There are many places people put on their European bucket lists, and of those places, a good deal of them are located in Italy. From the Dolomite Alps in the north of the country, to the beauty of the Eternal City, to the volcanic islands off the southern coast of the country, there’s so much to see and do in Italy. It can be a little overwhelming.
In recent years, one of the most popular tourist destinations has become Cinque Terre. Located on the Ligurian coast, the area is made up of 5 tiny, traditional fishing villages. With colorful houses built into the side of a cliff, gorgeous hiking trails, easy access to public transportation, and the beautiful Ligurian Sea surrounding the area, it’s easy to see why this has become a favorite spot for travelers!
Cinque Terre definitely ranks as one of the most beautiful places in all of Europe. Unfortunately, the increased attention from travelers has also transformed the once sleepy fishing villages into one of Europe’s biggest tourist traps.
If you’re trying to decide whether or not you should visit Cinque Terre, we’ve put together this list of pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide whether the beauty of this destination will outweigh some of the less pleasant aspects of its booming tourism industry.
20 There Are 5 Villages
Perhaps one of the most appealing things about Cinque Terre is that it’s not really one place. It’s a collection of 5 traditional fishing villages, known as Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, and Manarola.
This means one of the most beautiful things about Cinque Terre is the choice! You can pick any town you like for your vacation, or you can opt to explore all of them if you have a few days. All of the towns are easily connected by the Blue Path, meaning you can move between them. Riomaggiore is often the least busy, while Vernazza boasts the only natural port.
19 It’s Bright And Colorful
When you look at pictures of Cinque Terre, you’re likely going to be struck by just how colorful the area is. It’s a bit like a rainbow exploded and rained down on this part of Italy. The glittering blue of the Ligurian Sea is foregrounded against the verdant hues of the mountain range.
The man-made structures are just as colorful. In fact, the pastel-hued houses of Cinque Terre are probably what make it so photogenic. The houses are nestled together in a cornucopia of color, ranging from vivid blues to bright pinks, reds, and oranges. It’s almost impossible to describe it through a picture or words. You need to experience it yourself.
18 Ligurian Food Is Delicious
If you’re in the mood for authentic tastes of Italy, there’s almost no better place than Cinque Terre. Foodies, take note. You’ll find plenty of photogenic dishes served here. The atmosphere of sitting outside on a terrace in the cobblestone streets doesn’t hurt either. You may not be sure if you want to snap pictures of your dinner or try to capture the atmosphere of the restaurant.
Cinque Terre is famous for its fresh seafood. The towns are, after all, fishing villages! Sample pesto with your pasta, or try some fresh focaccia bread. Anchovies are another staple, and you’ll find the way they’re prepared in Cinque Terre most delightful.
17 Take An Amazing Hike To See The Sights
Cinque Terre is particularly famed for its trails, and there are dozens of them in the area. One of the most popular is the Sentiero Azzurro, or the Blue Path. This trail links all 5 towns. There are also some more rugged mountain trails.
Whether you prefer the sedate and scenic hike along the Blue Path or you’d rather get above the clouds in the mountains, Cinque Terre has you covered. Be sure you pack your camera and charge your phone so you can capture all of the breathtaking views. If you plan to head into the mountains, be sure to bring proper gear.
16 Experience A UNESCO World Heritage Site
UNESCO doesn’t decide which places become designated World Heritage Sites based on beauty, but it would be easy to say that’s one reason Cinque Terre has earned this designation. The more obvious reason, of course, is the layers and layers of history you can visit here.
Riomaggiore boasts a medieval castle. Vernazza’s Doria Castle boasts one of the best views in all 5 towns. Manarola and Corniglia both have gorgeous Gothic churches. San Pietro, in Corniglia, has a window carved from marble. Monterosso was once home to the statue of Neptil Gigante, which was nearly destroyed during WWII.
15 The Sea Beckons You Here
It’s easy to get caught up in the colorful panoramas of Cinque Terre you see on social media. The houses provide a pop of color, but the Ligurian Sea forms the background for those bright colors to really shine.
The water itself is another reason Cinque Terre is so beautiful, though. Since Cinque Terre developed as a fishing village, it only makes sense that the towns are built right on the edge of these deep blue waters. Watch the sun dancing over them, or wait for sundown for a real treat. Better yet, hop one of the ferries as you continue to explore this area.
14 The Atmosphere Is Welcoming
It’s hard to capture an atmosphere in a photograph, and it’s even harder to describe it in a few sentences. We’re going to try anyway, since the warm and friendly atmosphere is one of the things that make Cinque Terre such a beautiful destination.
Many other European destinations are beautiful, but cold. If you visit metropolises like Berlin or Paris, you might be impressed by their architecture and their history, but the atmosphere will leave you wanting. Not so in Cinque Terre, where the people was welcoming and ready to lend a helping hand. You may even be invited for drinks!
13 The Beaches Are Small, But Stunning
Since it’s right on the ocean, it’s reasonable to expect a place like Cinque Terre would have beaches of some sort. You probably won’t be disappointed either. The beaches here, however, are small. The largest one is located in Monterosso.
The small size of the beaches can mean they’re crowded, but they can also feel more relaxing and homey. Rent some chairs, grab some beverages to stay hydrated, and kick back and relax in the sun. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
If you prefer something more challenging, don’t be afraid to get your feet wet. Go for a swim, paddle a kayak, or practice your moves on a stand-up paddle board.
12 You Can Practice 'Dolce far Niente'
The locals believe in “dolce far niente,” or the art of doing nothing. This mindset allows you to sit back and relax, taking some time to slow down and really smell the roses. Practicing it will likely give you a new perspective on your life and your travels, which is often a beautiful thing.
Cinque Terre is a great place to practice dolce far niente, and the locals certainly believe in it themselves. While traditional fishing villages are very industrious, this is also a very easy-going place. If you want a relaxing vacation, Cinque Terre is the place for you.
11 The Sunsets Are Phenomenal
We’ve already talked about just how beautiful Cinque Terre is during the day, but visit at sunset or sunrise and you’ll understand just why people fall in love with this place. All of the great Romantic authors, including Byron and Shelley, tried to capture the dazzling beauty of the area.
Head to the high cliffs in Corniglia to get the best vantage point to see the sunset over the Ligurian sea. The sky will fade from a soft pink to inky dark as the stars come out to play. Afterwards, head back to town and enjoy dinner at a trattoria.
10 It’s Becoming Overly Popular (Tourist Trap)
In the 1970s, Cinque Terre was virtually unheard of. Fast-forward to today, and it’s become something of a tourist mecca. So many travelers have put Cinque Terre on their bucket list, and the booming tourism industry shows it.
Since there are so many tourists, many feel Cinque Terre is losing its authenticity. Some have pointed out the food options are becoming more generic and bland, while others suggest it feels less like a town in Italy and more like something you’d see at Disneyland. The number of tourists means waiting in line for almost everything, and even the locals are asking how many tourists are too many.
9 It’s Become Overpriced (Tourist Trap)
Thanks to the boom in tourism, prices in Cinque Terre have gone up and up and up. Compared with other parts of Italy, what was once an affordable vacation off the beaten path has now become a high-priced adventure into the heart of tourism.
Be prepared to pay anywhere from $25 to nearly $50 for dinner for one almost anywhere you go. Your hotel will likely cost you a pretty penny as well. Budget options start around $85 a night. They also book up fast, so don’t wait for a last-minute deal, or you might find yourself out in the cold.
8 All the Trails Are Busy (Tourist Trap)
With so many people crowded into such a small area, it’s little wonder that everything feels busy. Since hiking is one of the most popular pastimes and one of the reasons people even come to Cinque Terre, you can imagine that the trails also fill up with people.
Tourists will even ignore official signage telling them that portions of trails are closed. There have been many landslides and other events in recent years, so it’s important to analyze the safety of the trails. Be sure to check ahead for trail closures, as you don’t want to risk more damage to the trails or your safety.
7 It’s Not As Pretty Up Close (Tourist Trap)
The villages of Cinque Terre have been standing for centuries. The first mentions of them come from the time of the Roman Empire, so you could say they’ve been around for a while. With this comes pretty much everything you can expect from this kind of ancient place, including cobbled streets, and small houses in pastel colors.
Until recently, however, Cinque Terre was a collection of relatively poor fishing villages. That means much of the history is very visible in less pleasant ways. Chipping paint, rough roads, and a general state of disrepair might have you wondering if you’re in the same place as the pictures.
6 Locals Are Upset With Mass Tourism (Tourist Trap)
This spot on the Riviera has exploded in popularity in the last few years. Official tourism numbers suggest around 2.5 million people visited the towns in 2015. By contrast, the permanent population is under 5,000 people.
This influx of visitors has disrupted village life in many ways. Tourism has become the main industry, replacing fishing and other traditional industries. Tourists cause damage to the natural surroundings, and the increasing numbers of them have also put pressure on accommodations and housing. A cap on the number of tourists has been proposed, but hasn’t been implemented. If the locals seem a little less friendly than usual, we can’t say we really blame them.
5 More Rockfalls and Landslides (Tourist Trap)
Cinque Terre’s position near the mountains, on a rugged stretch of coastline, makes it vulnerable to some natural disasters. Rockfall and landslides aren’t entirely unusual, but these events have become more common in recent years.
Some people have blamed the increasing occurrence of these events on the sheer number of tourists. With 2.5 million people using the trails every year, the damage to the area is undeniable. The trails can become unstable, leading to unsafe conditions and trail closures.
You may want to keep tabs on the news before you book your trip, as portions of trails are being closed more and more frequently for safety concerns.
4 It’s Crowded (Tourist Trap)
Cinque Terre’s narrow streets and small houses may look cute from afar, but the fact of the matter is the place is tiny. There just isn’t a lot of space, given that you have mountains on one side and sheer cliffs dropping into the ocean on the other.
This makes the number of people visiting the villages feel even more overwhelming. Congestion on the train lines and at the docks is common. As mentioned, the trails can get crowded, and line-ups aren’t unusual. You probably won’t find much breathing room here, so you may want to skip Cinque Terre and travel somewhere else in Europe if you’re hoping to escape the crowds.
3 Cruise Ships Bring Even More Tourists (Tourist Trap)
If any kind of tourist has drawn criticism from the locals, it’s those who arrive on cruise ships. Cruise ships can cause all kinds of problems for the ports they visit, and Cinque Terre is no exception.
Cruise ships congest the lanes, and they drop off huge numbers of people all at once. These people then swarm the villages for a few hours, before they depart again. They generally don’t spend much money or contribute to the local economy as much as other kinds of tourists. If you’re looking for a quiet port, this is not the one you want to visit.
2 It’s Not A Quiet Fishing Village (Tourist Trap)
Many people go to Cinque Terre thinking they’ll be able to experience a truly authentic small town. That might have been true 40 or 50 years ago, but tourism has grown so much, the authenticity of this destination is increasingly in question.
With the growth of tourism has been a more international bent. You’ll see menus in English, tour groups, and plenty of businesses that revolve entirely around tourism. Gift shops and kayak rentals line the streets, and everything is overpriced. If you want an authentic experience in Italy, you’ll need to head elsewhere to find it. Cinque Terre sold out long ago.
1 It’s Not A Day Trip (Tourist Trap)
If you’re planning to come in on a cruise, spend a couple of hours, and then leave again, you may want to rethink that plan. The same is true if you’re planning to visit Cinque Terre as a day trip on a lengthier tour.
Cinque Terre is 5 villages, and you need to schedule some time to explore them all. While it may seem like the smaller villages don’t offer much to do, they all have their charms. Unless you’re planning to spend the time, you’d be better picking another location to explore for the day. There are plenty of other small towns out there, many of which are more off the beaten path.
References: Buzzfeed, CultureTrip, news.com.au, thiswaytoparadise, italianfix