Buongiorno! Here's the report on Monday which was the dreaded and awaited Cinque Terre day. 😊
We woke up very early to catch the 7:36 Freccia train to La Spezia. The hotel receptionist had called a taxi for us (arranged it the night before) to take us to Campo di Marte station. We were there almost an hour before so maybe over-estimated the time needed for breakfast a bit. (But I hate rushing). There is a cafe inside the station but because we had time we decided to walk around the block to see if there's a cafe somewhere. And there is! Actually two of them just a block away the station entrance. Both were open that early. Had coffee and croissants in the other one and my god the croissant was tasty and fresh! I don't even usually like them. 😊
The train ride was quick, just about 1 hour 40 minutes. No changing of trains. By the way, some girls got on board in Pisa and I kinda wondered why they are not sitting down but soon discovered they apparently had bought wrong kind of tickets (I think regionale tickeys with no seat or something) and the conductor instructed them to hop off the next station or they would have to pay lots more. I'm not sure if he was talking about a fine or not.
In La Spezia we bought bus tickets to Portovenere from the train station's little tabaccheria and walked to a bus stop. I had researched the forum beforehand and printed out detailed walking instructions (I think it was Vagabonda's old post, thank you!). The bus ride took about 30 minutes. Up the hills and quite a curvy road.
Portovenere is not one of the Cinque Terre villages but it was the first destination because it's so warmly recommended on the forum. And it was the right choice! Such a nice place! We chose a restaurant in the harbour and had second breakfast on the terrace. Paninis, coffee, juice and the hubby had a gin tonic for dessert. 😀 Oh well, but it was just so nice to sit there. The weather was already very, very warm even though it was still early. The sea looked amazing.
After the restaurant we bought tickets to the ferry so that was taken care of (can't buy them online beforehand). Headed up the steep little alleys to explore the shops and then to see the Church of San Pietro in the edge of the cape (what a location!) and Doria Castle. Up and down, up and down, steps and more steps. Had to get a gelato for dessert and for cooling down. I wish we would have spent another hour in Portovenere so there would have been time to go inside the castle. I love castles. 😊 Spent 2,5 hours in Portovenere. There were only a handful of people, no crowds!
Then we took the ferry all the way to Monterosso which is the northest of the CT villages. The journey took about 1 hour 20 minutes and we got to see all of the villages from the sea. All of them are pretty. 😊 The colorful houses are just as picturesque as in the photos and it was great to be on the sea. (We have plenty of sea at home too but it's different.) The ferry is pretty quick but it takes time to make the stops and get people out and in etc.
In Monterosso the first thing I noticed was that there were none of those dreaded crowds. Sure there were people but nothing too overwhelming. Perhaps it's because the time of the year? The beach seemed popular though. We walked the little streets for a while and looked at the shops and then decided to have lunch. Chose a place that had a nice terrace (we always sit on terraces if it's warm - a rare luxury in our country!!) and I had pasta with some kind of tomato sauce and the other half had a mixed green salad that had beef strips and parmesan on top. Beers for drinks and coffees and panna cottas for dessert. Everything was good. :) Lucky for us we were sitting there under the shade comfortably as it suddenly rained for while and thunder strook once somewhere. But it was over as quickly as it started and only made the weather more hot.
We walked the streets a little more, popped into shops, and lastly went to a beautiful restaurant Torre Aurora up the hill in the harbour. What a place, on the base of a stone tower on the hill. So nice to look at the sea from up there. (Extra credit for a super nicely decorated toilet they have. I even complimented it to the waitress. 😀) Had drinks there before heading to the train station to catch a train to Riomaggiore, the southest of the villages. We spent 3 hours in Monterosso.
I had pre-purchased the train tickets beforehand. They're good for 4 hours from the train selected so it's very handy because it provides flexibility. And online tickets are validated already. So on to the train we went and also took notice of huge lines in the train ticket office... so glad we didn't have to spend any time queuing for tickets.
Train ride was about 15 minutes. It is mostly tunnels so you can't see any views. Then we were in Riomaggiore and just as we exited train and were talking about how no one checked tickets there was a random check at the station. The village was steps, steps and more steps again, up and down. Lots of exercise. 😀 No huge crowds there either. Some, but not much. We walked around again, checking out the shops and admiring the sea views. It was early evening and the sun was still toasting. (By the way, forgot the sunscreen... ugh.) Decided to have one last drinks on a restaurant terrace before heading to the train back to La Spezia. Spent 2 hours in Riomaggiore.
The regionale train was about 15 minutes late before arriving to Riomaggiore station so best not to plan too tight of a schedule! Luckily we even had a few moments to spare in La Spezia station before taking the 20:02 Freccia train back to Florence.
Train ride back "home" was quick and comfortable. But oh dear, it was late (too), arrived to Campo di Marte about 20 minutes later than scheduled so we missed the regionale train to SMN. :( I had tickets also for that (valid for 4 hours) but hadn't researched what time the next one is. Just assumed we'd make it because the Freccia train was supposed to be there 15 min earlier than the next regionale. The sign said the next train is almost an hour away! Blimey if we're gonna sit there and wait for that at 10 pm... Went to the taxi stand but the few taxis that got there were because the people in the line had called them. So we just decided to start walking and hope for a taxi to materialize (if not we'd just walk). The area was so quiet it was a bit strange walking there. It was perfectly safe though. But we had luck again and soon another taxi stand came to view and lo and behold there was a taxi. :) We got it.
Since we had to have something to eat I asked the driver to drop us somewhere near Palazzo Vecchio (it's my Rome, all the roads lead there ❤). Saw a nice looking restaurant, Casa del Vin Santo, that was still open and went in for late night pizzas. They were a bit much, tasty, but we were just stuffed after that! I had porcini pizza and hubby had capricciosa (ham and artichokes I think).
It was very late by then and after a looong day we just walked straight to the hotel and went to sleep.
So that was how we did the day trip. 😊 I would definitely recommend going early & leaving late (you can sleep on the train if needed). And pick fewer villages so there's more time. We had quite a leisure day all in all, no rushing anywhere. 😊
By the way, as I'm posting this now I just walked by the Duomo half an hour ago and the lines to the cathedral were enormous!!! Am I glad or what we went there yesterday with a guided tour. It was skip the line and we went in using a different door. Very exclusive. Just my liking. 😎