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Cinque Terre, Italy

Updated: Apr 21

Day 7: Western Mediterranean Cruise with Cinque Terre

Royal Caribbean | Wonder of the Seas

Our day started in La Spezia, Italy. This port is about one hour from Pisa, two hours from Florence, and relatively close to Cinque Terre. We opted for exploring Cinque Terre on our own. There was a shore excursion offered by the cruise line. It involved a lengthy bus ride on twisty roads. Going on our own meant we could take the train which was quicker and a straight shot.

Cinque Terre is composed of five towns along the coast. I purchased a day pass for the train ahead of time which allowed us to move about as we pleased. I’m so glad I did because the line to buy train tickets was really long!

Figuring out which platform was for the Cinque Terre train took a little work. The boards were in Italian and I wasn’t sure where the Cinque Terre train ended which is a key detail for finding the right platform. I pulled a map of Italy on my phone and it looked like Livorno was the town. There were also several train employees around answering questions. I asked to be sure and she told us the platform and that it is leaving in one minute. We raced down the stairs and back up the stairs on the other side. There was a train there, but it didn’t open. I’m not sure if we had already missed the train or if this was the train, but wasn’t going. There were a few others in the same position. After waiting around for a few minutes, we cut our losses and waited for the next train. Back to the original platform where the next train came about 20 minutes later.

We stood at the end of the platform in a less crowded area waiting for the train. At some point a man in train uniform approached us and went on in Italian. I listened carefully and while I don’t know Italian, there was enough overlap between English and Spanish that I was pretty sure he was explaining that the train is much shorter than the platform and that we needed to move to the other end if we wanted to catch the train. He said “English?” after his long explanation and I nodded. He then said in broken English what he had just said in Italian. I was pretty proud of myself for actually understanding correctly! It was also really nice to get confirmation too. The train stop was incredibly crowded with tourists and we nicely pushed our way to the other end and waited. The train came soon and of course we were standing directly in the middle of two doors which meant we’d be the last ones to get to a door. I thought there was no way we’d make it. The mass of people thinned and then we hopped onto the train. Awesome, we got on! There is no way we’ll get a seat I thought. The couple in front took what I thought was the last seat. My son explained, “Look there is an upstairs!” as he raced up the steps. Upstairs had plenty of open seats and all four of us found a nice spot to relax.

Amaris traveling by train
Train Travel in Italy

We took the train to Monterosso al Mare and the train stop was centrally located to this town. We walked along the coast line enjoying the wonderful panoramic views of beaches, cliffs, and Italian lifestyle. There is a picturesque hiking trail that connects the villages. The stretch from Monterosso to Vernazza is said to be breathtakingly beautiful, but with a five-year old who doesn’t like to hike and it being a super hot day there was no way we’d make it as a happy family. We walked to where the trail began and noticed the warning signs. One read that wearing sandals on the trail was prohibited. Good to know for next time! On our way back, we were getting thirsty so we stopped at a local restaurant that was just opening for drinks. This area of Italy is where Pesto originated so I also ordered pesto pasta that we shared. As we waited for the food, my son told us he was sooo hungry. I told him food was coming. When the pasta arrives my son shouted, “Ewww it’s green.” He reluctantly ate the bite I hand fed him and didn’t say a word. Soon enough he was devouring it. He absolutely loved it! It was the best pasta I’ve ever had in my life so it wasn’t hard to understand why this five-year old loved it too. It was so peaceful sitting next to the sea with a glass of chilled wine and incredible food.

View of Monterosso al Mare
Monterosso al Mare, Italy

We traveled on the train to the next town, Vernazza. We weren’t planning on a beach day, but it was so hot that it became one. We didn’t bring swimsuits but enjoyed what we could in clothes. For everyone else that meant using shorts as swimsuits and diving into the sea. For me, it meant walking into the water as far as I could go without soaking my dress. In France, the water was frigid. Here it was much warmer and I missed the cold water! After cooling off, we headed to the busy streets for gelato.

Streets of Vernazza
Vernazza, Italy

This isn’t my first time to Italy. It’s my third time. The first time I went with People to People Sports Ambassadors when I was sixteen years old. The last time I was twenty-one and with a college friend. Both times the food wasn’t great. I hear people rave about real Italian food and really didn’t know what they were talking about. Granted, I don’t really like tomato so that was a huge issue when I was younger. But the gelato was not good either! This time I zeroed in the gelato and listened to others about it.

Gelato isn’t regulated and can mean different things in Italy. Not all gelato is real gelato. There are a few ways to spot the good stuff. First way to detect the fake gelato is with how it sits in the container. Is it piled high or is it completely below the level of the metal container? The real stuff can’t be piled high because it’s softer. How are the colors? Are they vibrant with artificial coloring or are they muted with shades you’d find in nature? The real stuff is colored by the ingredients in the name. Pistachio should not be green for example. This was on my mind while we chose a shop; however it was so crowded that the lines stretch into the streets and you couldn’t actually see the gelato until you were in the front of the line. We were in a touristy area and I thought it wouldn’t be the real stuff but it was hot and any gelato would be welcome. We made it to the front of the line and we found a winner! The flavors were in Italian. I ordered Strawberry for my younger son, our older son ordered Oreo, and I ordered two Italian sounding ones for Brian and I. Brian’s turned out to be Biscotti and mine was basil. It turns out basil gelato is fantastic! Our young son liked mine so much that soon enough I was left without gelato as he ate his cone of strawberry and mine too.

Gelato in Italy

Our dinner time this cruise is 6pm which is early with all that there is to explore on land. After gelato, we took the train back to La Spezia and then walked back to the ship.

Dinner tonight was a Cesear Salad, Shepherds Pie, and Tiramisu. All of it was very good. The best part of the evening according to my son was the farewell by the wait staff. This particular cruise had two starting points: Rome and Barcelona. You leave the same port you started. For those that started in Rome, tonight was there last night. To celebrate, the staff performed a little dance and my son joined right into the fun! He’s looking forward to that part of the cruise again, but not the cruising ending part of it.

salda, shrimp, dessert, family
Dinner on Wonder of the Seas

About the Author

Amaris is the owner of the Ohio-based travel agency, Adventures by Amaris. Her love for travel began at a young age when she traveled to her parents' home countries of England and Mexico. She continued traveling in High School by participating in a People to People program to Italy, France and Monaco. In college, she spent six weeks in Europe studying abroad and traveling. She visited Spain, Portugal, England, Wales, Ireland, Vatican City, and Italy in a whirlwind summer. Through her adult life she continues to make traveling a priority with her family. Her young son is autistic so navigating the world of traveling with an autistic child brings on new adventures. Her travel resume includes Mexico, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Panama, Costa Rica, Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia, and Cayman Islands. She is an expert in planning family vacations across the world from Disney World to Europe to worldwide cruises.

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