How Accessible is Cinque Terre
By John Sage
On the rugged Italian Riviera coastline, you’ll find the incredible Cinque Terre, a string of centuries-old seaside villages. Peppered with colorful houses, vineyards, steep terraces, fishing boats and delicious pesto, this gem of the Liguria region is a treat for all visitors, including disabled travelers and their families.
While Cinque Terre isn’t generally perceived as an easy place to visit for wheelchair users due to hilly terrain, lack of accessible transportation options and sights being spread out throughout the villages, it is possible to have an enjoyable time here with the right amount of planning. Unlike many other old Italian cities, you won’t be challenged with lots of hard to navigate cobblestoned areas.
While you may want to come back to Cinque Terre again and again, for a first-time visitor to the area, I recommend a minimum of 4 days:
Suggested itinerary (the quickest stay I can recommend)
- Day 1 – Arrive in La Spezia train station. Take accessible van to accessible hotel. Relax in town.
- Day 2 – Accessible guided tour
- Day 3 – Accessible beach visit
- Day 4 – Accessible van to La Spezia train station. Train to Milan, Florence, Rome, Venice, or Naples
Best Aspects of Cinque Terre Disabled Access
World class destination – I have heard from many (able-bodied) people that Cinque Terre is their favorite destination anywhere. It has breathtaking views and a slow pace. The area provides a feeling of remote authenticity, with few roads, perfectly preserved architecture and a network of stunning coastal views.
Short distances inside towns – Unlike when visiting many other European cities, the walking/rolling distances inside the Cinque Terre villages are short. As an example, the map below shows the furthest distance that someone would have to walk/roll in Vernazza and it’s only 500 meters.
Some towns have accessible public bathrooms – Accessible restrooms are not always easy to find when traveling, especially public, accessible restrooms. However, in Cinque Terre, some towns do have them. An example from the village of Corniglia is shown below. This particular one had a moderately steep ramp and no toilet seat but plenty of space to navigate a wheelchair.
Some towns have accessible restaurants –While the terrain is hilly in many places, it is entirely possible to enjoy the delicious seafood and pasta of the region in one of the accessible restaurants with outdoor seating. Below is an example from Vernazza with completely flat and smooth access.
Easily connect with other destinations like Florence and Milan – By using accessible van transfers to La Spezia train station, you can easily reach cities such as Florence and Milan by accessible train for a multi-city Italian trip!
Most Challenging Aspects of Cinque Terre Disabled Access
Almost every street is hilly – The Cinque Terre towns are some of the hilliest in all of Italy. Exploring on your own can be difficult but with a set tour itinerary and a hotel that is confirmed accessible, you will be able to enjoy the area by avoiding the most inaccessible places.
Many parts of the towns can only be reached by stairs – For the locals, the stairs are a way of life. This is how they have built their homes in the hilly landscape. For wheelchair users, the stairs pose a big challenge to visiting Cinque Terre. See examples from Vernazza and Corniglia below
Difficult to find accessible bathrooms – While there are some accessible public restrooms available in some places, most restaurants have steps and narrow doors leading to the toilet.
Cinque Terre ferries are not accessible – Ferries are not accessible due to narrow gangways that do not have a ramp to the ground. When I was here, I even saw a stroller be carried above the gangway because it was too wide to roll between the handrails. See photo example on the right.
Scenic Hiking trails are not accessible –The scenic hiking trains are not accessible. Most of them have steep uneven ground often with stairs. If this changes, our accessible trip planners will be the first to know.
Trains are not accessible – Only one of the five train stations has an elevator and they don’t have a lift to help people get on and off the train. NOTE: If this changes, our accessible trip planners will be the first to know.
Driving on the mountain roads is challenging and can be downright scary – Many sections are steep, winding, have no guardrails, and look like they are wide enough for one car…even though there are cars coming in both directions!
Restricted access for vehicles to enter towns – Most visitors have to park far outside of town then walk a long distance downhill into the towns. Only residents, delivery people, and others with special permission can enter the town. See photo below:
Steps into both Monterosso churches – Photos of the entrances to the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Oratoria dei Neri shown below. Both are inaccessible due to stairs.
Want a 100% Accessible Vacation?