Day 9 – A change of plan, La Spezia, and a visit to Cinque Terre

Verona – Florence – La Spezia – Cinque Terre (Manarola and Vernazza) – La Spezia

This was always going to be the day that had the most possible variants. if you’d asked me yesterday morning I would have said I was going to Genoa today. I’d also previously considered Bologna as the next stop (but the timing was wrong to meet up with my friends there) or possibly to Milan. When I arrived in Verona last night, I realised that I could easily go to Venice for the day, and that became favourite for an hour or two last night.

Instead, the promise of sunny weather made me think that this was a good time for a quick look at the famous coastal towns that make up Cinque Terre, another bucket list item, and an iconic railway journey as well. I found myself a hotel in La Spezia (last minute bookings are working well for me on this trip) and headed off.

Freciarossa in Verona

The first part of the trip was on the high speed Freciarossa down to Florence. A small number of Interrail journeys are surcharged and this is one of them. It was a premium, rush hour service, so €12 wasn’t unreasonable. Drifting across the countryside at 240 km/h is rather fun, I have to say.

I changed trains in Florence and headed to the coast, this time on a regional service that stopped at almost every village. In Pisa I got a momentary glimpse of the leaning tower (I’ve been there before so knew where to look) and I was in La Spezia by early afternoon.

I dropped my bags, updated my Interrail planner and headed for Manarola. Much of this line is in tunnels, indeed the two stations I used were both partially underground.

Evening on a midweek day in March, the trains and the platforms were busy. I can’t imagine what it would be like in summer. Thankfully once you leave the station, the hordes of visitors disperse in all directions. The town is predictably stunning, and everywhere you look is a photo opportunity. I’d love to see it at night, but that will have to wait for another time.

Given the limited time I had, I wanted to look at a couple of the villages so after an hour it was back onto the train and down to Vernazza. The limited time I had meant that I didn’t find a great viewpoint for photos here, but I did enjoy wandering the back streets, which were all incredibly steeply sloped.

Much of the town seemed to be a building site. Workmen were replacing pavings on the main street, stonework on buildings and of course getting ready to repaint frontages in the bright colours the villages are so well known for.

After another hour, it was back onto the train to La Spezia to take a look around and find dinner. I enjoyed the harbour area, which photographed well at night. One thing I have noticed almost everywhere I’ve been is how difficult it is to find somewhere to eat after early evening. Several times now I’ve struggled to find somewhere that was still serving at 8pm. I suppose it is out of season so they get to call the shots, but it did explain why the place I ended up in had a queue out of the door for most of the time I was there. I felt somewhat obliged to get a move on and free up the space.

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  1. Celia Lyon

    The Cinque Terre is beautiful, isn’t it? I was there a few years back, in July, and it was heaving. There were times that the platforms were literally 10 people deep! We managed to be there, purely by chance, for the Lemon festival in Monterosso. That’s worth a visit.

    • When I arrived in Manarola it was like that, I had to pick my way through the crowds on the platform, but it was much quieter later on.

      The lemon festival sounds good. I saw loads of them yesterday, and oranges as well.

      • Celia Lyon

        It was really amazing all the things you could do with a lemon 🍋 🤣🤣

  2. Tm Lewis

    In my limited travels in Europe
    We have also found that outside of tourist towns it has been hard to get food and drink after early evening

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