The five towns of the Cinque Terre sit in the cliff side of the Italian Riviera overlooking the ocean, and simply look like little tiny colourful houses tumbling into the water.
While it’s not the easiest place to get to, it is definitely a more authentic part of Italy to visit, with local fisherman taking their boats out each day and the smell of pasta and pastries wafting out into the streets.
Location & Time Zone of the Cinque Terre
Located on the rugged Italian Rivera coastline in Italy, the Cinque Terre follows the Central European Time Zone (UTC+1), with Central European Summer Time (UTC +2) in effect from the last Sunday of March until the last Sunday of October each year.
Getting to the Cinque Terre
Definitely the easiest way to get to the Cinque Terre is by train, with trains running straight from Milan, Rome, Turin or Tuscany to Genoa. From Genoa you can take a local train towards La Spezia and there are two options – either the regular train which stops at all the stations along the Cinque Terre, or the express train which takes you directly to La Spezia and then you can get the regional train between the five cities depending on where you’re staying.
If you’re arriving by car (like we did), the easiest town to access by road is Monterosso which has a couple of big car parks with the most affordable fees. However, the drive into and out of the Cinque Terre are along winding cliff roads and are not for the faint of heart or for nervous drivers. Once you are there it is best to keep your car in parking for the whole time, as it is much more efficient to visit the five towns by local train.
Language in Italy
As with all of Italy, the main language spoken in the Cinque Terre is Italian.
Many of the locals, especially people working in the restaurants and hotels will know and understand some basic English, but be ready for a lot of gesturing, pointing and high eyebrows to communicate with each other most of the time.
Climate in the Cinque Terre
As part of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre has a mild and pleasant subtropical Mediterranean climate. The summer season lasts from May to September, with the weather conditions being consistently pleasant with hardly any too high temperatures or unbearable heat.
Getting Around the Cinque Terre
The easiest way to explore the towns is by train. Each of the five towns has their own small train station and they are only 2 to 5 minutes away from each other.
The best way to get around is with the Cinque Terre Card which lets you ride the train between the five stations as much as you like, as well as unlimited travel on the Levanto – Cinque Terre – La Spezia line on the regional train line in second class, which is particularly helpful if you’re staying in a town outside of the main five. It also gives you access to shuttle buses and the use of the trekking trails.
You can buy the card at any of the Cinque Terre train stations, as well as pick up a map with all the information you could need! It’s approximately € 16 for a one day pass or € 29 for two days. This year an express train was also introduced between La Spezia and Levanto, the two closest stations on either side of the Cinque Terre, which goes back and forth every 30 minutes.
For an even more scenic journey a passenger ferry also runs between the villages, except for Corniglia. The ferry begins from Genoa’s Old Harbour, La Spenzia, Lerici or Porto Venere.
Read more: Exploring the Cinque Terre
Money in the Cinque Terre
Currency is Euros €.
It’s a good idea to grab some cash out before you leave a main city for the Cinque Terre. Some of the restaurants and cafes offered credit and debit card facilities, but not all and there were very few ATMs around. Cash comes in extremely handy around these tiny towns, as it is definitely more of a rural and remote location despite it’s popularity.
Internet Access in the Cinque Terre
Internet access was surprisingly quite easy to find, including at the train stations and in hotels and restaurants. If the wifi in restaurants and cafes has a password, the waiters are more than happy to give it to you if you ask.
The Towns of the Cinque Terre
Riomaggiore – the closest to La Spezia
Manarola – offering the iconic views that we all know and love (like the cover image above)
Vernazza – best views can be found from above, along the Cinque Terre hike
Monterosso al Mare – the biggest town and the main place to stay, with the best beaches, hotel and parking options and amenities
Corniglia – smallest and most easily overlooked, it is also the only town not built on the ocean
Best Time To Go To The Cinque Terre
During the summer months between May and September is the best time to visit the Cinque Terre, with the warmest weather and the biggest crowds descending to these little beach villages between July and August.
The shoulder and winter seasons can actually be quite cold, and due to the villages close proximity to the water even a little bit windy. For the best experience definitely plan your visit as close to the summer months as you can. The beautiful warm weather wins over the crowds every time.
Good to know about the Cinque Terre
If you’re driving down to the Cinque Terre petrol stations can be few and far between, so you need to plan your trip and make sure you have enough fuel to make the journey.
Petrol stations can be found in La Spezia, Brugnato and Levanto, and prepare yourself for some incredibly high fuel prices (honestly, it was a little insane).
The drive down to the main village of Monterroso al Mare is incredibly windy as you twist and turn through the mountains. Expect to take at least double the time that Google Maps tells you, as it’s virtually impossible to drive the speed limit down these narrow, almost one lane roads.