When you think of Cinque Terre, chances are that the first thing that pops into your mind is the photo of a gorgeous village taken from the sea.
You can’t say that you have seen the Cinque Terre until you have seen them by sea!
A boat trip is one of the great ways to discover this beautiful coastline with its rugged cliffs, turquoise water and colourful fishing villages away from the crowds.
But what options are there?
Cinque Terre ferry
The most popular means of transport is the large ferry that runs between the villages from the end March until the beginning of November. Hundreds of passengers can hop on and off the boat in four of the five villages at scheduled times.
The ferry does not stop in Corniglia since this is the only village without water access. In addition to Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore, the ferry also stops in Portovenere and less frequently in La Spezia and Levanto.
The pros of the Cinque Terre ferry is that you can schedule your day in a way to see four out of the five villages by foot, as you visit each place according to the time you have available until the next boat ride.
The main problem, on the other hand, is exactly time. You will be walking around on a tight schedule like hundreds of other tourists, something that can be stressful in hot months such as July and August, when lines form to descend from and get on the ferries. You get to glance superficially at the villages, but not to appreciate them at your own pace.
Private Boat Tour
An alternative and probably best way to enjoy the Cinque Terre from the sea is to choose a private boat tour. This kind of boat trip allows you to stay away from the hustle and bustle, to stop for refreshing dips in the cool water during those hot summer days, to calmly enjoy a light lunch on board.
The Cinque Terre are located in a marine park with many regulations to safeguard its delicate environment, therefore with the private tour you cannot hop on and off in all villages.
The only spots where the boat can get near the mainland are in Vernazza and Monterosso.
But this is exactly what makes the private boat trip special: a whole day at sea leads people to get closer to nature and to respect the environment even more, and listening to the sound of the waves, surrounded by the immense blue, helps you escape the chaos of everyday life and to regenerate your body and mind.
You can dedicate one day to exploring the Cinque Terre from the sea, and another two to three days to discover them on foot with private hiking tours or by hopping on-and-off the trains that regularly stop in all five villages.
This is the best way to travel deeper and like a local, for a more meaningful experience on the Italian Riviera.
Some things to keep in mind when choosing your Cinque Terre boat trip:
- If you suffer of seasickness, you will find that the water is often a bit rough.
- A day trip that includes both Cinque Terre and Portofino by boat is not recommended, because of the amount of time needed to reach the destinations.
- Many boat tours depart from La Spezia, allowing you to sail along the mesmerizing Gulf of Poets before reaching the Cinque Terre. This is a stunning itinerary that is definitely worth your time and adds value to your experience in the Italian Riviera. If you are based in any of the Cinque Terre villages, reaching La Spezia is really easy and quick by train.
Tour with a historic boat (leudo)
On that last note, there is an exclusive Cinque Terre tour on a traditional boat called “leudo”.
It departs from La Spezia and sails along Portovenere and Palmaria Island in the Gulf of Poets until you reach the Cinque Terre.
During the trip, the captain will share with you how he restored the boat that, in the past, was used to transport wine barrels along the coast of Liguria and Tuscany.
The experience includes stops in secluded coves for a swim, a light lunch on board with local food and wine, and – weather conditions permitting – also a stop in Portovenere and Vernazza for a stroll.
This private tour is available for groups of at least 6 people, so it is ideal for small groups of friends and family.
Private Boat with Lunch on board
For couples or smaller groups, there is another boat tour with a gourmet touch. It does the same itinerary as you sail in a vintage boat from the Bay of Spezia to Cinque Terre, discovering the most beautiful coves where to swim and to enjoy a gourmet lunch on board.
If you are intrigued by the concept of “off the beaten path” and want to explore something different near Cinque Terre, then a boat trip in the Gulf of Poets is just what you are looking for.
You will get to admire the villages and the bay that inspired writers like Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and David Herbert Lawrence.
After visiting Portovenere and its striking castle and grottos, you will cross the bay to reach Lerici for lunch and for a swim in a fantastic cove. The experience ends with a view of Tellaro’s iconic silhouette from the sea!