We are arriving via cruise ship in La Spezia (7am - 7pm) and we would like to do the Cinque Terre on our own. Planning to take the train to Monterosso first, then visit Vernazza & Manarola. Do you think there is enough time? Should we shorten it to 2 towns? Can you take the ferry between Vernazza & Manarola?
I would take the train from La Spezia to Monterosso al Mare, which takes about 20 minutes from the Central Station. Check out the old town and spend about 90 minutes there and maybe take a peek at the new town. Take the train from there to Vernazza, which on takes about 5 minutes. The trains run every 30 minutes or so. Check the schedule and try to time it. Vernazza is probably the most scenic of the five villages. You can take a boat from Vernazza to Manarola, but they don't run as often as the trains. The trip is only about 20 minutes, but check the schedules because I think it is about 2 hours between boats. The train is much quicker, but the boat ride is more interesting. I think one of the highlights of the Cinque Terre is the walk between Manarola and Riomaggiore, the Via dell' Amore, which takes about 20 minutes and is pretty much an easy, level walk. It is spectacular. I think Monterosso is a great village to make the base, but I would eliminate it if you only want to see 3 villages. It is possible to take a ferry from Riomaggiore to La Spezia, but it takes a lot longer and they don't run very often. The train only takes a few minutes, but make sure to check the schedule. Have a great time!
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