The day I travelled to Cinque Terre was quite possibly the hardest day I've had whilst traveling to date. I don't get home sick often, as I keep up to date with my family back home and am constantly itching to explore new places and things. However, on this particular day I was very very homesick. Unfortunately last week my loving grandfather passed away and the day I travelled to Cinque Terre was his funeral. My seemingly unstoppable wanderlust had quickly turned to homelust. As I could not attend his memorial in person, I decided to turn the whole day into a memorial. Whether on the 7 hour return journey from Rome, or the 6 hours I spent wandering 4 of the 5 Cinque Terre towns, I was sure to be reflecting on happy memories we shared together or humming one of the songs that remind me of him such as 'You are my sunshine' or 'Jackson' by Johnny Cash. To me, he was there with me and to me, it ended up being a very special day that will remain in my memories for many years to come.
Whether for contemplative purposes or not, a trip to Cinque Terre is always a good idea and easily added into any trip through Italy - especially as a stop on route to Milan from Rome or Florence. As I was only heading south from Rome, I decided just to organize a day trip to the sea side towns from Rome. If you wish to do the same here's my itinerary which worked out perfectly for me with plenty of time in the four main towns (I've been told by multiple accounts that Corniglia isn't worth the climb up to so I chose to ignore it).
Rome -> La Spezia
To get the most out of your day book a seat on the first train of the day that runs direct to La Spezia which departs Roma Termini at 06:15 and arrives at La Spezia at 09:08. If you book your seat in advance you can get it for the low price of 15 euro. If you book seats on the right hand side (I.e. Seats C and D) you will be treated to rolling fields of sunflowers as the sun rises out your window. When you arrive at La Spezia head towards platform 1 and ascend the stairs to the left side. Here you will find a shop called 'Cinque Terre Point' (pictured below). If you go inside the lovely ladies will happily sell you a 1 day Cinque Terre pass for 12 euro. This pass will give you unlimited travel between the five towns as well as access to the hiking trails and free wifi at all of the train stations. They will also give you an updated timetable for the trains between the towns, though keep in mind most of them (especially those running from La Spezia to Monterosso are often late and heavily overcrowded in the summer season.
La Spezia -> Riomaggiore
The first train from La Spezia to Riomagiore (during the summer atleast) departs at 09:50 and arrives at Riomaggiore at 09:56. I recommend first hitting up the supermarket just slightly up the hill when you first exit the station for some fresh fruit and water. Then you have two options: 1. you can follow the signs to the marina and find a nice spot at the end of the rocks to sit down and enjoy your food and the view, or 2. you can climb the stairs just after the supermarket to a nice vista point atop the town where there is a park bench just asking you to relax on it (see below).
Riomaggiore -> Manarola
I had originally planned to reach Manarola by means of the 20 minute hike from Riomaggiore. Unfortunately, it along with the hike from Manarola to Corniglia were still closed during my visit. Instead, after spending an hour in Riomaggiore, I caught the train to Manarola. It was in Manarola when I really wished that I had brought my swimsuit, as I watched so many happy people swimming in the marina area and bravely jumping off of the rocks. Instead I spent most of my hour in Manarola watching from above on the clifftop to the side of the marina. Although the track is currently closed, I also recommend following the track (just look for signs guiding you to the Corniglia hike) for 5-10 minutes to see a picturesque vista of the town of Corniglia sitting upon the neighboring clifftop.
Manarola -> Vernazza
My google imaging and researching had left me particularly infatuated with Vernazza. With this is mind I had budgeted 2 hours to leisurely explore the town. Feeling inspired by the beauty I began the 1.5 hour hike to the next town Monterosso. Although I didn't have the time or the sunscreen to allow me to finish the hike (it was a 38 degree day), I did continue 20 minutes in before turning around. I can only imagine how beautiful the entire hike would be, but if you're not up for it I still definitely recommend continuing 5-10 minutes into the hike just past the control office to find yourself at a postcard perfect vista point. There are once again clear signs pointing you to the hike, but if you can't find them just follow any of the stair up to the right side of the marina.
Vernazza -> Monterosso
As well as being the furthest away from La Spezia, I chose to visit Monterosso last because there are more frequent trains running from Monterosso to La Spezia which do not stop at the other towns. It ended up working out perfectly as the town involved little hiking and one could just simply grab some gelato and a sunbed and people watch. Even if you decide to go swimming the 1.5 hours I spent here would be plenty. Additionally the church in the centre of the main town area is definitely worth a visit, if only for its Alice in Wonderland-esque design.
Monterosso -> La Spezia
As my train back to Rome was at a specific time I chose to arrive back at La Spezia an hour before my train to Rome was due to depart. This also gave me time to wander the town full of beautiful architecture, fruit trees and most importantly dogs!
La Spezia -> Rome
There are three trains that you can decide between to return to Rome (all of which can be booked here). There is a 4:17pm train which arrives to Roma Termini at 8:03pm OR a 6:17pm train which arrives to Roma Termini at 10:03pm OR a quicker 20:07pm train which arrives to Roma Termini at 10:54pm.