You may or may not know that arrival by car to the Cinque Terre can be a bit hairy and anything but convenient. The roads are very narrow and winding, parking is extremely limited (due to the unique geography) and also quite expensive, and the historic centers of the villages are pedestrian-only.
My advice? Ditch the car before hitting the Cinque Terre. If that’s not feasible, you can do the next best thing and park it at the brand spanking new underground parking garage at the La Spezia Centrale train station for €18 per day (or €8 for a half-day). Keep in mind that rates might be higher during peak months like July and August. You’ll definitely want to reserve your parking space online in advance (as when it’s busy the garage fills up). Keep in mind that you’ll have to “check-out” of the parking garage by noon on your day of departure (if you go beyond this time then you’ll be charged for an extra half-day). This place is pretty avant-garde for these parts with an elevator that will take you directly to the station, restrooms, 64 closed-circuit cameras to monitor the garage, PIN code access (to both the restrooms and the garage in nocturnal hours) and full automation. Of course, you’ll still want to follow common sense rules of thumb like locking things up and not leaving valuables in sight.
After parking you can hop on the Cinque Terre Express train to the Cinque Terre. To reach the Cinque Terre villages from the La Spezia Centrale train station, travel time is as little as…
- Riomaggiore: 7 minutes
- Manarola: 10 minutes
- Corniglia: 14 minutes
- Vernazza: 18 minutes
- Monterosso: 22 minutes
You can check train times and schedules here. Enter the station that you’d like to leave from (in this case, La Spezia Centrale) and the name of the station where you’d like to arrive… et voilà! You can purchase tickets in advance on the aforementioned website (it’s the official TrenItalia website) or you can wait and purchase them in person at the station.
What happens if you want to book a space but the website says none are available?
Keep in mind that parking spaces can be reserved in advance only for the -2 level of the garage (which is the lower level and has its point of access from via Fiume). The parking spaces at the -1 level of the garage (with entrance at via Paleocapa) are first come, first served so you may still be in luck (there are automated signs at the entrance to both levels of the garage showing precisely how many spaces are available).
Ok, I’ve booked a space. Now what will I need to do when I get there?
Proceed to the car park (the -2 level with access from via Fiume). Pull up to the gate and enter the code number you received when you booked your space. After you’ve entered your code the machine will print you a ticket. Take this ticket and the gate will raise to allow you to enter the garage. It’s really important that you don’t lose your ticket as you’ll need it to exit (simply insert it into the ticket machine as you leave) and also to use the bathrooms or enter the garage at night.