We will be visiting Italy in April and have a hotel in Siena for a few days. We were going to go to Cinque Terre for 1 night. Would we be better off driving from Siena to La Spezia and taking the train from there to Cinque Terre or taking the train from Siena to La Spezia? Is Florence to LaSpezia a shorter distance than from Siena? Are the roads good ( ie no mountain roads...they make me panicky! Thanks for any input!! Ellen
Driving from Florence to the Cinque Terre is faster than driving from Siena. By approximately one hour. It takes about 1 1/2 hours from Florence and 2 and 1/2 from Siena. If you drive there is no need to stop in La Spezia. You might as well drive the additional few miles to Riomaggiore. I've driven from Florence to Riomaggiore plenty of times. The drive from either Siena or Florence is all freeway to La Spezia. In La Spezia there is some easy city driving. The last 7 or 8 km (5 miles) from La Spezia to Riomaggiore is mountain road, but can be comfortably driven. It's a little narrow near Riomaggiore. By train from Florence to the Cinque Terre is also faster than from Siena. By approximately 1 hour. From Florence to Monterosso, for example, it's 2h 26 min. with one change in Pisa. By train from Siena it will necessitate 2 or 3 train changes (in Empoli, La Spezia, and possibly Pisa). I don't know which of the 5 towns in the 5 Terre you are going, but 3 hours will not be enough. At a minimum it's 3 h 13 min. but you'd be leaving Siena at 11:41 and arriving at Monterosso at 14:54 (change Empoli and La Spezia), any other option will require about 3 and 1/2 hours or more. The choice is yours. In Cinque Terre you don't need a car, but if you want to stop and see other things on the way there or if there are 3 of you traveling together, the car is an option.
Thank you so much for your great advice!!
Most train runs from Siena to La Spezia Centrale will route you via Empoli and Pisa. You will change trains at Empoli and possibly again at Pisa depending on the run. Travel time is about 3.0hrs. Fare varies from 13.10E to 17.90E again, depending on the run. Going to Florence first will not save you any time. In fact, it will add almost an hour to your overall travel time. A car can work but is not really necessary. It will cost you more than the train unless you have 3-4 people. You won't really save a lot of time versus the extra cost of the car. If you do choose the rental car, there is a new garage at the La Spezia train station.
If you decide to drive, use Google Maps to see the route and also use Google Streetview to see if you'd feel comfortable driving in the "Strada Provinciale" (provincial highway) of the Cinque Terre between La Spezia and the Cinque Terre. As I said the road gets rather narrow when you turn left to the road from the Provinciale to go down to Riomaggiore. It's a two way road that is as wide as a driveway. In some spots (especially on weekend) they even park along the road, therefore it's a little hard to negotiate with cross traffic if you are not comfortable with driving in narrow spaces. Go to Google streetview and look at the road near Riomaggiore. It's only that short one mile stretch that some might find challenging. Once in Riomaggiore you would park for your entire stay there.
I think we will take the train to LaSpezia from Siena and then over to Cinque Terre..stay one night and back to Siena. We will leave the car in Siena. Sounds like the easiest thing to do. Thank you!! Ellen