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Best of Tuscany 12-day tour - report

We finished our 12-day RS tour of Tuscany today; a few quick thoughts:

Florence was jam-packed; venues were all very busy, even though we were able to visit some of the museums fairly easily with our RS guide. Would I recommend Florence right now? Not at all.

The rest of the Tuscany visits were very nice; Siena was busy but not overwhelming, and my wife and I both loved it, enjoyed it more than Florence by far.

Today we arrived in the Cinque Terre for a 2-day extension; it's an absolute zoo here. The crowds, especially just after a train unloads, are almost overwhelming. We're traveling with my brother and his wife, and all of us are seriously underwhelmed, even though the view is very nice. Would I recommend the Cinque Terre right now? No way.

We were in Italy a year ago March, when things were just opening back up, and it was wonderful to visit sites in Rome, Naples, Venice; right now it's pretty crazy, with so many tourists everywhere. Not what we expected here in the Cinque Terre.

Maybe tomorrow will be better, but were not very hopeful, honestly, and we're very happy travelers, look for the good in our visits--but being here is like being in an Italian Disneyworld.

Posted by
8264 posts

Unfortunate but after the Covid lockdown NOT surprising people want to travel.

Anyway you can leave the area? Head Further North, South or inland?

Posted by
694 posts

The last time we went to the Cinque Terre was about 12 years ago in March on a weekend, and it was just as you describe. Most of the tourists at that time were Italians and other Europeans. I can’t imagine it being more crowded than it was then, but I know it must be.

Posted by
981 posts

@bob you are just a few miles away from a gem unknown to most Americans, Lerici. I read an article in the NYT about Lerici several years ago and so we spent a few days there instead of CT. Quite different from CT and perhaps what you are looking for in a day trip. You'll need to be comfortable trying to get by with a few Italian phrases since English is less commonly used. Another visit possibility is Porto Venere out in the bay; we took the ferry there from Lerici and had a good time exploring.

The Lerici article is viewable at

Posted by
3110 posts

My first visit to Italy was in 2010 - and I absolutely had to go to the Cinque Terre - lots of RS videos and guidebooks at work here. Were it not for Rue Cler in Paris, the Cinque Terre would be the biggest disappointment I have ever experienced in Europe.

Posted by
6108 posts

We've been on three RS tours that visited the Cinque Terre. I know some people love it, but for us, once was definitely enough. The crowds are overwhelming.

The penultimate time we were there, I did go out in the late afternoon while Stan was napping, and actually enjoyed myself. The crowds where much smaller; I was able to wander some back streets, buy some supplies, and make a dinner reservation without having to wallow through hordes of people.

Posted by
118 posts

I'm glad to see that we're not the only ones to find the Cinque Terre a morass of tourists and elbow-to-elbow trains.

I'm surprised that I hadn't heard that before; had we known, we certainly wouldn't have added these 2 nights to our trip.

We went out this morning, got to the 4th town (Vernazza), where we had lunch; the crowds were enormous by the time we boarded the train back to Riomaggiore at 2pm. Sadly, because of my brother's injured Achille's tendon and the rain, there was no way we were going to walk on the trails between towns, and had to resort to the train instead. We didn't see the beautiful images that we've seen of the towns, even though the colors are beautiful where we could see the buildings--we just didn't get the views at a distance, and were unwilling to spend any more in the crowded streets or on the ferry that was teeming with passengers.

Another interesting bit: the waiter at lunch had certainly learned to encourage tipping. He made a point to tell me that tips were not included in the check; I gave him 10% and I'm sure he was satisfied with that. He also made it clear that each person at our table of four had to order lunch, that the table was for people "who wanted to eat lunch."

Posted by
222 posts

We returned last week from our trip to France, Switzerland and Italy. My sister in law and her husband wanted to see Cinque Terre. We arrived in Vernazza on a Thursday evening. It was not crowded, though outdoor seating for dinner was mostly full (about 8 PM). Due to colds picked up in Switzerland and being tired, we did not hike. On Friday we had a late start and Vernazza was packed by mid to late morning. We took the train south and visited Riomaggiori an Manrola, then Monte Rossa. By the time we returned in late afternoon Vernazza was much better. The next day we took the ferry boats down then back up the coast. Trains were not terribly crowded when we went. Boats were full, but not unexpected on a beautiful Saturday in late May.
Both Friday and Saturday were lovely in Vernazza in the evening. We were able to sit by the waterfront due to a no show for a reservation on Friday. Saturday we had reservations in Monte Rossa but canceled in favor of just pizza due to colds.
Both nights we got to enjoy local celebrations—not sure the first but they paraded around with a band and flags, then took over a restaurant (it was closed to others that night). Saturday night it was at least one wedding party. We saw 2 different wedding groups but not sure if the band was for one or both.
Was it really crowded? Yes. But the crowds died down in the evening for a lovely time.
Would I stay in Vernazza again? Maybe. But I’d consider Levanto. And when visiting the 5 towns—start early, prepare for crowds, and enjoy the evening.

Posted by
290 posts

I did Heart of Italy tour starting March 12 in 2018 and I must have gotten lucky because on March 16-17 in the CT there weren’t crowds in the towns or trains. Just a comfortable amount of folks around. It was the first scheduled tour of the year. We were lucky with the weather on the trip too; love being as off season as possible.