Seeing Cinque Terre in a day is not recommended but it is doable and better than not at all. It is truly a beautiful, unique and colourful part of Italy. We considered a tour but decided to try it on our own. Our family of four (two teenagers) caught a 7:00 a.m. train from Florence to La Spezia with a change in Pisa. There are many departures through the day. I used the Italian train website, http://www.trenitalia.com, to familiarize ourselves with some departure and return trip times before we left. In La Spezia, we purchased “Cinque Terre Cards with Train” which gave us one day of unlimited train access between La Spezia and the five towns that make up Cinque Terre and access to the #2 walking path for about €10/per person. We stopped at the first, most southerly, town of Riomaggiore and walked the Via dell Amore trail to Manarola. The walk is an easy 20 minute stroll on a paved path that travels along the beautiful coast. It is the only walk we did, as the other trails linking towns were closed following the floods and mudslides of 2011. Local train stations are close to the towns and trains run frequently. From Manarola we took a train to Vernazza where we had lunch at the waterfront and enjoyed walking through the town appreciating the recovery efforts that have been undertaken since the floods. From Vernazza we took the train to the last town Monterosso al Mare. This is a much bigger town and perhaps not as quaint as Manarola or Venrazza. But if you want a beach this would be the place. The water was so warm and inviting and there were beach umbrellas and sunbathers everywhere. We had expected to escape some of the heat of Florence when at the coast but it was just as hot and humid and ocean breezes were ellusive. After a quick gelato we took the ferry boat, http://www.cinqueterre.eu.com/en/boat-excursions, back towards Manarola. This is a must to truly appreciate the colourful towns clinging to the coast. We headed back to Florence arriving around 8:00 p.m. We were exhausted, pleasantly surprised how easy it was to do this trek on our own and very glad we took the adventure.
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