Anyone with an Instagram account knows what Cinque Terre is. If you haven’t heard of it,
do you live under a rock?! I’m certain you’ve at least seen it. When a place is as popular (and crowded) as Cinque Terre, that’s a recipe for some scarce housing options. Luckily, each of the five towns are very well connected via train, bus, and/or boat. Because of this, many travelers often opt to commute from a nearby town instead. Whether it’s to save some dough, or because you are traveling solo and prefer to be in a social hostel, or you prefer to avoid the insane crowds, you might want to do the same. So, I’ve created this post to detail all three alternative towns for staying outside the “official” Cinque Terre. Ready?! Let’s go!
La Spezia is the most popular option for those looking to commute into Cinque Terre each day. Actually, I was originally under the impression it was the only real option. That is what motivated me to write this post, because that is NOT true. It’s originally where I planned on staying. But, since my five-week trip in North Italy was my first solo trip, I promised my mother I’d stay in female-only dorm rooms to ease her nerves. Much to my dismay, the most popular hostel in La Spezia apparently had NO female-only dorm rooms! I was so annoyed to have to stay elsewhere! But it ended up being a blessing in disguise. I never would have seen Cinque Terre in the way I did if I stayed in a different hostel than I did – so I’m really glad about it.
I personally found La Spezia a little underwhelming. It’s on the water, but that and it’s proximity to Cinque Terre is all it’s really got goin’ for it, in my humble opinion. It felt like a very average Italian city, complete with shopping stores in the center and all. Luckily for La Spezia, no one is really visiting La Spezia for La Spezia anyways! It’s got a train station that gets you to any of the Cinque Terre villages (as well as to other major destinations across Italy). It’s also really easy to get from La Spezia to other Gulf of Poet’s spots (like Portovenere, Lerici, and San Terenzo). So this is a great base if you’re hoping to make non-Cinque-Terre day trips as well.
How to Get from La Spezia from to Cinque Terre
This is SUPER easy. Simply take the train north from La Spezia Centrale train station. In just six minutes, you’ll be at the closest Cinque Terre town (Riomaggiore). The furthest town (Monterosso) is just twenty to thirty minutes away. La Spezia is luckily part of the train stops included on the Cinque Terre Trail and Rail cards. So you can travel unlimited times a day for the duration of your card!
Recommending Reading: How Many Days to Spend in the Cinque Terre
Levanto is basically the northern version of La Spezia. La Spezia is the first train stop after Cinque Terre, and Levanto is the last train stop before Cinque Terre. Visitors use both as bases because both places’ train stations are included in the Cinque Terre pass. This pass, if you don’t already know about it, lets you travel on any trains between Levanto and La Spezia all you want for either one, two, or three days. You also get other perks, like free restroom use in Cinque Terre, certain buses to avoid uphill walks, and free WiFi at train stations. If you’re hiking the paid trails, you can get all this plus trail access with the Cinque Terre Trail pass.
Anyways, back to Levanto. When I first arrived there, I was really surprised La Spezia was the more popular between the two. Levanto felt like it could maybe be a sixth Cinque Terre village if it asked nicely and said pretty please. Granted, it’s a lot larger than any of the Cinque Terre. But it still retains that sleepy, village-like vibe, unlike La Spezia, which feels like a very normal Italian city. Levanto has a real beach, sits nestled between two hills, and connects to Monterosso (the northernmost Cinque Terre village) via (free!) hiking trail.
Next time I visit the Cinque Terre, I could definitely see myself based out of Levanto.
How to Get from Levanto to Cinque Terre
This is ALSO super easy. Simply take the train south from Levanto train station. In just four minutes, you’ll be at the closest Cinque Terre town (Monterosso). The furthest town (Riomaggiore) is just twenty minutes away. Like La Spezia, Levanto is also part of the train stops included on the Cinque Terre Trail and Rail cards. So, again, you can travel unlimited times a day for the duration of your card!
Recommending reading: The Complete Liguria Travel Guide – there’s a lot more to Liguria than just Cinque Terre!
You probably haven’t heard of this one, unless
you were forced decided to stay here, like I was. As mentioned earlier, I originally intended to stay in La Spezia. But I promised my mother I’d stay in female-only dorms to calm her nerves about my first solo trip. So, I stayed in a hostel in Biassa, somewhere in the hills between La Spezia and Riomaggiore (the southernmost village of Cinque Terre). The hostel had a shuttle service to and from Riomaggiore, but I was still peeved about having to change my housing plans on account of my mother.
Turns out, it worked out perfectly. Biassa is a serene little village, tucked away between lush, green mountains. It was the only place in the entire area that had retained it’s non-touristy-ness, which made it so peaceful. The hostel staff had some great recommendations. Because of them, I did free hikes that ironically ended up being MUCH more impressive than the two paid hikes everyone comes to Cinque Terre to do in the first place.
If the hostel life is not for you, don’t worry. Biassa is connected to Riomaggiore and La Spezia by public bus, and I did notice others getting off the bus here, so non-hostel accommodation does exist. The biggest downside to staying in Biassa is that you are much more limited in your flexibility of when to arrive and depart Cinque Terre. The buses run less frequently than the trains from Levanto and Spezia do. But at the hostel, this ended up being a plus. Everyone was back by a certain time of night, making dinner a much more social environment.
How to Get from Biassa to Cinque Terre
Traveling between Biassa and the Cinque Terre is less convenient than traveling from La Spezia or Levanto, but it can be done. Take the 29 bus to get to Riomaggiore (or visa versa) in six minutes. From Riomaggiore, you can use the trains to get around. You can also get between Biassa and La Spezia by taking bus 19. Definitely check bus time tables on Google Maps if you travel to Biassa, though, as they are less frequent than trains, and some do not run on Sundays.
HOW TO DECIDE ON AN ALTERNATIVE CINQUE TERRE BASE TOWN
Personally, I’m really excited to stay in Levanto next time I visit the Cinque Terre. If you want a very serene and relaxed place as your base, I found Biassa to be a gem. If you’re a lively person wanting to stay in a proper city with international shops and such, then La Spezia is your spot. But if you’re still undecided which alternative base is best for you, hopefully this nifty little chart I made will help.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Any more questions for me? Comment below and I’ll get back to you. I stayed in Biassa five nights, but I spent time in La Spezia and Levanto, too. I can do my best to advise on those as well if you let me know what you’re looking for.
Have you been to Cinque Terre? Did you stay in one of the five villages, or choose an alternative Cinque Terre base town? I’d love to hear advice you have for my next visit!