France To Cinqueterre, Italy: Jaw-Dropping

France to Cinqueterre
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(Be sure you read the P.S.)

When you are in the south of France, Italy is just around the corner. Cinqueterre is known for having the five (hence, “Cinque”) towns on the hillsides of the Italian Riviera and I ended my 5 1/2 week trip with a couple of nights in the region before I headed home. You’ve likely seen pictures of one of the five towns (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) and yes, the towns are STUNNING!! Your jaw drops when you look down on the towns during a hike or from the ferry. I suggest you do both.

Getting To Cinqueterre From France

You can easily get to one of the towns by train from France. Sure, you could drive but you’d end up just leaving your car in a town and taking the ferry or train to the other towns. One does NOT drive from town to town. The parking in each of these towns is tight, steep, and you’d have a difficult time even finding a parking spot.
I drove to Nice and dropped off my rental car.

Nice, France Train Station to Cinqueterre Italy
Nice, France Train Station

The plan was to travel by train to Genoa where I would buy another ticket to Riomaggiore. Total travel time on the train was to be 5 hours. Of course things didn’t work out that way. They cancelled my train and the day was exhausting as I had gotten up at 5 am and I finally arrived in Riomaggiore at 9 pm, 16 hours later, absolutely exhausted but had enough time to go for a seafood dinner at a restaurant around the corner from my hotel, Cinqueterre Residence.

Highlights

Vernazza Cinqueterre Italy
Vernazza Cinqueterre Italy

Let me just summarize the 3 days I spent in Cinqueterre and share some pictures as pictures speak louder than words:

  • Hiking from Volastra to Corniglia. Hotel recommended this route; however, they should have asked if I hiked. I have hiked but I would not call myself a hiker. It was STRENUOUS to say the least. Not flat. Up and down for 1 1/4 hours; however, the views were worth it. They were breathtaking. Those phrases, “worth it” and “breathtaking” were used by fellow hikers and me constantly.

    Hiking in Cinqueterre, Italy
    Cinqueterre, Italy
  • Hiking from Vernazza to Monterosso. Best way to go but still lots of ups and downs. Not as many tourists go in this direction. Yes, at times the narrow trail becomes crowded and yes, technically you could fall off the cliff. Just saying.

    Riomaggiore Cinqueterre Italy
    Riomaggiore Cinqueterre Italy
  • Ferry from Monterosso to Riomaggiore, stopping at each of the other towns. This is where you get the great views
  • The views are always spectacular when you ar leaving a town or approaching a town. The hiking paths are at the top of the towns, so you are looking down at them and getting picture-perfect views. When you arrive by train, you are at the base of the town, by the water.
  • Anchovies
    Anchovies in Riomaggiore, Italy

    Fresh fish and seafood every day. I took a liking to sardines and anchovies, but certainly loved the sea bass and calamari.

Hiking

Manarola Cinqueterre Italy
Manarola Cinqueterre Italy

Do you need to be in shape to hike the Cinqueterre. Yes. You also need hiking, trail or running shoes. Rumour had it someone hiking in flipflops. Crazy! At the end of my hike to Monterosso, where I met up with some wonderful Australians who were on a cruise, I was asked by an American at the end how long the hike was. I said 2 hours and that it was strenuous but the views were worth it. I added that she better have water. All she kept saying was, “You have to be kidding”. I wasn’t. Don’t think she was prepared for real hiking.
When our hike was over, I was dripping. It was about 27 degrees C. and afterwards I realized I got a sunburn. We went to a restaurant but after waiting and waiting, we decided to leave. Really bad service. That’s when the owner (?) threw my napkin at me and hit one of the Australians. She was mad we had messed up her napkins and were leaving. The rest of the locals were nice.

Cinqueterre has always been on my bucket list and I am fortunate that I was able to add it on to my trip to France and Spain. 5 1/2 weeks, however, is a long time and I was very happy to head home.

P.S.

I almost didn’t make it home. In Italy, the hotels hang onto your passport. I forgot to pick it up the evening before I flew home and when I left at 5:45 am, no one was at the desk. When I realized at the airport shuttle stop, I ran back to the hotel, which, thankfully, was only a block away. But the door was locked and no one was there. So I frantically rang the door bell and finally someone heard, got me my passport and I caught the shuttle bus to the airport and did not miss my flight!

Top 100 Unique Experiences In France

If you’re looking for more unique experiences in France be sure to check out my growing list of the Top 100 Experiences In France or Unique Experiences in Paris.

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10 Comments

  1. My goodness despite the beauty there were some stressful events. But sounds like you might have lost a few pounds

  2. Sadly, no. Too much good wine and food in France and Italy. Anything lost was quickly gained back….but enjoyed every moment.

  3. Hello Jan,

    I am going to a Girlfriend to Monaco/Nice in June. We would like to take a train from Nice to Cinque Terre.

    I would really appreciate if you can please let me know what’s the train we need to take there and how long is train ride there.

    I am looking forward to your feedback. Thank you in advance for your help!

    1. Nice to Genoa was about 3 hours. If I recall I then had to buy a ticket to get to Riomaggiore. A return ticket was 15 Euros. I honestly don’t remember how long that train was but in my notes I left at 6:11 pm and arrive IN my hotel in Riomaggiore at 9:00pm. I took the shuttle that is at the base of the town up to my hotel (at the top of the town). Sorry, but I don’t have the train number, only what my destinations were. I hope this helps you out somewhat.

  4. Can i ask – What airport did you fly out of?

    I need to get back to London and I am trying to maxmise my time there. 🙂

    Thanks,

    jenny

    1. I flew back to Canada from Genoa but had to go through Rome. Genoa was the closest airport to Cinqueterre and is actually quite a nice town to visit.

  5. Hi There, So I will be departing Nice via train and hiking cinqueterrre over three days and two nights. From Nice you went to Genoa and then transferred to Riomaggiore? Is that the first village? Where did you start from and stay the first night? and the second night? Trying to figure how to space out the town…

    Thanks!

    1. I’ve sent you an email just in case you don’t see this.
      I’m going through my notes to try to figure out what happened during my trip.
      From Nice I was supposed to go to Genoa but they cancelled my train so I had to take a different one from Nice to Ventimiglia. When I arrived there I asked the conductor what to do. She said there was a train right there heading for Riomaggiore, so it all worked out. The train went from Ventimiglia to Genoa then from Genoa to Riomaggiore.
      Bought this in advance: Nice——Ventimiglia; Ventimiglia——Genoa
      Bought this return ticket in Genoa (was 15 Euros return): Genoa——Riomaggiore

      When I arrived in Riomaggiore, I took a town van from the train station (lower level) to the hotel (high up on a hill). I only stayed in Riomaggiore for 3 nights at a hotel called: Cinqueterre Residence Hotel . It had gotten great reviews and it was good. But basically I only had 2 full days.
      Each day I would take a bus, train or boat to a town and hike from that town to another town.
      1st day: bus to Volastra (hotel gave me a bus ticket) and then I hiked from Volastra to Corniglia; visited the town and then took a train to Manarola (great lunch at Trattoria da Billy)
      2nd day: bought the 1 day Cinqueterre Trailpass (12 E) and took the train from Riomaggiore to Vernassa and then my notes said I went to Monterossa but I’m not sure how I got there. Took ferry to go back to Porto Verde and walked around Monterossa. Took ferry back to Riomaggiore.

      While I saw all 5 towns 1 more night (and therefore 3 full days) would have been better. Favourite towns (Prettiest) were Riomaggiore and Manarola
      Hope this helps you out.

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