Cinque Terre guided tours & excursions: July 2019

Summer and high temps have arrived to the Cinque Terre! If you’re wanting to take advantage of these guided tours and excursions be sure to bring lots of water (preferably in a reusable, eco-friendly bottle as you can top up at a fountain along the way), sunscreen and a hat.

Here’s the schedule for July:

As you look at the schedule, be sure to keep in mind the color coding for each date:

YELLOW = trekking (hiking) tour, appropriate footwear is required (either hiking shoes/boots or athletic trainers with decent tread)

GREEN = trekking tour (so the same footwear as mentioned above) along the famous coastal trail, all participants are required to have the Cinque Terre Card

BLUE = walking tour of one of the villages (comfortable walking shoes are recommended)

PINK = E-bike tour

Not sure what an e-bike is?  It’s a bicycle with an integrated electric motor which can be used for “pedal assist” (which makes climbing those steep Cinque Terre hills a breeze!).  These tours require a minimum age of 14 years and they are very limited in size (max. 8 participants).  Each participant will be provided with a helmet and a bottle of water.  And of course, proper footwear and attire are required.

If you’d like to join, here are all the important details:

COST: €6.50 per person or FREE if you’ve purchased the Cinque Terre Card for the day (which is €16 per person and includes unlimited Cinque Terre trains and buses + the hiking pass, read more about it here).

*If it’s a date with an asterisk in the description (which means there’s the possibility for an optional wine tasting), you’ll need to enquire about the extra cost as it varies depending on the winemaker.

HOW TO RESERVE: Advance bookings are a must as there are a limited number of spots available. If you’d like to reserve, the easiest way is to email: Otherwise, you can ring +39 0187 743 500 (just don’t forget that you’ll need to call during business hours here in Italy).

If you book one of the dates for a trek and/or wine tasting you just might be lucky enough to have local riomaggiorese Chiara Gasparini as your guide. Not only does Chiara have a deep-rooted love for her territory and she’s also passionate about its wine (she’s a certified sommelier).



P.S. You can “like” and follow Cinque Terre Walking Park on Facebook (Chiara posts daily pics and updates there).

Get off the beaten track (and on an e-bike) in the Cinque Terre

Nestled high on the hill above Manarola (but still within the Cinque Terre National Park) lies a tiny secondary village called Volastra. I adore this peaceful village and have oftentimes said I can imagine myself living here. If you visit it, you’ll see why.

Volastra is home to a twenty-year-old budding entrepreneur with a burning desire to unite two of the things that he loves most: cycling and a passion for his homeland. Luca Capellini’s new business, Italy Bike Resort, offers visitors the chance to get off the beaten track and high above the crowds on brand new, state-of-the-art e-bikes.

Luca offers a total of seven mountain bikes with pedal assist, making even the most daunting inclines in the Cinque Terre doable. If you’re feeling adventurous you can head out on a bike on your own while those wanting a bit of coaching and local insight can hire Luca as their guide.

Luca has created itineraries for all levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and if you choose to head out on your own he’s full of tips and advice. The e-bike’s battery lasts for circa 70km (although that figure varies based on the level of “assist” you require), so you should be worry-free for the day.

Photo credit: Roberto Andreoli

All you need to know


€15 per bike for one hour

€25 per bike for two hours

€35 per bike for a half day (either from 9am to 1pm or from 2pm to 6pm)

€65 per bike for the entire day (9am to 6pm)

€110 per bike for a two-day rental (pick up at 9am on day 1 and return by 6pm on day 2)

Included with each rental is a helmet, tire repair kit, and lock (so you can stop and sightsee along the way).

Heads up: Luca has a grace period of 30 minutes for the return time (so you can be on “Italian time”) but if you are more than 30 minutes late on your return you will be charged for an extra hour.

If you’d like Luca as your guide (totally worth it, in my opinion) his rates are very reasonable (just keep in mind that the bike rental is not included in this rate):

Solo cyclist: €40 flat rate

Two or more cyclists: €20 per person

Fine print details:

  • If you plan to rent a bike and head out on your own, you must be at least 18 years of age.
  • If you are a minor, you must be at least 12 years of age and accompanied by an adult.
  • When you rent a bike, you will be required to leave a document (driver’s license, passport or similar), sign a waiver + a credit card will be needed for a security deposit (a hold will be placed on your credit card and will be removed once the bike has been safely returned without damage).
  • Riders will be held responsible for any damages to the bike.
  • Luca provides repair kits for all riders (in case you end up with a flat tire). If you take the bike out on your own and require Luca’s intervention to fix a flat, a supplemental fee will apply.

How to get to Volastra + how to find the rental point

Volastra is a secondary village and because of its location high on a hilltop it is not connected to the Cinque Terre railway line. That means you have three alternatives to reach the village:

  • HIKE: You can hike from Manarola to Volastra, via the Sentiero Panoramico and trail 506. It’s an entirely uphill climb, so expect to break a sweat (it will take you right around a half hour to get there).
  • BUS: The ATC national park buses to Volastra leave periodically throughout the day. Tickets for the bus can be purchased from the TI office at the Manarola train station or onboard from the driver (at a slightly higher rate). Here’s the schedule which is valid until November 3rd, 2019:
FERIALE = Monday through Saturday FESTIVO = Sundays and holidays
  • TAXI: If you don’t feel like hoofing it or being tied to the bus schedule, you can hire a local taxi or NCC. Expect to pay €30 from either Riomaggiore or Manarola (for up to four people, inquire for rates if you are more people). Here are the numbers for the local company called 5Terre Transfer (which is based in Riomaggiore): +39 340 356 5268 (Marzio) / +39 339 130 1183 (Luciana)

Once you are in Volastra, make your way to Tiabuscion restaurant (which I highly recommend, by the way!) on the main street.

Just past the restaurant, you’ll see a red mailbox mounted on the fence with signs indicating the directions for Manarola and Corniglia. Head in the direction indicated for Corniglia.

Continue walking up this little lane just a minute or two further and you will see a sign for Italy Bike Resort on your left at number 405 Via Montello.

You’ve arrived!

If Luca isn’t out front with the bikes, ring the buzzer at the front gate.

As there are a limited number of bikes available (and seeing that it takes a bit of effort to get to Volastra) I definitely recommend booking with Luca in advance:

Luca: +39 333 412 0939

Michela (Luca’s mom): +39 333 456 2899

In some instances, Luca can meet clients in Manarola with the e-bikes. If this possibility interests you, be sure to ask for more details.

One last word…

There are several e-bike rental points in nearby cities (Levanto to the north and La Spezia to the south) but Luca’s rental point is the very first within the Cinque Terre National Park. What does this mean for you? Aside from supporting local (which is something I stand behind wholeheartedly), you’ll also take away the travel time to get your bike to where you actually want to be: the Cinque Terre.

Buon divertimento!

P.S. Be sure to let Luca know that you found out about Italy Bike Resort here on the blog!

Riomaggiore’s castle debuts as a relaxation & wellness hub

Riomaggiore’s castle is a pretty special place. Not only does it offer commanding views over the village but it is also rich in history. In fact, the castle was already considered a relic in documents dating to the 1500s; historians believe the castle was constructed in the mid-1200s by the Della Turca family and that it’s primary function was to protect villagers from raids by sea. Now the castle serves a different purpose as a venue for special events (did I mention this is where I got married?) and the village’s ProLoco Association has a permanent exhibit on display detailing the agricultural history of the Cinque Terre.

As pirates are a non-issue these days, Riomaggiore’s castle now offers a different kind of refuge for both villagers and visitors alike: a wellness hub with holistic massages, Reiki sessions, yoga classes and wine tastings. Sound divine? It is.

One of the (many) views from Riomaggiore’s castle

I’m a big fan of local, grassroots initiatives and when I caught word of this relaunch I knew I wanted to write about it on Cinque Terre Insider. I messaged Paola Andreoli (a local who also happens to be an acclaimed Jikiden Reiki practitioner) for more details. She insisted that I try a massage and Reiki session so as to accurately portray the experiences offered. Let’s just say she didn’t have to twist my arm to accept!

Certified massage therapist Chiara Pusceddu and Reiki practitioner Paola Andreoli (both are Riomaggiore locals)

I started my morning with a holistic, anti-stress massage by Chiara Pusceddu, a certified massage therapist. FYI: Both the massage and Reiki sessions take place in the privacy of one of the castle’s turrets.

If you’re the modest type, have no fear: Chiara is very professional and strategically uses a towel to only uncover the zone she is actively working on (I thought I’d mention this because we’ve all had one of those massages where all modesty is thrown to the wind!). Everything about the experience was calming, from the flickering candles and essential oils to the choice of background music. Chiara’s touch was gentle yet effective and I felt like butter afterwards!

After my massage was complete, Paola Andreoli entered for my Jikiden Reiki session. I had only experienced Reiki once before (many, many moons ago) and I had forgotten how tranquil and soothing the sessions are! If you are unfamiliar with this Japanese hands-on healing, read up on it here. One of my favorite parts was sharing a cup of tea and a little chat with Paola after my session. It was then that she revealed what she had sensed about my personality and my current state of being. It was all very calming and zen-like (with a good dose of self-reflection).

For all the yogis out there, Ashtanga yoga classes led by Gabriele Musetti are offered on Wednesdays on the castle’s upper terrace (weather permitting). If you’ve never taken an Ashtanga class before you might want to read up on it beforehand (word to the wise, you will break a sweat!). The cost is €20 per person and Gabriele holds the classes in both English and Italian.

Photo credit: Gabriele Musetti

Riomaggiore’s ProLoco has also introduced wine tastings on the castle’s upper terrace (with gorgeous views!) on Friday evenings at 6:30pm. For €35 per person you can learn about (and obviously taste!) three local wines and if you’re lucky you might receive a surprise visit from one of the winemakers!

Photo credit: Fabrice Van Opdenbosch

If you’re interested in booking any of the above, here are the contact details (all numbers have WhatsApp so that’s a great way to text if you are outside of Italy):


Chiara Pusceddu

+39 349 891 2457

Cost: €80 for a one-hour session


Paola Andreoli

+39 375 526 7323

Cost: €45 for a one-hour session


Gabriele Musetti

+39 349 323 6896 or

Cost: €20 per person for a one-hour class


Paola Andreoli

+39 375 526 7323

Cost: €35 per person, lasts circa 1 1/2 hours


What to do in the Cinque Terre this December

December is decidedly off-season in the Cinque Terre, but catch some nice weather and you’re in for a treat! Nearly empty streets (with the exception of locals and the rare tour group) allow visitors to appreciate the true beauty of the Cinque Terre.

Visiting the Cinque Terre in the off-season isn’t for everyone; if you’re hoping to hit the shops and choose from a plethora of restaurants, you’re going to be disappointed. The off-season is the time when locals catch up on R&R after a long peak-season; many businesses close (some on rotation, others for the entire off-season). However, if you come seeking tranquillity and low-key explorations, you’ll be rewarded, big time.

I will soon be posting an off-season schedule for open restaurants, bars & cafes in the Comune di Riomaggiore. Stay tuned!

For those of you planning to visit the Cinque Terre this December, check out these scheduled events. I’ve highlighted what I think is of the most interest to visitors and I will be updating as various events are announced later on:

December 5th through 9th in Monterosso:

Saturday 12/8:

  • from 2pm: Living nativity scene (with the birth of Jesus at 6pm)
  • 6:30pm: Religious procession

Sunday 12/13:

  • 3pm: Religious procession

Saturday, December 8th in Manarola:

10:30am: Eco-friendly Christmas ornament workshop for children. Free, but advance reservations are required. Email:

5pm: Candle lit procession on the hillside where the village’s nativity scene is located

5:30pm: Lighting of Manarola’s nativity scene with fireworks

Throughout the day there will be a Christmas craft fair as well as a refreshment stand starting at 2pm.



Monterosso’s June 2018 calendar of events

Monterosso’s ProLoco has come up with a rich schedule of events for June:


To help you out, I’ve translated the schedule to English for you:

Saturday, June 2nd:

  • Guided visits to the Capuchin monastery from 10am to 5:30pm
  • Sacred music concert at 9:15pm at the village’s main church (San Giovanni Battista)

Sunday, June 3rd:


  • Corpus Domini & Infiorata festivities, located in the historical center of the village throughout the day
  • ProLoco Flower Party at 10am along the seafront promenade in Fegina
  • Corpus Domini religious procession at 6pm in the historical center of the village

Monday, June 4th:

  • Piano bar (live music) at Piazza Fegina at 9:30pm

Monday, June 11th:

  • Piano bar (live music) at Piazza Fegina at 9:30pm

Saturday, June 16th:

  • Fried anchovy festival starting at 12 noon in Piazza Garibaldi

Sunday, June 17th:

  • Ballroom dancing starting at 9:30pm near the ferry docking point in the historical center of the village

Monday, June 18th:

  • Piano bar (live music) at Piazza Fegina at 9:30pm

Friday, June 22nd:

  • “I Trilli” (a Genoese musical group) concert at 9:30pm at Piazza Belvedere

Saturday, June 23rd:

*San Giovanni Battista Patron Saint Festivities*

  • Sacred music concert at 9:15pm at the village’s main church (San Giovanni Battista)
  • San Giovanni Battista bonfire at 10pm at the beach in Monterosso Vecchio

Sunday, June 24th:

*San Giovanni Battista Patron Saint Festivities*

  • Games for children on Piazza Garibaldi at 4:30pm
  • Procession in the historical center of the village at 9pm
  • Fireworks at 10:30pm at the beach in Monterosso Vecchio

Monday, June 25th:

  • Piano bar (live music) at Piazza Fegina at 9:30pm

Friday, June 29th:

  • Ballroom dancing starting at 9:30pm near the ferry docking point in the historical center of the village

Sunday, June 30th:

  • Poetry reading with music at 9:30pm at the Santa Croce church

My recommendation? If you’re here for the dates, don’t miss the Corpus Domini or the patron saint festivities (they are my favorites)!




One of my favorite annual events is happening on August 17th

Each Italian village, town and city has its own patron saint and dedicated religious festivities. These celebrations are a point of pride and tradition for locals and you’ll see both the young and old participating. For more details on local holidays and celebrations, check out my previous post here.  14079898_10154445888606528_4202174898191387915_nOn August 17th you can witness one of my absolute favorites: Portovenere’s Festa della Madonna Bianca (White Madonna celebration). The procession winds through the historical center of the village and finishes up at the beautiful black-and-white-striped Chiesa di San Pietro (St. Peter’s Church), which is perched on a promontory overlooking the village and sea.14045716_10154445888826528_1472048155831392558_n For those watching from afar, it’s obvious when the procession reaches the church as a super bright white light beams out and applause erupts from the crowd of spectators.

Seeing the festivities on land is beautiful but seeing them from the water is breathtaking. The outcropping of rock on which the church sits glows with the flames of innumerable lit torches, most of which are only visible from the sea.

How to get there

Portovenere (located just south of the Cinque Terre) is not connected to the railway lines, which makes it a little trickier to reach. While it’s possible to arrive to the village by car or bus I highly discourage it on the evening of the celebration as there’s just one road in and out of Portovenere and gridlock will ensue. So how do I recommend getting there? Special chartered ferries will be running from Levanto, Monterosso, La Spezia, Lerici and Marina di Carrara on the evening of August 17th. It’s a beautiful and relaxing way to take in the sights.  13939454_10154445888701528_6512028971614471439_nYou’ll find departure times and prices listed below:

The ferry will take you to Portovenere, drop you off there for a few hours (the actual amount of time on land will depend on the ferry you catch) and then pick you back up for the return trip.  Last year we caught a ferry from La Spezia and even though it was out of the way, the ferry circled around the promontory to allow us to see the church and cliffs aglow.

Heads up:  If you are picking up the ferry in Monterosso, expect to be back at midnight.  If you are catching the ferry in Levanto, expect to arrive back at 12:20am.  Return ferries for those that departed from La Spezia will be running from 10:30pm to midnight (it’s about a half hour ride from Portovenere to La Spezia).

A few things to keep in mind…

  1. This celebration is a local favorite and people travel from far and wide to see it.  Expect it to be super busy in Portovenere.
  2. Unfortunately, pickpockets follow the crowds (usually these petty thieves aren’t so much of an issue in Portovenere but the night of the White Madonna is an exception).  Bring just the necessities with you and be aware of your personal belongings.
  3. Even if it seems hot during the day, bring an extra layer or light jacket for the ferry ride (especially for the return trip as it can feel brisk on the water after the sun goes down).
  4. The ferry won’t wait for you.  Make sure you are punctual for your departure time or you risk being stranded in Portovenere.

Enjoy it!  I’ll never forget my first time watching the procession and the goosebumps that I felt.  It was magical!