Cinque Terre Insider

American expat insight into Italy's fabulous "Five Lands"

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I imagine you’ve seen plenty of picturesque photos of the Cinque Terre villages with their colorful buildings that defy gravity as they cling to the cliffs. Keep in mind that while you’re appreciating the beauty of these villages you will also be climbing the stairs & inclines that go along with such unique geography. 

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These stairs and inclines are just a part of what makes this area unique (and traffic-free).

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For most people, the stairs are really only an issue upon arrival/departure as that’s when they have their luggage in tow.  Here’s my advice to help you lessen that burden:

less luggage = less stress = HAPPIER TRAVELER! 

  • Pack light.  There’s really no reason why you should bring everything but the kitchen sink with you.  It’s easy to do laundry here (you can either hand wash or hit up the local wash & dry) so that should help you cut back significantly on what you need to bring.  Avoid packing for “what if” scenarios (e.g. “What if I get invited to the opera and need black tie attire?”  “What if it snows in August?” etc.).  If in a pinch, you can always buy whatever you need here.
  • Know your limits.  You should only pack as much as you can carry (and carry relatively easily, at that).  Ladies, the damsel in distress act won’t work every single time so don’t count on it.  Be self-sufficient and able to handle your own luggage, without breaking your back.  Remember:  Less is more!
  • Ask about porter services.  So, you didn’t take my advice and you’ve overpacked.  Unless you are staying in a 4 or 5-star hotel, you shouldn’t be expecting other people to schlep your bags for you.  Ask your host if there’s a porter available for hire.  It will be money well spent!

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Speaking of luggage, avoid committing these social blunders while in Italy:

  • Letting your bags *bang* down the stairs is considered rude and makes Italians cringe.  This faux pas is magnified by 100 if you’re doing it inside a building (as chances are you’re going to chip the stairs and disrupt the neighbors).
  • Oftentimes people will offer a hand to help you with luggage if they see you struggling.  But never, ever assume that it’s someone else’s responsibility to carry your luggage for you.

A word to the wise…

If you are physically unable (or just plain unwilling) to climb stairs or inclines, perhaps Monterosso is the best Cinque Terre village for you.  It’s the flattest of the five villages & the most developed (so it’s more likely that you’ll find modern conveniences like elevators, taxis, etc.).

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