A Trip to Tuscany and Beyond part 4

My Story of La Spezia & Cinque Terre

After the short overnight stop in Pisa, we left, by train, of course, to our final destination: Cinque Terre

If you haven’t heard of Cinque Terre, you definitely saw at least one picture on the internet, depicting a cluster of colourful villas perched on a stone cliff by the sea. Cinque Terre is a string of five (cinque) coastal towns along the Italian Riviera. The five towns are, from north to south: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. And every one of them is worth at least a sneak peek. But, all in its good time. 

First things first, where did we stay? Introducing: La Spezia

Being such a popular region, the five towns can be quite pricey in terms of accommodation, though that doesn’t have to scare you. As I’ve mentioned before, my trips are mostly low-budget, so I stayed further away from the main points of interest. That means, my accommodation was in La Spezia. This is a city south of Cinque Terre, about 10 minutes away by train from Riomaggiore, the nearest town. 

Seafood at La Nuova Spezia

After getting settled into a small but clean and nice room near the train station, we, as usual, went in search of food. We headed to the seafront as we thought that was our best chance to find good, fresh fish and seafood. On our way, we passed through the city centre and wandered about. However, once we reached the seafront and got plenty of pictures, we realised the only eatery near the port was closed for the day. Luckily, a local gentleman, walking his nice golden retriever, was kind enough to direct us to what he called “the best restaurant”. Well, I would say he was not mistaken. A nicely designed restaurant, with impeccable service and amazing food, was what we found and fell in love with. If I recall correctly, this restaurant was called La Nuova Spezia

After gorging ourselves on delicious food, we resumed our wandering and discovered that the street our accommodation was on, was lined with trees. Trees that emitted a very familiar smell, the same one we were intrigued about in the Medici-Riccardi Garden in Florence and thought it was jasmine. Well, it wasn’t. Turns out that the infatuating smell was coming from orange flowers and those were orange trees.

Orange trees on a street in La Spezia

Side note: After some research, we discovered that orange flowers are often used in perfume-making, sometimes prefered to the jasmine ones, as those are more expensive. 

And now, for la piece de resistance: Cinque Terre

The following day was fully reserved for us to explore the famous region. And so, we went to the train station and started our journey.

TIP TIME: 

  1. You can buy your train pass to Cinque Terre from La Spezia train station or in any other station from Cinque Terre.
  2. The train pass includes one-day unlimited trips on the Cinque Terre route. This means you can train-hop from town to town as many times as you want.
  3. Trips take only a few minutes from one town to the other. 
  4. Trains arrive at each station every few minutes, with the longest break being around 30 minutes. However, you can check the schedule in every train station, especially to make sure you don’t miss the last one if it gets late
  5. Most importantly – the train pass we bought, also gave us unlimited access to all trekking paths and the use of some busses inside the towns. You can find more information here.
Panoramic view of Vernazza

The Itinerary:

The lady who sold us the pass also gave us very useful info and tips on how to make the best out of our time in Cinque Terre. This is why, instead of taking the train to the first station: Riomaggiore; or the last: Monterosso, we took the train to Vernazza. The main reason for that was that at the time, the trail between Vernazza and Monterosso was the only one open. So, make sure you check that too, before embarking on this trip (even if it’s at the last minute, as we did).

View from the trail

Starting from Vernazza, also gave us the trail, or at least most of it, to ourselves, as most tourists were starting it from Monterosso. It took us roughly 1.5 hours to get to Monterosso, counting stops for photos and admiring the view. Coming into Monterosso from the trail, you get to see the town peeking around the cliffs from afar. At the end of the trail, you arrive on the beach and get to relax. 

All the trekking got us hungry too, so we wandered the winding cobbled streets in search of food. We found a supermarket and our eyes fell on some porchetta and some fresh bread. We asked the nice lady cutting charcuterie if she could make us porchetta sandwiches. Although it might have been a rather odd request, she was happy to help and so we left the shop with two big porchetta sandwiches that we ate on a bench on a street in Monterosso.  

Painted wall in Manarola

After Monterosso, we hopped on the train to Corniglia, then Manarola, and finally Riomaggiore. We spent roughly one hour in each town and each one has a special something that sets it apart from the rest. Manarola has a tunnel and painted walls, Corniglia is the most quiet, etc. However, as a whole, they become truly beautiful. If I would have to choose a favourite I would pick Monterosso and Corniglia. Monterosso, for the experience, and Corniglia for its quaint atmosphere. However, the best part was, by far, walking the trail from Vernazza to Monterosso. And truly, Cinque Terre is beautiful and worth visiting. 

Sneak peek of Riomaggiore

Epilogue

We left La Spezia the following day and headed to Bologna, where we would board the plane home. On our way, we had to switch trains in Parma, with a two-hour wait in between trains. As I was (surprise, surprise) hungry, we left the station for a while, to get a glimpse of Parma and we were not sorry. The streets were quiet and on one of them, fairly close to the train station, we found a shop that sold food. Both cooked and uncooked. And it was one of the most wonderful shops I set foot in. I wanted to buy everything! I settled for some rice and pie, though. 

Bologna

In Bologna, we had the afternoon to wander through the city centre and it was worth the walk although it was quite crowded, as they were preparing for some sort of festival. And we were insanely tired and despite loving the trip, already looking forward to home.


You have reached the end of “A Trip to Tuscany and Beyond”. For more similar stories, make sure to follow my blog. Check out the previous parts of this trip below. Thanks for reading!

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