Cinque Terre was beautiful. Gorgeous. Amazing. Blah, blah, blah… that’s certainly all true. There’s no doubt it is a stunningly breath-taking place to visit and I could wax poetic for pages. However. I’m going to assume you know this, and instead get down to the nitty-gritty, down & dirty of our visit. The people. The incredible masses of people.

While you would think that end-of-April would have you missing the crowds and enjoying the beauty of a tourist hot spot, with perfect warm breezy weather, almost by your lonesome, you’d be wrong. I was wrong. May 1st is a bank holiday in Italy. May 1st was a Monday. We arrived in Cinque Terre on Saturday evening, winding through the hills just above the seaside towns to our completely charming and authentically Italian Airbnb. I love Airbnb.

Our host, Yasmine, gave us a quick how-to Cinque Terre in her adorable Italian-accented English and we were ready to go explore. Early Sunday morning we rolled out of bed and headed to the train station. The train is the recommended way to see all five towns of Cinque Terre: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola und Riomaggiore. We (read me) spent a good amount of time staring at the automatic train ticket dispenser before finally picking a one-way ticket to the debatably prettiest of the pretty: Vernazza.

We were outside the hot zone, and were able to board the train in relative peace and quiet. Almost immediately the disappointment set in. The coastline is hilly. Mountainous really. And the trains run through the mountainsides blocking my view. I did not know this and I was very, very sad. In between tunnels the view was stellar. The sun was shining bright, the ocean glittering, everything in bloom and the houses rustic, lovely and oh so Italian. I had to fight to stay on the train at Monterosso and keep going to Vernazza. Per The Plan.

I couldn’t wait to get out at Vernazza and explore! I practically ran out of the train, stopped only by the hordes of people in front of me, and the legions milling on the platform. We quickly made our way through the throngs, down the stairs, into the streets, only to be confronted with more wall-to-wall people. The picturesque narrow alleys of Cinque Terre are not made for people moving. We headed to the thickest swarm and followed them to the ocean.

I was soon swallowed up by the masses and lost sight of my boys & Lindsay. Luckily, at the wharf, there are some boulders strewn about and I climbed one till they found me. Finding our way through the maze of people worked up quite a thirst, and we decided to plop down on the terrace at the edge of the water. Amazingly, there was a table for five in minutes. We gratefully sunk down, kicked back, let the sun warm our faces and happily people watched.

Several Doppio’s (double shot of espresso), some water, wine, bruschetta’s and pizza later, we were relaxed, chilled, feeling at home and ready to sight-see. But not by stupid train through the mountains. Instead we decided on the boat. Now, the boat had been my goal all along. However. Christian and Lindsay are both anti-boats & prone to sea sickness. I wasn’t going to risk their happy holidays for my need to ride all the boats. However, probable sea sickness trumped being herded like cattle through deep dark tunnels.

Why I was surprised that getting on the boat would be a mad rush to the gangplank is beyond me. But I was. We crowded on the edge of the wharf, a wharf with zero barriers to the ocean just below, with the other 6,583,001 tourists and vied mightily for a spot on the boat. We were too timid in round one. By round two we were seasoned fighters and boarded the boat. Once on board I headed immediately to the top deck, secured a lone seat at the rear and had a peaceful, beautiful cruise to Riomaggiore with a lovely young English couple and Dave. The weather was phenomenal. The breeze light and airy. The sunlight sparkling. Everything was perfect. Never, ever take the stupid train at Cinque Terre. Take the boat.

Riomaggiore was quieter. Peaceful. Less crowded. We strolled the streets. Tried gelato at all the places in our path (the orange is to die for, and, not to be found anywhere else in Italy…. I think). And drank in the sights with our eyes. I have a million + one pictures of doors. I love doors. Our intent had been to walk back. The path from Riomaggiore to Manarola was listed as being only 1 km and easy. The lovely young English couple told me on the boat that was not true. Once we got to the trail head, we agreed with them. That path led straight up a mountain, and presumably, right back down. Soren and Christian, being young hotshots, had to do it anyway. Dave, Lindsay & I choose to brave the train (SIGH) to Manarola.

Without the two eager beavers of our gang, Lindsay & I got a little distracted by shopping and picked up goodies for the families waiting at home. With unlimited budgets we could’ve spent a day just shopping for pottery, art and all things Italian. Despite being in a tourist mecca, the prices were reasonable and we loved everything. I think we’re both secretly Italian. Instead we settled for our souvenirs and some more gelato (Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy can we not bring all the gelato home? Whyyyyyyyyyy?).

Only at the train station did we again encounter hordes of people. The platforms overflowed with tourists looking to avoid scaling the cliffs between villages. I didn’t blame them, and went into warrior mode to wrangle my way onto the train. Dave, Lindsay & I all successfully scored a seat on the first train to Manarola. We still arrived after Soren & Christian who not only conquered Mt. Doom, but also had time to stop and take pictures from the top.

We stopped for some more wine, Limocino for Soren, before heading back to “our” village and dinner at “our” restaurant in Moneglia. Despite a very people centric day, I wouldn’t have missed a visit to Cinque Terre for the world. It is truly a sight not to be missed. But by boat. Not by stupid train.