Escaping the Crowds in Cinque Terre

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.

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 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.)

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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?

Bisous,

Dana

13 thoughts on “Escaping the Crowds in Cinque Terre

  1. i went back in September 2009, just before starting my assistantship in Nice, and loved it. It was, for me, a perfect temperature for walking, and while there were definitely people around, I don’t remember it being too crowded. That was before the floods – glad to see it looks back to normal. I went to Genoa just afterwards, which is definitely not so touristy. I try to go out of season as much as possible, or to less touristy places. Counting down to Albania in two weeks!

    1. There are still several coastal trails closed due to the mudslides (Only 2 are open, but last year there was only 1!) and as those are the most well-known and popular they are also the most crowded– ironically they are the most difficult of the coastal trails and I think it surprised a lot of inexperienced hikers!

      I think shoulder season is the best time to visit- nice weather, some things still open, but a lot less tourists!

      Albania sounds fun!

      I was also going to ask you– any chance you could host a couch surfer (me!) the night of June 30? or will you be in albania? I have a 6 : 45 am flight from brussels 😦

      1. Oh, I’m surprised they are still mostly closed. I’m glad I went before, then. You never know though… I kick myself now for not going to Crimea when I was in Ukraine. Not that it’s all about me of course! 🙂

        😦 Sorry, I will have left by then. Good luck finding somewhere!

    2. There are still several coastal trails closed due to the mudslides (Only 2 are open, but last year there was only 1!) and as those are the most well-known and popular they are also the most crowded– ironically they are the most difficult of the coastal trails and I think it surprised a lot of inexperienced hikers!

    1. you must go! You can buy maps upon arrival in La Spazia! The trails are marked- the blue ones are the popular coastal trails, but the ones marked in red are the more advanced and less popular ones because they take you into the woods and up into the “mountains.” Some of the ones we did were a lot less maintained, but we saw a total of 10 people in about 6 hours, compared to having to WAIT IN LINE on one of the coastal trails! 🙂

  2. Glad you had fun, but sorry there were so many tourists!! My dad and I went there seven years ago; we hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza. We had NO idea what we were in for–we were under the impression that it was a leisurely walk, so we didn’t even bring any water with us, and we ended up hiking waaay far up into the hills! Sounds like you may have gone on that same hike too 🙂 We went in June, and I don’t remember it being too crowded, but I’m sure it’s changed a lot since 2008.

    1. haha oh gosh! The Monterosso-Vernazza trail is the most difficult, too! That is one of two only coastal trails still open (due to mudslides!) so there were too many tourists, we found ourselves having to wait in line on the trails! We decided to steer off after that!

      We lucked out with weather though and had a great time! Lots of study abroad students with the “Europe-is-my-playground” mentality!

  3. It sounds to me like you managed the crowds by doing what you have to do…finding alternate routes and venues to check out. I haven’t been to CT but I would like to go… and I am concerned about when the best time might be. If it was that crowded in May, I wonder when is still a good time to go but with fewer people? Happy travels, Cheryl

    1. When I went last year at the beginning of May, it was much less crowded than towards the end of May. I’d say shoulder season, mid-April thru mid-May, or September is best. Or, preferably, go during the week! There are undoubtfully less people because it is a total weekend destination as well!

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