Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Cinque Terre, beautiful but...

More than six months ago we visited the Cinque Terre.
We joined our friends Bruce and Therese, who were staying in Manarola, one of the five fishing villages that make up the Cinque Terre which has become one of Italy's most popular tourist destinations.  Early June was a great time to visit. The sunshine was full of spring warmth, perfect weather for walking.
Many people visit these little villages throughout the year.  Some catch the train from town to town, alighting to stroll through the quaint towns perched along the ragged cliffs, while others come to hike along the coastal track between the five villages.
Map of walking tracks on the Cinque Terre from this link.
Unfortunately when we were there, the only open section of the blue coastal track, shown on the map, was from Monterrosso to Vernazza.  It wasn't possible to complete the entire coastal walk as many of the lower paths remained closed, a consequence of the terrible floods and mudslides of October 2011.  Although the towns of Vernazza and Monterosso, which were almost destroyed by the terrible rivers of mud, have been rebuilt, a subsequent rock fall in September 2012 on the path between Manarola and Riomaggiore resulted in further delays to the re-opening of the coastal track.
The scar from one of the landslides blocking the track is still visible from Manarola.
We started our coastal walk by catching the ferry from Manarola to Monterosso.  It was a short, but lovely ferry ride.  The views of the clifftop towns from the ferry gave a different perspective of this stunning coast.  

From Monterosso, the largest of the five towns, we enjoyed walking along the coastal track to the little port of Vernazza, where we stopped for lunch.  Although the rocky path was busy with other walkers, which was a little scary as it was very narrow in parts, it was an easy and most rewarding walk as the views were constantly spectacular.
Like so many of our adventures in Northern Italy, it was difficult to take ten steps without stopping for a photo.

But the downside of these spectacular views and picturesque villages are the crowds.  
Although it wasn't summer, all the towns thronged with large tour groups throughout the day.   The popularity of the villages, and the ease of access by train, or boat, has meant that some of the charm of these once isolated fishing villages has gone.
While we enjoyed the coastal walk despite the constant flow of walkers, some of the higher paths  were more pleasant as they were quieter, although the walking was much more strenuous.  
In the evenings many of the large tour groups depart on jam-packed trains, leaving the Cinque Terre towns more pleasantly tranquil.

However, in our opinion the Cinque Terre is a little overrated.  Yes, the views are stunning but other parts of Liguria are also very beautiful.  The crowds, even during late spring, could be overwhelming. And the accommodation was expensive compared to other parts of Italy.  Our recommendation would be to stay a night or two in either Manarola or Vernazza. Enjoy whatever parts of the coastal walk are open, try one or two of the higher walks, and then explore other parts of the equally beautiful Ligurian coast around Rapallo using the excellent ferry system.  For more information about the Ligurian Coast CLICK HERE.

Where we stayed...
Before booking accommodation closely read the negative and positive reviews on sites such as Trip Advisor or Booking.com.  It is best to book early.  We didn't.  

Where we ate...
We enjoyed some delicious seafood meals which were reasonably priced, although none of the restaurants were outstanding.  For some specific suggestions about where to eat in and around Manarola, particularly if you have coeliac disease, read this excellent blogpost by our friend Therese CLICK HERE.

Prossima volta, Natale in nord Italia.  


  1. Thank you for your honest review on Cinque Terre. It is a region in Italy that I would love to visit, but I am always put off by huge crowds. The views look amazing and I love the idea of doing the coastal walks (and taking hundreds of photos). Are there some other places in the Liguria that you could recommend?

    1. Yes I am too Kathy. We enjoyed our couple of days on the Cinque Terra but other spots like Rapallo (I did a blog post on it), Camogli and Levanto also have lots of tourists during July and August, mostly Italians. We particularly liked Rapallo as the ferry trips from there are lovely. It seemed more authentic perhaps, because the large tour groups weren't there, or aren't concentrated into a small space, as happens on the Cinque Terra.