Help me do Cinque Terre right!
January 11, 2017 5:53 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to see and explore Cinque Terre in July?

Mr. just_ducky and I are going to Italy on our 5th annual honeymoon in July, yay!

One of the places we'd like to go is Cinque Terre, and right now we have 5 days allocated for it (this can be modified though). We will likely be coming via train from Florence, and leaving via train, headed to Parma.

For those who have been there:
-Which town would you recommend we stay in?
-How would you recommend dividing up time between the towns?
-Is transit between the towns easy to deal with?
-Any must-see places or must-do activities?

My husband and I are up for minor hiking (like the kind that doesn't involve hiking shoes), and not up for renting a car or biking. We like eating(!), wandering through the streets, and looking at historical things.

Finally, is Cinque Terre worth the hype, especially considering how busy it will likely be in July, or are there other places that might be worth going instead? Our itinerary now is Rome - Siena - Florence - Cinque Terre - Parma - Venice.

posted by just_ducky to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
We spent 3 days in Manarola back in 2015 (at La Torretta), the location worked perfectly. Cinque Terre was beautiful, but it was so very crowded. Sorrento isn't on your itinerary, not sure if you are interested in the Amalfi Coast, but it was a highlight for us, as was Parma.

Have fun! Eat lots of gelato!
posted by Nickel Pickle at 7:09 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have been twice and can recommend Monterosso very strongly. It's a bit larger than some, but on no planet does it feel 'big', as you can walk from the old section to the other end of the main town where the train station is in about 5 minutes. A few places are open in the evening but there is not a lot of nightlife. We were in Vernazza 17 years ago and this last time, when we stayed in Monterosso, Vernazza was impossible to even get a room when I tried months in advance, though I am extremely glad I didn't as Monterosso imo was much nicer. But hiking from Monterosso to Vernazza was really nice. We took a boat back for so as not to deal with crowded trains. There is a gorgeous organic winery above the town that makes a great afternoon destination. Re: crowds, I think it can feel overwhelming, but at the same time, there is a limit to how many people can exist in any single town, so while mid-day crowds may be brutal, mornings and evenings can be wonderful. And any spot in Italy in July may be insane, which is part of the travel experience. I can't ever remember feeling too crowded in the CT region, but that was also because we tried to avoid the milk run train between towns whenever possible by hiking.

I think if this is your first trip to Italy, you will not regret looking for a nice room somewhere. CT is extremely romantic. I think that and Siena were my favorites.

Personally, I think 3 days in CT is plenty, if you want to try to carve time out for other venues, unless you want a day for doing absolutely nothing. A morning hike, and save the afternoon and evening for the beach, drinking, strolling. You could stay in more than one town, but I tend to feel like exploring one place is nice also. It is very easy to get back and forth between the individual towns.
posted by docpops at 7:55 PM on January 11, 2017

We really enjoyed staying just outside CT in Levanto - it's nice because it's far less crowded and because you are up in the hills it's much cooler than CT. Feels more like the spot the Italians enjoy as opposed to the very touristed CT towns.
posted by zeoslap at 9:46 PM on January 11, 2017

Also Sienna was fantastic, my favorite by far.
posted by zeoslap at 9:47 PM on January 11, 2017

I spent almost a week in Monterosso al Mare in July a few years ago and really loved it. The "old town" is interesting for walking around, but I found the "new town" less crowded and more comfortable.
posted by neushoorn at 12:15 AM on January 12, 2017

Seconding Levanto! While I haven't had the opportunity to stay in Cinque Terre proper, being able to hostel it up in Levanto and quite literally enjoy the same flexibility to travel as if I had stayed in the five other towns (as the train route quite sensibly treats it as if it is the sixth of five towns) was a godsend. Avoided a good majority of the 'touristic' feel and got onto the 'off the beaten path' feel; it was glorious. Look for the little park right near the beach if you stay here: you'll see all the locals, reading their newspaper and keeping to themselves, or mulling about, socializing. Here's my favorite photo I took, at beachside Levanto.

I think probably you could do it with three (or four?), but since you're honeymooning, you may just want to keep your five :) depends upon what kind of trip you're on. It is truly a romantic, gorgeous place. I was so elated: the water temperature was just right for me in July, and the water's salinity level is just right, so you basically get to float in a comfortable ocean bathwater.

The views everywhere you go are immaculate. I think you'll find the best experience comes from doing your due diligence research for people's favorite places, reacting emotionally to their descriptions, and then just letting intuition and your memory carry you. I found most of the hiking paths eminently walkable with comfortable shoes and some extra water. Plenty of delicious food to be found here, naturally. Super easy to take a day-pass for the trains each day (I think it must have been something like $5-10?) and just cavort around. Get lost in it! At nights, in the cafes, they'll sometimes have concerts - so go for strolls in Levanto! All this to say, it was a glorious rejoinder to the "so much to take in" feeling that accompanied the rest of Italy. Please enjoy :)
posted by a good beginning at 8:28 AM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Thanks all! Sounds like Levanto or Monterosso is the way to go, so that really helps narrow down my search. Also glad to hear folks enjoyed Siena and Parma :)
posted by just_ducky at 6:16 PM on January 12, 2017

We were there in July in 2012, got married the next week in Orvieto.

Def hike the paths! We are walkers, minor hikers, and went the route that goes up but but not all the way up, from Riomaggiore to Corniglia and it was heavenly.

We had a room in Riomaggiore, but were all over the area. Transit is easy, we just bopped trains back and forth.

Eat all of the seafood that is offered to you :)
posted by john m at 6:19 PM on January 14, 2017


Read my travel diary of our visit to the Cinque Terre for more info!
posted by expat-italy at 2:32 AM on November 26, 2017

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