Cinque Terre... 2 or 3 nights?

My friends and I are celebrating our 50th birthdays with a trip to Europe in October. Our Italian itinerary so far- 3 nights Rome, 6 nights Florence ( a base for daytrips to Siena, Lucca,etc) then 3 nights in Milan, which will be our departure city we fly home from. I really want to go to Cinque Terre and am ok with taking 1 or 2 nights from Florence and 1 night from Milan for a total of 2 or 3 nights. Now I still have to do my research but thought I'd throw this out to the experts. What do you think? 2 or 3 nights? Which town is best to base ourselves in? 2 of us are avid hikers while the other 2 will go on easier hikes and will be content to just sit in a terrace and drink in the views. Suggestions for hotels or apts? Any comments or suggestions would be much appreciated!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3319 posts

It's a question that only you can answer. Some people could spend a week at the Cinque Terre and not be tired of it, others would rather spend that time in some other museum in Florence or Rome. It depends on what your interests are: quaint fishing villages on an idyllic Mediterranean coast with plenty of hiking or kayaking activities, or art and history in an Italian ancient city or town? All I can say is that 2 nights really mean one full day in a place, while 3 nights mean two full days in a place. The best hikes, in my opinion, are from Monterosso to Vernazza to Corniglia, probably doable in 3 - 4 hours including stops (but you could make it a full day thing if you add spending time down at one of the beaches sunbathing and swimming). Another popular path is the Via dell'Amore, which is very easy and short (between Riomaggiore and Manarola). You might actually have time only for 2 nights at the Cinque Terre. 6 nights in Florence mean 5 full days. 2 will go to Florence for sure. 1 to Siena. 1 to Pisa and Lucca. 1 to something else. If you rent a car for a day you can hit Siena and a couple of towns in the same day (S.Gimignano, Volterra, Monteriggioni or whatever), that will give you an extra day that you can borrow for the CT. 3 Nights in Milan are excessive. Two is more than enough. One can go to the Cinque Terre. You have two nights now at the cinque terre. If you want a third one, sorry Milan, but the Lombardy capital will need to give up another one and you get to stay in Milan only the night before your flight back.

Posted by Ellen
Centennial, CO, USA
1394 posts

Agree with previous poster that 3 nights in Milan is maybe one too many. Not a lot to see there, unless you are using Milan as a base to train to other towns. As for the CT, 2 or 3 night would be great. Figure you get there day 1, that's night one, probably won't do to much. You like to hike...there are the lower trials to take maybe day two, then hike higher trails day 3. Other option that we did was hike to Levanto. No one talks about that, but the hike is enjoyable. You walk on some of the Roman road...through back yards (almost) and along the shore line. When you arrive in Levanto you can find a nice place for lunch, then either train it back, or hike back to Monterroso We were approached by a guy at the train station asking if we needed a room, and we did follow him to look at a few "apartments" for rent. it was $60 a night, but that was back a few years. We were there in late September, early October, so I'm betting you can find a room with no problem. We liked Monterosso as a base, bought the CT pass for the train, but spent most of the time in Monterosso - when we weren't hiking or sea kayaking!

Posted by John
Van Nuys, CA, USA
154 posts

If it was me, if I was flying home from Milan in the afternoon I'd skip a stay there entirely and just take the train to Milan in the morning, the bus to the airport, and then depart. We did this from Bologna last fall, worked out fine. Then use the Milan time in CT, and maybe switch a nite from Florence. Since you are going in October note that there is a weather risk; it might be rainy and the trails less than fun. This is true any time of year in Europe, as opposed to the gentle "Mediterranean" climate of Huntington Beach, but something to ask yourselves; if you allocate time to CT and it rains will you be disappointed? I'd agree with the other posters about duration. Talking in terms of "nites" distorts the sense of how much time you actually have. By the time you get to CT and find your hotel it is likely going to be early in the afternoon, so count that as much less than 1 day. What I like to do is arm myself with plans and natives. Switching places with you, I'd go for 4 nites in CT to give myself a better chance at good weather. I'd have some hikes planned out (eg train timetables printed). I'd have side trips planned such as Santa Margherita Ligure, a nice town easily reachable by train. Perhaps a visit Portofino or Portovenere (which I liked better than Portofino). Then depending on the weather and mood, I'd do what feels right that day.

Posted by Eric
Beaverton, Oregon, USA
84 posts

I agree with other posts. A little less Milan for a little more Cinque Terre is a trade I'd make. After the Last Supper and the Duomo, Milan gets a little slow. I'd grab a day from Florence too. I love Florence but six days is a lot even with day trips.

Posted by Claudette
huntington beach, ca, usa
471 posts

The last few nights of our trip is fairly flexible so I'm trying to sort it out now. I do want to see the Last Supper and the Duomo in Milan but realized that after that there really isn't much there to interest me so Cinque Terre popped in my head as another place to visit. At first we just thought of day tripping there from Florence but now think we want to spend at least 1 or 2 nights there since that will give us 1 full day. Another possibility is day tripping from Milan to Lake Como. Is that doable? Thanks for all your replies, I am keeping them all in mind!

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3319 posts

I just now noticed you are going in October. Rain is then a concrete possibility, especially the second half of the month. If it rains, the Cinque Terre are not going to be a lot of fun. I would be flexible and make no advance reservations there. If weather forecast for that week you plan to go is good, just call accommodations on the spot. If you travel to the Cinque Terre on weekdays in October, I don't think you'll have issues with finding a place. Monterosso has lots of accommodations and I don't think they fill up in October. Levanto, just one train stop away, has quite a few as well. If on that week, it turns out to be rainy, just stick to the cities instead. There are more opportunities to spend time indoor at museums, churches etc in a city (Florence, Milan, Genoa or whatever). The Cinque Terre is for the outdoors only. If the weather is rainy, I wouldn't even bother with the Cinque Terre.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17745 posts

Claudette, Spending two nights in the Cinque Terre will only allow about a day and a half (or a bit more) for touring, so my suggestion would be to spend three nights there. In addition to hiking or soaking in the view, you could also explore the five towns by train or boat, take a day trip to Porto Venere, Levanto or other places in the area. You shouldn't have any trouble keeping busy for that length of time. At that time of year, the towns will be starting to wind down for the season, so it should be less hectic than in the summers. Monterosso would be the best choice (IMO) as it's the largest town and has the greatest number of hotels, restaurants, shops, etc. My favourite hotel there is Hotel Villa Steno, which I believe is the No. 1 rated hotel in town (closely followed by its "sister property", Hotel Pasquale). If your budget will allow a "50th birthday splurge", you could also consider Hotel Porta Roca. If you need restaurant suggestions, post another note. Roberto's comment about the weather is certainly valid, but I've found the weather in Italy can be "variable" even at more favourable times of the year. I've endured torrential downpours of biblical proportions in September, in both the north and south of Italy. There's no way to guarantee what it will be like this October, so I'd still plan for three nights there. If you check the forecasts just prior to your trip, you should at least have an idea what the situation will be and can adjust your plans accordingly. Happy travels!

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
304 posts

If the weather is favorable, this would be my plan: 2 nights in Monterosso at the Alberigo Pasquale. I would spend the first day exploring the area. The next day I would have the whole group take the train to Riomaggiore and walk the Via dell 'Amore together. I would have the hikers continue on the paths. the not so enthusiastic hikers can walk back to Riomaggiore and take either the boat or the train back, choosing to stop at other villages if they wish.

Posted by Patty
Steilacoom, WA, USA
304 posts

If the weather is favorable, this would be my plan: 2 nights in Monterosso at the Alberigo Pasquale. I would spend the first day exploring the area. The next day I would have the whole group take the train to Riomaggiore and walk the Via dell 'Amore together. I would have the hikers continue on the paths. the not so enthusiastic hikers can walk back to Riomaggiore and take either the boat or the train back, choosing to stop at other villages if they wish.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
711 posts

We had 2 nights in Milan in 2010...we arrived from Venice mid-afternoon and just wandered about, checking out the shopping and went into the Duomo. The next morning, we went up on the roof of the Duomo, then took the train to Como, wandered a little, took a boat ride around the lakes (and managed to squeeze in two gelato visits...hmm, chocolate, coconut and banana...drool, and a midday meal) then back to Milan to wander around Castello Sforzesco. We didn't 'see' a tremendous amount, but got a feel for it, but I think you could certainly make a whole day of it (rather then an afternoon like we did) and see a bit more...

Posted by Claudette
huntington beach, ca, usa
471 posts

Looking forward to the gelato. Pistachio and straciatella are my faves. Just tastes so much better there! What great suggestions everyone, thank you. I looked up the hotels and they all look wonderful. I'm really torn between booking everything in advance or just winging it when we get there. Because I'll be with a large group ( there's actually 6 of us in Florence so trying to find a big apt there, then down to 4 people after that), it would make more sense to reserve everything. Either way, I am hoping for good weather. I was there in Oct 2010 and it would rain at night and into in the mornings then it would clear up by noon. Even got to walk on those platforms in Venice!

Posted by lorie
east haven, ct
60 posts

I would add a night in Rome, stay at Hotel Aberdeen or Angelo Americano. Angelo Americano is closer to Trevi fountain, Aberdeen is close to the Termini Station. Aberdeen is a smaller B & B highly recommended by Rick Steves we have stayed there several times and will return in September. Angelo Americano is larger hotel and caters to "Americans." It just depends upon what you like. However, it appears that walking is not an issue so either location is great. While in Rome spend a day in Trastevere. Three nights in Florence and 3 nights in CT is good. Any of the towns in CT are OK. We stayed in Vernazza. You may want to consider a few nights in Lucca. I can't suggest anything aout Milan.
Have a great trip.

Posted by Claudette
huntington beach, ca, usa
471 posts

My friends and I just talked and we tweaked our schedule. We decided to stick to 3 nights in Rome ( 3 of us have been there before), 3 nights CT, 4 nights Florence, then 2 nights Milan. We are just hoping the weather cooperates at least while we're in CT. Now we're debating whether or not to rent a car or to train everywhere. I do live in SoCal and feel I'm a fearless driver but I've also seen how they drive in Italy so I just don't know what to think?!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17745 posts

Claudette, Travel via train will likely be faster and more efficient. A few points to note regarding driving in Italy..... For driving in Italy, note that EACH driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. Failure to produce an I.D.P. if requested can result in fines on the spot! You can obtain I.D.P.'s at any AAA office for a small fee. You'll also need to be aware of the dreaded Zona Traffico Limitato areas, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in Italy ( especially in Florence). Passing through these zones can result in expensive fines, which you won't know about until several months after you've returned home. Recent posts here would seem to indicate that authorities in Italy are becoming more aggressive in collecting the fines from foreign drivers, and there may also be charges from the rental car firm for providing renter information to law enforcement. Having a car in the cities is not a good idea for a variety of reasons, nor will it be useful in the Cinque Terre. Monterosso is the most "car friendly" and has the best parking options, but access to the other towns may be "limited". A car would likely be parked and gathering dust during your stay there. Cheers!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2472 posts

Claudette, glad that you're keeoping Milano. If you plan to see Leonardo's Last Supper you'll need advance tickets (and don't sign any petitions in the piazza, you'll be pestered for a donation). There are plenty of things to do, the elevator to the roof of the Duomo is a favorite of mine, and the Brera Gallery. In one packed day you can do these plus Castello Sforzesco and shopping.