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txtravels Mar 3rd, 2017 10:41 AM

Is the Cinque Terre overrated?
We are planning 10 full days on the ground in northern Italy and maybe a brief visit into Switzerland. One of the main reasons for this trip was to see Lake Como and the Cinque Terre. We will be there end of April into first week of May.

We will stay in Manarola in the CT, but I feel like half of what I read is people complaining how overrated it is and how miserable the day trippers make it. Right now I have us there 3 nights (2.5 days). We are hikers, but I understand there may not be a ton of trails open and we risk spring storms (from what I have read). I feel like this is enough time, but worry if I should only make it 2 nights (1.5 day) because of fear of bad weather, read there is not a lot to do besides seeing villages, hikes, and swimming (will still be too cold to swim), and it being overrated (wasting my time.

We enjoy hiking, eating, drinking, would love to explore a vineyard, and seeing new cultures. Watching the sunset and just chilling would be cool too.

What do y'all think about CT and how much time to spend there (especially at this time of year)?

yorkshire Mar 3rd, 2017 11:42 AM

I would not necessarily say overrated, but I would call it a victim of its popularity. Some places are not meant to handle mass tourism, and when you read the reports of people who visited prior to this influx, it sounds dreamy. Many still find it so. I was not among those. While one should not always expect to be alone on a trail, it is just too much.
No doubt the beauty is astounding, and the convenience to get somewhere like that so easily by train is great. However, there are other pretty coastal places in Italy (shocker). I am just of the opinion that I will keep going to the alternates.
If you are a hiker, then you will have no trouble getting to the high trails, which I suspect are much less crowded. Many of the currently closed trails may be open when you are there, hard to say. The "easy" trail sounds like it will never reopen. So, as someone staying the night you should be able to enjoy quiet mornings and evenings, and you will be far on the trails when the towns erupt midday. I don't think your time frame is the riskiest in terms of weather, but you could book someplace with free cancellation and play it by ear.

StCirq Mar 3rd, 2017 11:42 AM

I was there 25+ years ago when it was magical. Today I would spend zero days/nights there. IMO it's been completely ruined. There are SO many other places to go that aren't.

elberko Mar 3rd, 2017 11:47 AM

I have no idea if this website accurately shows all the cruise ships in port, but if that's the main reason for overcrowding, it looks like April isn't too bad , depending on the date:

sundriedtopepo Mar 3rd, 2017 12:08 PM

Friends of mine were there last Early May and they said it was fine. But they did find long waits for restaurants if you don't have a reservation.

jent103 Mar 3rd, 2017 12:17 PM

I stayed in Vernazza two years ago in early May, and had the same worry when we got off the train mid-afternoon in a <i>very</i> crowded train station. But we had a lovely time. I can't compare it to 25 years ago, but I did enjoy what it is now. I'm not sure I would if I went in August, but... that's not when you're going. I had wanted to visit for 15 years and was so glad I went.

Is it full of tourists? Absolutely. We heard as much English as Italian (and some German). There were signs in a couple of cafes in Vernazza telling you whether they do or do not support the eating of eggs for breakfast. :) Again, though, that doesn't mean we had a bad time. It is a stunning sight still. We did what I imagine is the most popular hike, between Vernazza and Monterosso - there were tons of people and we had to stop at one point because the trail was too narrow for two-way traffic, but it was fine. Again: likely to be a different story at the height of summer.

It is a pretty drastic change when the day trippers (I certainly include myself in that group) start to arrive in the villages. One morning we were eating breakfast at the Blue Marlin in Vernazza, which is on the main street just down from the train station. We arrived between 8 and 8:30 and things were quiet and peaceful, then the first train of the day came and there was a stream of people headed for the shops and the main trails. I think as long as you're prepared for it you'll be fine.

These photos might be helpful.

sundriedtopepo Mar 3rd, 2017 12:21 PM

As long as you expect touristy not authentic I think you're okay. Seeing a place before it's popular kind of ruins it for a person when they go back later. I feel that way about certain spots in Mexico that have gone from little fishing villages to cities full of cruise ship tourists and shops. Nothing stays the same.

But CT is still a beautiful spot and that's why everyone wants to see it.

Macross Mar 3rd, 2017 12:21 PM

I was there the first week of May and it was wonderful. I loved it and the hike is not to be missed. Take a couple of bottles of water with you. I didn't think it was overly crowded in May.

rbciao47 Mar 3rd, 2017 12:32 PM

In 1994 we made a day trip to Vernazza, Manarola, and one other place and it was terrific. We were the only Americans in the three towns we visited and they were sleepy little places.

We made another day trip in 2013 and it was packed, packed, and packed. We left Pisa with train reservations, a connection in La Spezia, and the destination was Vernazza. Our train was so JAMMED we had to take a later train. Upon arrival in Vernazza it was shoulder to shoulder with other tourists. We made our way down to the ferry and sailed to Monterossa, which was less crowded.

In 1994 the shops sold locally made products and in 2013 they sold the typical tourist schlock.

Those were our experiences, so you can decide for yourself.

Buon viaggio,

frencharmoire Mar 3rd, 2017 12:59 PM

Rather depends on what your baseline is (possibly drawn from where you've been) and what descriptions you've gotten of it.

I feel the Amalfi Coast and Capri are overrated. Somewhat similary Taormina -- although at least has world class historic sights + an active volcano.

For me le Cinque Terre is a colorful, earthy place, still visibly tied to fishing and wine production despite its popularity with foreign tourists.

Why don't you go to le Cinque Terre and if the crowds bother you, go hiking in another town? At the time of year you are going the midday temperatures will be fine for hiking, so you can get on a train and go to Bonassola to hike, or take a boat to Portovenere and hike.

If you like to get up early in the morning, you can probably be done with a major hike before the day trippers arrive. Then get on the train and go for lunch someplace else -- like Sestri Levante. Really sweet town. Or Chiavari. Or Monegila (nobody goes to Moneglia, but it is really very pretty). Even just going to Levanto for lunch you'll probably have the place to yourself. The tourists there will have gone to le Cinque Terre.

Then when you come back later in the day to shower & such, the tourists will be disappearing and you'll have the village to yourself.

By the way, I quite like Manarola. My happiest memory of le Cinque Terre is the plain pretty church there. (If you enjoy visiting churches, there is a more elaborate but rather moving one in Levanto).

frencharmoire Mar 3rd, 2017 01:10 PM

Here's a little area near le Cinque Terre called Framura. If you go hiking there, your biggest worry will not be crowds, but wondering if you're too isolated, anxiously hoping to see another human being. Just kidding -- there are houses all around and tiny hamlets. But you can definitely have a tranquil time outdoors. Bring water.

iris1745 Mar 3rd, 2017 01:29 PM

We were there 6/7 years ago in July and walked 6 of the 8 mile trail.

There were 12 of us and 8 did the whole 6 miles and the other 4 took the train.

No one had any problems. When we finished the walk, it was easy to find a restaurant.

Looking down on these villages was wonderful.

We don't mind the tourists. That's what we are!!!

But we didn't stay overnight.

PalenQ Mar 3rd, 2017 01:48 PM

At that time of year it should be fine as others say above and you can always take the train quickly to other places north and south of CT if you find too many crowds and not enough to do - Santa Margharita Ligure is a sweet town and you can hike from there to Portofino and or San Fruttoso(sp?)- Camogli, Levanto are all nice seaside towns that are tourist towns but more real towns too than tiny CT villages.

But the mantra often seems to be like Yogi Berra once said of some popular restaurant - 'no one goes there anymore because it's too crowded'!!!

In summer yes it is too mobbed in small villages that, wedged in between sea and hills, have very little room for the mobs. But there are trails other than the main trails that are not crowded.

I'd stick with your plans.

Adelaidean Mar 3rd, 2017 01:51 PM

We were in CT July last year (against most advice) and are very glad we did (3 nights in Vernazza).

My photos are about the 2nd page of this album

I agree with jent103, yes, arriving by train into Vernazza and disembarking with the hordes was dispiriting, but it is a destination you can enjoy if you accept these are tiny villages and plan well. Obviously these villages have limited capacity to absorb the volume of visitors, but strangely those little alleys were empty, and the crowd seems to head to the harbour, the pizza places, the souvenir shops.

Those empty, interesting side alleys off the main street make for wonderful exploring, we opted to daytrip to Portovenere one day (fabulous), and started the trail to Monterosso early another day, enjoyed a few hours at the Vernazza Wine Experience (recommended). We did enjoy the relaxed buzz at the Vernazza harbour but we wandered there early mornings and evenings, not when the daytrippers swarmed in and crowded it out. I really enjoyed wandering the main street really early, while local vehicles are allowed in, builders trying to do their thing in challenging circumstances, deliveries being made, locals setting up their vegetable market stalls. Felt real enough. Coffee on that main drag was lovely then.

We had a fantastic dinner at the top end of the town at Il Pirata, no views or passersby, so quieter, recommended (do book).

The trains are really packed, that's true, it was interesting to be on a tourist filled train to La Spezia, and by the time we got on to our bus to Volterra later that day, we were on an almost empty bus with only 2 locals on it.

LucieV Mar 3rd, 2017 02:06 PM

Overcrowded? Yes. So's the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, the Taj Mahal, and even the Inca Trail. Not to mention the Golden Gate Bridge, the Musée d'Orsay and the Sistine Chapel.

Overrated? Not by a long shot. It is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, if you're an appreciator of beautiful spots on the planet.

That said, I would never visit in the summer, nor would I ever stay outside the 5 towns and trek in for the day. You have to be there early in the morning and late at night to fully appreciate why the people who live there stay there, despite the throngs of tourists that they endure for 4 months.

PalenQ Mar 3rd, 2017 02:15 PM

to fully appreciate why the people who live there stay there, despite the throngs of tourists that they endure for 4 months.<

I'd say the town revolve around tourism and most of the folks who stay the year are connected to the tourist industry - like Venice the poor locals who lived there for generations I understand are being priced out - I wonder exactly how many 'locals' actually live there and not in nearby towns like La Spezia?

I do agree with Lucie about the CT being what it is - incredibly quaint after before day trippers come in.

michelhuebeli Mar 3rd, 2017 02:16 PM

Overrated - that's a matter of taste and opinion.

Overcrowded - that's a matter of fact - see

LucieV Mar 3rd, 2017 02:29 PM

I don't think of it as incredibly quaint so much as incredibly spectacular, PalenQ. But I always stay in Manarola, and for my money, I've yet to find anything more awe-inspiring and soul-soothing than that harbor and that topography.

That said, I know many, many people who feel it's not worth the crowds -- which I understand, because that's the way I felt about Istanbul (both times!) and the way I've begun to feel about Venice, among other places.

With CT, though, I just tune 'em out--it's "my" place.

txtravels Mar 3rd, 2017 03:51 PM

Wow thanks for all the replies! This really helps me feel more comfortable about spending 3 nights there. We visited Kauai last year, and we definitely dealt with tourist at times. The beauty of hiking in Kauai was still worth it.

My husband is an early riser, so maybe he can get me going before the day trippers arrive.

Thank you for all the replies, links, and pictures!

Edward2005 Mar 3rd, 2017 07:21 PM

Nobody goes to the Cinque Terre anymore; it's too crowded.

sundriedtopepo Mar 3rd, 2017 09:15 PM

Edward2005 is that an oxymoron?

neckervd Mar 4th, 2017 06:20 AM

May be it should be: No EUROPEENS go to 5Terre anymore.

iris1745 Mar 4th, 2017 09:30 AM

We have stayed in Camogli a few times. Loved the town and easy to reach the CT by train.

Edward2005 Mar 4th, 2017 11:10 AM

Sundried -- it's Yogi-ism

PalenQ Mar 4th, 2017 01:51 PM

But the mantra often seems to be like Yogi Berra once said of some popular restaurant - 'no one goes there anymore because it's too crowded'!!!>

Yes a Yogi Berraism as I paraphrased way above.

frencharmoire Mar 4th, 2017 02:06 PM

Many complaints about le Cinque Terre crowds are about very large groups of northern European walkers with sticks, so it can't be that. Also, the advice about "don't go on a nice weekend" can only be because local Italians go there (or maybe Europeans flying into Pisa on impulse?). Would also think that many of the European owned cruise ship companies whose route is Rome to Nice to Barcelona and back again, and which dock at La Spezia or the small ports in Portovenere and Santa Margherita Ligure, also have more European passengers than American ones.

RobertaL Mar 4th, 2017 03:12 PM

Cinque Terre is beautiful. Yes, it was very crowded when we visited last July. Don't pass it up.

Edward2005 Mar 4th, 2017 04:50 PM

Ah, I missed your Yogi joke, PalenQ.

iris1745 Mar 4th, 2017 05:09 PM

For people who have seen the CT a number of times, perhaps it is overrated.

For the first time, YOU WILL LOVE IT.

WeisserTee Mar 4th, 2017 09:08 PM

Yes, it's hugely crowded in high and shoulder season. Just like Bruges, Florence, Paris, Venice, Luzern and many other places.

But these places get so popular for good reason. So it's really up to you to decide whether the genuine merits of the CT outweigh the mob scene. For me, it would be a no. For others, it would be a resounding yes.

kawh Mar 4th, 2017 09:17 PM

I thought it was overrated 20 years ago... but I'm lucky and live near the coast, so can hike cliffside any time. View beautiful, and little towns pretty. But felt (even back then) like the little colorful boats were just props and now it seems really overrun. Then again... any place in Italy is worth visiting!

bvlenci Mar 5th, 2017 01:30 AM

If you want to hike, you shouldn't find many crowds on the high trails. The day trippers don't go there for the hiking. The trails that are closed are mostly the sea level ones, because of the risk of landslides. There's not much land to slide above the high trails.

The last time I checked, there was only one low trail open. Two of the low trails have been closed ever since 2011, and are unlikely to reopen any time soon. The other two are usually open, but one of these was also closed a month ago, probably because heavy rain had increased the risk.

txtravels Mar 12th, 2017 01:55 PM

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the responses so much!

kwren Mar 12th, 2017 02:16 PM

Here's my short answer - not overrated - it's beautiful. 3 nights is not too long. Manarola is a great place to stay - we stayed 4 nights. We were there in September and hardly met any people on the trails (but the guy hiking in a cast made me laugh).

If you want more detail though, read my trip report - I started to copy and paste things for you, but I wrote too much to do so. You will have to scroll down to about the middle of my report to Oct 23 where I started writing about Cinque Terre. terre-florence.cfm

Have fun!

kwren Mar 12th, 2017 02:26 PM terre-florence.cfm

kwren Mar 12th, 2017 02:28 PM

I don't know why the above link didn't all turn blue when I posted it, so it doesn't work if you click on it, but it does if you copy and paste in google

elberko Mar 12th, 2017 02:37 PM

Here you go:

kwren Mar 12th, 2017 02:54 PM

Well, that worked...thanks elberko!

amyb Mar 12th, 2017 03:48 PM

We spent 2 days there mid-March a couple years ago. We were blessed with extremely nice weather and were able to do the hike from Monterosso to Vernazza in just short-sleeves and sunglasses. We passed maybe 10 people the whole hike. I cannot imagine doing it with many or any more people than that. The path isn't meant for that type of traffic. We took trains between the rest and then the ferry back to Monterosso from Riomaggiore. It is beautiful and I don't regret it, but I'd never do it in high season.

We stayed in Levanto and took the very brief (mere minutes) train to Monterosso to start our day. Worked fine for us, dispelling the myth that you must stay in one of the 5 towns for it to be "worthwhile".

mama_mia Mar 13th, 2017 05:05 AM

We stayed in Manarola 3 years ago for several nights in April and enjoyed it very much. (Check out the Trattoria Dal Billy for dinner.)

We tried our best to avoid the crowds and succeeded for the most part. Cruise ship folk tend to congregate closest to the embarkation points, so if you venture further afield and up, you can find some respite.

We did several of the longer trails and also the short trails that originate in Riomaggiore. Check out current trail conditions in the town tourist offices and look into the Cinque Terre Card for trail access and to support the trails. Also check this site for trail info:

Manarola-Volostra-Corniglia: About 2 hrs (unless you stop in Volostra for cappuccino break). A beautiful hike, not over touristed, that takes you high above the coast through vineyards. There is a helpful description of this walk in Rick Steve's "Italy Cinque Terre" snapshot book. Take the steep route up through the vineyards to the religious scene if you like a challenge. Plan on lunch in Corniglia.

Levanto-Monterosso (could be extended to Vernazza with the Sentiero Azzurro Monterosso to Vernazza trail, which may be open): Loved the Levanto-Monterosso portion; we did the Monterosso-Vernazza portion another day and found it--as the only part of the Sentiero Azzurro open--to be very crowded. From the Levanto train station, hike towards the harbor, turn left on Corso Italia, and keep an eye out for signs for the Sentiero Levanto-Portovenere.

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