we will be travelling by car in a couple of weeks from Mattarana It to visit the Cinque Terre area. Is there a best city to park our car and spend the day? Also, I see about taking trains between cities. I thought you could walk to some(understand some trails are closed) but what is with the trains if you have a car? Thank you!
There are no direct roads between the five towns. At best you have to descend to each from the freeway above. Parking can be limited.
Anne, A car is NOT the best way to visit the five towns of the Cinque Terre, and will take more time than by using the trains. Also, parking is limited and AFAIK, private cars are still not allowed back in Vernazza. Your best bet would be to leave your car at the relatively new car park near the station in La Spezia, and use the local trains to explore each of the five towns. Schedules are posted at each station and tickets are cheap (DON'T forget to validate!). You likely won't be able to hike the lower No. 2 (Sentiero Azzurro) trails as most are still closed (the Monterosso to Vernazza segment is expected to re-open on Apr. 25 but it's the most challenging section, so probably not something you'd want to do on a day trip). There may also be boats running between the towns (except Corniglia), weather permitting. I don't believe they stop in La Spezia so you'd have to use Riomaggiore as your beginning or end point from La Spezia. Happy travels!
There are two towns named Mattarana. If you mean the one on Lake Garda it will take you 2 and a half hours each way by car. Do you really want to drive 5 hours to see a seaside town when you are already on Garda?
Ken, I don't necessarily agree; we always drive to CT and park in Monterosso. The lot on the water is around 10 euro a day and we just hop the train from there. It's more convenient for us and of course with my wife's penchant for forgetting stuff in the car, it helps to have it close by just in case. The drive down off the autostrada can be a little unnerving but the views are spectacular. Having said that, if driving narrow, windy roads bothers you at all then yeah, park in La Spezia and take the train.