Cinque Terre, Italy by Ferry

Cinque Terre By Ferry

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Cinque Terre – you know, one of those places that everyone raves about. Those Instagram snaps make it look so dreamy, like a slice of cute Italian paradise. So, when my birthday week in Italy arrived (yes, lucky girl, I know), we decided to kick it off with a visit to Cinque Terre.

We purposely didn’t do much research or planning in order to arrive with no expectations (although, let’s face it, social media makes that a bit harder these days – more about this in this blog article about social media).

The only thing I looked into was how to explore the villages. Train rides seemed to be the norm, but guess what, I stumbled upon the option of a ferry! Can you imagine the views from the sea? It was a total no-brainer, especially since we had just one day to soak it all in.

So, in this article, I’m excited to share all the details of my own adventure and explain why, in my humble opinion, it was the absolute perfect way and ideal time to experience the magic of Cinque Terre.

When to Go to Cinque Terre

Visiting Cinque Terre in the right season can truly enhance your experience, and I had the opportunity to explore it in June. To be honest, it was a bit busier than I initially anticipated (I am often living on Cloud 9). But let me set the record straight: when it comes to Cinque Terre, the term “busy” is all relative. Sure, there was a noticeable increase in visitors, but trust me, it was nowhere near the tales of endless queues and overcrowded streets. Finding a spot to relax, savor a refreshing drink, or even securing a seat on the next ferry was never an issue.

If you’re looking to strike a balance between sunny weather and fewer crowds, I personally recommend considering a visit in May or June. During this time, you can enjoy the warmth of the Italian sun while potentially encountering a slightly lower number of tourists.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre
Vernazza, Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre Ferry Tickets

Now, let’s talk Cinque Terre ferry tickets! I highly recommend purchasing a one-day roundtrip ticket that covers the route from La Spezia to Portovenere, Cinque Terre and Levanto. This all-inclusive pass costs 39 euros for adults and 15 euros for children, granting you the freedom to hop on and off the ferries whenever you want. Just so that you know, you can only buy the tickets at the ticket offices near the docking points the day of departure.

If you prefer a more leisurely afternoon exploration, there are roundtrip tickets available from 2 p.m. onwards. These tickets come at a reduced price of 28 euros for adults and 15 euros for children. However, in my opinion, an afternoon might not be enough to fully soak in the beauty of Cinque Terre.

Where to Depart From

When it comes to choosing your departure point for Cinque Terre by ferry, it largely depends on your location and travel plans.Parking La Spezia to go to Cinque Terre

In my case, we departed from La Spezia, where we conveniently left our car in a free parking lot called “Piazza D’Armi”. It was just a breezy 20-25 minute stroll from the harbor. Oh, and here’s a little tip: if you find yourself craving some post-Cinque Terre retail therapy, there’s a Coop supermarket just 50 meters away from the parking lot.

Alternatively, you can also embark on your adventure from Levanto, which is on the other end. Take your pick based on what suits you best.

We hopped on the first ferry at 9:15 a.m. and made our way back to La Spezia around 6:20 p.m. This gave us plenty of time to capture breathtaking pictures, explore four enchanting villages, indulge in a glass of wine at each stop (hey, it was my birthday week, no judgment, please), and enjoy a late lunch in the final village.

What made the whole experience even sweeter was the fact that, apart from the first ferry, none of the others were really crowded. It was truly a relaxing and enjoyable day: a leisurely day spent cruising the sea, soaking up the sun, and hopping from one charming village to another.

For more detailed information about the ferry timetable, check it out here.

Cinque Terre Map - Cinque Terre by Ferry

The Cinque Terre Villages

Cinque Terre, meaning “Five Lands” in English, is home to five unique coastal towns: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These villages have a rich history dating back centuries and originally served as fishing and agricultural communities. Throughout the years, each village has developed its own unique character and allure, preserving the traditional way of life and creating an authentic atmosphere along the Italian Riviera.

You can easily explore four of the five Cinque Terre villages by ferry, treating yourself to stunning views from the sea. The colorful houses perched on the cliffs and the picturesque harbors offer amazing sights. However, there’s one village that requires a different mode of transportation. Corniglia, located atop a hill, can only be reached by train. But don’t worry, the train ride is short and convenient.

1. Riomaggiore

As the southernmost village of Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore exudes a delightful mix of old-world charm and natural beauty.

2. Manarola

Famous for its iconic view from the harbor, Manarola is a true gem of Cinque Terre. Admire the pastel-colored buildings perched on the cliffs and the crystal-clear waters below.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

3. Corniglia

As mentioned before, Corniglia is the only village in Cinque Terre that is not directly accessible by boat. To reach Corniglia, you’ll need to take a short train ride from one of the neighboring villages (which is still feasible if you have chosen to explore the other villages by ferry).

Once there, you’ll experience its elevated location, which sets it apart from the other villages, providing a quieter and more peaceful atmosphere. Corniglia is renowned for its terraced vineyards that produce excellent local wines.

4. Vernazza

Considered by many as the most photogenic of the Cinque Terre villages, Vernazza is a postcard-perfect destination. Its colorful houses and picturesque harbor create a truly picturesque scene.

Vernazza, Cinque Terre by ferry
Source: Wikipedia (My Phone is not as good as Wiki)

5. Monterosso al Mare

This is the largest of the five villages and the last one we have seen. It is known for its beautiful sandy beaches and lively atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along the seaside promenade, explore the historic center with its charming shops, and treat yourself to some delicious seafood dishes.

Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy
Monterosso al Mare

Additional Tips and Other Cinque Terre Options

  • Go early

To make the most of your day in Cinque Terre and avoid the crowds, it’s best to start your exploration early in the morning. Catch the first ferry and let your day begin!

  • Take suncream

The Mediterranean sun can be quite strong, especially during the summer months. Don’t forget to pack and apply sunscreen to protect your skin. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

  • Don’t wear high heels

While high heels may look stylish and glamorous for your Insta shots, they are not practical for exploring the narrow and often uneven streets of Cinque Terre. Opt for comfortable footwear like sneakers or sandals to ensure a more enjoyable walking experience.

  • Take a swimsuit

If you plan to visit Monterosso al Mare or Vernazza, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit. Monterosso Beach is quite popular and offers a wide sandy shoreline and clear blue waters, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

Vernazza also has a small picturesque beach where you can take a dip in the sea. I felt a bit gutted when I realized I had forgotten my swimsuit and watched others happily jumping into the crystal-clear waters. So, make sure you don’t make the same mistake!

  • Portovenere

Portovenere, although not officially considered one of the five villages of Cinque Terre because it is located just outside the designated area, is often explored by many visitors due to its proximity and scenic appeal.

Nestled on the Gulf of Poets, the historic center of Portovenere holds the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Portovenere, Italy
  • Other options

I haven’t personally tried all the other options available in Cinque Terre, so I can’t provide a firsthand judgment. But here’s what I do know.

First and foremost, I’ve heard great things about the train option from people around me. It offers convenience and easy access to all the villages, making it a popular choice.

You can embark on a guided tour or a multi-day adventure, indulging in hikes and exploring each village at your own pace. Cinque Terre is renowned for its stunning trails that wind through vineyards, olive groves, and along the coastline.

Another choice is to to spend a night or two in one of the charming villages for a more immersive experience—although it may come with a heftier price tag.

If you want to see the villages from the sea but dislike crowds, then a private boat tour is also an option.

Ultimately, the choice depends on your schedule and personal preferences. The ferry in one day was my chosen way to experience Cinque Terre, but it’s certainly not the only way. After all, everyone’s journey is unique.

Final Thoughts about Cinque Terre by Ferry

In conclusion, Cinque Terre, Italy is undoubtedly a picturesque destination that effortlessly captivates visitors with its colorful cliffside villages, stunning coastal views, and delicious local cuisine.

Hands down, taking the ferry is the way to go. Trust me, the views from the sea are absolutely amazing. You won’t get the same perspective from the train, so I highly recommend investing a little extra in Cinque Terre ferry tickets—it’s worth every penny.

If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more peaceful trip, I recommend skipping the high season and visiting during the shoulder seasons. Cinque Terre is all about embracing the “stroll, eat and drink” mindset, taking your time to savor every moment.

So,  if you’re yearning for a picturesque escape, Cinque Terre by ferry is calling your name. And for more Italian escapades, check out my blog article about Genoa or this one about Tuscany.

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