The Cinque Terre is one of Italy's most postcard-perfect destinations. Made up of five coast-hugging villages, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, the Cinque Terre is a UNESCO-protected national park and all the villages are connected by a railway and a hiking trail. The best way to access the park is through the nearby city of La Spezia, which lies to the east. From the Italian capital of Rome, Cinque Terre is about 281 miles (453 kilometers) away. La Spezia marks the beginning of the Italian Riviera, which spans all the way up the coast to the French border.
At a glance, flying may seem like the quickest way to travel from Rome to the Cinque Terre, but the closest airport is over 50 miles (80 kilometers) away. You could fly to one of the airports near the villages, but you will have to factor in the cost of a rental car or train ticket to get yourself the rest of the way.
By far, taking the train is the easiest way to travel in Italy. There are many direct services between Rome and La Spezia, plus you can transfer directly to the regional line that will bring you to the Cinque Terre. If you're on a tight budget, you could also take the bus to La Spezia, but you will still need to take the regional train to make it the rest of the way. Driving is also an option, but it can be slower than taking the train, and you will not be able to bring your rental car into any of the villages when you get there.
How to Get from Rome to the Cinque Terre
|Train||3 hours||from $20|
|Bus||5 hours, 35 minutes||from $17|
|Flight||1 hour||from $80|
|Car||5 hours||281 miles (453 kilometers)|
To get to the Cinque Terre from Rome by train, you will need to book your ticket with Trenitalia for La Spezia. Once you arrive at La Spezia Centrale Station, you'll have to transfer to a regional train heading to Monterosso. This train will stop at all five villages, so you can choose to get off at Riomaggiore and travel north through the park or ride all the way to the end to Monterosso and make your way south along the coast.
Trains from Rome to La Spezia leave from Roma Termini Station throughout the day from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. You may also be able to catch an even faster train from another train station if you leave later in the evening. For example, the direct 8:35 p.m. train that leaves from Roma Tiburtina Station only takes about 3 hours.
If you wish to fly to the Cinque Terre from Rome, you'll have to fly to one of two closest cities, Genoa or Pisa, and travel the rest of the way by bus, train, or car. However, you should know that none of these cities are very close to the Cinque Terre, and you will still need to spend at least an hour or two in transit before you arrive. Many people who wish to fly like to combine their trip to the Cinque Terre with a few days in one of these cities, which are all well-worth visiting on their own.
Genoa is about 56 miles (90 kilometers) north of the Cinque Terre and direct flights offered by Alitalia can be found for as low as $80. Alternatively, Pisa is further away with 72 miles (115 kilometers) between the airport and Cinque Terre and flights tend to be a little more expensive, starting at $120. The flight to Pisa takes 55 minutes while the flight to Genoa takes 1 hour, 5 minutes, so there's not much of a difference in terms of how much time you'll spend in the air. Deciding which airport to fly to really comes down to which city you want to see more. Or, you could plan to fly to Pisa on your way there and fly back through Genoa on your way home, or vice versa.
Like taking the train, you will first have to take the bus to La Spezia and then transfer to the Cinque Terre by the regional rail line. You can either take the Marino Bus, which takes about 8 to 9 hours and tends to be slightly more expensive or Flixbus, which offers fares for as low as $17 and direct buses to La Spezia that take as little as 5 hours, 30 minutes. You'll find the cheapest fares on the night buses, which leave Rome just after midnight and arrive in La Spezia at 7 a.m. If you don't mind sleeping upright on a bus, this is a great way to save money on accommodation.
If you want to skip the hassle of trains and transfers, you can rent a car in Rome and drive straight to the Cinque Terre on your own. Note that cars are not recommended for visiting the Cinque Terre as the villages are car-free. You'll need to leave your car at one of the parking lots outside the villages. If it's your first time driving in Italy, make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules of the road before making your decision.
The drive will take you about 5 hours if you don't make any stops along the way. From Rome, take the A1/E35 north for 145 miles (234 kilometers) until you can take the Firenze Nord exit to merge onto A11/E76. After passing the city of Lucca, take the exit onto A12/E80 and drive north for 42 miles (67 kilometers) until you can take the exit toward Carrodano/Levanto. You'll follow this winding road all the way until you reach the entrance of the park near Monterosso al Mare. If you'd rather begin your trip from the south, you'll take the earlier exit toward La Spezia and drive through the city along the SP370 until you arrive at Riomaggiore.
What to See in the Cinque Terre
The most popular thing to do when visiting the Cinque Terre is to hike the route between all five villages. Keep in mind, however, that you will need to purchase a card to use the paths. Although you can see the whole park in a day, there are hotels in each village, where you can find excellent views. The villages get very busy with tourists coming in for the day, so it might be nice to wake up early and enjoy the town before the rush gets going.
Each village offers a lot to see, so you'll want to take your time getting to know each one. Wherever you go, you'll have no problem finding restaurants with fresh seafood and marvelous seaside views. If you don't have enough time to hike through the villages, it's possible to take a sailing tour from La Spezia and see them from the water.