Manarola, pictured here, is one of the Cinque Terre which are actually in Liguria but are frequently visited from a vacation base in Tuscany. Cinque Terre means the “five lands” and refers to five fishing villages perched on the high and steep coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Although at least one or two nights are recommended for a satisfying visit to this extremely scenic but inaccessible stretch of coastline, it is in fact possible to visit the Cinque Terre from your base in Tuscany during a single day.
The easy way to do a one day trip to the Cinque Terre from Tuscany is to hire a driver/guide for the day although be sure that he has the experience required to navigate the narrow roads of the area. My recommendation is Giovanni Sirabella of Tuscany Sunflower Tours. I don’t recommend attempting to explore the Cinque Terre by car on your own.
Here’s one way to do an independent single day excursion from Florence to the Cinque Terre by train. First, start early! Around 6 am would be a good time. There is a train from Florence to La Spezia that bypasses Pisa. This might save you valuable time since you won’t need to change at Pisa. You’ll most likely need to change in La Spezia for the last few minutes on the train route. Journey time 2-3 hours. (There might also be a seasonal a train from Florence direct through to the Cinque Terre on Sundays.) Descend from the train at Vernazza for breakfast and then hike north to Monterossa. Next, catch the boat going south and disembark at Manarola. Hike south on the Via dell’ Amore and end your day in Riomaggiore. Catch the train there to head back to Florence.
More about the Cinque Terre of Liguria.