Coronavirus in Italy: Keep calm & carry on

Please note: This is an ever-evolving story due to the dynamic nature of contagion. All data was correct at the time it was published. Periodic updates will be posted as footnotes to this post.

Let me start by saying, as of today there have been zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Liguria (the region in which the five Cinque Terre villages are located). Because we neighbor regions where there have been confirmed cases, our regional government has enacted special precautions which include closing schools and public venues as well as canceling sporting events until March 1, 2020. On that date the situation will be reevaluated and the ordinance will either be lifted or extended.

The Italian government is taking the coronavirus seriously and they have implemented measures to isolate the outbreak. A coordinated response has also been enacted to quell alarm and the dissemination of fake news.

Despite media hype, the coronavirus is considered only slightly more dangerous than the average flu and mortality rates confirm that. The most challenging aspect of the coronavirus from a logistical standpoint is its rapid transmission.

There are currently 283 confirmed cases in Italy, with the majority in the regions of Lombardy (206 cases) and Veneto (38 cases). Overall, infection rates continue to be very low in Italy, which has a population of 60.48 million people.

What can you do to limit the spread of the coronavirus?

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • Avoid contact with people who have respiratory illnesses
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
  • Do not take antibiotics unless prescribed by a doctor
  • Clean surfaces with disinfectants
  • Wear a face mask ONLY if you think you are sick or assisting the sick
  • In Italy: Call 112 if you have fever, cough or respiratory difficulties, especially if you have recently been to China or you have traveled to identified areas of contagion

Most importantly, keep calm and don’t panic. It’s currently life as usual in the Cinque Terre, with some extra hand washing thrown in the mix.

xo

UPDATE (25 February 2020, 15:15)

Less than an hour after publishing this post it was made public that a woman in Alassio, Liguria (the westernmost portion of our region, the Cinque Terre is located on the eastern border with Tuscany) tested positive to the coronavirus. She has been hospitalized and is listed as being in good condition.

Cinque Terre ferry schedule: October 14 to 26, 2019

For those of you planning to visit the Cinque Terre this October, here’s the ferry schedule for the villages + Levanto, Portovenere & La Spezia.

Ticket prices vary depending on where you plan to catch the ferry and what you’d like to do. Below you will find the fares (although the price list doesn’t specify it, the rates are in local currency which is €). Unfortunately the price lists are currently only in Italian so be sure to check out my key (and answers to FAQs) at the bottom of this post.

2019 Ferry prices within the Cinque Terre

2019 Ferry prices to/from Levanto

2019 Ferry prices to/from Portovenere

2019 Ferry prices to/from La Spezia

KEY:

  • A: abbreviation for andata, which means “to” (in this case it also implies a one-way ticket)
  • A/R: abbreviation for andata e ritorno, a round-trip ticket
  • Giornaliero: unlimited day pass
  • Pomeridiano: unlimited afternoon pass
  • Andata con soste: a one-way, unidirectional ticket with the possibility to hop off and on the ferry (the number of stops permitted is specified)
  • o: or
  • e: and
  • Residenti: a special tariff reserved for residents
  • Bambini 6-11 anni: child fare (ages 6-11 years)
  • Adulti: adult fare (which also applies to children 12 years and older)
  • Giro isole: Ferry tour around Portovenere’s islands (Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto)
  • Giro golfo: Ferry tour of the Gulf of La Spezia (also known as the Gulf of Poets)
  • FAQs

    Q. Will the Cinque Terre ferries run after October 26th?

    A. Each year the ferries typically run up until All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1st and 2nd) with a limited schedule. As soon as the timetable is released I will post it here on the blog. Usually the ferries will stop running on November 3rd and recommence the following spring.

    Q. What’s the rate for children 5 and under?

    A. Kids 5 years of age and younger ride for free, so long as they are accompanied by a paying adult.

    Q. Do the ferries always run?

    A. The ferries run contingent on sea and weather conditions. If the seas are rough the ferries are cancelled.

    Q. Can I buy ferry tickets online?

    A. No, ferry tickets cannot be purchased online. You can purchase tickets in person at the ticket counters (strategically located near the docking points). Heads up: Payment is oftentimes only accepted in cash so be sure to hit up an ATM first.

    Q. Is it worth it?

    A. Absolutely! Seeing the Cinque Terre by water is beautiful and offers a glimpse of our area from a different perspective. If you’re traveling solo or with just another person or two, the ferries are usually the most cost effective option. If you’re wanting to have a more personalized experience you can book either a shared or private boat tour with one of the local boat companies. In Riomaggiore I recommend Cinque Terre Boat Tour and Cinque Terre dal Mare. Let them know that Cinque Terre Insider sent you!

    Q. Are the ferries handicap-accessible?

    A. Unfortunately, they are not. If a disabled person is steady on their feet, some stops are easier to board than others (like La Spezia and Portovenere, where passengers typically board from the side of the ferry). All five of the Cinque Terre villages, however, require passengers to embark and disembark via a gangplank (which is less than ideal for those with walking or balance impairments).

    Do you have a question regarding the ferries that I didn’t answer here? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

    Enjoy the Cinque Terre by sea!

    Cinque Terre guided tours & excursions: June 2019

    The June calendar for the Cinque Terre Walking Park has been released! See below for all the details:

    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: visiteguidate@ati5terre.it 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).

    Enjoy!

    Amy

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

    Why smart travelers book direct, and so should you

    We are in an age of instant gratification, where people want answers fast. Actually, faster than fast, they want them instantaneously with the click of a button (or tap of a touchscreen). Hence the success of the huge online travel agencies (or OTAs) like Booking(.com), AirBnB and Expedia, just to name a few. These OTAs are able to offer instant (or nearly so) booking confirmations without lag time.

    But convenience has a cost. And that cost, cari amici, is ultimately passed on to you, the consumer. Did you know most of the OTAs charge hosts and hoteliers 15-18% commission? For hosts to achieve their target profit that means prices are being inflated to cover commission costs. Or, in the case of AirBnB, a lower commission (3-5%) is charged to the host but the guest is charged a rather hefty AirBnB service fee (the cost of the service fee is on a sliding scale based on multiple factors including length of stay, price of the accommodation and demand). And unlike accommodation hosts, AirBnB charges its “experience” hosts a whopping 20% commission!

    So what do the savvy travelers do to save money on their accommodations or experiences? They book direct. Hosts can offer significant savings to those who contact them directly to reserve.*

    You might be wondering, “But how in the heck am I supposed to contact these people or places directly?” Here’s how I approach booking accommodations and experiences, without the costly middlemen:

    • First, research your accommodations online using the OTAs (as they are a great tool to discover rates, availability and reviews… all in one place).
    • Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few different places that suit you and have good reviews (and make sure they have availability for your dates, of course), head on over to Google.
    • The easiest contact details to track down are for hotels, B&Bs, or bonafide businesses where a Google search will usually bring up direct contact details. Just make sure you scroll down past all of the ads (that the big OTAs can afford to sponsor on Google) to find the real search results.

    Keep scrolling down past the ads to find the real search results, otherwise you’ll just get lost in an OTA loop

    Don’t be fooled by the ad offering to check availability, this is just another way to trick you into booking through an OTA

    • Things get a bit tricky with AirBnB as oftentimes hosts aren’t in the professional sector so it’s harder to know what you should be googling (because “Apartment with beautiful views and central location” just isn’t going to cut it). Try clicking on the host’s profile to read their “about” section to see if you can get any clues as to how to contact them directly.

    Tip: I only recommend trying to book directly with an AirBnB host if they have Superhost status or if they’ve got lots of great reviews. Not all AirBnB hosts are created equal and you’re placing a lot of faith in them by booking direct. Make sure you’re booking with a host with an excellent reputation.

    That’s actually my profile page on AirBnB and obviously you can see both the name of my family’s vacation rental agency as well as the name of the blog. If that isn’t a lead, I don’t know what is… put on your sleuth hats and get googling!

    Some words to the wise

    • If you’re booking direct, there may be some different stipulations regarding the reservation. Make sure the cancellation policy, methods of payment accepted and other details are all very clear to you in advance.
    • Ensure that you have contact details (including phone numbers) and an agreed upon meeting place and time.
    • In the event that you find accommodations or an experience online by googling alone (rather than via an OTA) ask if they can share an AirBnB or other OTA link so you can check their reviews before booking. The nice thing about the OTAs, unlike TripAdvisor, is that they’ve incorporated reviews into the listings and those reviews can only be made by verified past guests.

    *When booking direct, do your homework first. Know what rate the host is asking (and on what platform, so that will give you an idea as to what sort of commission they would have to pay if you were to book with the OTA). Ask for their best rate and be willing to pay cash to get it (all the villages have ATMs, just be sure to use the right ones). Keep in mind, AirBnB hosts probably won’t be able to offer much (if any) of a discount on their accommodations (as they are paying just 3-5% in commission) but you will be able to circumvent the AirBnB service fees.

    Backstory: Once upon a time (actually, not so many years ago), hosts and hoteliers had to sign contracts when they partnered with OTAs promising that they would offer the same rates across the board (so offering better rates to those who booked directly was a big no-no) . This was called “parity rate” and hosts risked penalties, expulsion from the OTA sites, and even potential lawsuits if they didn’t comply. Luckily for hosts and guests alike, the Italian court deemed the parity rate clause in the contracts illegal (and so did courts in Germany, France and Austria).

    If you’ve made it this far, you might be thinking, “Sheesh! That’s a lot of work when I can book in less than a minute online.” Here’s where I’m going to give you a hand here in the Cinque Terre. If you email me (amy@cinqueterreinsider.com) and write DIRECT BOOKINGS in the subject line, I will reply with contact details for my preferred accommodations and experience providers in the Cinque Terre. These are trusted places where I’d send my family & friends, and I’m happy to send you, too.

    Ciao for now,

    Cinque Terre guided tours & excursions: May 2019

    If you’re planning to be in the Cinque Terre this May, be sure to check out the guided tours & excursions offered by the Cinque Terre National Park.

    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 boots or shoes 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)

    * = If you see an asterisk, there’s the possibility to add on an optional wine tasting (for a nominal fee), which I highly recommend!

    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: visiteguidate@ati5terre.it 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 but she’s also passionate about its wine (she’s a certified sommelier).

    Enjoy!

    Amy

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

    Three free apps to download before coming to Italy

    It amazes me how technology has made our lives (and traveling!) so much easier. Now that we can use our mobile phones and access data just about anywhere in the world, unlimited information is at our fingertips.

    If you’re planning to come to Italy with your smartphone in hand, here are three apps you’ll want to download before setting foot on the plane:

    WhatsApp

    This is my number 1, MVP app (seriously, I use it a gazillion times a day and it would be tough to live without it). WhatsApp allows you to text, voice message, send images, call or video call anyone else in the world with the same app for free (but you will need to use data or be connected to WiFi). The best part about WhatsApp is that it doesn’t matter if the person you are contacting uses iOS or Android as it works for all smartphones. It has some great features (I love how I can see when messages were delivered and viewed so I have no doubt that they arrived).

    So why should you download WhatsApp before coming to Italy? It’s the most popular social app in Europe and most everyone has it. WhatsApp makes it easy to connect with AirBnB hosts (or other alternative accommodation hosts) and even some restaurants have their numbers linked with WhatsApp so it makes booking a table so much easier. Not to mention, keeping up with family and friends back home is a snap (you can even create group chats so you can save time and avoid sending messages and photos individually).

    TrenItalia

    This is the official TrenItalia app (which is free to download) where you can check train times and buy tickets with just a few finger taps! Say goodbye to long lines at the ticket counter and the not-so-user-friendly kiosks as you breeze straight to the platform (woot woot!). I have my account set up so that payment is fast tracked through my PayPal account, making buying tickets even quicker and easier. Once you purchase your tickets, you’ll be given a QR code to show to the controller on the train (there’s no need to print). You can add your tickets to your virtual wallet or simply screenshot them so they are saved to your photo roll. There is a caveat; the app is good, but not perfect. It has happened to me a time or two that the app was down and I had to queue up for tickets the old-fashioned way.

    TIP: You’ll need to know your Italian codice fiscale to create an account. This is a personal tax ID number that’s created with your name, gender, date and place of birth. Don’t worry, it’s not a secret code like an American social security number. You can calculate your Italian codice fiscale here. Keep in mind that if you were born in the USA you’ll need to write it in Italian: Stati Uniti.

    Word to the wise: Depending on your mobile phone provider, you might not have access to data at the Manarola train station in the Cinque Terre (I have TIM and I don’t). What does that mean? Either you’ll need to think ahead (and buy your tickets before you head to the Manarola train station), line up to buy paper tickets or run back through the tunnel to the village where you’ll have reception and can use the app.

    SayHi

    *Close runner up: GoogleTranslate

    Gone are the days when traveling with a pocket dictionary or phrase book was obligatory. Say ciao to SayHi Translate, a free app that will be your new BFF while in Italy (there are tons of other languages available, too). I’ve tested the app in Italian in direct comparison with Google Translate and SayHi seems to offer more accurate translations (of course, no automatic translator is going to be flawless). I love that you can choose to either type or speak to the app and you can control factors like voice speed. There is a tiny bit of a learning curve, so get familiar with the app and the different toggles and settings before you are vis-a-vis with an Italian. One drawback is that you’ll need to be online (either via WiFi or data) to use this app.

    Google Translate has its own free app and while I find the app itself more intuitive than SayHi’s, the quality of the translations isn’t as precise. I do like that you can use a limited portion of this app offline as well (but you’ll need to download your language of interest) and the option to take a photo of a sign or printed text to translate is nifty and cool (you’ll need to be online for this option).

    For the sake of clarity, it’s important to note that I am in no way paid to endorse any of the above apps. I’m just offering honest advice and opinions from Cinque Terre Insider.

    Happy travels and ciao for now,

    Amy

    Photo credit: Nicole O’Neil Photography

    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: cea@parconazionale5terre.it

    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.

    Enjoy!

    Amy

    Beware: Not all ATMs are created equal

    This year we’ve seen quite a few new ATM cash machines pop up in central, high-traffic locations throughout the Cinque Terre. The convenience of these new machines is enticing as the traditional bank ATMs are usually a tad further away (or a bit harder to find). But be warned, you’ll pay a high price for the convenience.

     Through my network of friends, a case in point was recently brought to my attention. A visitor used a Euronet ATM (pictured above) to withdraw €600 and later discovered €669.97 deducted from his account. That’s nearly €70 in ATM fees! *gulp*

    Mind you, his card was specific for international travel and offers ATM withdrawals abroad for just €2.50 per transaction. The card was also in local currency so there was no issue with exchange rates involved. That means he paid €67.47 in ATM fees to Euronet (the company that owns the ATM).

    After researching a little online it was soon clear why these portable ATMs are popping up at bars, cafés & shops. Apparently Euronet pays a good chunk of change to business owners who simply place the ATM at their storefront: reportedly €400 per month plus a percentage of sales if a minimum threshold is reached.  It’s easy, hassle-free income (the machines are serviced and maintained by Euronet) and helps offset expensive rents and whatnot. I can understand why a business owner might be swayed to host one of these ATMs but I cannot excuse Euronet for taking advantage of unsuspecting travelers.

    Keep in mind, Euronet isn’t the only company scalping ATM users through exorbitant fees and inflated exchange rates.  Other companies with similar strategies are Travelex, YourCash, Cardpoint and Cashzone.  

    Beware of any ATM that looks mobile. You’ll encounter these storefront ATMs throughout your travels as they are becoming quite commonplace (they are oftentimes found in airports, close to shopping districts and other points of interest).  In other words, this is by no means a problem isolated to the Cinque Terre, or even Italy for that matter.

    Granted, these storefront ATMs have the advantage of allowing for larger sums of cash to be withdrawn in one transaction (albeit at a hefty cost). Most bank ATMs have much lower limits (e.g. €250 per transaction) so if you need a large sum you’ll need to perform multiple transactions (although I’m certain that the cost of multiple bank ATM transactions would be inferior to the cost of one Euronet transaction).


    My recommendation? Look for bonafide bank ATMs (called bancomat in Italian) which will offer rates and fees at more honest rates (banks have a higher level of accountability). 

    In Riomaggiore there are two bank ATMs:

    CARIGE, located on the main street (via Colombo) next to the Coop grocery shop and across the street from Mamma Mia take-away. This ATM is easy to spot as it’s directly on the street (mounted in the bank wall).

    Climb the stairs to reach the entrance to the bank and the ATM

    CARISPEZIA, located on the piazza at the Riomaggiore train station; this ATM isn’t quite as easy to spot.  First, look for the bank which is located in a light pink building up a few steps from the piazza. To reach the ATM (which is available 24/7), you’ll need to push the button at the entrance door to enter the secure space where the ATM is located.

    Manarola has one bank ATM: 

    You’ll find a CARISPEZIA bank ATM on the village’s main street (via Discovolo). When you exit the tunnel from the train station, make a right and walk a few meters up the main street.  You’ll see the ATM on your right.

    Vernazza has two bank ATMs:

    You will find a CARISPEZIA bank ATM on the main street, about halfway between the train station and the main piazza on the water’s edge.The other ATM is CARIGE bank and it is located at the top of the village. From the train station, head uphill on the main street and you will run into the bank on your right.

    Monterosso has a total of three bank ATMs:

    A CARISPEZIA bank ATM located at the train station (but on street level).

    A CARIGE bank ATM located next to the ferry ticket counter (in Monterosso Vecchio, near the beach and docking area).

    And lastly, a CARISPEZIA bank ATM on the main street in the historical center of Monterosso. You’ll need to walk all the way up the main street until you see the bank on your left. Push the button to enter the secure space where the ATM is located. 


    I plan to update this post with photos and locations of bank ATMs in the other villages as well (each village, even teeny-tiny Corniglia, has its own bank ATM), but I thought the most important thing was to get this information out there ASAP.

    Safe (& savvy) travels,

    Amy

     

    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:

    img_6918

    • 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.

    img_7820


    WHAT’S TO LIKE

    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.

    PRICE COMPARISONS

    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.


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    ROOM TO GROW AND IMPROVE

    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:

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    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:

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    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?