Florence is one of Italy’s most picturesque cities, with star attractions like the Uffizi Gallery and the giant Duomo Cathedral providing perfect opportunities snap some great photos. However, if you’re looking to escape from museums and churches, one of the best things to do is take a day trip to Cinque Terre, the stunningly beautiful string of villages overlooking the Mediterranean.
A Brief Overview
The name ‘Cinque Terre’ literally translates to ‘five lands’, but the name actually refers to the entire area of coastline, including the five villages and the surrounding hillside. It’s a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and unsurprisingly is becoming increasingly popular among tourists! But don’t let that put you off: it remains largely unspoilt, and is breathtakingly beautiful.
The five villages in the area are:
The distance between the city and the national park might not be too far, but there are still a few challenges to be considered when travelling from Florence to Cinque Terre – nothing that we can’t handle though!
The five small villages that make up the area lack easy road access, and are perched high on top of steep cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. Visitors will have to navigate some pretty dramatic landscapes… and avoid looking down. With this in mind, we’ll run through some of the options you can consider when it comes to getting there in one piece.
For all the freedom hiring a car on holiday can give you, this probably isn’t the best way to get from Florence to Cinque Terre, for a couple of different reasons. Firstly, you will find that there are very few parking spaces, with most reserved exclusively for residents of the five villages. Secondly, you’re likely to struggle even getting there, as the roads are so winding and narrow that in some places, two cars can’t even pass each other. An experienced driver can make the journey safely, but anyone new to the area is likely to struggle. If you are still convinced to get there by car, then the easiest solution will be to park close to La Spezia Centrale train station and use the railway system to move between villages.
Distance from Florence to Cinque Terre: 170km.
Getting there by train is slightly more feasible, and certainly more comfortable than trying to drive. However, train travel in Florence can sometimes require multiple changes, along with all the stress that comes with using public transport in an unfamiliar country.
The journey takes around three hours, though it can often push up to three and an half when you factor in delays and other hiccups. Once you’re there, you can easily move between the villages by train, with a Cinque Terre day pass covering all five and La Spezia. The Cinque Terre pass gives unlimited access to all trains in the area for the day. However, by travelling between each via train, you miss out on the opportunity to hike!
Top Tip: If you’re going by train from Florence Santa Maria Novella train station, bear in mind you have to change train twice, in Pisa Centrale and La Spezia Centrale. Direct trains to La Spezia Centrale can depart from Florence Campo di Marte train station, but they do not run all year round plus this train station is not central so you might have to catch a taxi to get there.
In order to allow enough time to visit the Cinque Terre consider to depart from Florence not later than 7/7.30 am and catch a train from the Cinque Terre not earlier than 5:30 pm.
Now that we’ve talked about some of the challenges when it comes to getting from Florence to Cinque Terre safely and easily, it’s about time we recommended the best way to do it. As with many other things in foreign countries, you’re best off using an experienced local guide and a pre-booked tour like this one, which solves the problem of getting there and ensures you get a chance to explore all the highlights of the area on foot.
An experienced coach driver will take you to the highest village, and of course you won’t have to worry about parking at all: just get off and begin your unforgettable hike. Your guide will be sure to take you on the best walking routes available, so be prepared to take a lot of snaps.
Top Tip: You should certainly come prepared for some moderate exercise – hikes along the Cinque Terre are not for the faint of heart! There are no formal restrictions on hiking in the area, but guides will not accept young children or those with mobility issues.
If you prefer instead to have more time to relax on one of the many beaches or to enjoy the beauty of these five fishing villages, you can opt for Tour Only option without the hiking!
Take to the Water
Perhaps the best part of the guided trip, though, is the ferry ride that takes you along the coast between the villages. Far more picturesque than the train, this allows visitors to get out onto the Mediterranean for a relaxing ride – you might need it after the hike!
In order to be able to see all five villages from the sea, it is worth starting the ferry ride from Monterosso to Riomaggiore or viceversa. For timetables check he following link:
We hope this post has whetted your appetite for an exciting walking tour around this unique site. If it has, but you do not know what time of the year is best to visit, check this post on understanding the Cinque Terre weather to help plan your trip.
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At Walkabout Florence, we never fail to ensure our guests have an unforgettable experience while on our tours. Book via our website today and we can promise you the adventure of a lifetime!