Embark on a journey of enchantment and discovery from Bologna to Cinque Terre, and uncover the hidden gems that this spectacular region of Italy has to offer. From charming medieval towns to breathtaking landscapes, this lesser-known route is a treasure trove for the adventurous traveler. With the in-depth expertise of Lonely Planet, we invite you to explore the wonders that await you between these two iconic destinations.
While there isn’t a direct train from Bologna to La Spezia, the most efficient option with only one transfer is to change trains in Parma. This route offers a convenient and relatively quick way to reach Cinque Terre from Bologna.
To embark on this journey, head to Bologna Centrale and board a Regionale (RE) train towards Parma. The ride to Parma will take approximately 58 minutes. Upon arrival in Parma, you will have a short transfer time of around 13 minutes. From Parma, board another Regionale train, which will take you directly to La Spezia Centrale in approximately 2 hours and 12 minutes. In total, this option has a travel time of about 3 hours and 23 minutes with only one change.
It is always a good idea to book your train tickets in advance to secure the best prices and seat availability. You can purchase tickets online through the Trenitalia website, or at the train station ticket counters or self-service machines.
Once you reach La Spezia Centrale, you can easily access the five villages of Cinque Terre—Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore—by boarding the Cinque Terre Express. This local train service runs frequently throughout the day, connecting all five villages in a scenic and convenient manner. Tickets for the Cinque Terre Express can be purchased at La Spezia Centrale, and it’s worth considering the Cinque Terre Card, which offers unlimited train travel between the villages and additional benefits such as access to hiking trails and Wi-Fi hotspots.
Getting to Cinque Terre by car allows you the freedom to explore the picturesque countryside at your own pace. One of the most convenient routes to reach Cinque Terre from Bologna is via the Cisa Motorway (A15). Here’s a step-by-step guide to driving from Bologna to Cinque Terre using this route:
Start your journey by heading northwest on the A1/E35 motorway from Bologna.
After driving for about 60 km, take exit 8 towards A15/Cisa/Parma Ovest/La Spezia. This will lead you to the A15/Cisa Motorway.
Continue on the A15 for approximately 120 km, enjoying the scenic views of the Apennine Mountains as you drive through the region.
Take exit La Spezia/Santo Stefano di Magra to merge onto the SS1/Aurelia road. From here, follow the signs to La Spezia, which is the gateway to Cinque Terre.
Once you reach La Spezia, follow the road signs to Cinque Terre. Keep in mind that the villages of Cinque Terre have limited car access and parking facilities, so it is recommended to park your car in La Spezia or nearby Levanto and then use the local train service, Cinque Terre Express, to visit the individual villages.
Please note that driving in Italy requires a valid driver’s license, and it is essential to familiarize yourself with the local traffic rules and regulations. Additionally, some sections of the motorways are tolled, so make sure to have some cash or a credit card handy for the toll booths.
Remember that the roads in Cinque Terre can be narrow, steep, and winding, making driving conditions challenging, especially for those unfamiliar with the area. It’s essential to exercise caution and patience while navigating these roads. Also, consider checking the availability of parking spaces in advance to avoid any inconvenience.
Hidden gems along the route:
Hidden Gem 1: Varese Ligure Venture further off the beaten path to discover the enchanting village of Varese Ligure, nestled in the verdant Val di Vara. Known as the first “bio village” in Italy, Varese Ligure is committed to sustainable living and boasts a vibrant organic farming community. Wander through its charming streets, lined with pastel-colored houses and intricate trompe-l’oeil frescoes. While you’re there, don’t miss the unique circular layout of the town’s historic center, a striking testament to its medieval origins. Treat your taste buds to the locally produced organic delicacies, such as honey, cheese, and wine, which showcase the region’s commitment to sustainability and quality.
Hidden Gem 2: Fosdinovo
Journey onwards to the hilltop town of Fosdinovo, a place steeped in history and legends. This captivating village is dominated by the imposing Malaspina Castle, which offers panoramic views over the Apuan Alps and the Tuscan coastline. Let your imagination run wild as you uncover the mysteries and stories that surround this centuries-old fortress.
Hidden Gem 3: Pontremoli
Next, venture to Pontremoli, a charming medieval town nestled along the banks of the Magra River. This hidden gem is known for its vibrant cultural scene and rich culinary traditions. Be sure to visit the beautiful Romanesque-style Duomo and immerse yourself in the town’s history at the Museum of the Lunigiana Stele Statues.
Hidden Gem 4: Equi Terme
Escape to the picturesque village of Equi Terme, a haven of tranquility and natural beauty. Here, you’ll discover thermal springs that have been cherished since Roman times, offering the perfect respite for weary travelers. Indulge in the rejuvenating waters and explore the fascinating geological formations at the nearby caves.
Hidden Gem 5: Portovenere
Before reaching the dazzling shores of Cinque Terre, make a stop at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Portovenere. This picturesque coastal village is renowned for its colorful houses, dramatic cliffs, and the enchanting Church of St. Peter. Take a leisurely stroll along the harbor and savor the delicious seafood dishes at a local trattoria.