Getting Around Cinque Terre is relatively easy:
The regional train that serves the five villages runs between La Spezia Centrale and Sestri Levanti or Genoa. Fares are cheap at Euro 1.80 one-way, and the difference between a 5 km trip and a 10 km trip is only Euro 20 cents. The tickets are valid for 6 hours in each direction. So if you’re at Riomaggiore and heading north, you can stop at all the other four villages within a 6-hour time-frame. Your return trip requires a separate ticket.
When you purchase your ticket, make sure that you validate it at the yellow machine on the platform. Train conductors do come around checking for tickets and if you’re caught without a validated ticket, the on-the-spot fine is Euro 25. It’s hardly worth this risk given that the fares are only between Euro 1.80 and Euro 2.00.
If you’re staying for a few days and plan on doing some of the walks, you’ll probably be making a few trips back and forth between the five villages every day. It may be worth buying the Cinque Terre Treno card which includes unlimited train travel for the duration of your card. A 3-day Cinque Terre card costs Euro 10 and with unlimited train rides included, the cost is Euro 19. This saves you the hassle of buying tickets for each time you wish to hop on the train or ensures that you already have a ticket if a train happens to be on the platform. It also gives you the freedom to go to different villages for dinner if choose to do so.
Train timetables are posted at the station but it’s useful having a copy with you at all times when you’re out and about during the day or night so that you’ll know when you need to head for the station. The ticket office has wallet size photocopies of these. Another good reason for having these with you is that trains are sometimes late. Jumping on the incorrect train could land you in the wrong destination as we all found out one day. A train arrived at the station and everyone piled on board only to find that it’s the non-stop train to Monterosso.
Always listen to the train announcements which are given in Italian and English as well. You’ll very quickly get used to the many announcements in regard to the high-speed transit trains that don’t stop and other announcements as to which ‘binare’ or platform your train will be arriving at.
These run within the respective towns only. Corniglia is the only Cinque Terre village that is not by the coast and requires a shuttle bus trip from the station if you don’t wish to hike uphill to the village – it is quite a hike! The green National Park bus service meets each train arrival at Corniglia and with the Cinque Terre Card, the trip is free. Otherwise, you’ll pay Euro 1.50 for the trip.
The Consorzio Marittimo Turistico run boat services between Riomaggiore and Monterosso and othere destinations during the day. It’s much more expensive than the trains, but it’s worthwhile doing at least one trip from Riomggiore to Monterosso or vice versa to enjoy the sea journey, as well as the water views of the villages. One-way fare in either direction was Euro 8.00 in 2010. For the latest schedule and rates see the Consorzio Marittimo turistico website.
The Cinque Terre offers lots of scenic walks between the five villages and other off the beaten track trails. Walking the coastal route between the villages or the other trails is very much part of the enjoyment of being in the Cinque Terre.