No doubt you’ve heard people rave about Cinque Terre. This national park along Italy’s Ligurian coast boasts five small, colorful villages clinging to the rock cliffs edging aquamarine seas, all connected by train and trails. The water is beautiful. The villages are charming. It’s no wonder it’s no longer Italy’s hidden tourist gem.
We avoided going for as long as we did because of the kids, who are too big to carry and too little to hang. But approaching our last summer in Italy has us in full NOW OR NEVER mode and we decided to spend the international Labor Day weekend there in May.
I won’t say we did it wrong, but we left with a head full of ways we could have done it better. At the top of the list: we wish we had stayed in one of the villages. Staying in La Spezia limited the amount of time we had to spend in the villages, as we were at the mercy of train schedules and tiny tired people. Plus, we burned a lot of time looking for parking at the train stations when we could have been enjoying this view:
Of course I would love to have hiked the trails, but it simply wasn’t in the cards. Shepherding our kiddos down to the water and back through the crowds was challenging enough.
That all said, our boys really loved being at the sea. They loved climbing on the huge rocks, squealing at the water splashing at the walls, and digging in the sand on the beach at Monterosso. Lounging on a beach chair while your kids play happily is certainly at the top of my list!
We made a point to eat well, and the waitstaff were very kind to and about our kiddos. The local white wine was lovely, the fish fresh and tasty.
A weekend of good food, pretty sea views, and relaxing beach time is a win, for sure. But, friends, I have to say, there were so many other tourists I felt like crying. It was next to impossible to snap a photo without some stranger’s smartphone in the shot. We had to shuffle through the towns with our kiddos clinging to our legs. You couldn’t catch a glimpse of the front of the buildings, or stop anywhere without feeling like you were in the way. I desperately wanted to admire the tile, stone, and shell mosaic in the underpass from the train station to the town of Riomaggiore, but I just couldn’t.
Perhaps the trails were less full? Maybe it’s that I grew up in the country, sometimes without another soul closer than a 1/4 mile away, but I felt like a tiny ant that was part of a surge invading the roads and walkways of these towns. I felt guilt for insisting on being there and despair at what it must be like to be there in the high season. And then I really, really wanted to come back to hike the trails, to find some space and fall in love with Cinque Terre properly.