It must be said that the car is not the recommended transportation to visit the Cinque Terre… In reason of the few space we have between the hills and the sea, the roads are steep, strict and with lot of curves. Also, there’s few space for parking always outside of the centers which are closed to private trafic. These reasons should discourage the use of the car, considering that it’s much easier to visit the region by train, boat or hiking and that the only feasible use of your car is to drive to short/mid distance destinations ( i.e. Lunigiana, Garfagnana, Genova, Pisa, Lucca…)..
However, if you decide to come by car here’re the information:
You can reach the Cinque Terre by car from La Spezia by the State Route S.S. n°370 “Litoranea delle Cinque Terre”. The main motorway exit is “LA SPEZIA-S.STEFANO MAGRA” on the A12 Genova-Livorno or A15 Parma-La Spezia. From the gate, follow for La Spezia and once in town proceed along the seaside finding the signs for CINQUE TERRE-Portovenere. At a certain point these two directions will divide: you will proceed straight up the slope in direction Manarola-Riomaggiore.
–Riomaggiore is the first town, 12 Km far from La Spezia; few hundreds meters after the second tunnel you’ll find the notice on the main road and you’ve to drive down-slope on the right. The last 2 kilometers before Riomaggiore are not very comfortable, even more in high season when the cars are parked on one side of the road, making it strict. Parking is allowed for free along part of the road (please pay attention to the notices) or you can park inside a parking lot at the very end of it; the last hundreds meters of road are reserved parking for residents. You can get more information once there asking in the little office.
–Manarola is the second town, 14 km from La Spezia, right at the end of the State Route S.S. n°370 after the third tunnel. Same situation as above for parking.
–Corniglia is the third town, 25 km from La Spezia. Few meters after the third tunnel on the State Route S.S. n°370 you find the notice for Corniglia Vernazza and Monterosso on the right, up-slope. The road is now steep, not as wide as before and with lot of curves. You’ve to pass the little settlements of Groppo and Volastra and after 7 kilometers you’ll find the cross for Corniglia and Vernazza on the left, down-slope. Drive carefully in this part because it’s really strict. Taking to the left at the next cross by the village of San Bernardino, you’ll arrive in Corniglia after 3 kilometers. To park in Corniglia can be difficult.
–Vernazza fourth town. Same directions as for Corniglia (see above); at the last cross by san Bernardino drive to the right. Also in Vernzza the last part of street is reserved for residents.
–Monterosso is the last of the five towns, 35 Km from La Spezia. See the directions for Corniglia above but instead of turning left at the cross drive straight on the main road; 8 km after the deviation for Corniglia-Vernazza you’ve to take to the left (Monterosso is well noticed), pass near the sanctuarium of Soviore where there’s also a restoration point, and take again to the left at the last cross toward Monterosso.
*** To reach Monterosso there’s an alternative way that we recommend***:
To reach Monterosso the nearest motorway exit is “Carrodano” on the A12 Genova-Livorno. At the gate follow the notices for Levanto. At the bottom of the first descent you’re in the town of Levanto, proceed for the center turning right and then toward Monterosso on the left. Some kilometers up the slope and you’ll see the notices for Monterosso after a tunnel.
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT PARKING: Cinque Terre historical centres are closed to car trafic, that means nobody (not even residents!) can enter the towns with private cars.
To park represent a serious trouble for some visitors and that’s reasonable, due to the fact that to park is not comfortable, particularly in high season and even more on saturdays. In those moments, the recommendation is to stop beside the payment parking and wait for a place (there’s always a certain rotation and probably in 10/15 minutes you can find a place). Otherwise you can drive uphill and try to find a place along the parts of the road where parking is allowed by the notices. In this case the distance from the villages increases, but don’t worry, you won’t use the car anymore till your departure. And than…it’s time to put worries apart because in Cinque Terre you’ll walk!! That’s the main feature of Cinque Terre indeed, and what make them so unique.