Italy’s Cinque Terre beautiful but busy.
The Cinque Terre has fast become one of Italy’s most visited destinations.
Five neighbouring colourful villages perfectly placed against the seaside cliffs northern Italy – a true are a feast for the eyes, and a photographer’s dream (even for amateur Instagrammers like me).
I visited in June after stunning pictures of these towns on Pinterest led me to believe these villages were quiet, quaint and almost undiscovered… looking back it seems silly that I could be this naive.
Obviously, the villages are well and truly discovered – in fact, they thrive on tourists. We’ve all seen the photos across our social media and we probably all have a handful of friends who have been there. The Cinque Terre is also a popular excursion option for many cruise liners in the Mediterranean – their guests flood the villages by day and cause you to wait in line everywhere, at restaurants, train stations, on hiking trails and even at the gelato stalls. (I know, #firstworldproblems – I’ll stop now.)
The villages are still really quaint, but definitely not quiet.
But don’t let me put you off – it’s a stunning part of Italy and I’m glad I made the trip.
We stayed three days in the area, basing ourselves in what I think was one of the best villages, Vernazza. For us, this was definitely enough time; we saw all the villages, went on several long walks and ate a lot of fresh pasta (mmmm, pasta). We travelled mostly by train, using tourist cards which worked really well – except for one time when we forgot to validate them and got charged a hefty 70E each…
The times I enjoyed the villages most were first thing in the morning and then just before nightfall when there weren’t any cruise ship tourists around. The streets were so much more peaceful and the buildings looked stunning in the changing light.
While most of the shops and restaurants in each of the villages sell exactly the same things at more or less the same prices, there were some key differences in the towns….
Monterosso al Mare:
I’m fairly sure this the biggest of the five villages, as stretches along quite a long bay in comparison to the others. It has a great beach – perfect for laying out and swimming. We had hoped to do the walk between here and Vernazza, but weren’t able to after bad weather had made parts of the track unpassable. Something I’m not actually that bummed about as I’ve heard that this section of the walk is pretty intense – mostly uphill and very rugged. Plus, this meant we had more time in the village, eating pasta (mmmm, pasta) and drinking wine, which was fine with me.
We stayed in an AirBnB in Vernazza (click here for a $50 credit – first time users only) after I read a few blogs recommending it… and, well now I’ll join the list of blogs recommending this! Vernazza is small enough to be super charming but also big enough that you have different options for dinner and will get a seat in a decent restaurant. It’s one of the prettiest villages, best photographed from the hill opposite the harbour (about a 15 min walk from the centre of Vernazza) you’ll know when you’re at the photo spot as there’ll probably be a few people waiting for their turn to take this Pinterest-famous shot.
Corniglia is located on the top of a hill, which is great in that the village offers some pretty amazing views AND it’s probably the least popular (a good thing!) so it doesn’t get the huge crowds of tourists like the other villages. But I imagine if you stayed here, carrying your bag up the hill wouldn’t be so much fun – and it seemed like the smallest village.
This was my favourite village – just because of the way the houses met the sea… so picturesque. It’s a great one for swimming too with a lagoon-like area at the bottom of the town. There’s also some restaurants here with great views, though I can’t vouch for their food as we didn’t actually eat there… wish we did though!
This place is also beautiful, though we didn’t spend a lot of time in this village – just because we were exhausted after a long day of village-hopping.
I definitely recommend a visit to the Cinque Terre – unless you plan on hiking the entire thing (assuming it’s open) I think a 2 -3 day visit would be plenty. Other than these hikes, there’s really only eating, swimming and general relaxing to be done there.
An interesting addition (which we didn’t have time for) would be Portovenere, at the southern tip of this peninsula. It looks like there are some awesome old church ruins down there, and as it’s not got the fame of the Cinque Terre, perhaps it wouldn’t be so busy.
If you’ve been, let me know!