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Vernazza - Is it really that bad??

I have made confirmed reservations for Vernazza (Francamaria)for May 2010. The threads on this site seem to becoming more negative for this town- crowded restaurants, streets, and especially trying to hop a train to Monterosso/Levanto or Riomaggiore and nothing but shoving and pushing. Now I am wondering if I should be looking elsewhere in the CT. Any positive information on Vernazza would ease my mind. Thanks.

Posted by
120 posts

When in May are you traveling?

I went this May, stayed in Riomaggiore, but spent a big portion of my time in Vernazza. I was there May 11-14 and had a great time. Sure there were tourists, but I didn't think it was too bad. From my experience, I can only assume all the reviews I read on here talking about how packed it is with people, are reviews from the higher tourist season, June, July, or August. Or maybe, I was expecting a lot more tourists based on reviews.

On the other hand, I'm not typically too hard to please when traveling. I just try make the most of any situation, and have ended up loving every place I've ever visited.

There seemed to be a lot of groups of school children & senior's groups when I was there, both of which seemed to disappear around 4 or 5, leaving the main piazza on the harbor very peaceful for dinner & relaxing towards the end of hte day.

It is a beautiful area, and with or without hordes of tourists, is definitely worth seeing.

Posted by
368 posts

I agree with Kent, this question is kind of loaded.

Anyhow, I believe anywhere in the CT (or any tourist destination in Italy) during the peak time of the year will be busy so there is not much you can do about that other then not go.

Personally, I loved Vernazza as you can walk the whole town in 10 minutes and they have a fantastic harbour to go swimming in. Sure trains might be busy, but it doesn't matter if you are in Vernazza, Montorosso or anywhere in the CT, they are all serviced by the same trains.

Posted by
204 posts

I am sorry for wording my question the way I did. I have been to Italy before so am aware of the crowds. What I was asking is if this area has been over written about that I would be disappointed, in the "old Italy". I gather from the responses and I guess ultimately I knew that Italy will never be the same as it was 20 years ago, so I guess I better go with the flow and not miss another fantastic area. Thank you all for your input. I will stay with my original plan.

Posted by
10344 posts

"ultimately I knew that Italy will never be the same as it was 20 years ago"

Actually, much of Italy is the way it was 20 years ago, many parts of Italy are even pretty much the way they were 200 years ago; and a few special places even evoke the way they were 2000 years ago.

But not Vernazza and Riomaggiore, they've changed a lot in the last 20 years.

Posted by
3 posts

My wife and I were in CT, for an incredible vacation, in April and met some travelers from Sweden. They told us that the most frustrating part of visiting Italy is the constant flood of noisy and obnoxious Americans. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is try to blend in and spend your time there as the locals do. When in Rome...

Vernazza is an absolutley incredible place, with great restaurants and friendly people. If you go with a flexible and smartly planned 'itinerary,' I can't imagine a more charming environment. The same people that complain about too many people trying to board the trains must hate rome, because almost every bus and metro is packed, and the city is pure chaos to a visitor.

Americans are just visiting and the locals don't owe you anything, as they're just going about their day. Be respectful and polite and maybe we can shed the 'noisy Americans' moniker.

In short, Vernazza is nothing less than an incredibly beautiful and charming place to visit as long as people don't expect the red carpet to roll out when they arrive. It's definitely a place we will return to and I recommend it as strongly as possible.

Posted by
73 posts

Shelley

I stayed in Vernazza last June and found it to be quite pleasant and peaceful. The harbor is nice as are the restaurants upon it and as you alread know, you can walk the entire town in 10 minutes. Although it was a very touristy time, I didn't find it uncomfortably crowded nor pushy and we took the train everyday. Don't know you're age but, if you're looking for more "fun", I suggest Monterosso. The beach is great and seemed like a lot more young people there. Also, although CT is a beautiful place, I really don't understand all the hype. I prefer the Amalfi Coast over CT any day!Happy Travels!

Posted by
7201 posts

Angelina: You are exactly correct! Neither do I don't understand all the CT hype. I'm glad I finally saw it on my trip in early June. But I'm positive I will never be back - there are SO many nicer places to see IMO.

Posted by
3580 posts

I've been to the CT at least half a dozen times since 2001 when I spent a night in Vernazza on a RS trip. Yes, the area is special for its hiking trails, series of small towns, and beauty. Yes, it can be crowded and unpleasant. If you avoid the most popular times, i.e. May 1 week and summer and probably Easter, you can have a fine time. There are many other beach areas in Italy. Levanto and Bonassola to the north of the CT come to mind. Santa Margherita has a trail to Portofino but not much beach; it is a lovely small city. Both coasts of Italy have beaches and beach towns.

Posted by
18 posts

I visited Vernazza in mid-May. I found it to be very crowded during the day, but quiet in the morning and evenings. While lovely, there isn't much to do there. I did hike between 3 of the towns. I was warned, fortunately, not to take my 80 year old mother on the hikes in and out of Vernazza, very difficult terrain. I'm glad I saw it but wouldn't go back, while I would go back to almost every other spot in Italy. Maybe it's just me, don't get the hype.

Posted by
204 posts

As scenery, as quaint, the CT can't be beat. But like a Costwold house, once seen, there isn't much to do, unless you enjoy watching all the tourists hordes Rick has brought to this once-lovely part of the Italian coast. Try going there in the winter to see the romantic, rough, wild place it used to be, BR, that is, Before Rick.

Posted by
26 posts

We were on a 2 week trip to Italy last October and spent 2 nights in Vernazza. Loved it. The views from the trail a little north of Vernazza down onto the harbor and town are spectacular. We also took the train south to Riomaggiore and hiked the trail back to Vernazza. Enroute we enjoyed each of the towns - all a little different.

I'd go back to CT in a heartbeat. Have fun.

Jeff

Posted by
19 posts

Shelley - I just got back from Vernazza...we were there the June 15-19. The first few days we didn't notice that it was crowded but by Thursday and Friday it was obvious that the crowds were picking up. We noticed that the crowds left Vernazza and went somewhere else by 5pm and the town became quiet again. I don't think you will have any problems in May. We never found the restaurants crowded or the trains an issue. We loved Vernazza and after seeing all the other towns, loved our choice.

One tip - Not sure where you are staying in relation to the train station. We were very close and I would highly recommend ear plugs...we always travel with them. We heard the trains, woke up and went right back to sleep so not a huge issue for us.

Posted by
313 posts

Don't skip Vernazza just because of the crowd fears. If you want to be there during the best weather, you're going to be there with lots of other people -- just like everywhere else in Europe or anywhere.

From our experience, I agree with the last poster (Kristen?) -- remember that day tours come through during the day and leave by evening. This makes Vernazza a great place to spend the morning (as it's waking up) and the evening (as it's calming down). We thought that the best plan was to stay in Vernazza but day-trip to either the other smaller towns, or larger towns such as Lucca or Pisa (frequent trains). We thought we got the best of all worlds.

Posted by
510 posts

May is still in what Rick calls shoulder season and you'll never regret going to the CT, and particular Vernazza. Trains run often both within and to the outside of the CT and we even did a (long) day trip from Florence to see where we would be going back to a week later. Monterosso is bigger, but has more hotels and tourist. If you stay there, it's a long walk from the train station to the old town.

Vernazza, on the other hand, is all downhill from the train station on its only street and there are plenty of Gelato shops on the way to ease the pain. Do not fear the crowds or size of Vernazza. Lie on the rocks, go to the church that was built in 1318 and let your imagination wander. If you like their wine, buy the grapes at the market. They're wonderful.

Posted by
204 posts

Thanks to you all for your input on this topic. I am leaving the reservations as is and will do a day trip to Riomaggiore and walk to Manarola and also a day trip to Santa Magherita Ligure/Portofino. Have been to the Amalfi Coast before so am anxious to see the CT. Again thank you for you comments.

Posted by
11782 posts

Vernazza is very quaint, I can see why it's Rick's favorite. We were there in late October. If anything, it was on the deserted side. We really liked it but the restaurants closed early and there wasn't any nightlife.

I wouldn't go in the height of tourist season because crowds would ruin my memory of the area (a favorite stop for our entire family).

In May you will beat most of the crowds (early May will be less crowded than late May). I think it will be fine at that time of year.

If you would like some nightlife (relatively speaking) Monterosso is probably the best choice.

Posted by
934 posts

I was in Vernazza a week ago.During the afternoon there were a lot of people but by 4 in the afternoon the crowds lessened.My wife and I spent 2 delightful hours just sitting and wondering while our kids walked from Corniglia.By 6PM there were still people but not crowded.By the way ll Pirata at the top of the town was one of our favorite restaurants in Italy.The brothers are a riot and the food is great.Trust them to take care of you and they will.

Posted by
58 posts

Stay in MANAROLA!

Talk about charm!

We were there last June on our honeymoon... so beautiful and quiet.

Posted by
10 posts

We were stayed in Vernazza in April of 08. Found it lovely, warm, moderately crowded by day, very very quiet at night. We had what we refer to as 'the best meal of our lives' at a restaurant on the square by the name of Vulnetia. One thing I would suggest is to stay during weekdays. We came in on Tuesday. As we were leaving on Friday, the hordes were coming in. Granted, that weekend was a national holiday. Friends of ours had been there the weekend before and thought it too crowded. If you are a purist who wants a town untouched by tourism, not a good choice. But if you are relaxed, love walking and hiking, eating good food, and visiting different little colorful towns it is wonderful. One thing to note, we live in Boston, MA- in the city. We are used to crowds so our perspective of 'peaceful' may be different.

Posted by
12 posts

CT is wonderful and Vernazza has been great every time I have been there. Ignore Kent, he has generally been negative on CT in most posts. It has always been the highlight of our many trips. All towns are good, but we found Vernazza to be the best. Good luck.

Posted by
7201 posts

Why should we ignore ANYONE who gives an honest opinion based on their own experience? I've been wanting to see the CQ for several years, and after finally visiting in June, decided that it was nice for a day or two. But overall I was unimpressed. I'm into the dramatic scenic landscapes like the Amalfi Coast or the Swiss Alps...CQ just doesn't have that jaw-dropping beauty. There really wasn't that much to do for me, and it just seemed to be swamped by tourists. Some obviously enjoy the place, and some obviously don't...and that's OK.

Posted by
445 posts

I think that everyone's opinion is not only valid but important for us to evaluate.

Sometimes I feel that people only give positive
feedback on a place which is hardly really helpful.
We should hear the good, bad and indifferent. I get the feeling that people are being too politically correct which is hardly constructive.. Tell it as it is!!!

There is a wide range of people on this forum...young and old, inexperienced and experienced traveles, people from small towns and people fom big cities all of whom have different experience and expectations.

SOmeone recently said that they weren't excited about Lake Como but they were from Colorado which could explain it..too many mountains in his experience. So you have to take each comment and evaluate it, or someone said...consider the source.

Too many people are brainwashed by what Rick says.
Just because he thinks a place is great it doesn't mean you have to go there. Make your own priorities.

I have never been to the CT and it is not on my hit list at the moment. It seems to me that it has become too popular and crowded. I am sure it is lovely in the right conditions but I don't think summer is the time. But this is just my opinion.

So let's have negative opinions as well as glowing ones. It is far more constructive.

Posted by
10344 posts

At first I thought Mark's post (to ignore me) was from my wife: she's been known to give the same advice (and she's usually right). Sometimes I even ignore me.

Posted by
87 posts

I vote Not to ignore Kent! Although I did love the Cinque Terre.

Posted by
2525 posts

Kent is on target. We visited Vernazza in the early 90s and it was an attractive fairly quiet town. Visiting a decade later and massive crowds were present. Far too many folks, but surely fine for most I suppose. Also, we’ve had delightful meals there and simply dreadful meals….all recommended by RS.

Posted by
7201 posts

We had 2 great dinners in Monterosso's old town at Pizzeria da Ely. It was obviously a mom & pop establishment because our waitress kept referring to the older lady behind the counter as "Momma" and said that Momma made all the desserts from scratch. The food was A+ Excellent and even the desserts were to die for. Now I know Europe has some wonderful chocolates and pastries, but desserts in restaurants usually consist of a cup of ice cream possibly with some fruit or a cookie. These desserts were wonderful cheesecakes with layered fruits, vanilla fruit tarts, too many to remember - but they were all wonderful!

It's kind of odd because someone wrote a comment about them in our hotel's guestbook about how Pizzeria da Ely was rude and the food mediocre. Don't know where that came from, but it sure wasn't the case when we were there in June.

Posted by
10 posts

I just got back from Vernazza and stayed in franci maria rooms. It was a great area, wonderful coastal city and Franco maria is such a nice person. no shoving in trains! Robin

Posted by
111 posts

I agree with Maryann, "you have to consider the source". I've lived in Utah, Alaska, San Francisco and now LA. So the places I liked best in Italy are Tudcany and Rome. By the way, I would never ignore Kent. He's heaven sent in planning my fabulous trip.

Posted by
204 posts

I've been reading Rick's helpline since 2006 (our first trip to Italy) then Austria,France,Spain and Portugal 2007, Kent has been most informative and I for one value his opinion. It does not say I have to make a decision on his opinion alone. Where would any of us be if we did not have a helping hand once in awhile.
Thanks again for all you comments and Vernazza is it. Reservations made May 2010 at Franca Maria. Certainly the comments on the restaurants are most helpful too.

Posted by
1139 posts

Here is a quote from my oldest copy of "Europe through the Backdooor" published in 1980:

"Vernazza is my favorite town. It has only one Pension, so the decision of where to stay is an easy one. When I stayed there a pleasant single with dinner cost me only $8.00. The other three towns of the Cinque Terra also deserve exploration: Corniglilia...Riomaggiore...and little Manarola. These last three towns lack overnight accommodations for tourists" (periods indicate some of the text left out due to space limitations)

Things have changed. By the way, in this book he laid out a 10 week "dream" trip that he estimated would cost $2,000. What hasn't changed: There is a whole section titled "pack light, pack light, pack light".

Posted by
10344 posts

Connie, very good! Thank you for taking the time to dig out the quotes about Vernazza and the CT from the 1980 ETBD!

Outside of a certain building in Edmonds, you may have one of the very few copies of the 1980 ETBD!

I found it interesting that in 1980 Rick thought of the CT as four, not five, villages--back then he excluded Monterosso from his concept of the CT. I can see why.

Posted by
16 posts

I was there in May for 4 days and am going back in August......and I want to retire there (already have my apartment with terrace in Monterosso picked out). Yes, there are wayyyyyyyyyy too many tourists, but the water, the villages, the boat rides, even the rigorous hike, everything is beautiful.

If you absolutely can't stand crowds and dealing with other tourists, well, maybe you should rethink or try Santa Margherita Ligure (also stayed there, but don't like the beach as much).

Posted by
118 posts

Ok, I just went to Vernazza and stayed there in May for 3 nights and 4 days! I saw no pushing and shoving! I went to all of the towns, and I can confirm that days are busy in Cinque Terre- I saw lots of school groups in the days- but afternoons and nights were not busy at all! We loved Vernazza and all the Cinque Terre and found nothing negative about this town! THE BEST ITALIAN FOOD CAN BE FOUND HERE, AND WE WENT TO ROME, AND VENICE AND FOOD IS SO MUCH BETTER HERE! Love Cinque Terre!

Posted by
1001 posts

Just returned from a 3 week trip to Italy several days ago. Spent 4 nights in Vernazza in Room 1 at Francamaria's. Great harbor and square views! This was my 3rd visit here--2002 and 2006 with my husband and 2 sons and this time with my sisters, neither of whom had been there before. We had a wonderful time and it was great fun being there when they were celebrating their patron saint day, July 20. Lots of activities and games for the kids on the harbor and the best fireworks ever on Monday night! 2 of the 4 nights had lots of action going on but the other 2 days and nights were much quieter and I didn't think bad at all as far as crowds. We saw no pushing on any of the trains. Took the boat to Portovenere one day which was beautiful. Nighttime in Vernazza is so beautiful! The day we arrived in Vernazza the waves were just huge slapping way over the breakfront. Much of the walkway was roped off to keep people back and away from the huge waves. Have never seen it like that before but it was wonderful to fall asleep to those crashing waves. Enjoy Vernazza and the C.T.!!

Posted by
934 posts

I was in Vernazza in June with my family and we loved it.Lots of people in the daytime but after 4PM crowds thinned out.

Posted by
8 posts

I just visited Vernazza last month. I would not stay there as there really isn't much to see or do. Monterosso is a bit better but I think Portovenere is the best place to stay and you can take the boat up the coast (1 hr ride )or the train (1/2hr) to the CT. The views from the boat are breathtaking and the town of Portovenere is quite nice. Lerici across the Poet's Bay is another possibility.All my family live about 45 min away and this is also their recommendation.