We left Camping Riarena and headed for our next destination Devia Marina, passing through the city of Genoa, then taking the scenic route along the coast road (SS1) as we wanted to call into Portofino on the way. However, it was very difficult to get parked anywhere near Portofino, the closest we got was to the town of Santa Margherita where all the parking places had been taken up and we could not find any parking for campervans or motorhomes so drove back out again and went straight to Devia Marina. The first campsite we had chosen to stay at was full up so we ended up at the next campsite, which was also full but were offered a couple of places in the car park with electricity, which we took!
We had chosen Devia Marina as a base to explore the Cinque Terre, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1997, consisting of five villages, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, steeply terraced cliffs and a network of 30 spectacular walking trails, most of them very steep.
We caught the train from Devia Marina to Levanto where we had to change trains in order to purchase a one day Cinque Terre Express rail ticket that allows you to hop on and off the trains between the five villages and entrance to the National Park (required if you want to walk any of the trails).
Our first stop was Riomaggiore, the easternmost village with colourful houses tucked into a deep ravine that leads to a small harbour, a couple of small churches and a ruined castle on the headland. We had planned to take the easy coastal path from Riomaggiore to Manarola along the Via dell’Amore, just a 20 minute stroll but at the time of visiting, the path was closed so we had to take the train.
Manarola is famous for its sweet Sciacchetra wine. We walked down to the water and along the coastal path to the lookout towards Corniglia and stopped for some lunch in the shade. We walked back into town and looked in envy at the sunbathers and swimmers as we passed them by and continued to the back of the town, leaving Diane and Tony to take a rest as John and I walked up to the bell tower.
We continued our journey to Corniglia the small “middle” village that sits atop a 100m-high rocky promontory, the only Cinque Terre village without direct access to the sea. From the train station, you then have to walk up the Lardarina, a 377 brick stairway or jump on a shuttle bus, which we only realised after we had walked up! The stairway was pretty tough going in the heat, so much so that when we reached the top we were extremely hot and sweaty. Diane has a bad knee so opted to take a seat about a third of the way up and wait for us to come back down again. The village was very quaint and worth the walk up, (or a shuttle bus up!).
After all that exercise we continued to Vernazza with its small harbour lined with little cafes and gelato shops, a perfect place to stop for a beer or an Aperol Spritzer, commonly served in northern Italy. It was here that we decided that we couldn’t possibly carry on to our fifth and final village, Monterosso and would continue there the next day. So after a stroll around Vernazza, we took the train back to Levanto where we then had to wait another hour for the local train to Devia Marina. After arriving at Denia Marina we waited for the camping shuttle bus to pick us up but as we had left the timetable behind we weren’t sure what time it would come for us. After waiting a further half an hour, we blagged a lift with a neighbouring campsite shuttle bus not saying a word whilst grabbing the last four seats. It had been a long day!
Today we decided to drive to the final village Monterosso, hopefully park at the car park by the beach that we had seen from the train and spend some time on the beach after visiting the town, We took the coastal road passing through Levanto, a very windy, twisty route with plenty of hairpin bends but fabulous scenery from a great height! There are two roads in to Monterosso and unfortunately for us we took the wrong one! (It wasn’t that obvious that we had to take the first road in but we will know for another time. This meant we had to park way up the seriously steep hill and walk down into the town, which was very pleasant and I think one of my favourites. There are two parts, the old town and the new town, connected by a tunnel or a path over the top. The new town has a long beach with plenty of sunbeds for hire and the old town has a smaller beach, narrow streets and a couple of churches.
After the energetic walk back up the hill to the campervan we made our way back to Devia Marina in the hope that we might get close enough to the beach to park up and have a swim. No such luck! The motorhome parking was a good mile out of town and we really didn’t have the energy to do any more walking so returned back to the campsite and to relax our aching calf muscles!
If you are planning on walking the Cinque Terre trails, it is worthwhile checking which paths are closed before you buy your one day rail ticket for €16 each which includes entrance to the park. Entrance to the park is €7.50 each however, we couldn’t fathom out how anyone would know if you had paid or not but maybe if you walk the trails there are check points? Levanto is a good place to base yourself as the Cinque Terre Express card starts and finishes there and it is also possible to travel between the five villages by train for less when not including the park entrance fee. There are a few campsites in Levanto plus a Camperstop that we passed on our way through. At the time of our visit, the campsites were busy due to the good weather so it could be better to pre-book if you are looking for something specific such as a swimming pool to come back to!
All along this coastline from Genoa to the Cinque Terre is extremely difficult to park, particularly close to the beach with a campervan or motorhome. A motorised two wheeler including electric bikes would come in really handy here.
We stayed at Camping La Sfinge in Devia Marina, a reasonable campsite with good showers, washing facilities, free wifi and a free bus shuttle service to and from the beach and the train station.