[Updated for 2022] PARKING: A great alternative for those driving to the Cinque Terre

TIP: Staying in the Cinque Terre?  First, check with your host to see if they offer or if they can help you arrange nearby parking for your stay.  If not, keep reading for details on where to park in nearby La Spezia.  

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 and quite expensive, there’s a pretty high risk of getting a ticket (if you accidentally enter the ZTL zones or park where it’s not allowed) and the historical centers of the villages are pedestrian-only.

My advice?  Ditch the car before hitting up the Cinque Terre.  If that’s not feasible, you can do the next best thing and park it at the Park Centro Stazione underground parking garage at the La Spezia Centrale train station.

Current published rates for Park Centro Stazione for 2022 are €1.50 per hour from 8am to 8pm and €1.00 per hour from 8pm to 8am. That means the daily rate (for a full 24 hours) is €30.

This parking garage, thanks to its recent construction, 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.

The underground parking garage actually has two entrances:

  • The -1 level is accessed by Via Paleocapa, 7 or latitude: 44.110633 | longitude: 9.815174
  • The -2 level is accessed by Piazzetta Ancona or latitude: 44.110692 | longitude: 9.814421

There are automated signs near each entrance indicating how many spaces are still available for that level. If one level is full, be sure to check the other entrance to see if that level is full, too.

LA SPEZIA PARKING photo credit: ATC La Spezia

If you’re a planner and don’t like the uncertainty of showing up and hoping to find a space (believe me, I get you) you might want to look into booking a space at a private garage just a few blocks (circa 200 meters) from the station:

Private Parking Le 5 Terre La Spezia

Via Migliari, 15 (La Spezia)

latitude: 44.110141 | longitude: 9.817427

Keep in mind that they have only 10 spaces available and it’s mandatory to book and pay online in advance (don’t just try and turn up). The 2022 daily rates range from €10 to €38 (depening on the season). Do keep in mind that they don’t offer hourly rates. You can arrive any time after 10am (you’ll be provided with an access code after you’ve booked) and you’ll need to retrieve your car no later than 10am on your day of departure. Heads up: If you plan to leave later in the day, you’ll need to book & pay for an extra day.

Wherever you decide to park, afterwards 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

Download the TrenItalia app in advance so you can purchase train tickets on the fly (like I do!), or if you want to plan things out in advance you can check the timetables and purchase tickets online on the official TrenItalia website here.  If you don’t mind standing in potentially long lines you can also wait and purchase your tickets directly at the station.

Want a Plan B (or C) option in case the garage is full when you turn up? Read my blog post detailing parking for free at the La Spezia Migliarina station here. If you’re not a fan of streetside parking, check out my post on two other public payment parking garages in La Spezia.

Buon viaggio!

Off-season trains and weekly passes in the Cinque Terre

Today is November 2nd and the off-season in the Cinque Terre has officially arrived.  Locals are breathing a collective sigh of relief after working nonstop for the past 7+ months.

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The Cinque Terre Express (with trains every half hour and a flat-rate of €4 per ticket) is only in effect during the peak-season.  Starting in November we go back to the “normal” schedule (read: with less frequent trains) and pre-Express rates for tickets (read: a significant savings for those traveling by train).  During the off-season it’s also possible to buy the weekly pass (abbonamento settimanale) for the Cinque Terre trains, even for non-residents. These passes include unlimited train travel on regional trains from Monday to Sunday.

Weekly rail pass rates

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La Spezia Centrale to Monterosso: €15

La Spezia Centrale to Levanto: €18.50

Riomaggiore to Monterosso: €11.10

Riomaggiore to Levanto: €13.10

While it *is* possible to purchase these tickets in advance online on the official TrenItalia website, it’s a pain and anything but a smooth process (oftentimes there are glitches that won’t allow you to continue).  My advice is to purchase your weekly pass once you’re here in Italy (you can purchase passes at any TrenItalia counter, even before reaching the Cinque Terre).

A few important things to note about the weekly passes:

  • You will need to write your first and last name on your pass and have valid ID with you when the controller asks for it.
  • The weekly passes are valid from Monday to Sunday, not seven days from the date of purchase.  No matter what day of the week you purchase your pass, it will still expire at 11:59pm on Sunday.  If you are staying in the Cinque Terre for dates that bridge Sunday (for example, from Friday to Tuesday) do the math to see if it’s worthwhile to purchase the weekly pass.

During the off-season, trains aren’t nearly as frequent as when the Cinque Terre Express schedule is in effect.  Sometimes that means there can be a two hour gap between trains!  For this reason, I recommend picking up a pocket-size train schedule from one of the Tourist Information offices (at the train stations in the Cinque Terre, Levanto or La Spezia Centrale) so that you can plan your day around the trains and not waste time sitting at the station.

I hope this information is helpful!

Happy travels,
Amy

 

 

 

 

Travel Tip: Don’t make this expensive mistake on the trains

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Did you know that if you board a regional train without validating your ticket in one of the machines at the station that you face up to a €200 fine? Ouch. If you pay the fine immediately on board to the controller the fine drops to €50 per person, but that’s still a very pricey lesson learned.

A lot of people visiting Italy don’t realize that the tickets you buy for the slower trains are basically good forever.  Only by validating them in one of those nifty boxes at the train station does your ticket become valid for a certain number of minutes (or hours, the quantity of time varies from region to region) from the time stamp.  Hence the reason for the hefty fine, as potentially a traveler could use the same ticket for an unlimited number of trips if they never validated it!

I know the concept of validating a ticket is strange to those not from Italy (in most other countries when you buy a ticket it’s only good for that specific train so there’s no need to validate), so it’s actually a pretty common occurrence for visitors to board the regional trains without first validating their tickets.  Unfortunately, it’s also a common occurrence for these visitors to be fined once they are on the train.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for what you need to do to validate your ticket (it’s easy peasy, but I find that visuals always help with these sorts of things).

  • First, locate one of the validating machines (there’s usually more than one, even in the tiny stations).

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  • Next, insert your ticket into the slot and then slide the ticket to the far left (that’s the trick that I’ve helped travelers with a gazillion times when I’m at the station).

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  • Once you’ve done that, you should hear the machine stamping your ticket. When you pull your ticket out you should see the station name as well as the date and time printed on the ticket.

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Et voilà… you’re good to go! Enjoy the ride.

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TROUBLESHOOTING


You should see a green light on the validating machine, which means it’s working properly. If you see a red light the machine is out of order and you’ll need to find another one.

Sometimes you’ll hear the sound of the machine validating your ticket but when you pull it out you won’t see anything printed on your ticket (which means the machine has run out of ink).  In this case, find another machine and try validating again.

If all of the validating machines are out of order (not a common occurence but it can happen), go ahead and board the train but immediately look to find the controller (it’s actually easiest to spot them outside of the train at the stop, as they wait to make sure everyone is on board before getting back on the train themselves).  Once you’ve found the controller, explain that the machines weren’t working (“Le macchinette sono guaste!”) so that they can manually validate your ticket for you.

BEWARE:  If you don’t actively seek out the controller and they find you (instead of vice versa) chances are they are going to fine you anyway (as they’ve heard the excuse a million times, kind of like teachers hearing that a dog ate a student’s homework).

Lastly, I hate that I have to say this but I feel it’s my duty…

If you are fined for not having validated your ticket and you pay the controller be sure to receive some sort of receipt in return (showing proof of the amount paid, etc.).  Also, according to the official TrenItalia website, you should pay no more than a €50 fine per person if you pay the controller immediately.  If the controller takes more than that amount per person, something is very, very fishy (chances are part of the fine is being pocketed).  In the event that that happens, get details so you can report them accordingly.