How to travel from and to La Spezia, ferries trains and busses

International cruise and ferry terminal, but also for ferries, La Spezia is a pleasant city for a visit and a privileged starting point to see the nearby Cinque Terre. Moreover, it is located at the center of the Bay of the poets. For these reasons, more and more travelers make it a base for their stay in eastern Liguria.

The city is served by railways, shipping lines, and buses. Not all surroundings can be reached by all means of transport. For example, it is commonly recommended to get to the villages of the Cinque Terre by train because the railway is much faster than the roads.

The waterfron in La Spezia, the ferry departs from here
The waterfron in La Spezia, the ferry departs from here

La Spezia and Cinque Terre by car

La Spezia and the Cinque Terre can be reached via the A12 motorway. The La Spezia-Santo Stefano exit allows you to get to the city center by crossing the Val Magra in a few minutes and arriving from the city’s eastern side. The city center has a large pedestrian and limited traffic area, mainly where many tourist facilities are located. Some paid parking lots are downtown (see the map below). For those staying in the Cinque Terre, it is possible to arrive in the villages by exiting the motorway in La Spezia or Carrodano. The first exit is recommended for those heading to Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corniglia, Vernazza. Carrodano is recommended for those heading towards Framura, Levanto, Bonassola, Monterosso, and Vernazza. Suppose you wish to visit some or even all of the villages of the Cinque Terre in one day. In that case, it is advisable to park in Levanto or La Spezia. The two largest cities in the area are the best starting points to travel by train between the villages, separated from each other by a few minutes of travel. Unfortunately, the towns of the Cinque Terre are only connected by long and often impervious roads, and parking possibilities are very limited, especially during the summer season. For those who want to reach the Golfo dei Poeti towns such as Lerici and Portovenere, the car is the only means, together with buses and ferries. However, the latter is active only in the summer, when it is particularly recommended because of the lack of parking. The La Spezia gulf is not served by the railway line (there is no railway in Lerici and Portovenere!).

To reach the Cinque Terre and La Spezia inland of al di Vara and Lunigiana, the cast and the bus are the only means.

La Spezia ferry

Ferries departing from La Spezia  Ph. Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti
Ferries departing from La Spezia Ph. Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti

The ferry is the most spectacular and pleasant alternative to reach the Cinque Terre from La Spezia (and Levanto). However, the cost is certainly higher than the train, and it is essential to know that the service is not active in autumn and winter. From La Spezia, the port of departure for the ferries is located on the Costantino Morin promenade. The La Spezia ferry timetables can be viewed on the Golfo dei Poeti Navigation consortium website. The company offers a complete sea connection service between the city and its tourist resorts. It is possible to reach all the villages of the Cinque Terre, even with a single ticket (the only one that can be purchased online). It allows you to visit Cinque Terre Park by freely hopping on and off between one village and another by referring to the timetable of the navigation service.

The ferry service also connects the towns of the Gulf of Poets to la Spezia and with Lerici, Tellaro, San Terenzo, Portovenere, Le Grazie, Fezzano, Cadimare. A line connects La Spezia to Palmaria Island, the largest in Liguria, in the two small ports of Terrizzo and Pozzale (in front ot the Tino Island). Ferries are recommended for those who want to trek on Palmaria Island, suitably choosing the walking route that joins the two marinas on opposite sides of the island.

Palmaria trails and docks, ph. Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti
Palmaria trails and docks, ph. Navigazione Golfo dei Poeti

The Cinque Terre train

The train is historically the preferred means of transport for those visiting the Cinque Terre. The reasons are the fast connection, the low cost, and the uniqueness of this railway. The line runs along the edge of the coast, offering unique views of the villages and the sea of the Cinque Terre in the short openings between the mountains excavated, at the time, with considerable structural engineering work. The railway line is one of the few in the world to have such small stations they cannot contain trains. That’s why many passengers must get off in the tunnels between one station and another! During the peak tourist season, it is essential to know that the railway is overloaded and the trains extremely crowded. Therefore, it is advisable to choose less crowded travel times. It is also essential to know that trains departing from La Spezia are different. The trains calling in all five villages of the Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso) are some regionali trains and all the “Cinque Terre Express” trains. In the first case, check that the chosen station is included in the train stops. You can travel within the park with the Cinque Terre Card, with discounted or free services, the system with which the Cinque Terre National Park is financed.

Cinque Terre Train
Cinque Terre Train

The Cinque Terre Card

The Cinque Terre Card is a ticket that offers discounted or free services and is the system by which the Cinque Terre National Park is financed. The card’s primary purpose is to facilitate transport and allow hikers to trek on the paths of the park in a safe way. The Cinque Terre card from this year will be divided into two cards, which you can purchase based on the purpose of your stay in the Cinque Terre.

Where to buy the Cinque Terre Card

– In all the railway stations of the Cinque Terre, La Spezia and Levanto. – In the reception centers of the Cinque Terre. – By bus drivers, only in the Cinque Terre villages.

The Cinque Terre Card Includes:

Entrance to the paths of the Park Free entrance to naturalistic and cultural tours, as well as environmental workshops organized by the Cinque Terre Park Free shuttles between one village and another Free use of public toilets Reduction on tickets to visit the Museums of La Spezia

La Spezia and the Gulf of the Poets by bus

For those who reach La Spezia by train, it is possible to move easily in the city and in the villages of the Golfo dei Poeti by bus. Bus connections with the hinterland of Val di Vara and Val di Magra by bus are more complicated and rare. For all the information, it is possible to visit the website and the Atc La Spezia office (see map).