There’s no denying that Italy’s best-kept secret is out (Thanks, Rick Steves). After spending a meager 1.5 days in Cinque Terre back in 2014, I knew it was not enough time, and desperately wanted to go back. Luckily, one of my friends/colleagues was right on board, and we spontaneously booked tickets to the five villages via Pisa during one of our long weekends towards the end of May.
Pisa is a charming town!
Unfortunately, everyone and their mom had the same idea, and I found my perfect little Italian getaway bombarded with hoards French and American tourists (really, I didn’t even feel like I was in Italy anymore!) I’m not sure if it was because it was a long weekend or simply because the Euro is at its weakest, but regardless, there were too many tourists. Thankfully, Joe and I were on the same page– escape the crowds without skimping the hiking trails. So, we, along with our new Canadian friend Lea, spent the long weekend hiking the trails less traveled. Although we spent a few hours hiking along the coast, most of our days were spent exploring different, more difficult trails that led further up the hills and into the woods, but still offered the same, if not better, more spectacular views of the sea and the towns. (To give an example, on one of the only open coastal trails, we actually had to WAIT IN LINE because there were so many tourists, but when we hiked some of the more difficult, less-popular trails on our own, we ran into maximum 10 people in about five hours.)
Cinque Terre is starting to become overrun, but there are still ways to make it authentic. Besides sticking to off the beaten path trails, we ate most of our meals from the local shops, stopped by the local Lemon Festival, and tried to use our limited Italian to communicate. I found that even a simple Buongiorno made all the difference. We spent our evenings chilling on the port with Italian wine and cheese in Riomaggiore (which felt significantly less crowded), enjoying the sunsets and the sounds of the waves lapping up against the buildings.
Have you ever been to Cinque Terre, or an overcrowded destination? How did you make it more authentic?