A few Ideas for towns Close By
The Cinque Terre, located in the region of Liguria, just north of Forte dei Marmi and Tuscany is a suggestive combination of colorful coastal towns, spectacular vistas on the Tyrrhenian sea and a few choice beaches.
Less than a 40-minute drive from Marina di Massa in along the Tuscan coast and its newly award Blue Flag Beaches, a day trip to this classical tourist stop can incorporate more than a visit and hike to Riomaggiore. The first three towns before Cinque Terre (La Spezia, Portovenere & Lerici) make excellent side trips and offer economical alternatives for accommodations besides being the closest to the Tuscan border.
Levanto, the first town to the north of Cinque Terre has its own special charm, budget lodgings, and sandy beaches as well, so if you are coming from the north this should be your first stop before crossing over to Monterosso al Mare.
training to Cinque Terre
Most travelers from Tuscany will pass through La Spezia and its train station as they head into the Cinque Terre and first stop Riomaggiore. In the largest city of Liguria, you can see the characteristic "carrugi," narrow and winding city streets, which characterize many of the Ligurian coastal towns. Today, besides being an important commercial port, La Spezia is the chief Italian naval station, arsenal and navigation school.
Most visitors just breeze right through this city, however, if you have some free time before heading out you can visit some of the important sites: Castle of San Giorgio, recently restored. It probably originated as a watchtower before becoming the first castle built by Niccolò Fieschi in 1262. Or, try strolling the busy city streets, where you can admire the artistic Art Nouveau–style villas.
Migliarina and Central
There are two train stations in La Spezia, and if you are proceeding to 5 Terre, you will be heading for "Centrale" closest to the port. Many trains from Florence have a change in Pisa Centrale but there are trains that go DIRECT to La Spezia - so control the train schedule carefully before buying your ticket.
Just a Word to the Wise:
though the regional trains are slower than the "Freccia" (speedy train) you will probably find that the regionals are the easiest solution.
There is an obligatory train change in La Spezia for the regional train that will take you into the Cinque Terre. La Spezia is a "hub", so many different trains pass through these tracks, always double check that the train you select actually stops at the town you want to visit - some will only stop at Riomaggiore and Monterosso.
The train is not the only way to visit Cinque Terre, you can catch the bus (10 min) or walk to the port (about 20 minutes), which will leave you at the gardens in front of the harbor. Not that one of the principal difference between the ferry service and the train is that the ferry is subject to cancellation due to weather and wave conditions, even though these conditions are rather uncommon in summer.
But the other (obvious) difference is that from the boat you have a totally different perspective of the coastal towns of Cinque Terre, Lerici, Portovenere and even Levanto. Good to know that there are bathrooms on the boat and they have both open air and covered sections. Wheelchairs are not advised due to the design of both the boats and docks. For more information on time schedules and hours: Consorzio Marittimo Turistico.
stunning views from the church
Together with the villages of Cinque Terre, Portovenere was designated in 1997 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site because it is ".. an exceptionally valuable cultural area…."
Just a Note for the Hikers:
Portovenere is one of the favorite departure points for Cinque Terre, following the famous Pathway no. 1. For more information on trails in Portovenere click here
It is believed that the port (Portus Veneris) dates as far back as the middle of the 1st century BC and there is a quaint little church to visit: the Church of Peter the Apostle now stands on the remains of a temple to the goddess Venus.
The church, with its white and black stripes, is very suggestive, and a visit here will enchant you with both the architectural structure and the sound of the waves below, the color of the sea and the sometimes the mist which shrouds everything from view leaving only your imagination.
Portovenere can be reached from La Spezia Centrale train station in approximately 30 - 40 minutes depending on the solution that you use: public transport or by the ferry boat.
great sandy beaches
Looking for Sand & sun:
Lerici is a popular destination for its special beaches. For a complete list of beaches in Lerici (it is in Italian...but there are some links) click here
One could speak of Lerici in terms of its Tuscan roots, since before becoming part of Genova it had Etruscan origins and belonged to the town of Lucca (before Lucca sold it to Genova in the middle ages.) One of the more interesting sites, other than the sandy beaches, is the Castle which now houses a museum of palaeontology. Be prepared to climb 168 steps to appreciate the suggestive panorama and keep an eye out for Maddalena di Carlo, detta Madì, the local castle ghost. Here you will also find the picturesque Golfo dei Poeti (Gulf of Poets), which earned this name in 1910 due to its affinity with many poets, artists and writers.
From La Spezia Centrale, there is a bus that will take you to Lerici in about 40 minutes. There is also a dock for the ferry boat which will take you to La Spezia, Portovenere or the Cinque Terre.
beaches, train & accommodations
Levanto, just minutes to the north of Monterosso, is located about 60 kilometres southeast of Genoa and about 20 kilometers northwest of La Spezia. Known to us in Roman times as Ceula, it is a key location between north and south. The bell tower of the Church of San Siro, was once a lookout for the ever present raiding pirates, but much of what is passed down to us today in the city is a mix of interesting 17th and 18th century buildings.
Surfs Up in Levanto
It may not be a large beach but it does boast some of Italy's biggest waves, and as of 2016 it is considered a Blue Flag Beach, assuring you of quality services. Surfers and alike will enjoy the sandy beaches.
There is the Medieval castle in excellent condition which you can explore and the Piazza della Loggia, characterized by a 13th-century loggia, which in 2007 received from UNESCO the title of "monument being evidence of culture and peace." You can easily drive in and out of Levanto and you are well connected to the Cinque Terre villages by train.
Since it is located just outside of the Cinque Terre, it is possible to find economical accommodations, restaurants, and shopping while still being within easy reach of the trains and ferry boat. The train station is located only a short distance from the city center, an easy walk, and goes directly into Cinque Terre, first stop Monterosso. Or you can take the ferry boat which leaves from the small port close to the beaches.