We picked La Spezia as our last stop after nearly three months in Italy because we wanted to see Cinque Terre, but we didn’t want to lug 150 pounds of suitcases up and down the stairs in the towns. It was also an easy day trip to Pisa, which we didn’t see on our last trip to Italy.
I wanted to see the five towns of Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso) from the water, so I knew I wanted to take a boat tour instead of the train.
Private and semi-private boat tours are really expensive. While they have the benefit of a tour guide, personalized stops, and the option to go swimming, that wasn’t worth the hundreds of Euros more to us over taking the ferry.
The Linea 02 ferry stops at all the towns, plus Porto Venere, for just €40 for an adult all-day pass. You can essentially hop on/hop off at any stop. We took the first ferry from La Spezia at 9:15 am and rode it to the farthest town, Monterosso, which took about two hours. The ride past the other towns was gorgeous, and although you can’t reach Corniglia via boat (it’s not at sea level) it was nice to see it.
Getting on and off the boat was a little challenging at times. The ramp that extends just sits on the dock/land/rock where the boat lets you off, and the water is very choppy. It is a ramp, not stairs, and you can take your time, so it is accessible. We saw people with scooters and canes getting on and off the boat.
Our first stop, Monterosse, was the quintessential Italian beachfront. The boat was easy to disembark and the walk from the port to the other side of town was relatively easy and flat.
After a stroll along the water, we had a spritz at a local spot then got back on the boat and headed to the next town, Vernazza. The water there is so clear and blue. There were so many people in the water, enjoying the cool water on a hot day.
The restaurants were rated higher in Vernazza, with Ristorante Belforte being the highest rated. We got lucky and a couple didn’t show up for their reservation, so we got their table. Reservations are highly recommended. It’s located up in the mountainside and the food was as spectacular as the view! I had the local mussels, and they were so fresh and delicious. The Husband actually had octopus (!) and really liked it. For dessert, we shared their special, which is vanilla gelato with a hot strawberry sauce on top. It was one of the most delicious desserts we’ve had, and we’ve had a lot in Italy.
You can’t stop at Corniglia, but you can see it from the boat. It’s incredible how it’s just perched on the hilltop.
We had been out for hours, so we skipped Manarola and stopped at Riomaggiore. The walk from the boat was up a lot of stairs, then back down to the town. Of the towns in Cinque Terre, this would be the hardest with mobility issues.
We walked over to the town and had a spritz at a small place by the water. It was great people watching.
After our spritzs, we reluctantly got back on the boat and headed back to La Spezia. The water was rougher than the morning, so if you have a tendency to get seasick, I would recommend taking something for the boat ride.
We didn’t plan on stopping in Porto Venere but our boat stopped and told everyone to get off. We didn’t walk around, but it’s just as cute as the actual towns of Cinque Terre. It’s also where the fresh mussels come from.
The ferry out of La Spezia also goes by San Pietro, a beautiful waterfront church up on the cliff.
The boats ran frequently and were generally on time, making it easy to jump from town to town. While we had to look up everything on our own, and didn’t go swimming, we still thought it was definitely worth the price and sufficient for our needs, over a private tour.