If you’re thinking about a trip to Italy this is a question you’ve gotta ask yourself.
Because if you use something called books and the internet then you’ve likely seen photos that have ignited your spark for an Italian vacation.
We humans travel to a place for a specific reason, to do something or to feel something. We’re also hardwired to want to see things with our own eyes — pictures alone don’t cut it.
Because I want to help you decide if you should go to the Cinque Terre I’m gonna highlight the top reasons people travel there:
- it’s colorful, picturesque and unique
- the small villages are built on cliffs along the ocean
- it’s romantic and nostalgic
- it’s a national park with a ton of walking trails
Ten years ago I met my husband in one of the Cinque Terre villages. Not only have I lived in the region like a local — but I’ve also worn different travel hats there. I’ve been a first time traveler without a clue and I’ve been a guest treated to all the best spots. Perhaps my most indulgent period of time was one summer where I spent post work afternoons being a lazy beach bum living on nothing but an Italian summertime diet: gelato, figs, campari spritz and free peanuts.
After all these years, my love affair with the Cinque Terre has evolved.
I’m no longer in a monogamous relationship with the Cinque Terre — I now share her sparkle and charms each summer with my guests on my group trips to the Cinque Terre. If you’d like to come with me someday click here to see more.
So, do I think you should travel to the Cinque Terre? Yes — absolutely.
Why you should NOT go to the Cinque Terre:
First, I wanna share a few reasons why you should NOT add the Cinque Terre to your Italy itinerary.
I wanna make it clear that the Cinque Terre isn’t a one size fits all destination (like Siena — everyone loves Siena). It suits a certain person, a travel style and a season — so take those into consideration. Here they are:
Don’t go to the Cinque Terre:
1) If you won’t be sleeping there (or in the area).
Why: Because you’ll likely just be annoyed at the day trippers. You’ll miss out on the sun set, and the early morning beach session. You’ll be too rushed to explore more than two villages and you should likely save it for when you have more time.
2) If you’re traveling in crappy weather.
Why: These are beach towns and many businesses are seasonal. If you’re traveling Italy in cold weather, especially January, February and March, there are better places to go. I even argue that Christmas would be better spent in the city or in the mountains — not the Cinque Terre. November and early spring could be wet and cold, but if you’re there for serious hiking then it could be the perfect time for you.
3) If you’re expecting a quiet fishing village.
Why: The Cinque Terre was off the beaten path in the 1970s. Now it’s had forty years of tourism. As a result you’ll see menus in English, tour groups and lots of businesses catering to… tourists. You’ll find places like dive shops, kayak rentals, gift shops and restaurants with fifty types of wine on the list (you know you’re in a sleepy village when the waiter, who is also the cook, the pot washer and the owner, just brings you a glass of wine before you’ve ordered — this is not that place). Whether these are perks or drawbacks is up to you decide.
Why you SHOULD go to the Cinque Terre.
Here are a few excellent reasons to go:
1) You are traveling Italy in the warm months.
Why: You’ll get all the perks: Watching the sunset while sipping wine in your sandals, swimming in the sea, going kayaking, licking gelato in the shade and all the restaurants and hotels open to serve you.
2) You like nature, walking and clean things — like air.
Why: The Cinque Terre is a protected marine park which means that big yachts can’t dock here (like in Portofino) so the water is clean to swim in. Also, it’s a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – which means resources have been poured into trails, restrictions are applied to development (building permits are as scarce as bacon and eggs for breakfast) and the majority of the villages are restricted to pedestrian traffic only. If you live in a city but could use some old fashioned sleep and R&R – this is a great choice for you.
3) You are traveling Italy by train.
Why: If you are travelling from the north, from Milan to Florence or from France to Florence, the train stops here (or in La Spezia for your connection). Train travel is a perfectly good reason to add the Cinque Terre to your itinerary – remember that so many Tuscan hill towns that make Italy famous are not accessible by trains – which means you need to focus your itinerary plans on places you can get to by train. And these villages fit that bill.
4) You have a few nights to dedicate solely to this area.
Why: Let’s face a real fact: The Cinque Terre are five villages. It’s not organized around one central square like any major city — and you’ve gotta figure it out – which takes time. Unless you have a local guide to dial you into the best stuff in an instant, by the time you get your bearings on a day trip you’ll be gone. So stick around and actually see the villages for what they are. I would recommend two nights but three nights is best. The trips I host to the Cinque Terre are six nights… and my guests still never want to leave.
5) You dig aesthetics, like taking photos, like daydreaming someday you’ll quit your job and sell everything and move to Italy to sell lemons, or paintings, or lavender nosegays.
Why: You’ll have a ton of instant friends… and you might just meet an expat who has done exactly that twenty years ago.
Frankly, the Cinque Terre is a visual place and a sensual place.
It’s best to see it with your own eyes but if that luxury escapes you at the moment just check out these pictures taken by one of my guests.
Next week I’ll be publishing a perfect itinerary for a four day stay in the Cinque Terre. You can steal to plan your own trip there with DIY gusto.
If you want to travel to the Cinque Terre without all the planning and hassle then consider coming to Italy with me. Yes, we’re heading to the Cinque Terre again this summer and you’re invited. Read more here.
If you have any questions about the Cinque Terre ask them in the comments below and I’ll help you out.
Love & gelato,
Image credit: Leela Cyd.