Cinque Terre Manarola Village Marina

Cinque Terre from La Spezia Cruise Port: Your Essential DIY Excursion Guide

Cinque Terre, the “Five Lands,” is a string of five vibrantly coloured villages clinging to the cliffs of the Italian Riviera. These UNESCO-listed gems have been captivating travellers for centuries with their dramatic landscapes, charming harbours, and a network of hiking trails that wind through vineyards and olive groves.

Venturing out to Cinque Terre National Park is surprisingly easy. This guide is your ticket to unlocking the magic of Cinque Terre on your own terms, from navigating the trains to choosing which villages to prioritise. So grab your hiking boots or sandals and let’s embark on a DIY adventure to one of Italy’s most enchanting destinations.

Not sure Cinque Terre is for you? Then read my main DIY La Spezia cruise port guide to get the full download on your options for La Spezia cruise port.

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La Spezia Cruise Port to Cinque Terre: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? 😎😎😎😎 (Smooth sailing)

Cinque Terre is probably the easiest DIY excursion to do if your cruise ship is stopping at La Spezia cruise port for the day. Here’s why:

  • All-In-One Ticket, All-In-One Awesome: The Cinque Terre Treno card is like the golden ticket to these wonderful villages. It covers your entrance to the national park, unlimited train rides between villages, and even bus rides if your feet need a break. Talk about an stress-free adventure!
  • Trains Galore! You won’t be twiddling your thumbs waiting for transportation. Trains zip between villages multiple times an hour, so you can hop on and hop off whenever your heart desires. (There’s also buses as well!)
  • Pocket-Sized Paradise: Each village is like a bite-sized piece of heaven, easily explored on foot. Sure, there might be a hill or two to conquer, but hey, that just means you’ve earned that extra scoop of gelato. Plus, Monterosso’s got a sandy beach that’s practically calling your name for a sunbathing session.

Honestly, the only slightly tricky part is getting from the cruise port to La Spezia’s train station. (More on that in a bit!) But once you’ve conquered that hurdle, Cinque Terre is your oyster. So go forth, explore, and don’t forget to snap a few envy-inducing photos for your Insta followers!

La Spezia Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need to Know

La Spezia Cruise Port Address: Largo Michele Fiorillo, 19124 La Spezia

Getting from La Spezia Cruise Port to Train Station

  • How far is the train station? La Spezia train station is 2 kms (~1.2 miles) from La Spezia cruise port.
  • Bus or Taxi is Best: Getting from La Spezia cruise port to La Spezia train station is best on a bus or taxi. There is a taxi rank just outside the cruise terminal.
    • Bus to Station: Walk to “Comune” bus stop on my map above. The most convenient buses to the train station (Stazione La Spezia Centrale) is Line 3, Line L or Line S.
    • Tickets: Unfortunately no cash tickets on board, so purchase a ticket first for €1.50. If you’re using the Comune bus stop above, the bookstore “Liberia Paoline” and the bar “Veneto 25” at the bus stop sells them – both are marked on my map above 👆
  • Walk from Cruise Port to Train Station? I did do the walk and in heavy rain, too! I regret to inform you that there isn’t much to see in La Spezia town itself. If you want to do a bit of shopping, then by all means walk through the town centre on your way back!
  • Is there a port shuttle? If you mean a shuttle that takes you from the ship to the cruise terminal, then yes. It’s a 90 second ride though. I’ve read quite a few online reports that suggested that La Spezia port provides a free shuttle to the city centre. When I was last there in October 2023, there was definitely no shuttle bus to the town centre. So don’t rely on there being one. Your cruise line may offer a shuttle to the city centre though.

Cinque Terre Card: Your Ticket to Unlimited Train Travel & More

Navigating Cinque Terre is a breeze with the Cinque Terre Card, your all-in-one pass to explore this stunning region.There are two main types of cards to consider:

  • Cinque Terre Trekking Card: Perfect for hikers who want to explore the trails connecting the villages. This card covers access to the park’s hiking paths and includes bus transportation between the villages. However, it does not include train travel between La Spezia and your “first” Cinque Terre village (an additional €5 on low price days). One-day card cost €7.50 for adults, €4.50 for kids aged 4-12, €6 for seniors 70+
    • Note that due to landslides, certain sections of the hiking paths are closed. So traveling by train or buses are the only way to see all 5 villages.
  • Cinque Terre Treno MS Card: The ideal choice for those who want to hop between the villages by train. This card grants you unlimited train travel on the Cinque Terre Express line, which connects La Spezia, all five villages, and Levanto. Plus, it includes access to the hiking paths and buses within the park.
    • (New for 2024): Prices now vary based on expected visitor turnout, Disney theme park style. Each day from March to early November has been designated as Low / Medium / High price – see the calendar here.
    • One day passes will vary between €19.50 to €32.50 for adults, €12.50 to €21 for kids aged 4-12 and €16 to €27 for seniors 70+

My recommendation for cruisers on a day trip is to buy the Cinque Terre Treno card. The card gives you the flexibility of train travel – trains run frequently between the villages. So using it hop-on-hop-off style means you can see all five Cinque Terre villages.

Where to Get Tickets: Purchase at La Spezia train station or purchase online at https://card.parconazionale5terre.it/

My Take on Pre-Booking: While it’s tempting to pre-book your Cinque Terre pass, note that Cinque Terre National Park can shut at short notice when there’s an orange or red weather warning. Tickets purchased online are for a specific date (due to Disney theme park style variable pricing). So if you don’t want to have to deal with getting a refund in the event that Cinque Terre is closed, check the weather forecast first on your port day before purchasing online.

Cinque Terre DIY Shore Excursion Map

Here’s my Cinque Terre DIY Shore Excursion Map: Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger map. Use buttons on bottom left corner to zoom in/out. If map is not loading, click here to see it directly on Google Maps.

Cinque Terre Rail and Bus Timetables (2024)

  • Rail Timetables: It’s easiest to search on TrenItalia’s website but the PDF version is here – you’ll need to really zoom in to read it!
    • Journey Times: The closest village to La Spezia is Riomaggiore – journey time is about 8 minutes. The furthest village to La Spezia is Monterosso – journey time is about 25 minutes. It’s only a few minutes on the train between each village. You can travel as far as Levanto (technically not part of Cinque Terre) with your Cinque Terre Treno card.

All Aboard the Cinque Terre Express: A Whistle-Stop Tour

Each of the Cinque Terre villages boasts a unique personality and charm. With your Cinque Terre Card in hand and the train at your disposal, you can easily visit all five in a day. Here’s a glimpse of what awaits you – all the highlights are marked on my Cinque Terre DIY Shore Excursion Map above 👆 :

1. Riomaggiore: Where it All Began

Riomaggiore village in Cinque Terre, Italy
Image by Felix Wolf from Pixabay

The southernmost village and closest to La Spezia, Riomaggiore is believed to be the oldest of the Cinque Terre. From the train station, there is an underground tunnel which will lead you to the centre of town.

Explore its maze of narrow streets, discover hidden corners, and admire the colourful houses stacked like building blocks. Hike up to the San Giovanni Battista – a church erected in 1340 – for sweeping views of the village and coastline. The Castello dominates the skyline and is also another vantage point.

Riomaggiore is also famous for its Via dell’Amore walking trail to Manarola – note this is currently closed as of May 2024 when I wrote this. You can monitor the status of the trail here at the official website.

The iconic photos taken at sea level, looking up into the cliffside village is from the panoramic vista point marked on my map above 👆.

Ready for a midday snack? Eat some anchovies here. Due to a different salinity of the sea, anchovies in the region are famous! Il Pescato Cucinato is a small takeaway shop, marked on my map. Try fried anchovies on its own or opt for a cone of Fritto Misto.

2. Manarola: A Rainbow of Colours

Manarola village at sunset, Cinque Terre Italy
Photo by Henry Bauer

Manarola’s colorful houses cascade down the hillside towards the harbour, creating a truly magical scene. There’s not a lot to do in Manarola except to enjoy the picture perfect postcard views. Walk from the train station down to the marina or if you’re feeling energetic, to the Manarola Overlook Viewpoint marked on my map for some stunning Instagram-worthy photos.

As above, unfortunately, the Via dell’Amore (Lovers’ Lane), is currently closed. So savour Sciacchetrà – the region’s renowned sweet dessert wine – instead!

3. Corniglia: The Clifftop Village

Corniglia village in Cinque Terre, Italy
Image by Gianni Crestani from Pixabay

Perched high on a rocky promontory, Corniglia is the only village without direct access to the sea. Reach it by climbing the 382 steps (33 flights) known as the Lardarina or by taking the shuttle bus from the train station. Stroll through the maze-like streets, sample local honey, and discover the 14th-century Church of San Pietro with its intricate rose window.

4. Vernazza: Postcard-Perfect Harbour Town

Vernazza in Cinque Terre, Italy
Image by djedj from Pixabay

Vernazza’s postcard-worthy harbour, framed by pastel-colored houses, is a sight to behold. Explore the narrow caruggi (alleys) that wind through the village, discover hidden piazzas, and climb up to the Doria Castle for breathtaking views.Take a dip in the natural swimming hole near the end of Via Mazzini – there’s no sandy beach like Monterosso but it will be less crowded.

P.S. On a Gluten Free or Vegan diet? The perfect place to grab lunch in Cinque Terre is Lunch Box Vernazza as there’s a gluten free menu and a vegan menu.

5. Monterosso al Mare: Where Mountains Meet the Sea

Beach at Moneterosso village, Cinque Terre
Image by user32212 from Pixabay

The largest of the five, Monterosso is known for its expansive sandy beach – a rarity in Cinque Terre. Lounge under colourful umbrellas, take a refreshing dip, or stroll along the promenade lined with shops and restaurants. Don’t miss the towering statue of Neptune called the Giant (Statua del Gigante), the god of the sea.

6. Levanto – “Bonus Village”

Levanto Village Liguria Italy
By Pjt56 @Wikipedia

If you have extra time or want to escape the crowds, hop on the train to Levanto, the stop after Monterosso. 

This charming seaside town offers a more relaxed atmosphere, a beautiful sandy “Blue Flag” beach that’s great for swimming and a charming old town. Explore medieval architecture, browse local shops, and savour Ligurian cuisine. Levanto is also a popular destination for surfers and water sports enthusiasts thanks to its consistent waves and winds. 

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

The Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail, is the most famous hiking trail in Cinque Terre, connecting all five villages along the coastline. The trail is 12 km (7.5 miles) long but unfortunately all sections are currently closed due to landslides except for the section between Monterosso and Vernazza. The famous Via dell’Amore section (Lovers’ Lane) between Manarola and Riomaggiore is closed.

Featured Image by François Bucaioni

There you have it – your passport to a DIY Cinque Terre adventure, filled with colourful villages and breathtaking scenery. From the train schedules to tips on choosing the perfect village to explore, I hope you now feel well-equipped to make the most of your time in this enchanting region. 

I hope this guide helps you create a Cinque Terre day trip that’s truly unforgettable. If you found this information helpful, please share it with fellow travellers in your cruise’s roll call groups – and buon viaggio!

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