Important! Please read this if you are booking a tour on this website. Recently we've had some unfortunate cases of people missing their tour because trains were late or they took the wrong train. Please check train timetables in advance and please get to the village, where the meeting point is, in time. It's better to arrive early and enjoy a nice cup of coffee while waiting, than taking the last train, rushing and missing your tour. Remember, you are in Italy! Trains can be late, very late… Also, please make sure your train will stop in the village where you are heading. Many of the trains do not stop in each village. I recommend that you read carefully this page about travelling by train, it will surely help you get to your destination in time. Also, always ask the train personnel and not the other travellers, as they might give you the wrong information.
The easiest and fastest way to travel between the villages of the Cinque Terre is by train. The line connecting the 5 villages is part of the main Italian railway line between Rome and Genova so there is at least one train going in both directions every hour. Most trains stop in Riomaggiore, Monterosso, Levanto and La Spezia but only regional trains stop in Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza. You can get a free printed timetable at the railway station in every village.
If you are just planning your trip and would like to check train timetables, you can do that on www.trenitalia.com. But don't look for Cinque Terre as you won't find it. You have to enter the name of one of the 5 villages. Sometimes, if you are planning well ahead of time, you won't find any trains for your dates. That's because those timetables are not uploaded yet. In this case try to search for a closer date. Most trains will be the same, but schedules do change by the season, so make sure you doublecheck closer to your travel date.
The Cinque Terre Express train has been introduced, which goes back and forth between La Spezia and Levanto, every 30 minutes. A single ticket costs 4 EUR for this train, which is ridiculously expensive, but there is nothing we can do about it. If you are planning to take the train several times a day, it's better to purchase the Cinque Terre Train Card.
Between the villages, the train travels in the tunnel most of the time, under the terraced hills so unfortunately you can't enjoy the beautiful view. It is important to know that sometimes trains (especially the long ones) stop partly in the tunnel but you still have to get off. I have seen many tourists hesitating or even staying on the train because of the strange stops. (Of course I helped them whenever I had a chance.) There are big signs for every village so if you pay attention, you can't miss your stop.
As there are only two platforms in the villages of the Cinque Terre, it is easy to find your way around. If you want to go towards Monterosso (and Levanto), you will have to follow the sign "PER GENOVA". If you travel towards Riomaggiore (and La Spezia), look for the "PER LA SPEZIA" sign. From the stations, you can usually see the sea which makes orientation even easier. If you are facing the sea, Monterosso, Levanto and Genova are to your right while Riomaggiore and La Spezia are to your left.
Arrivals and departures are shown on TV screens. Only the final destinations are shown which may be unknown, far away cities. At every railway station, you will find a large yellow poster on the wall with detailed information about all the trains. So you can see if the train going to a certain final destination will stop in the village where you want to go. You can also check how many stops the train will make and what is the last stop before your destination so you will surely get off at the right place. Arriving trains are shown on a large white poster.
There is another type of poster which may be useful if you travel to a faraway destination with an IC or Freccia train and you have prebooked seats. These trains can be very long and it is not funny to run from carriage 1 to carriage 9 with your backpack or suitcase, competing against the whistle of the conductor. On this poster, you can see which way the train will be going and where is carriage 1. Don't think that – logically – it is always right after the engine. You are in Italy!
By the way, another good advice if you are travelling around Italy by train. Once you figure out the right platform, take off your heavy backpack and comfortably sit down on a bench, don't think that you can relax. It happened quite a few times that with a group of 10 people we had to rush from one platform to the other, up and down many steps, because they kept changing the platform numbers. So always keep an eye on the TV screens and listen to the announcements.
It is a very important rule that you can never cross the tracks, you always have to use the underpass. Shouting railway employees and a possible penalty are not the only reason to keep this rule. In Italy, the fast trains don't even slow down, they simply speed through the stations. If you don't hear the announcement of the arriving train, it will surprise you. So don't ever walk on the tracks and always stand at least 2 meters from the rails, especially with children. You should never stand inside the yellow line.
Another important thing in Italy: you have to validate your ticket at the railway station with the automats before getting on the train. Regional tickets can be used any time so it will only be valid if the machine stamps the actual date on it. So only validate your ticket when you are actually going to use it. If you have a booked seat for a certain date, there is no need to validate but to be sure, I always did. If you don't have a validated ticket, you can get a serious fine, unless you convince the conductor with your beautiful smile. If you forget, and only realize when the train is already moving, look for the conductor, tell him you have forgot and ask them to validate. This always worked for me. Fines mean a serious income for Trenitalia (Italian Railways) as many tourists have no idea about this system.
If you travel by train in Italy, it is good to remember this word: SCIOPERO (strike). If you see or hear this world, you can expect some chaos. It is one of my "favourite" words; I had to face this challenge quite a few times. Strikes are often on Friday, this way they can have a nice long weekend. A strike does not mean there are no trains at all but there are only a few, on certain routes and with big crowds. In my experience, the employees sitting in the ticket office and the information booth take striking very seriously. They don't want to help and they insist that there are no trains running and I shouldn't even buy a ticket. I always insisted on buying my ticket, and although it took longer and sometimes I did not have a seat, I always managed to get to my destination. Of course, only try this if you are adventurous enough!
Watch your bags on the trains and at the railway stations. Unfortunately there are some thieves specialized in tourists. The sad thing is that they are often kids and young girls. So keep an eye on your backpack and never keep your wallet in your back pocket. If you are careful, you will be safe.