Cinque Terre is a very popular destination in Italy, with no shortage of articles written about the place. Because of this, it is often crowded with tourists and hard to get around. So we are here to help you learn how to visit Cinque Terre the RIGHT way. Translated from Italian, “cinque terre” means “five lands”, and refers to five pastel hued towns dotting the Mediterranean Sea. Precariously perched along the rocky coastline, the towns boast some of the best views in Italy. Connected to one another by trails, this place a prime location for hikers and adventure seekers. Read on for our tips when planning your trip (ohh, that rhymed)!
1. Visit Outside of Summer
There is no way to avoid the crowds in Cinque Terre during Summer, but Spring may offer a good alternative. Weather is on the cooler side and most people like to save their vacation for the warmer months. This means fewer people in streets and on the trains. Not once did we feel overwhelmed with the amount of people we encountered. Yes there were still a lot of people, but we always got seats on the trains. During Summer, standing squished between people is the most likely scenario. Also, it’s perfect weather for hiking. You won’t get overheated and a light rain is quite refreshing as you walk! But be smart people, if you want to hike wear the appropriate footwear. Hint: flats and sandals are not it. Lordy, what some people wore on their feet!
2. Spend More Than 1 Day
A lot of people try to cram in too many destinations on their trips to Italy. I believe this prevents you from truly seeing a place. Cinque Terre is no different. Yes, the towns are small, and much of the stores are similar in each location, but if you are just going to shop, Cinque Terre probably isn’t worth a visit. Go for the seafood (fishing towns, how can you not??), go for the views and the hiking, and meeting the locals. We spent 3 days in Cinque Terre in the smallest of the towns, Corniglia. At night, the crowds died down to head back to the more populated villages and allowed for some peace and quiet. In such a small place, the cafés and bars you go to are the same that locals frequent. Super charming little place.
3. Wake up Early
I know. You’re on vacation and do not want to wake up early. Just hear me out. Most of the restaurants/cafés/bars close pretty early in Cinque Terre. I would say 11:30pm is the latest most places stay open, with many cafes closing between 8-9:30pm. Your best bet for getting the most out of your trip is hiking early in the morning. Head back to your accommodation in the afternoon for a nap, then off for supper/drinks in the evening. Most stores and restaurants close in the afternoon, so you really aren’t missing much at that time of day. And, by hiking in the morning you can avoid the tour bus crowds in the afternoon.
4. Plan Your Hikes Only Slightly in Advance
I say slightly because the trails can open and close at any point. In fact, some have been closed for years, so make sure the information you get online is very recent. When we were in Cinque Terre, they had been experiencing a good bit of rain. This resulted in some trails I was hoping to hike being closed, due to landslide or potentially unstable trails. One was also closed for maintenance. That’s one downfall to traveling in off season, some trails close for repairs. A local told me to try anyway, as sometimes they let one or two pass. They can’t allow larger crowds though, because work would have to be halted. We just decided to do another trail, but might be worth a shot, right? You can buy your Cinque Terre passes at the train stations, and only validate them on the day you’ll be using it. This gives you free access to all train rides between towns and access to hike the trails.
Hope this helps with your planning!! I’m gonna share a few of my favourite restaurants/places I visited below, so check them out!
Osteria A Cantina De Mananan – Restaurant in Corniglia with great seafood and fun medieval like decor. Make a reservation in advance. You may have to share a table with another couple if you get the last reservation.
Pan E Vin – Really tiny café in Corniglia. Good deal for breakfast, great place to get a sandwich (vegan options) and they have lovely cocktails and local wine. They also offer great little cheese, bread, olive and meat platters for 5 euro to go with your drink. Just don’t get the boiled egg, it’s reheated in a microwave. Yuck.
K & Pris Pizzeria – Small take-out pizza place in Riomaggiore. No sitting in to eat, but that being said, we ate in their chairs because it was raining and we didn’t have anywhere else to go. Some of the best Pizza we had in Italy.
Pizzeria La Smorfia – Located in Monterosso, this place had good local wine and a crazy big selection of pizza. We enjoyed ourselves here. Also, they accepted us in after our hike when we were sweaty, dirty and had a small backpack. Friendly service.
Enoteca Internazionale – Good for wine tastings. They explain each wine and supply either bread for eating or biscuits with the dessert wines. If you enjoy dessert wines, I recommend trying the local variety: Sciacchetrà (I even brought a bottle home)! Servers are a little slow, Josh had his wines for a good 5 minutes before they brought mine out, but they were friendly enough.