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Day Trip from Montepulciano to Cinque Terre

Sharon J

100+ Posts
Before, you think I have totally gone off the rails, please know that we have spent a great deal of time driving around Italy over the past 20 years. Just back from our favorite stay with Nico at Sant'Antonio, in Montepulciano, and we will be returning next May. We usually try and do one long day trip during our stays. Even drove to Venice and back one time in the same day, so our friends could see it. Otherwise, they would never have a chance to see that wonderful city. So, we are not looking to stop at every town while riding the Ferry, but may make one stop for lunch??? Are we biting off more than we can chew? Actually, I asked Nico, and he told us we could do it, only if we rented a helicopter!!! We lived in the great state of Texas for 30 years, so long drives are a normal.
 

Sharon J

100+ Posts
Thank you Pati, I don't know much about the area, other than we could catch the Ferry at the bottom part, and cruise along, just to see the towns from the water. Perhaps, stopping at one of the towns for lunch. We truly just want to see the towns from the sea, as we realize we don't have time to stop in each one. I also realize this may not be a good idea at all, so thought I could get some feedback from those of you who know the area well. We have been to Lucca several times. Actually have done a lot of visiting in most of Italy, except for the South, although we have stayed in Positano several times. I also lived in Gaeta back in the late 60's so saw a lot of that part of Italy, although things have certainly changed since those days.
 

Pati

10+ Posts
When I visited the Cinque Terra, I stayed in the town of Lerici. A lovely town, very easy to get to and has a good ferry schedule to the towns. You’re right, seeing them from the sea is perfect with a lunch in one of them.
 

Alpinista

100+ Posts
I always try to steer people to Portovenere as a gateway to the CT towns. Portovenere has its own charm and photographic beauty and is far less crowded (depending on time of year, parking can be an issue, of course). There is ferry service from Portovenere up the coast to the CT towns. La Spezia is another option for getting a train to the CT towns and then can mix in ferry rides, if you want. We took a visitor to Riomaggiore by ferry from La Spezia last June and found both the ferry up and the train back extremely crowded, btw. The crowds are usually a little less dense when school is still in session in the US, so a May trip may not be as bad.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Hi Sharon
Google maps has that as a 3 hours each way trip, so what would your day look like? Skip breakfast to be on the road early and catch a bite to eat in a service station en-route? Head back after a post lunch walk, or later & drive back in the dark? Useful to put some realistic timings in to see what is possible and what is not.

Also you'll be aware that driving into the Cinque Terre is not feasible, so what are your plans for parking up? I like the Portovenere suggestion, but La Spezia is an alternative. However don't lose sight of the time you'll lose in parkling up, getting to ferry or train station, connecting with the next ferry / train (and ditto on the way back). It's likely this will add another hour to your travel time, so we're now up to 8 hours travelling time before you actually get to sit down, take in the scenery, have something to eat and drink.

How long would you like to spend there? What is the latest you'd want to get back to Montepulciano? Also if going for Portovenere option, what's the time of the last ferry? Currently it's 5pm from Riomaggiore. Do also check on which walks are open / being repaired, assuming you want to do at least one of the walks.

May was busy, with the walks crowded, but trains and ferries weren't overcrowded when we were there.

For me, such a day trip would be madness and would never get past quality control of my travel partner. However you know you and we're not all alike. However I would recommend mapping out the times so tht it's in black and white about how much time is spent enjoying Cinque Terre and how much time is spent travelling there and back, plus how much a long and tiring day will impact you on the following day.

Lucca feels a much more practical option, likewise Carrara or Colle Val d'Elsa. I presume San Gimignano and San Miniato have already been crossed off your list in earlier years.

Regards
Ian
 
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Sharon J

100+ Posts
Thanks everyone. Ian, we have been to Lucca many times, as well as all the other area's mentioned. We actually, don't want to stop at any of the towns, but only want to view them from the sea, with a stop for lunch, at one of the easier stops it can be done. Any suggestions? We are very early risers, and would hope to be on the road by 6:00 a.m., From what you said, it sounds like we would need to change Ferries to see the entire coast??? We eat very light for breakfast, and only eat lunch out. Then, we sit on our terrace over looking the countryside, with Italian meats, cheese and wine during the evenings.

Because we visit Italy twice a year, we really consider ourselves slow travelers now, but do try one long day on each trip, to visit somewhere new. We don't want to hike the trails, just want to enjoy the view. Most of our days in Italy are now spent visiting our favorite towns, and restaurants.
 

Alpinista

100+ Posts
You can drive to and park in some CT towns, but the lots are small and the walks into the town can be at a little distance (as can parking along the road leading into Portovenere). There is also shuttle service available for more distant parking (see link). Given your time/preferences, I would look at taking the train from La Spezia Centrale (parking available) to Riomaggiore and then joining the ferry for the ride up the coast. You can then either use the ferry for the return trip or hop back on the southbound train.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Thanks everyone. Ian, we have been to Lucca many times, as well as all the other area's mentioned. We actually, don't want to stop at any of the towns, but only want to view them from the sea, with a stop for lunch, at one of the easier stops it can be done. Any suggestions? We are very early risers, and would hope to be on the road by 6:00 a.m., From what you said, it sounds like we would need to change Ferries to see the entire coast??? We eat very light for breakfast, and only eat lunch out. Then, we sit on our terrace over looking the countryside, with Italian meats, cheese and wine during the evenings.
Hi Sharon
In that case I'd get the most from the sea by:
- Parking at Portovenere and either lunching there (we ate at a brilliant enoteca, but that was years ago and I'm not sure it's still there), or at Vernazza, depending on arrival time / boat times.
- Taking the ferry from Portovenere to Vernazza, which stops at Riomoggiore, Manarola, Vernazza (and also then Monterosso, which is a little larger/more functional than the other villages). That ferry trip is 1hr or just over, with no need to get off. That gets you to see 4 of the 5 villages from the sea, plus Portovenere as well. Nothing stopping you also adding Monterosso as well by taking the ferry all the way there.
- Lunch in Vernazza if timings suit - arguably it's the most picturesque of these picturesque villages and certainly the most picturesque harbour

Note also, that Corniglia isn't on the sea like the others. It's a hike (or shuttle bus) up to the village itself. I liked it's calm charm, but with the amount of travelling you'll have, I wouldn't overcomplicate it by trying to get up there, especially as the ferry doesn't stop there - simply enjoy the view of the beach, plus have a squint to see the village up on the hill.

So let's see how this stacks up for a possible rough schedule
6am leave Montepulciano
9am arrive Portovenere & park up, with plenty of contingency time, time to get the ferry ticket and to stroll around / grab a coffee and a croissant (also gives the option for a roadside stop)
11am ferry (assuming the ferry times stay the same) ariving at Vernazza 12:05
Lunch in Vernazza
2:40 or 3:30 ferry back to Portovenere, getting back at 3:40 or 4:30
Option to see a little more of Portovenere - perhaps having a light enoteca style snack meal, or head straight back to Montepulciano (c. 7-8pm if going straight back and having supper at 'home', or later if taking a further stroll around Portovenere)

This looks eminently more practical, very much being made so by your preference to only see most of the villages by boat. The moment you'd introduce a further stop, you'd probably add a minimum of 2 hours onto the schedule to see the place and make the next connection - and that would soon get to be the infeasible that I and Nico assumed.

So go for it - it's definitely doable on that basis.

Regards
Ian
 
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Sharon J

100+ Posts
Hi Sharon
In that case I'd get the most from the sea by:
- Parking at Portovenere and either lunching there (we ate at a brilliant enoteca, but that was years ago and I'm not sure it's still there), or at Vernazza, depending on arrival time / boat times.
- Taking the ferry from Portovenere to Vernazza, which stops at Riomoggiore, Manarola, Vernazza (and also then Monterosso, which is a little larger/more functional than the other villages). That ferry trip is 1hr or just over, with no need to get off. That gets you to see 4 of the 5 villages from the sea, plus Portovenere as well. Nothing stopping you also adding Monterosso as well by taking the ferry all the way there.
- Lunch in Vernazza if timings suit - arguably it's the most picturesque of these picturesque villages and certainly the most picturesque harbour

Note also, that Corniglia isn't on the sea like the others. It's a hike (or shuttle bus) up to the village itself. I liked it's calm charm, but with the amount of travelling you'll have, I wouldn't overcomplicate it by trying to get up there, especially as the ferry doesn't stop there - simply enjoy the view of the beach, plus have a squint to see the village up on the hill.

So let's see how this stacks up for a possible rough schedule
6am leave Montepulciano
9am arrive Portovenere & park up, with plenty of contingency time, time to get the ferry ticket and to stroll around / grab a coffee and a croissant (also gives the option for a roadside stop)
11am ferry (assuming the ferry times stay the same) ariving at Vernazza 12:05
Lunch in Vernazza
2:40 or 3:30 ferry back to Portovenere, getting back at 3:40 or 4:30
Option to see a little more of Portovenere - perhaps having a light enoteca style snack meal, or head straight back to Montepulciano (c. 7-8pm if going straight back and having supper at 'home', or later if taking a further stroll around Portovenere)

This looks eminently more practical, very much being made so by your preference to only see most of the villages by boat. The moment you'd introduce a further stop, you'd probably add a minimum of 2 hours onto the schedule to see the place and make the next connection - and that would soon get to be the infeasible that I and Nico assumed.

So go for it - it's definitely doable on that basis.

Regards
Ian
My dear Ian,

I must say, you have outdone yourself. Your above itinerary sounds perfect. Thank you so much. I'm printing and placing it in my travel folder for next May.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Jumping in to say don’t do any of the walks. We spent a week+ in Levanto last year (maybe the year before) and only the longest/hardest part of the trail was open, the northern part, and it was 2 hours of nose to tail walking. Not fun.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Jumping in to say don’t do any of the walks. We spent a week+ in Levanto last year (maybe the year before) and only the longest/hardest part of the trail was open, the northern part, and it was 2 hours of nose to tail walking. Not fun.
which makes a change from nose to tail on the easier walks!

Trail info is here https://www.cinqueterre5.com/en/cinque-terre-trails
with just the easiest (and shockingly the sturdiest) walk from Riomaggiore to Manarola, still projected to be out of commission in 2020.

This could still change depending on the severity of the weather this winter.
 

Fedina

10+ Posts
Hi Sharon,
Ian's plan looks good to me. We did this daytrip a couple of weeks ago from Portovenere. Have been to CT before but wanted to see them again by sea. Something to keep an eye on before you choose the day of your CT trip is the roughness of the sea. Even though the boats will run, the seas can be too rough to land in the villages, other than Monterosso. Believe you can contact the ferry service about this early in the day. Have had a delicious lunch in Monterosso, so no worries about that, just not as picturesque as Vernazza.
But, note that large and smaller cruise ships dock in La Spezia and the bay. The crowds are ferried into Portovenere. It was far more crowded than I expected, even in late October.
 

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Sharon J

100+ Posts
Hi Sharon,
Ian's plan looks good to me. We did this daytrip a couple of weeks ago from Portovenere. Have been to CT before but wanted to see them again by sea. Something to keep an eye on before you choose the day of your CT trip is the roughness of the sea. Even though the boats will run, the seas can be too rough to land in the villages, other than Monterosso. Believe you can contact the ferry service about this early in the day. Have had a delicious lunch in Monterosso, so no worries about that, just not as picturesque as Vernazza.
But, note that large and smaller cruise ships dock in La Spezia and the bay. The crowds are ferried into Portovenere. It was far more crowded than I expected, even in late October.
 

Fedina

10+ Posts
Sharon, although I haven't done it myself, I've read that you can check the cruise ship arrivals in La Spezia. If you find there's a day when there are no arrivals, it would mean fewer people. Just a thought. I've no idea how busy it will be in May.
 

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