My last day based in Florence was spent on a day trip with Walkabout Tours to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is a cluster of five picturesque villages on the Ligurian Coast of Italy. It is an incredibly popular tourist destination and I had initially thought of staying there for a few nights but nostalgia drew me to Florence instead. Still wanting a taste of the region I figured a day trip was the next best thing.
First up, it was a long day. The trip involved a two hour bus trip from Florence to La Spezia and then several trains and a hike throughout the course of the day to see the five villages. I chose this particular day trip for a few reasons. I already knew and liked the company, it was the only day trip I found seeing all five villages and it involved a hike, which I liked the sound of. It is obviously not the best way to see the five villages, it is probably the best way to see the five villages in a day, from Florence.
On the bus ride we met our two guides for the day, two guides to split the large bus into two smaller groups, and we got the rundown on how the day would work. We were relying on trains so it was stressed how important it was to be where we needed to be on time. Our group aced this instruction and had no problems all day.
We parked the bus on the edge of La Spezia and walked to the station. La Spezia is the gateway to Cinque Terre and quite a pretty town itself.
Our first stop was the second town along the train line from La Spezia, Manarola. Manarola is a lovely colorful village, probably the description I will give of all of them, because they are. Our guide took us on a short walk to show us some of the sights before we had a little free time before catching our next train. Our guide pointed out to us how self sufficient the area is and has to be. Everywhere you look, something is growing. The residents of the villages are very reliant on their own seasonal produce.
Next stop was Corniglia. Corniglia is the quietest of the Cinque Terre villages. That might have something to do with the 382 steps up to the village from the station. It is the only village without a beach, just a cliff. Corniglia was our lunch stop, lunch wasn’t included in the tour but we had the option to purchase a set lunch in Corniglia that included the pesto the region is famous for. I think we all chose to have it. It was delicious.
Corniglia was also the starting point of the hike portion of our day. So after lunch and a quick look at Corniglia we gathered to commence the hike. Again noticing how the hills surrounding the villages are covered in food production. The hike is about 3.5 km and we were given ample time to cover the distance and still see a bit of our destination village, Vernazza before our next train. The scenery was just incredible.
Vernazza is a busy village with so much photo potential, the iconic shots of it though are taken from a path out to the other side of the village that we didn’t take. However there was still plenty to see and photograph before heading to the station. The waves at the seafront were particularly rough,
From Vernazza we took the train to the furthest village from La Spezia, Monterosso al Mare. It is a village in two parts, a modern section with a sweeping beachfront near the station and an older section a little walk away. I mostly checked out the older section. Like the other villages it was pretty and colorful with lovely shops and places to eat and drink.
The advertised plan for the tour included a boat trip from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore, the closest village to La Spezia and our final stop. However it was weather dependant and none of us were upset that it was cancelled, given the ocean swells we were seeing. Instead we took the train and actually got a little more time in Riomaggiore than we otherwise would have.
Riomaggiore was stunning and with the extra time there I was able to get plenty of photos and still have time for some shopping and a drink. Lemons are the signature product of Cinque Terre and every where are stores selling lemon products, walking into them the smell is heavenly.
Our guide for the day was amazing. He managed to keep us organised and on time for everything while still making it fun and not stressing us with urgency. He basically treated us like adults and we obliged. It was a great group.
Even though we missed our boat trip we lucked out with the weather, it hardly rained but the forecast had been enough to keep the crowds away and we were treated to a much quieter Cinque Terre than we could have expected. Win!
After a long day we had a two hour bus ride back to Florence. I went to Piazza Santo Spirito for a quick, and last, meal in Florence before sleeping very well that night.