[Updated for 2022] PARKING: More public parking garage options in La Spezia 

It never ceases to amaze me that one of my most popular posts on the blog is about the Park Centro Stazione parking garage beneath La Spezia Centrale. I guess lots of you are googling parking options near the Cinque Terre? If you are unable to find parking there and you’re not keen on the free, streetside parking that I blogged about here, then this post is for you!

Aside from the Park Centro Stazione , La Spezia offers two other underground public payment parking garages: Park Kennedy (run by ATC, the same company that runs Park Centro Stazione and the public city buses) and Europa_Park (run by the Chamber of Commerce). Neither of these parking garages currently offer the possibility to book a space in advance nor are they within close walking distance to La Spezia Centrale train station (or the secondary station called La Spezia Migliarina), so you’ll want to grab a taxi.  Once you are at La Spezia Centrale you can easily connect to the Cinque Terre villages by catching a Cinque Terre Express train.

Let me explain both of these garage options in detail:

PARK KENNEDY (Latitude: 44.11254 | Longitude: 9.83528) This garage is located beneath a largely unsuccessful outdoor shopping center called Piazza (or Piazzale) Kennedy, named after the late American President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Don’t ask me why this shopping center was dedicated to JFK because honestly I have no clue! Back on topic, the garage is the oldest of the three public garages in La Spezia but it’s also the least expensive.  The rates for 2022 are as follows:  €1.00 for the first hour and €0.50 per hour for each hour thereafter.  That works out to €12.50 for the first 24 hours and then drops to €12 per day for the following days. There’s no limit on how long you leave your vehicle, just know that there’s no sliding scale if you park for a longer period of time.

Here’s how it works:First things first, check the electronic sign outside the garage entrance (which is on Via XXIV Maggio) to see if there are spaces available. If it says LIBERO then there are spaces available; if it says COMPLETO or PIENO then the garage is full. If there are spaces available, pull up to the gate and push the button for a ticket. Once the ticket has printed, remove it and the gate will raise allowing you to enter.

Drive down the ramp (proceed with caution because the space is tight and pedestrians walk up and down the ramp even though they aren’t supposed to). At the bottom of the ramp you will see that you can either go straight or to the left. You will need to go to the left for the public parking.

Find a parking space, lock up (the rule of thumb is to not leave any valuables in sight), and take your ticket with you.  Follow the signs to reach the stairwell and elevator which will take you to ground level.Don’t forget your ticket in the car because you will need to enter the code printed on it to open the locked doors that access the garage (and heads up, the entrance is gated at 10pm each night so you won’t be able to walk down the ramp, either).

Upon your return to Park Kennedy you’ll need to head to the cassa (automated payment machine) to pay before you retrieve your car. You’ll find the cassa on the same level as the parking garage. 

IMPORTANT: Payment is accepted only in cash and only €5, €10 and €20 notes are accepted (coins are okay, too). Any change given will be in coins.

Once you’ve inserted your ticket the machine will display the amount due.  Once you’ve paid, the ticket will be returned to you (as well as any change, if applicable). You now have a 15 minute window to exit the garage.

Follow the signs indicating the direction for the uscita (exit) and you’ll end up driving back up the ramp. At the top of the ramp, pull up to the gate and insert your ticket. When your ticket pops back out you’ll need to retrieve it so that the gate will raise and allow you to exit.

Easy, right?

How to get to La Spezia Centrale from Park Kennedy

To grab a taxi you have two options:

  1. Walk one block to a taxi lineup in front of the hospital (located in the parking lot on the corner of Via Veneto and Via S. Cipriano). Expect to pay circa €8-10 for the ride to La Spezia Centrale.
  2. Call RadioTaxi (+39 0187 523 523) to order a cab pickup (tell them you are at the entrance to the garage at Piazza Kennedy). This option will cost you a little more as the meter starts running as soon as the cab takes the call. The price really depends on the location of the taxi, but I’d expect this option to be around a €10-12 fare to get to La Spezia Centrale.

EUROPA_PARKLa Spezia’s newest underground public parking garage is Europa_Park, located beneath the recently reconstructed and restyled Piazza Europa (which was unveiled in 2016). The garage is highly automated and user-friendly. There are two entrances, one on Via XXIV Maggio and one on Via Veneto (there are exits there, too).The hourly rate is €1.50 during prime-time and €0.60 during off-peak hours. The daily rate is €15 (for 24 hours), so a tad more per day than the Park Kennedy garage. These are the rates that were introduced at the garage’s grand opening in 2016, but they are still showing to be these rates for 2022 on their website. The Europa_Park garage is so bright, new and shiny it almost squeaks! This is where you’ll want to park if you plan to catch a ferry from La Spezia as it’s just one block away from the waterfront. Passeggiata Morin is the name of the waterfront promenade where the ferries connecting to the Cinque Terre (via Portovenere) and Lerici pick up passengers.

Everything you need to know to park at the Europa_Park garage:Before entering, check the automated sign (which flashes a display in multiple languages) to see if there are spaces available.  The easiest way is to simply look to see if it’s flashing green (which means you’re good to go) or red (the garage is full).

If spaces are available, drive down the ramp and follow the painted arrows to reach the gate.  Push the button and retrieve your ticket once it has printed. Once you’ve grabbed your ticket the gate will raise, allowing you to enter.Now go ahead and find a parking space, but pay close attention and follow the painted arrows so that you don’t go against the flow of traffic.  Heads up: Be sure not to park in a handicap space unless you have a handicap placard.

Once you’ve parked and locked up, be sure to take your ticket with you (as you’ll need it not only when it’s time to pay but also if you want to access the garage during nocturnal hours).Make your way to the stairwell, which is clearly signmarked (there’s also an elevator available). Once you go up one flight you’ll find yourself in a glass atrium on the same level as the piazza. This is not only where you’ll enter/exit but also where you’ll find the automated payment machine (where you’ll need to settle up upon your return).Speaking of settling up, it’s possible to pay for your parking at Europa_Park with the following methods:

  • Cash or coins (but do not insert 1, 2 or 5 cent coins). The directions also say to insert coins one at a time.
  • ATM or debit card (PIN required)
  • Credit card (your PIN *may* be required)

Once you have paid, the machine will return your ticket to you. You now have a window of 15 minutes to exit the garage.

After you’ve gone downstairs and retrieved your car, follow the signs for the uscita (exit). Pull up to the gate, insert your ticket and retrieve it when it pops back out and the gate will lift. Drive up the ramp following the painted arrows and exit the garage. Voila… all done!

One last thing…

While the Europa_Park garage is very close to Passeggiata Morin and within relatively close walking distance to La Spezia’s shopping district (Via del Prione and Corso Cavour), it’s not close to La Spezia Centrale train station. I recommend calling a cab using Radio Taxi (+39 0187 523 523) or you may see a taxi in a lineup near the Comune (city hall).

Personally, if I had to choose between these two garages my choice would be Park_Europa, just because it’s cleaner, brighter and more modern in a location that’s closer to the shopping district and sights.

I know this was a long post and I actually debated breaking it up into two shorter ones that might be easier to digest. Ultimately I decided it was best to have all the info in one place without having to click through. I hope you’ve found it helpful! If you have any questions just let me know in the comments section.

[Updated for 2022] Migliarina station: Plan B parking in La Spezia

If you’re worred about not finding a parking space at my first choice parking in La Spezia (Park Centro Stazione, beneath La Spezia Centrale) here’s a Plan B option for you. Or, this could be your first choice if you are an independent and savvy traveler and prefer to utilize free parking. If you’re not a fan of streetside parking, check out my post with details on two other alternatives for public payment parking garages in La Spezia. 

First things first, head to the LA SPEZIA MIGLIARINA (pronunciation: La Spetz-ee-uh Meel-yuh-ree-nuh) station. If you’re using a GPS and the railway station doesn’t come up, you can enter the following coordinates: 44° 7′ 23.16″ N, 9° 50′ 22.85″ E.La Spezia Migliarina is a secondary station and it’s usually pretty deserted. You won’t find a ticket counter, a TI office or personnel available like at a main station; you’ll find one automated computer kiosk available where you can purchase tickets and that’s it. Heads up: You will not be able to purchase the Cinque Terre Card at the Migliarina station (but you can purchase it online here, which will save you a lot of hassle). If you are traveling with a mobile phone with data, I highly recommend downloading the TrenItalia app in advance so you can purchase tickets quickly and easily without having to use the kiosk.  Here’s the good news: You’ll find 48 (yes, I counted them!) *free* white-lined parking spaces available right there at the station (just meters from the tracks). Really, it couldn’t be more convenient! And this station is so quiet that really there’s no chaos or stress.If those parking spaces are full, you’ll find lots more white-lined spaces on the road beneath the station. Don’t forget that the color coding for parking spaces is as follows: white = free, blue= payment required, yellow = reserved (like for handicap or resident-only parking).

Things to take into consideration if you park at La Spezia Migliarina station

  • There’s no limit on how long you park in the white-lined spaces. For this reason, many locals park their cars in this area (so there’s not a high turnover rate like at La Spezia Centrale where all of the nearby parking requires payment).
  • Do not park within the gated area you see below (even if the gate is open) as the parking there is reserved for TrenItalia employees only.
  • The free parking at La Spezia Migliarina station is unguarded and there’s no surveillance.  While break-ins or vandalism are not commonplace in La Spezia they *can* happen, so parking is at your own risk. This area, unlike some other free parking lots in La Spezia, is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood so I would feel more comfortable leaving my car here than in some other places. However, common sense and a bit of caution should always be used. Do not leave anything in sight in the vehicle. If you plan to leave anything in the trunk, be sure that nobody is observing you while you do so.  Are your plates on your car from another country? This can make your vehicle a target. In this instance, I would feel okay leaving my car for the day but not for an extended period of time.

How to get to the Cinque Terre from the La Spezia Migliarina station

Because it’s a secondary station, many trains will require you to make a change at La Spezia Centrale. However, if you time it right, you can catch a train that will continue on and not require a change (recommended, especially if you have luggage with you). Check train times and schedules on the TrenItalia app or on the official website www.trenitalia.com Enter in that you’d like to leave from La Spezia Migliarina and then choose which Cinque Terre village you’d like to arrive to (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza or Monterosso).  

It takes 6 minutes to travel by train from La Spezia Migliarina to La Spezia Centrale. If you catch a direct train from the Migliarina station that won’t require a change at La Spezia Centrale, it will take you approximately this long to reach the following stations (I’ve also included ticket rates for peak-season 2022):

  • Riomaggiore: 14-18 minutes, ticket price €5.70
  • Manarola: 17-21 minutes, ticket price €5.70
  • Corniglia: 20-24 minutes, ticket price €5.70
  • Vernazza: 25-29 minutes, ticket price €6.00
  • Monterosso: 29-33 minutes, ticket price €6.00

Of course, if changes are required you’ll need to tack on some additional time.

I hope you’ve found this information helpful!

Safe travels,

Staying in the Cinque Terre for 3+ days? This train pass could be for you

So, you’ve planned to dedicate 3 or more days to the Cinque Terre… bravo! This area has so much to offer and those that stay for more than just a day or two get to really experience our area (versus merely scratching the surface).

For those staying on longer in the Cinque Terre, I have an insider tip for you. While TrenItalia abolished the weekly train pass (for everyone minus local residents) with the introduction of the Cinque Terre Express, they didn’t eliminate the monthly train pass (although you’ll never actually see it publicized). The monthly pass can be purchased by anyone (resident or non) and costs €33.50 per person. That’s unlimited train travel between the five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso.  Keep in mind that otherwise the cost is €4 per train trip between the villages. If you plan to take at least nine trains while in the Cinque Terre, the pass has already paid for itself (not to mention the convenience of not having to purchase and validate single tickets).

There is one caveat: The monthly pass is good for one calendar month, not for 30 days from the purchase date. In other words, if you buy your monthly pass on August 1st it will be good for 31 days but if you buy it later in the month it will still expire at the end of the month regardless of the purchase date. Think of it like this: new month, new pass required. This shouldn’t be an issue unless your dates in the Cinque Terre bridge two different calendar months (in which case you’ll need to do your sums to see if buying the monthly pass is worthwhile for you).

The monthly pass can be extended to include other stops as well (obviously at a higher rate). Here are some examples of prices for other monthly pass solutions (the map above should help with your sense of geography):

  • La Spezia Centrale to Monterosso (and everything in between): €45
  • Riomaggiore to Levanto (and everything in between): €39
  • La Spezia Centrale to Levanto (and everything between): €55.50

You can purchase monthly passes either upon arrival to Italy or online on the official TrenItalia website (recommended, it will be just one less thing for you to worry about).

How to purchase your monthly pass online

I’m doing this step-by-step because the site isn’t incredibly intuitive in English (*sigh*).

First go to www.trenitalia.com Click on the British flag to change the language to English if need be.

You should see something that looks like this (it might be slightly different based on what device you’re navigating on, my screenshots are from my iPhone):


A new window will come up. Make sure to click on the SUBSCRIPTION tab on the left.

Now enter the names of the two stations (on the extreme ends of the area you’d like your pass to encompass). TIP: For the Cinque Terre villages only, enter “From: Riomaggiore” and “To: Monterosso” or vice versa.

Choose everything else as you see above, and select the monthly option for the duration from the drop-down list.


The following page will come up. Click on the > symbol following the price if you’re ready to confirm and purchase.
This will bring you to the final page where you enter your payment details.If you’ve never used the TrenItalia website before, you’ll need to sign up for a User ID and password before proceeding (which is a pain, I know). Click on SIGN UP which is located just beneath the red ENTER button. Once you’ve taken care of that, proceed with filling out the remaining fields and enter your payment information (I personally prefer using PayPal for payment).

IMPORTANT: Make certain that you enter the details correctly for the person that the pass is intended for in the section that says SUBSCRIPTION HOLDER. The monthly passes are non-transferable and the holder will have to present valid ID that matches the name on the pass when requested by the controller.

A few things to remember:

  • This monthly pass is exclusively for the use of the trains; no buses or hiking pass or other perks are included. For the all-inclusive pass, check out my post on the Cinque Terre Card here. The Cinque Terre Card is a great option for those staying just a day or two in our area but for those staying on longer it can become quite costly (and you may not need all of the services that it includes). Don’t forget that you can purchase the hiking pass separately for €7.50 (and that the hiking pass is required only on the coastal trail, all other trails are free of charge).
  • If you decide to purchase the monthly pass for the trains once you are here in Italy, ask for the abbonamento mensile at the ticket counter. Don’t forget that you’ll need to specify the stations and provide your ID.

Safe travels,


Traveling by train in Italy? You’ll want to read this post first


Italy is one of the best connected countries by train.  Many people travel the entire boot without even touching the seat of a car (including me, 15 years ago).

Once you get the hang of it, traveling by train in Italy is pretty easy. However, when you consider that many travelers do not use public transport at home and add to that the language barrier, you’ve got potential for a lot of confusion.  So, here I am to break it down for you in hopes that it will make your travels smoother.

First things first, check the train schedules in advance.  I’m a planner at heart.  My best advice is to know what trains you’d like to catch, even before leaving your home country. My MVP resource is the official TrenItalia website  www.trenitalia.com which is where you can check train times & schedules quickly and easily. I’ve linked to the English version of the website but if you are manually typing in the URL you’ll need to click the British flag to change languages.  On this website you can also purchase your tickets in advance (recommended) using a major credit card or PayPal.

Travel tip: To purchase train tickets in Italy, I recommend using *only* the official TrenItalia website.   Any other site will be an intermediary and some sort of commission or surcharge will be applied.  Also, the TrenItalia website oftentimes has special dicounts & promos that other sites won’t have (bonus!).

Once you’re on the TrenItalia website, enter in where you plan to leave from and where you’d like to arrive, including the date and time of interest, and ta-da! The site will do all of the work for you, connections included.

Heads up: Keep in mind that even though the TrenItalia website may be available in English, you’ll need to use the Italian names for cities in your search query.  Here’s a list of the main cities and their principal train stations (where 99% of travelers will arrive or depart from, if you will be using a secondary station and you know the name, choose that option).

  • FLORENCE: Firenze S. Maria Novella
  • GENOA: Genova P. Principe or Genova Brignole
  • MILAN:  Milano Centrale
  • NAPLES: Napoli Centrale
  • PISA: Pisa Centrale
  • ROME:  Roma Termini
  • VENICE: Venezia S. Lucia (on the island) or Venezia Mestre (on the mainland)

Each of the five Cinque Terre villages has its own train station and you can enter them as either an arrival or departure station.  They are:

  • MONTEROSSO Beware, there is also a station called Monterosso Marche which is in a completely different region and NOT the station you want!

There are a few instances where I might hold off on purchasing rail tickets in advance.  An example would be on the day your flight arrives to Italy (as it’s not uncommon to experience flight delays, missed connections etc.).  I wish that wasn’t the case because honestly the last thing you want to do after a long flight is to queue up and buy your tickets (with your luggage in tow).  FYI:  If you decide to purchase your ticket in advance and you have travel insurance for your trip (which I highly recommend, you won’t catch me traveling without it!) you should be able to file for a refund for your railway ticket if there’s a documented airline delay.  Be sure to read the fine print on your travel insurance policy in advance so you know all the details.

Tidbits of advice for traveling by train in Italy

Regional trains (the slow poke ones) never sell out as the seats are not assigned.  By the way, this includes the Cinque Terre Express trains (which I’ve already explained in detail here).  TrenItalia sells an unlimited number of tickets for these trains so if you want to hold off on buying them, you’re fine (but know that holding off could mean lots of wasted time in a long lineup at the station).

The faster trains (InterCity and Freccia) do sell out as they have assigned seats and only a limited number of tickets are available.  You’ll definitely want to book these train tickets in advance (whether on the TrenItalia website or at a train station when you’re already here in Italy).  If you don’t book your tickets in advance you risk not being able to catch the train that you’d like.

Worried about an Italian train strike?  Check out my previous topic on the subject here.  Did you know that Italy’s premier Freccia trains are exempt to the strikes?  While they are a bit more expensive than the other trains, you can justify the extra cost as “strike insurance.”   Plus, they are Italy’s fastest and poshest trains (score!).

Traveling with paper tickets?  Be sure to validate them before boarding the train!  You’ll find the validating machines throughout the train stations.  Failure to stamp your ticket results in an expensive and totally avoidable fine (click here for more details).  Technically, tickets for trains with seat assignments don’t require validation (as they are only good for that one specific train) but I personally recommend that travelers *always* stamp their tickets (as it will keep you in the habit and you won’t have to think too much about which ones need stamping and which ones don’t).  My thinking: There’s no penalty for stamping a ticket that didn’t need to be validated, but there’s a hefty one for not stamping one that required it… so, why not? You only need to stamp a ticket once.

At most railway stations you’ll see an electronic screen with the train arrivals and departures.  These are great because if there are any delays or cancelled trains it will be posted on the board, just to the right of the specific train affected.  If you’re  in a teeny-tiny or remote station without the screens, you’ll need to look for the old-fashioned printed schedules for arrivals and departures (in this case, you’ll need to listen for vocal announcements if there are delays or cancellations).  Here’s important vocab to help you decipher the schedules (both printed and electronic):

  • ARRIVI: arrivals
  • PARTENZE: departures
  • DESTINAZIONE: the last stop or final destination of the train
  • ORARIO: time
  • BINARIO: platform  Sometimes abbreviated to “BIN” on the screens, this will tell you what platform number you need to make your way to in order to catch your train.
  • RITARDO: delay  Sometimes abbreviated to “RIT” on the screens, this will tell you how many minutes a given train is running late.  For example, if you are wanting to catch the 10:00 train and the screen lists a delay of 20 minutes you can expect your train to arrive at 10:20.
  • SOPPRESSO: cancelled  Sometimes abbreviated to “SOPP” on the screens, you’ll usually only see this in rare instances (like during a strike or when a train breaks down).

I find that it can be a bit confusing for people when looking at the departures board and trying to figure out which platform they need to be on. I recommend simply looking on the screen for the train time rather than hassling with the train numbers. 99% of the time there will only be one train at that specific time (in the rare case that there are two trains listed at the same exact time then refer to your train number). 

Don’t forget that only the final destination of the train will be displayed on the screen. All of the stops prior to that will not be listed on the board. In order to see those you will need to check the fine print on the traditional schedule. I actually love the new option on the TrenItalia website that lets you see how many stops there will be prior to your destination (including arrival and departure times for each stop):

Are you considering buying a Eurail pass for your time in Italy?  Think twice about it and do the math (which is easy now that you can consult the TrenItalia website online).  I was duped into buying one on my first trip to Italy and I soon learned that it would have been much, much cheaper to just buy point-to-point tickets (*sigh*).  Learn from my mistake!

Don’t forget to be vigilant of your personal belongings on the trains and at the stations. More on that here.

I know I’ve crammed lots of info into just one post, but these are all things that I wish someone would have explained to me all of those years ago.

Safe travels!


What’s the Cinque Terre Express?


From April 1st to November 1st, the trains that connect the Cinque Terre villages are dubbed the “Cinque Terre Express.”  TrenItalia would like for you to think of the Cinque Terre Express as a light rail system for the five villages but the truth of the matter is that they are the same tracks and trains as always, just with a slightly increased frequency and with tickets at a much higher rate (*sigh*).

Local residents have actually filed a class action lawsuit with TrenItalia over the matter but it’s still currently buried in Italy’s judicial system (and I don’t want to bore you with details, if and when there’s news to report I’ll post about it here on the blog).

What you need to know about the Cinque Terre Express

  • The Cinque Terre Express trains connect between La Spezia Centrale, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso and Levanto.  If you are arriving by train from elsewhere in Italy, it is highly likely that you will have to change trains in La Spezia or Levanto. 
  • The Cinque Terre Express trains have flat-rate prices: €4 per adult, €2 per child age 4-11, free for kids age 0-3.  Whether you travel a very short distance (like between Riomaggiore and Manarola which takes just two minutes) or a longer distance (like between La Spezia Centrale and Levanto, which are on opposite ends of the line) the same ticket price applies.
  • Each time you get off and back on the train you’ll need a new ticket. IMPORTANT: In order to avoid a hefty fine, don’t forget to validate your ticket before boarding the train!
  • If you plan to take the train between the villages at least four times in one day, you’ll want to buy the Cinque Terre Card. This all-inclusive card costs €16 and includes unlimited train travel on the Cinque Terre Express, among other perks (see my previous post for details here).  Aside from the potential to save you money, the Cinque Terre Card will also save you time & stress (as you won’t need to queue up to buy and validate tickets each time).
  • The Cinque Terre Express is popular not only with visitors, but also with pickpockets.  Be on guard and read my previous post on the subject here

Want to know how to consult the schedule for the Cinque Terre Express trains? Easy! As these are TrenItalia trains you can consult the schedule online at www.trenitalia.com

Safe travels,



Free parking options in Riomaggiore


The Cinque Terre are remote villages connected by a narrow and winding provincial road.  While the villages are easiest to reach by train (which is why I recommend booking a parking space beneath La Spezia Centrale and taking the train just a few minutes to reach the Cinque Terre), some visitors decide to try their luck and actually drive to the villages.  Do I recommend it?  Meh.  I understand the appeal of having your vehicle nearby but honestly it’s a lot of hassle.  If you’re up for the challenge, keep reading below.


Riomaggiore is the first village of the Cinque Terre that you will encounter if you are arriving from the direction of La Spezia.

Each village has payment parking options and these parking spaces will be located closest to the historic centers but not within them (don’t forget that the Cinque Terre villages are pedestrian-only).  For details on Riomaggiore’s payment parking situation check out my previous post here.  As it is not possible to book a payment parking space in advance, keep in mind that you could very well find the garage full (as the number of spaces is extremely limited, not to mention expensive!).

If you don’t mind the inconvenience of hoofing it, you can actually park for free (up to 1km from the village) and save yourself quite a bit of cash.  However, keep in mind that the number of free spaces is also quite limited (unless you park even further away on the Litoranea).  BEWARE:  If you park improperly you risk an expensive ticket, which pretty much defeats the purpose.

Where to park for free near the village of Riomaggiore


After turning off the Litoranea (SP- 370) you’ll find yourself on a narrow and winding road without a median line (but don’t be fooled, this is a road with traffic traveling in both directions so stay to the right).

PSA:  This road has stunning and panoramic views. However, this does not mean you should stop on the road to snap photos or admire the view.  Park in one of the free parking places I mention in this post and then go take your pictures!


Almost immediately after the turnoff you will see a few places alongside the road where you can park for free (without a time limit).  Be sure not to park in the yellow-lined spaces as those are reserved exclusively for local transport.

At the T in the road, you will need to head downhill.  Just around the bend, you’ll see space on the shoulder of the road where you can park for free (with no time limit).  However, if you park here it’s really important that you are off of the road (otherwise you’ll be ticketed).


View from above


Street view

After passing these spaces, continue down the road towards Riomaggiore.  You will soon encounter a hairpin turn; proceed with caution.img_4426-1

Continuing down the road towards Riomaggiore, you will come to a point where the road widens and you will see parking spaces lined in yellow on the right.  As a point of reference, these spaces are beneath an above-ground cemetery which will also be on your right.


These are the parking spaces beneath the cemetery, although this is a photo from last year when the lines were white (they are now yellow).  You can park for free in the first five spaces you encounter, but with limitiations (keep reading below for more details).


The first five spaces you encounter are free parking spaces but have a two hour limit.  This means you’ll have to use the disco orario (parking disc) on your windshield to indicate what time you parked there.  The local police check these parking spaces frequently (and ticket continuously) so be sure that a) you put the correct time on the disco orario, and b) that you return within 2 hours to retrieve your car.  Between 6pm and 8am there’s no time limit on these spaces (but the local police very punctually start checking cars and writing tickets at 8am so beware).


The picture above is a “disco orario” (parking disc), which you should find stuck to the windshield of your car.  In the event that you do not have one, write your time of arrival on a piece of paper and leave it on your dashboard in clear view.

Do not park in the spaces further down the hill as these are reserved for suppliers to the village (during prime time) and residents (during off-peak hours).  This is the sign you’ll see there:


If you continue driving down the hill you will end up at the roundabout at the top of the village of Riomaggiore.  There are no free parking options here (but you will find the payment parking garage, which costs €35 per day, downhill from the roundabout).  If you do not want to park in the payment parking, this is where you will need to turn around and head back up the road that you just came down on.  Do not park in the yellow-lined spaces near the roundabout and do not enter the gated areas as this is restricted traffic zone (ZTL) with parking reserved for residents.  The fine for parking in the ZTL without a resident pass is a whopping €122 and supposedly this year they are going to start fining for simply entering these areas without the proper authorization.



Important things to keep in mind

  • This area is notorious for issuing lots and lots of parking citations.  Follow my directions to a T to avoid a costly fine.
  • Staying in Riomaggiore?  Ask your hotel or host if they have parking available for guests (if they do offer parking, expect to pay anywhere from €10-15 per day for it).
  • If you are staying in Riomaggiore but you’d like to park in one of the free parking spaces, I recommend first driving down to the roundabout to unload luggage (leave one passenger there with the bags) before returning up the hill to park.
  • During busy periods when the payment parking garage is full you will find a police officer at the turnoff for Riomaggiore directing traffic away from the village.  Unless you are staying in Riomaggiore and have reserved a parking space with your hotel or host you will not be permitted to continue down the road to the village.  In this case, you will have to park alongside the Litoranea (so even further from the village).
  • For those that don’t mind paying for the convenience, there’s the possibility to hire a NCC (a van with driver, much like a taxi) to come pick you and your things up and shuttle you down to the village.  You’ll need to have a phone so that you can ring them, expect to pay €15 for up to 4 people.  Contact Luciana or Marzio at 5Terre Transfer at +39 339 130 1183 or +39 340 356 5268.    Otherwise, you can pick up one of the buses as it passes by (the Explora bus fee would be €5 per person but there’s not a lot of space for wieldy luggage).


Safe and savvy travels,



The 2018 payment parking situation in Riomaggiore 

Updated: April, 2018

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably decided to forgo my advice to park beneath the station at La Spezia Centrale and train to the Cinque Terre (more details on that option can be found on my blog post here).

I’m happy to report that since last year there have been significant improvements made to Riomaggiore’s payment parking garage (including new signage and a new payment machine) helping to make things a little easier for visitors.  It’s still far from perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.   Keep reading so you know exactly where (and how) to park in the payment parking garage in Riomaggiore, even before arriving to the village.

When you turn off the Litoranea (SP-370) for Riomaggiore, you’ll find yourself on a narrow and winding road (SP-32) leading down to the village. Stay to the right and keep in mind that despite the fact that there’s no median line, this road will have traffic coming in both directions.


PSA: Unless you find a place to safely pull off the road, do not stop to take photos (yes, it’s beautiful but don’t risk your life or the lives of others by making this rookie mistake).

When you arrive to the top of the village you will find yourself at a roundabout. On the opposite side of the roundabout you’ll see the Cinque Terre Point (which is the tourist information office). Just to the left of the TI office you’ll see a flat road with a gate blocking it and to the left of that you’ll see a road heading downhill.


Enter the roundabout and take the road going downhill.


This is what you will see as you head down the hill from the roundabout

Continue driving circa 30 meters down this road and just before the gate you’ll see on your left a blue and yellow sign that reads “RIOPARK” and two entrances to the payment parking garage (one entrance is numbered 4 and the other is numbered 5/6).


There are lights posted by each gate indicating whether or not there are spaces available. If the light is green you’re good to go; if the light is red it means the garage is full.


If the light is green,  pull up to the ticket machine (you’ll need to stay to the left).

Push the button to retrieve your ticket. As you pull your ticket out, the gate will automatically open so you can enter and park in an available space.

When you are ready to leave the parking structure, first take your ticket and make your way to the payment machine located near the gate at garage 4.


I’m happy to report that the cooperative that runs the parking garage invested in a new payment machine for 2018.  It is now possible to pay not only with cash but also with your ATM or credit card (that wasn’t the case last year so this is a huge improvement!).

Unfortunately, the parking rates were raised considerably for 2018. Here’s the hourly pricing:


Once you’ve paid, retrieve your car and pull up near the gate (remember, you’ll need to stay to the left). Scan your ticket at the machine and the gate will lift, allowing you to exit.


A few things to remember about the Riomaggiore payment parking garage:

  • It is not possible to reserve a space in advance.
  • An emergency contact number is posted at the payment machine (in case you encounter unexpected difficulties or something is out of order).
  • When the garage is full, your best bet is to move on (there’s really only space for one car per gate to queue, otherwise you’ll be blocking traffic and enraging locals trying to reach their dedicated parking spots).
  • Do not park in the yellow lined spaces outside of the parking garage. These spaces are for local residents only and a permit is required to park there (this is a high ticket area, see my previous post for details).
  • There are a few places where you can park for free, but these spaces are very limited and up to 1km from the village (I explain those options in detail in my previous post which you can find here).


Safe travels!


Explora: The new transport option to discover the Cinque Terre

img_8990You probably already know that the main modes of transport in the Cinque Terre are foot, train and ferry.  Add to that the Explora 5 Terre, a new bus system that expands upon (and improves) the already existing bus service in the Cinque Terre.  Whereas before the ATC buses in the Cinque Terre traveled vertically (going up and and down within the villages themselves as well as connecting to secondary villages on the hilltop) the new service actually goes between the main villages of the Cinque Terre.  At the moment, the stops are as follows:


  • LA SPEZIA (on most days there are two stops, one at La Spezia Centrale train station and one at Piazza del Mercato, although on certain days an extra stop is added near the cruise facility)
  • RIOMAGGIORE (two stops,one at the roundabout at the top of the village and one on the road just above the castle)
  • MANAROLA (one stop, at the church square)
  • CANTINA SOCIALE (where the Cinque Terre D.O.C. cooperative wine is made, tastings can be arranged by contacting them directly here, 3 days advance notice requested)
  • VOLASTRA (one stop, near the parking area)
  • SAN BERNARDINO (one stop, it’s a teeny-tiny village so it’s a cinch to find the bus)
  • CORNIGLIA (one stop, on the square near the church of San Pietro)
  • VERNAZZA (one stop, near the parking area)

You might be wondering why Monterosso isn’t an option.  That’s because the road connecting the villages (SP-51) is currently closed between the villages of Vernazza & Monterosso.  Once this stretch of road is reopened, Explora 5 Terre intends to add Monterosso as a destination, thus connecting all five villages by bus for the very first time, ever.



Why do I like this new bus transport option?

  • Because you can beat the crowds (as well as the pickpockets) at the train stations and on the trains.  The buses are small (22 seaters) so you won’t find yourself packed like a sardine (or should I say an anchovy?) between large tour groups.  Explora is targeting individual travelers who are really wanting to delve into the Cinque Terre and discover its wonders, not the big groups that congest the villages.
  •  The cooperative that created and runs the Explora bus system (called Manario) is small & local (therefore you’re supporting locals and their entrepreneurial spirit, something I champion).
  • The buses have A/C (a godsend in the warmer months) and are promised to be “low-impact” on the environment.
  • The views from the bus are vast and panoramic (unlike the train, which runs almost exclusively through tunnels). Just keep in mind that the roads in the Cinque Terre are narrow and a bit winding.
  • Most Explora passes can be purchased online in advance (check it out here) but it’s also possible to purchase day of at one of the Cinque Terre National Park Info Points or even on the bus itself.
  • Unlike the Cinque Terre Express trains, Explora offers a reduced rate for children (see pricing below).
  • When you board, you’ll be given a handy map showing not only the bus route but also trail heads that you can reach along the way.  Flip the map over and you’ll find individual village maps with recommended sites to visit and points of interest. In the near future there will also be the possibility to buy an optional audio guide (in English) so you can learn even more about the area.
  • Lastly, and quite possibly what I like best about this new transport option, the Explora buses will take you off the beaten path to places that most visitors to the Cinque Terre either overlook or cannot reach.


You might be wondering how the Explora 5 Terre stacks up price-wise with the more traditional means of transport in the Cinque Terre.  Here’s my comparison (prices are valid for the summer of 2016):

Explora unlimited all-day pass: €22*

That’s hopping on and off the Explora buses at your leisure for the entire day (the first bus leaves La Spezia at 8:30am and the last return finishes up right around 10pm). And don’t forget that kids ages 0-3 ride free with an adult and ages 4-12 pay a reduced rate of €17.

*Are you staying in authorized accommodation inside the Cinque Terre National Park?  If so, have your host contact Explora directly to reserve for you and you’ll pay a reduced rate of €18.50 for the all-day pass!  

Cinque Terre Card (with unlimited trains for the day + hiking on the coastal trail):€16 

You can find more details about the Cinque Terre Card in my previous post here.

Combined Explora Card + Cinque Terre Card: €26 (a savings of €14)

The Cinque Terre National Park has teamed up with the Manario cooperative that runs the Explora buses to offer this option, which is a lot of bang for your buck (basically you can hike the coastal trail, bus and train throughout the Cinque Terre).  I would recommend this only if you plan on packing in a lot in just one day.

All-day pass for the Cinque Terre ferries: €22 

You can consult the latest schedule and see other pricing options here.  Keep in mind that if you take the ferries you’ll be skipping over the village of Corniglia, as it’s located off the sea.

Hiking pass for the Cinque Terre: €7.50

Only required if you plan to hike the coastal trail, read more details here.  All other trails within the Cinque Terre National Park can be hiked free of charge.



The Explora bus system is brand spanking new (it was inaugurated on July 26, 2016).  To get Explora up and running the small, local cooperative had to splash out lots of cash, not leaving much left over to fund marketing and advertising.  Explora will rely heavily on word of mouth and the brightly colored buses themselves to attract attention and passengers. I’m hoping that as word spreads Explora will widen its customer base and thus create the positive cash flow that is needed in order for it to survive.

Because Explora is so new, their website is still a work in progress (as duly noted when visiting the site).  The schedule on the website is incomplete and can be confusing (or at least it was for me).  Hopefully they’ll get that fixed ASAP. In the meantime,  to hopefully simplify things for you I’ve taken some creative liberties (please pardon my photography and doodling skills).  Below (in green) you’ll find the current default schedule for 2016, which I’ve dubbed SCHEDULE A.  This is the schedule you’ll find posted on their website:


Below, you’ll find the red SCHEDULE B (not currently posted on their website but available in paper form once you’re here).  This schedule will only run on the dates within the blue box:


So, just to be clear, the Explora bus runs 365 days a year.  Unless it’s one of the dates highlighted in the blue box, SCHEDULE A (which is the default schedule) will be running.  If it’s a date in the blue box you’ll need to consult SCHEDULE B.  The main difference between the two schedules is that there’s an added stop in La Spezia in SCHEDULE B (Largo Fiorillo, which is just outside the cruise terminal) and there are more buses running.

My final thought and probably my best endorsement:  If my family was visiting, I’d be sending them on the Explora buses to check out the villages.  It’s safe, easy (minus some uphill walking to reach the bus stops, but this is Cinque Terre and that’s to be expected), relaxing and picturesque.  What more could you ask for?

The Italian S word every traveler should know: Sciopero

Sciopero.  Strike.  It’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of travelers in Italy (pun intended).

PARKING: A great alternative for those driving to the Cinque Terre

Updated pricing and details!

Cinque Terre Insider

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…

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