When the subject of Italy comes up, people clamor to tell you about their favorite place. “Oh, Venice is sooooo romantic!” or “Sicily is the absolute best – good food and good prices.” or “Nothing beats Rome. The history is astounding!” And it’s really true, all of Italy is pretty great. The food, the people, the scenery. But for me, Positano is my favorite place in Italy. True, I’ve only been there once. But it was pure magic for me. You just can’t top it. It might be my favorite place I’ve ever visited.
So we were excited to have a chance to hit the Cinque Terre, a string of five centuries-old fishing villages on the Italian Riviera, in the Liguria region of Italy. Everyone’s seen the photos. Beautiful, colorful old buildings on a rugged Italian coastline, laundry hanging on lines and fisherman’s boats dotting the beaches. It looked like just my kind of place. Even better, we were meeting our friends Gaby and Csaba, and their three boys. It’s always fun to travel with friends!
We arrived via La Spezia, parked our car and hopped on a train. This is a great way to see the five villages. The train lines run regularly between all five, so it’s easy to hop on and off between the villages. That is, if there aren’t crowds. We went in May, which isn’t necessarily high season, but man, was it packed. I get it; these villages are just as gorgeous as the images you see in the postcards. There is so much appeal here. But it does take away the luster a little bit.
We walked, we swam, we ate. While the trains and the main squares and beaches were packed, we definitely managed to find uncrowded areas in some of the villages. Monteroso is the only village with a true stretch of beach. It was big, so we were able to find some space there. Vernazza was packed. The train station was even more packed. Riomaggiore was, by far, our favorite. The least crowded, it doesn’t have a beach, but it has the most beautiful little inlet of sea, with a jigsaw of pastel houses hovering just above. It was peaceful, and seemed different than the other villages, maybe more authentic. All of the villages are gorgeous, but if you are ever in the Cinque Terre and only have time for one, make it Riomaggiore. It’s pretty perfect.