We were very excited to finally be making our way towards the Cinque Terre. So many people rate Cinque Terre a must see and do, and it really is, although we didn’t find this place as amazing as we had been told. One of those times when your imagination paints it as fantastic beforehand and when the event finally comes around, though it’s great, it doesn’t completely live up to expectations.
We arrived in Levanto where we were to park and take the train to Monterosso, the afternoon before the big day. We had driven through a storm the whole way from Bordighera to Levanto so it was straight to the tourist office to ask how the weather would be the next day and if it was worth waiting a day or so to do the national park. They advised us that the weather would be sunny the next day and stormy after that, turns out exactly right, so we bought our day passes to the walk tracks and train before sitting on benches overlooking the beach to watch the surfers making use of the rough sea.
We camped in a small town, whose name we don’t know, very near to Levanto and got an early start in the morning and finding a free parking spot before hopping on the train to Monterosso al Mare. We soon realized that we wouldn’t have Cinque Terre to ourselves, wishful thinking, when the station platform started filling up to near full capacity, a sign of things to come!
The train takes you through the mountains and when you emerge into the sunlight again you’re greeted with your first glance of the famed Cinque Terre. Into the first village Monterosso, full of souvenir shops, and straight through to the only open coastal walk, then up and own the many steps that take you along the cliff past tiny waterfalls, grapevines, and forest with glimpses of the stunning turquoise blue ocean meeting the rippled black rocks.
About 2 and a half hours later we arrived in Vernazza hoping for less tourism and more tradition. Turns out that this is the most touristic town of them all with countless restaurants lining the bay and a packed pebble beach where we ate our picnic lunch.
We decided to catch the train to the farthest town, Riomaggiore, and work our way back towards Levanto again. Unfortunately all walks closest to the coast were closed so travel by train was our best option to see everything in the one day we had allowed.
Our favourite town was Manrola, with its walk towards Corniglia right on the cliff overlooking the ocean with views back to each town as good as if you were on one of the ferries that carts people between villages. Sadly this walk was closed while we were there but it looked like it would be very easy and accessible to all.
Each town is slightly different and had we delved deeper than a quick look around before moving on to the next we may have found more delights other than the ample people watching opportunities. By the way, watching people pose for photos is thoroughly entertaining, and so many “professional” photographers demanding space, hilarious!
Dare we say that overall we think Cinque Terre is a little overrated? In guidebooks they describe tranquility and tradition but we experienced more tourism than we have anywhere else. With not a local sighted throughout the day we wish we had been fortunate enough to visit before this beautiful part of the Italian coast was put on the tourist map.
In saying that, we still enjoyed our time here and wish we had had more time to explore. The stunning blue water meeting the jagged cliffs, terraced and rural, is spectacular. The villages are beautiful, Italy’s colourful version of the route of the white villages in Andalusia that we loved so much.
Once again someone was looking after us because the weather was absolutely perfect. We camped just out of Levanto again and woke to heavy rain and thunder in the morning, we are very lucky!