Cinque Terre: Crowded like Disneyland on a hot Fourth of July

We’ve been having a heat wave in Italy, and an occasional afternoon thunderstorm, so we’d been looking for an opportunity to visit Cinque Terre, the five small cliffside villages on the northwest Italian coast. They’re about a 2-hour train ride away, and today the forecast was for 81 and no rain, so we decided to go.

We took the little LAM Rossa bus (€0.85) to the train station, and found the ticket machine easy to understand, particularly since it has good language options, and the format is very similar to the trenitalia website. I bought tickets to Monterosso, the farthest of the the five villages, and they were about €10.85 each. Pricing is by length of the trip, and this routing was actually south (the wrong way) to Pisa (only 19 km though), then to La Spezia and on to Monterosso, changing trains twice. The machine takes credit cards.

We found a car in which the air conditioning was working and left on time for Pisa. Unfortunately, we arrived about 5 minutes late, and only had an 8-minute connection. At first we missed the sign directing us to the correct track for the La Spezia train, and missed the train by about 15 seconds. Oh well, there was another in about 30 minutes, but this “station” was a bunch of benches and a couple of ticket machines, so we sat and waited.

The train to La Spezia took about 70 minutes. It goes by Carrara, where the marble comes from. The mountains are white! And there is marble everywhere … blocks, sheets, chunks, pebbles, rocks, boulders, and dust … mostly white, and piled up in construction yards for a mile or three on either side of the station. At La Spezia we found the train to Monterosse and it left less than a minute later. That was better! It’s about 15 minutes and mostly through tunnels, but we climbed off in Monterosse and walked around a bit. It was hot in the sun ( it was about 83 degrees but with about 70% humidity) and at noon there was not much shade. We bought afternoon tickets for the “ferry” system (€15 each) and boarded a boat at 3 for Vernazza.

Holy cow! They were running two boats for a total of over 300 passengers.cinque terre crowd smaller It took 20 minutes to load, and only 10 minutes for the ride. Then another 15 minutes to unload in the hot sun.cinque terre full ferry small  Vernazza is tiny. It has a main street that’s about 200 feet long and 15 feet wide at the best. Every other street is alley-sized. And it was jammed with tourists, most of whom just seemed to be ambling around. There’s a castle there, but the path to it is not marked. We tried two dead ends before we remember we’d brought Rick Steve’s instructions  with us in our bag. His book cleared up the confusion, but it was too hot to climb a hill of stairs so we headed for the boat area.

Two boats were loading, one going east and the other going west, but the staff at the ticket desk couldn’t tell us which was which. “Just follow the line,” they said. But the line was unmanaged (no signs or staff to help), most people were going the opposite direction from the one we wanted and blocking the narrow path, and our boat cast off just before we reached it.

At that point we decided we’d had enough and walked back to the train station to return home, which we did without complication and with good connections. Only €10 as we changed in Viareggio and so the total length was shorter … and quicker too.

Our buddy Rick Steves thinks Cinque Terre is charming and worth several days. We didn’t see that, at least on a crowded, hot day.  The crystal clear water was quite enticing but we were there to see the towns not to go to the beach.  The very small towns were really overwhelmed by the number of visitors ( there were 2 cruise ships in Livorno and several tours from the boats were here) . cinque terre crowds small It was too crowded to enjoy.

==today’s post is by Dave

2 thoughts on “Cinque Terre: Crowded like Disneyland on a hot Fourth of July

  1. Best time is in the fall! And the same goes for Venice, people say you need to stay overnight to actually experience it! Hopefully you have better luck next time.


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