As indicated from previous visitors, it is a long trip - about 14 hours. We were picked up in a van and driven to the meeting place in Florence. Then to Cinque Terre. Our guide, Iris, was fun and very organized. She kept a large group in line, being able to remember and get everyone when we were moving between villages on the trains.
We were disappointed in that we were unable to take the boat to get the full view of all the villages from the water. The sea was too rough. Instead we say 4 of the 5 villages by a whirlwind tour. We took the train between villages and spend 45 min or so with 3 of the 4 and 3 hours in one of the villages. Just enough for lunch and to walk around a little.
We were expecting quaint villages with narrow streets. What we found was a typical tourist trap with lots of shops catering to the many, many visitors. It was so crowded and it wasn't even high season. There was a cruise ship harbored, so we think that was a lot of the tourists. The trains were wall to wall people. We heard more English than any other language, meaning many, many Americans were visiting at the same time.
We were able to get some beautiful pictures, even with the crowds. It is a petty place. I think I would prefer to go in the early spring and take an individual tour to get more out of the history of the villages and get beyond the touristy things. Also, try to get on the boat to see the full view. That was the most disappointing part.
We used this tour to take us to our next stay Monterosso and did not take the bus back to Siena. The Cinque Terre was a favorite destination by all in our traveling party. The little towns were quite busy during the day, so we appreciated being there at night to explore. Monterosso's beaches were heavenly, and the food options were plenty! There was music at night in the square and lots of quaint shops. Our guide was very good, and extremely helpful. Be advised that it is a quite popular tour and when joining in from Siena, you take a small van to meet the bus at a designated location. All of the seats were sold on our tour, so when we met up with the bus, we were the last to board I think the tour originates in Florence so we were split up.
This tour should have gotten five stars because it was an amazing destination, but unfortunately our tour guide, Amadeus, was the worst guide we have ever encountered on any of our travels. He talked to us like we were all five year olds, then as the day went on he became more and more rude even going so far as swearing when he became frustrated!!! The local company that Viator used for this tour also neglected to tell us that they would be dropping us off in Florence where we would have to wait, on our own, for a smaller bus to pick us up to take us back to Siena. Amadeus just left us there, because, as he put it, he was off at 7:20 p.m. and we were no longer his responsibility!!!! This added another hour to an already very long day.The bus driver of the large bus not the smaller bus on this trip was also incredibly rude!! Viator if you want to maintain your reputation you should ensure that you don't ever use Amadeus or that bus driver on any of your tours again!!!
It was a very long day on a bus from Siena first to Florence than to Cinque Terre. I think we left at 7 AM and didn't get back to Sienna until about 11 PM. It took about 4 hours each way to get to the coast. Once there, we had very little time at each of the 4 cities we went to - less than an hour in all except Monterosso. I admit there is not much to see in a couple as they are very small - particularly Manarola. It seemed that most of our time was spent checking our watches to make sure we got back to the meeting point in time to hop on a train to go to the next city. We did enjoy our lunch in Monterosso. The lunch was part of our trip an in a very nice restaurant with excellent food. The tour guides were good and kept us together in areas that were pretty crowded - especially around the train stations. The scenery and the ambiance of the area made the trip worth it and at the end of the day, we were tired but glad we got a chance to see the area.
Cinque Terre was amazing, but for the tour, we have few remarks:
- Please share along with booking a mobile number to be able to reach you early in the morning in case we are running late or lost
- please have available on the bus chargers to be able to charge our phones
- the lunch venue was a disaster: not facing the beach the food was below average the server/ manager was in a bad mood and throwing the dishes on the table
- we were always showing on time but waiting for at lest 15 minutes for trains although they were not always late
- the driver of the bus from Sienna to Florence and the way back was friendly, talkative and interesting
- it was a perfect day and each managed to make it wonderful