One of the most popular series on this blog has been my “near but not in Cinque Terre” series. I highlighted several towns and areas around the most famous Cinque Terre in Italy. Although I like the 5 towns, there are a lot of great places nearby that get overlooked. So here are 5 places nearby that are near Cinque Terre but not a part of the famous 5. Each post has far more detail, but this will serve to link them together.
Cinque Terre Itself
The point of this series is to show off near but not in Cinque Terre, but it makes sense to say a bit about what is actually being avoided. Cinque Terre translates from the Italian as 5 lands. These are 5 small picturesque towns in the north west of Italy between Genoa and Pisa. They are world famous and a romantic and backpacker destination for many people. This makes sense as the area is beautiful. The mountains are steep and rocky. Cliffs form much of the coast lending to the dramatic landscapes. Brightly painted fishing villages like the Cinque Terre provide a romantic backdrop for vacations and countless pictures.
The towns themselves are just one portion of this great area. This is the point of this series, to show off other local places. My parents and I easily walked through all 5 towns in a day. We had booked a week in Italy, so went looking for other interesting sites. Not to mention, staying in the 5 can be pretty expensive, so looking around for other sights can save money as well.
EDIT: I don’t read the news any more than I actually am forced to. I really am only now a few days later reading blog posts about the destruction in the Cinque Terre. This guide post is not meant in anyway as encouraging people to avoid the CT in the future. More info and donation info on the linked post just above.
The closest “city” to the towns along the beach. I found this a great base for exploring the area. The train station has a fair amount of links out both into the park and into the surrounding areas. It was easy to get to Pisa and back as a day trip. The city is not touristy at all. There is some history(i.e. castle) here, but it feels more like a real place rather than a facade of something. On the other hand it isn’t a party place, just a nice solid Italian town near some more famous stuff.
The most similar to the famous 5 in the list. This is a town down the coast a bit from La Spezia. It has some similar architecture to the Cinque Terre towns. This town however has a castle and some bigger historical buildings. It also sits across the strait from a nature island. We took the public bus down here, which was awesome in itself. Less than 2euros each. This is still somewhat of a tourist town, but I saw more Italians than not. Like much of the area walking involves as much up and down on steps and ramps.
Although a resort town in its own right, Santa Margherita has the local architecture and beach expanse that ties to the region and the five. It has a train stop on the main line between Genoa and La Spezia and although a little further out, could make a decent, if higher class, base for exploring the area. This town is at the base of a volcanic peninsula which from the guides and maps looks like a great place to explore. I might look to stay here next time, although would need to find a deal and definitely stay away from the beach to afford it.
Portofino seems to me as a highly polish stylized version of the fishing village that the famous 5 once were. This is the playground for the rich and the atmosphere(and prices) fit right in. There is a hike to a castle and a lighthouse as well as some great people watching though. It is certainly worth a a visit, but not much more. Unless you happen to own your own yacht. It is however almost as famous as the Cinque Terre. You can get there either on a public bus that leaves from Santa Margherita Ligure or on a few different boat tours.
Sarzana is off to the east of La Spezia and on a river inland from the beach. The town however is medieval in history and has 2 castles to view. One in town and one on a hill nearby. It was a great afternoon trip from La Spezia and a change from the seaside towns. The town is cute and worth a visit. The walled nature of the old town is still easy to see. Many of the ex-gates and towers are still intact, used as housing or whatever. Streets are the cute-narrow style and there is history everywhere. It was owned by nearly all the major city-states in Italy at one point or another.
Definitely go to Cinque Terre. See the amazing little towns, but stay a while and explore more of the area. Even this list is short. We saw other places from the train and names on the bus routes that looked interesting too.