiny fishing villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterossso. Each has their own uniqueness but the place to set up your base is in La Spezia because more travel options are available to you.

By Sea

By Boat CTHop on board one of the “5 Cinque Terre” boats that operate services from La Spezia every hour.   For the low price of 28 euros you can purchase a day pass that gives access to all five villages. You will need to plan the villages you want to see though with the timetable you get with your ticket.  Allow yourself about an hour or two in each village to get a real feel and appreciation (depending on your interests).

The boat offers gorgeous views of the coastline.  It is easy to see why this is a photographer’s paradise of natural beauty.  It also inspires a writer to write and dream up new adventures.

MonterossoRioaggioreDuring the summer the boat does tend to fill up but unlike the train there is a limit to how many people can fit comfortably. From my experience the boat did not get too crowded and everyone had a chance to gaze out at the Cinque Terre beauty. There were plenty of spaces to sit for some quiet time enjoying the panorama in peace

The only disadvantage is that  you will not see Corniglia by sea as it is perched on the top of a hill with no harbour access.

By Rail

By Ral CTA Cinque Terre day pass costs a low 12 euros and unlimited access on the train between all five villages. It is cheaper than the boat cruise BUT there is no scenic view because the train will spend most of its time in a tunnel.  However, the train is the most efficient way of travelling between the five villages. It only takes an average of 2-3 minutes to reach the next stop in most cases.  Although the trains are frequent, they are full and this is no exaggeration. Anyone who has visited the Cinque Terre in summer would agree that the carriages are full to the brim as people scramble onto the train in the hope for getting that much sought after seat.

Corniglia Stairs 2
Photo by Google Clipart

The train will stop at all five villages – including Corniglia perched on the top of the hill – but be warned that there are lots of stairs between the train station and the village.  So give yourself about 15 minutes at a comfortable pace as it is extremely warm in summer. Take it slow and adjust your pace to suit your fitness level.  Once you get to the top you can indulge in a much deserved cool, creamy gelato.

Photo by Google Clipart
Photo by Google Clipart

However, for those who cannot walk the distance, there is a complimentary shuttle bus that carries people up and down the hill during the busy summer period.

CT Ticket
Photo by Google Clipart

It is recommended that you buy your ticket before you leave Australia but if for some reason you choose not to, be sure to arrive early at the train station.  The lines get long as the morning passes, either use the on platform machine or take your chance on the line at the ticket office.  Your ticket also allows you to use the free WiFi on each station.  This is handy to make social media updates on the go or to keep in touch with family and friends. However, be prepared for network slowness. As you can imagine, almost every person on the platform will also be using the complimentary WiFi.

The Verdict

While each option, rail and sea, have advantages and disadvantages, my preference for doing the Cinque Terre was by boat.  It is slightly more expensive but it is worth the freedom and gorgeous panoramic vistas along the coastline.  It is also the best angle for a budding photographer to get that perfect shot.  It was best to remember my trip to the five Italian fishing villages as relaxing and there is nothing better than sitting on a boat and watching the world go by and the feel of the cool breeze blowing in your hair.

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