My next big (ad)venture…

My little blog, which I started back in September of 2014, has blown me away.  I remember my tech guy (Ciao Francesco!) encouraging me to start a blog and me laughing and telling him, The last thing I have time for is a blog.”  But here I am, a little over three years later with a blog with 100+ posts, hundreds of comments and well over half a million views.  To put it lightly, I am shocked. And flattered.  And excited.  The future seems wide open.

It wasn’t until last year that I realized that I could (and should!) shift my attention away from our family business (more about what that is and my story can be found here) and onto the blog instead.  Up until now, Cinque Terre Insider has been a labor of love with just a few bucks brought in through Amazon Associate links to help cover its hosting (grazie mille to those of you who have made purchases through the links!). But now I’m finally starting to see what people have been telling me for quite some time:  I can make the blog my actual job.

If so many people are seeking help online for details on the Cinque Terre obviously there’s a hole in the market for practical tips, expert advice and insight (and no, simply visiting the area a time or two does not constitute an expert). It still surprises me how many travelers entrust their trip planning to people who have never even set foot here. Only a local will know the ins and outs, where to find the best hospitality and how to get off the beaten path to discover the best of the Cinque Terre.

Photo credit: Nicole O’Neil Photography

Those who know me personally know that I’m a planner, almost to a maniacal degree.  I love to think things through, including every teeny-tiny and minute detail.  I hate to be taken by surprise and you’ll never catch me without a Plan B.  I love to organize things (whether it be a vacation, my closet, or just a get-together with friends).  I also have a love of information (in case you haven’t already noticed from the posts on the blog).  The driving force behind creating Cinque Terre Insider was my frustration and exasperation with the lack of current and correct information on the Cinque Terre out there on the web. Being bilingual and living here has major advantages.  Every single day I’m reading articles and press releases in Italian and processing them to see if it’s something of interest to those planning to visit the Cinque Terre.

So this is my next big (ad)venture… I’m going to be flanking Cinque Terre Insider with consultation and concierge services.  My goal is to help you make the most of your trip to the Cinque Terre, to make your precious time here seamless so you can stress less and enjoy more.  We all know that Cinque Terre is a slice of paradiso, I want you to make the most of it while you’re here.  You can do that with a personalized, tailor-made itinerary that includes insider info as well as tips & advice from yours truly.

Photo credit: Nicole O’Neil

Here’s a breakdown of what I will be offering:

Consultation Services

Do you have questions about our area and you’re not sure who to ask?  Are you getting all the logistics jumbled and need some expert help? Whether you’ve already put together your own itinerary (and want some input and polishing) or you’re looking for an itinerary built from scratch just for you, I’ve got you covered.

Concierge Services

Over the years I’ve been asked a gazillion times to help people orchestrate a special day or moment here in the Cinque Terre. Planning to pop the question?  Have a special birthday or anniversary to celebrate? I can pack you an exquisite basket for a romantic beach picnic, arrange a photographer, bring you a cake or flowers (or both!), book you a private boat or even an opera singer.  If you can dream it, I can arrange it. Having difficulties making a reservation for that special restaurant (or boat excursion or cooking class)?  I can do that, too.

To top it off, I’m offering myself up for “A day with Amy.”  I will be at your side to smooth *everything* for you for the entire day.  Am I a guide?  No.  Think of me as your personal travel coordinator/translator/concierge/Italian speaking BFF.  We’ll create a personalized itinerary together and I’ll be there firsthand to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch. You’ll see just how smooth and easy traveling Italy can be when you do it with a local.

Is your interest piqued?  Want to know more?  Shoot me a message, I’ll be happy to chat.

Photo credit: Nicole O’Neil Photography

P.S. Please don’t forget that I’m on Italian time (GST+1). No matter what, you should expect a reply from me within 24 hours.  Grazie mille! 

Traveling by train in Italy? You’ll want to read this post first


Italy is one of the best connected countries by train.  Many people travel the entire boot without even touching the seat of a car (including me, 15 years ago).

Once you get the hang of it, traveling by train in Italy is pretty easy. However, when you consider that many travelers do not use public transport at home and add to that the language barrier, you’ve got potential for a lot of confusion.  So, here I am to break it down for you in hopes that it will make your travels smoother.

First things first, check the train schedules in advance.  I’m a planner at heart.  My best advice is to know what trains you’d like to catch, even before leaving your home country. My MVP resource is the official TrenItalia website which is where you can check train times & schedules quickly and easily. I’ve linked to the English version of the website but if you are manually typing in the URL you’ll need to click the British flag to change languages.  On this website you can also purchase your tickets in advance (recommended) using a major credit card or PayPal.

Travel tip: To purchase train tickets in Italy, I recommend using *only* the official TrenItalia website.   Any other site will be an intermediary and some sort of commission or surcharge will be applied.  Also, the TrenItalia website oftentimes has special dicounts & promos that other sites won’t have (bonus!).

Once you’re on the TrenItalia website, enter in where you plan to leave from and where you’d like to arrive, including the date and time of interest, and ta-da! The site will do all of the work for you, connections included.

Heads up: Keep in mind that even though the TrenItalia website may be available in English, you’ll need to use the Italian names for cities in your search query.  Here’s a list of the main cities and their principal train stations (where 99% of travelers will arrive or depart from, if you will be using a secondary station and you know the name, choose that option).

  • FLORENCE: Firenze S. Maria Novella
  • GENOA: Genova P. Principe or Genova Brignole
  • MILAN:  Milano Centrale
  • NAPLES: Napoli Centrale
  • PISA: Pisa Centrale
  • ROME:  Roma Termini
  • VENICE: Venezia S. Lucia (on the island) or Venezia Mestre (on the mainland)

Each of the five Cinque Terre villages has its own train station and you can enter them as either an arrival or departure station.  They are:

  • MONTEROSSO Beware, there is also a station called Monterosso Marche which is in a completely different region and NOT the station you want!

There are a few instances where I might hold off on purchasing rail tickets in advance.  An example would be on the day your flight arrives to Italy (as it’s not uncommon to experience flight delays, missed connections etc.).  I wish that wasn’t the case because honestly the last thing you want to do after a long flight is to queue up and buy your tickets (with your luggage in tow).  FYI:  If you decide to purchase your ticket in advance and you have travel insurance for your trip (which I highly recommend, you won’t catch me traveling without it!) you should be able to file for a refund for your railway ticket if there’s a documented airline delay.  Be sure to read the fine print on your travel insurance policy in advance so you know all the details.

Tidbits of advice for traveling by train in Italy

Regional trains (the slow poke ones) never sell out as the seats are not assigned.  By the way, this includes the Cinque Terre Express trains (which I’ve already explained in detail here).  TrenItalia sells an unlimited number of tickets for these trains so if you want to hold off on buying them, you’re fine (but know that holding off could mean lots of wasted time in a long lineup at the station).

The faster trains (InterCity and Freccia) do sell out as they have assigned seats and only a limited number of tickets are available.  You’ll definitely want to book these train tickets in advance (whether on the TrenItalia website or at a train station when you’re already here in Italy).  If you don’t book your tickets in advance you risk not being able to catch the train that you’d like.

Worried about an Italian train strike?  Check out my previous topic on the subject here.  Did you know that Italy’s premier Freccia trains are exempt to the strikes?  While they are a bit more expensive than the other trains, you can justify the extra cost as “strike insurance.”   Plus, they are Italy’s fastest and poshest trains (score!).

Traveling with paper tickets?  Be sure to validate them before boarding the train!  You’ll find the validating machines throughout the train stations.  Failure to stamp your ticket results in an expensive and totally avoidable fine (click here for more details).  Technically, tickets for trains with seat assignments don’t require validation (as they are only good for that one specific train) but I personally recommend that travelers *always* stamp their tickets (as it will keep you in the habit and you won’t have to think too much about which ones need stamping and which ones don’t).  My thinking: There’s no penalty for stamping a ticket that didn’t need to be validated, but there’s a hefty one for not stamping one that required it… so, why not? You only need to stamp a ticket once.

At most railway stations you’ll see an electronic screen with the train arrivals and departures.  These are great because if there are any delays or cancelled trains it will be posted on the board, just to the right of the specific train affected.  If you’re  in a teeny-tiny or remote station without the screens, you’ll need to look for the old-fashioned printed schedules for arrivals and departures (in this case, you’ll need to listen for vocal announcements if there are delays or cancellations).  Here’s important vocab to help you decipher the schedules (both printed and electronic):

  • ARRIVI: arrivals
  • PARTENZE: departures
  • DESTINAZIONE: the last stop or final destination of the train
  • ORARIO: time
  • BINARIO: platform  Sometimes abbreviated to “BIN” on the screens, this will tell you what platform number you need to make your way to in order to catch your train.
  • RITARDO: delay  Sometimes abbreviated to “RIT” on the screens, this will tell you how many minutes a given train is running late.  For example, if you are wanting to catch the 10:00 train and the screen lists a delay of 20 minutes you can expect your train to arrive at 10:20.
  • SOPPRESSO: cancelled  Sometimes abbreviated to “SOPP” on the screens, you’ll usually only see this in rare instances (like during a strike or when a train breaks down).

I find that it can be a bit confusing for people when looking at the departures board and trying to figure out which platform they need to be on. I recommend simply looking on the screen for the train time rather than hassling with the train numbers. 99% of the time there will only be one train at that specific time (in the rare case that there are two trains listed at the same exact time then refer to your train number). 

Don’t forget that only the final destination of the train will be displayed on the screen. All of the stops prior to that will not be listed on the board. In order to see those you will need to check the fine print on the traditional schedule. I actually love the new option on the TrenItalia website that lets you see how many stops there will be prior to your destination (including arrival and departure times for each stop):

Are you considering buying a Eurail pass for your time in Italy?  Think twice about it and do the math (which is easy now that you can consult the TrenItalia website online).  I was duped into buying one on my first trip to Italy and I soon learned that it would have been much, much cheaper to just buy point-to-point tickets (*sigh*).  Learn from my mistake!

Don’t forget to be vigilant of your personal belongings on the trains and at the stations. More on that here.

I know I’ve crammed lots of info into just one post, but these are all things that I wish someone would have explained to me all of those years ago.

Safe travels!


8 things you need to hike the Cinque Terre

View over Vernazza from the Sentiero Azzurro

I love to hike. It’s ironic that I live in hikers’ paradise yet I don’t get out trekking nearly as much as I’d like. Luckily for me, my collaboration with Randonnée has pushed me to get back out on the trails to rediscover this place I love.

I’ve oftentimes been asked what I recommend people take hiking with them here in the Cinque Terre. Here are the 8 things I always have with me:

  1. Proper footwear. Look, it’s not necessary to have hiking boots (though some people prefer them). Trainers are just fine so long as they have decent tread on them.
  2. A daypack. You’ll want a small, lightweight backpack to hold all of your necessities. I personally prefer one with lots of pockets and zippered compartments. When I’m hiking with someone else we bring one daypack between the two of us and trade off wearing it. 
  3. Water.  I love me some ice cold water while out on the trail. One of my must-have items is a double walled, stainless steel insulated water bottle. This thing can keep things ice cold for hours (the manufacturer says mine keeps things hot for 12 hours or cold for 24 hours, I can personally attest that I’ve had my water stay ice cold for 8+ hours!). I love that there’s no condensation and everything else in my pack stays nice and dry. I bought mine here in Italy from Amazon but it’s a brand currently available only in Europe. I found this one on that looks just like mine and it has amazing reviews. Of course, you can just buy a bottle of water if you prefer but this is a green, reusable option that you can use throughout your Italian travels (not to mention when you get back home).
  4. Something to eat. Depending on where I plan to hike, I pack either a snack (my go-to is fruit) or a sack lunch (I usually have a panino made at a local alimentari before I head off). 
  5. Comfortable clothing. On a recent hike I saw some people wearing some pretty unconventional hiking attire (think: sundresses and trench coats *gasp*).  You’ll find me wearing comfortable leggings (or shorts in the warmer season) and either a t-shirt or tank top.  Your best bet is to layer as there are parts of the trails that are fully exposed to the sun (and hot) and others that are in the shade (and quite chilly). I wear a lightweight The North Face jacket made with Gore-Tex (which is perfect for protecting me from wind & rain) just like this one. I love that I can wear this and skip a sweatshirt because even though it’s thin & breathable it actually keeps me quite warm! And unlike bulkier jackets or heavy sweatshirts, I can easily tie it at my waist when I don’t need it.
  6. Photo ID. By law in Italy, you are required to always have valid ID on you. If you are a non-EU citizen this means you are always required to have your passport with you; EU citizens can get away with carrying a government issued identity card or drivers license.  For those feeling iffy about carrying your passport with you (which I totally understand given the prevalence of pickpockets on the trains), at the very least take a decent quality photocopy of the main page of your passport with you. 
  7. Cash. Carry enough cash with you to cover the costs you’ll incur (for example, for the hiking pass if you’re planning to hike the coastal trail, transport tickets, a little pocket money for gelato or focaccia, etc.). I usually take €20 with me. I don’t see any reason to take more than €50 (unless you have grand plans for lunch or shopping along the way).  If you feel nervous having only cash with you, bring along one credit card, just in case. 
  8. Your phone. Optional: A fancy-schmancy camera. Unless you’re a photog or a shutterbug, there’s really no reason to bring a camera and your phone (as the latest smart phones can take some pretty great pictures).

    All of my photos are taken with my iPhone.  Not too shabby, eh?

    I won’t lie though, the GoPro Hero 5 is on my wish list and I’d totally hike with it if I had one. While having a camera (and fancy equipment) is optional, your mobile phone is essential in case of emergency on the trails or elsewhere (dial 118 for medical emergencies or 115 for the fire department).

That’s it! If you’ve checked these 8 things off of your list then you’re ready to get out and conquer the Cinque Terre trails. 

Here are some more tips for you:

  • Lather on the sunscreen before hitting the trails. If you’re extra fair, bring the sunscreen with you so you can reapply as needed (you might want to bring a hat & sunglasses, too).
  • Wear your daypack backwards (on your chest rather than on your back) while on public transport to discourage thieves. Keep your valuables (cash, ID, phone and/or camera) in a deep (ideally zipped) inner pocket. Because, pickpockets. Being vigilant on the trains and at the stations is key. 
  • Walking sticks (a.k.a. trekking poles) are by no means a necessity, though you’ll notice certain nationalities adore them (Germans in particular). If you do decide to use them, be kind and put rubber tips on the points (as the sharp metal points dig in and deteriorate the trails).
  • Do not, I repeat, do not hike with your luggage (even if you’re traveling with a backpack).  Doing so will surely suck any pleasure out of your hiking experience. Seriously, the Cinque Terre trails will get your heart thumping without the extra 20 kilos strapped to your back! Backtracking to pick up your luggage after you’ve finished hiking will be totally worthwhile.
  • In the warmer months, pop your bathing suit in your daypack. There’s no better reward after a tough day of hiking than a dip in the Mediterranean. 

Happy trails,


*This post includes affiliate links.  If you make any Amazon purchases by clicking through the product links above you’ll help support the hosting and upkeep of the blog. Grazie mille!

Set the stage for your visit to the Cinque Terre

I’m a self-professed bookworm at heart. Or, maybe I should use the past tense as my love of reading has taken a backseat since I became a mom 5 1/2 years ago (*sigh*).  Granted, I’ve still managed to sneak in a few books and one of those lucky few happens to be Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.



This novel was actually recommended to me by my American family because the story is set in the Cinque Terre (in a fictitious village called Porto Vergogna, supposedly on the coast between Riomaggiore and Portovenere).  Do you recognize the village on the cover?  Yep, that’s Manarola!


The book, which was released in 2012 and quickly made its way onto The New York Times best sellers list, is an easy and entertaining read that will have you absorbed in the romantic and intriguing story line.

My recommendation? Read Beautiful Ruins before coming to the Cinque Terre to help set the stage and get you salivating about your upcoming trip.  Even better, bring it along with you on your travels!  Go sit at Nessun Dorma in Manarola with a glass of local white wine. Bask in the sun while flipping through Beautiful Ruins and admire the gorgeous views that mirror its cover.  Sounds pretty epic (and Instagram worthy!).  Even I am tempted to do this, and I live here!

You can purchase Beautiful Ruins on Amazon, simply by clicking here (it’s available in paperback, hardcover or E-book format).*

*Thinking about buying the book?  Please use the Amazon affiliate link above as it will help cover costs associated with the upkeep & hosting of the blog.  Grazie mille!


PARKING: A great alternative for those driving to the Cinque Terre

Updated pricing and details!

Cinque Terre Insider

You may or may not know that arrival by car to the Cinque Terre can be a bit hairy and anything but convenient.  The roads are very narrow and winding, parking is extremely limited (due to the unique geography) and also quite expensive, and the historic centers of the villages are pedestrian-only.

My advice?  Ditch the car before hitting the Cinque Terre.  If that’s not feasible, you can do the next best thing and park it at the brand spanking new underground parking garage at the La Spezia Centrale train station for €18 per day (or €8 for a half-day).  Keep in mind that rates might be higher during peak months like July and August.  You’ll definitely want to reserve your parking space online in advance (as when it’s busy the garage fills up).  Keep in mind that you’ll have to “check-out” of the parking garage by noon on your day of departure…

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Local outdoor markets

It’s funny, because I get a lot of people asking me about the weekly outdoor markets in Vernazza (on Tuesdays), Monterosso (on Thursdays), and La Spezia (on Fridays).  Maybe it’s because they are mentioned in some of the guidebooks?  People seem really excited to go see these markets and I hate to rain on their parade.  But really?  I don’t usually recommend them as aside from a booth or two most of the stuff is cheap, cheap, cheap (as the old adage says, you get what you pay for) and made in China (or pretty much anywhere else besides Italy).

But there are a few exceptions for outdoor markets that I do recommend…

  • Every morning (except on Sundays), you can witness the hustle & bustle at Piazza del Mercato in La Spezia for fruit, veg, flowers, fresh fish, cheese and cured meats.  There’s nothing touristic about this market… you’ll be elbow-to-elbow with locals doing their daily shopping.  And that’s one of the things that makes it such a neat experience. IMG_4635
  • In La Spezia there’s a once monthly antique market which can be really cool to visit (it’s the first Sunday of each month, excluding July and August, and is located at Piazza del Mercato).
  • For those that really want to experience an acclaimed outdoor market I recommend taking the train about an hour down the coast from Cinque Terre to a place in Tuscany called Forte dei Marmi.  In case you didn’t know, Forte dei Marmi is known as the “Beverly Hills” of Italy with its posh designer boutiques, VIP visitors and vast sandy beaches.  But it’s also home to a weekly outdoor market that is considered to be Italy’s best, with quality artisan “Made in Italy” products.  THIS is my kind of market!


Here’s some pretty great news:

On occasion, the Forte dei Marmi outdoor market travels to other locations.  And guess where it’s going to be tomorrow (Saturday, September 5th, 2015)? LEVANTO.  Yep.  That’s just one stop on the railway line past Monterosso.  And guess who’s going to be there?  Yours truly.  If you’re lucky enough to be in our area this weekend I highly recommend checking it out.

Traveling with kids? How best to enjoy the Cinque Terre

I wasn’t always a mom.  And to be honest, I think lots of things you really and truly don’t understand until you are one.  Like traveling with a baby/toddler/small child.  It’s not a matter of bending your child to fit your itinerary so much as bending your itinerary to fit your child. So this is my advice to you, fellow parents, for your time spent here in the Cinque Terre with your little ones.

  • Less is more.  Pare down your itinerary so you can stop and smell the roses (or lemons, in this case).  Your child will thank you for not cramming 10,000 things on the agenda for the day.


  • Ditch the stroller. Seriously, it’s a bad idea.  With all the stairs, steep inclines and cobblestone streets (not to mention the hassle of getting on & off the trains) having a stroller here is a nightmare.  Instead, opt for a baby carrier or sling.  Our little tornado is 3 1/2 and we still use a carrier for those moments when he’s too tired to walk/hike/climb the stairs.


  • For the love of all things holy, take them on the boats!  Kids love the boats.  I mean, really LOVE them.  And the ferries are a nice and relaxing way to visit the Cinque Terre.  You can find the latest schedule for the ferries here.

Ferry boat in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

  • Remember the sunscreen.  And preferably, bring it from home (I have no idea why but sunscreen is super spendy in Italy).  Your little one will definitely need it, especially in the summer months.
  • IMG_3943Hit up each village’s playground. All five villages have a playground for children.  Ask a local where the nearest parco giochi can be found and they’ll point you in the right direction.  My absolute favorite is located in Manarola at Punta Bonfiglio.  It’s maintained by a local retiree who volunteers his time for the joy of the children (do him a favor and be sure to throw trash in the bins and leave things tidy upon departure).  The location is stunning so it’s not just enjoyable for the kids but also for parents (and did I mention there’s a wine bar just beneath the playground?!?).

Monterosso’s playground in the historic center of the village

Manarola's playground at Punta Bonfiglio offers fabulous views

Manarola’s playground at Punta Bonfiglio offers fabulous views

Riomaggiore's playground is located off the beaten path (but the views make it worthwhile!)

Riomaggiore’s playground is located off the beaten path (but the views make it worthwhile!)

  • Sample lots and lots of gelato.  Your kid will love you for it.  Make a point to try as many different flavors as possible.  If you are traveling with a school age child, have them keep a “gelato journal” so they can remember of all the different flavors they’ve sampled (and where).  They’ll love sharing their journal with friends and loved ones when they get home.


  • Practice la dolce vita.  Take your little one to the piazza to play with the local children.  Grab some towels and head down to the beach.  Be an example to your child that vacation is all about relaxing and unwinding and soaking up the local culture.


Helpful pricing info for those traveling with children

Keep in mind that the age ranges for reduced rates for children vary widely.  I’ve done my best to explain and simplify here for reference.

Train travel

  • Kids under 4 travel free on the TrenItalia trains (both regional and national).  Technically, that’s so long as they don’t occupy a seat (but I’ve never had an issue with my son sitting in a seat so long as the train isn’t packed).
  • Ages 4-11 pay half price for regional trains and ages 4-13 pay half price for national trains (think: faster trains like InterCity and Freccia).
  • Kids 12 and up on regional trains and 14 and up on the national trains pay full price.

Cinque Terre ferries

  • Kids 5 and under travel on the ferries for free.*
  • Ages 6-11 pay a reduced price for tickets (ask for the ridotto rate).*

*Valid only if traveling with at least one adult.

Cinque Terre National Park passes

  • There’s no charge for kids age 3 and under to walk the Sentiero Azzurro (coastal trail).  For ages 4-17 the discounted rate for the hiking pass is €4.50/day.
  • The Cinque Terre Card (which includes the hiking pass + trains between the five villages) is €7.30/day for kids age 4-11.  Kids 12 and up pay full price (which is currently €12 per person, per day).
  • A special family rate (for 2 adults and 2 children ages 4-17) for the hiking pass is available for €19.60 per day (this would save you €4.40 off the normal rate).
  • The family rate for the Cinque Terre Card (which includes the hiking pass + the trains between the villages) is available for €31.50 per day.  This pass is valid for 2 adults and 2 children ages 4-11 (and would save you €7.10 off of the normal rate).

Tipping in Italy 101

I was just asked today what the customs are in Italy regarding mancie (tips) and it inspired this blog post.  So, here I am to give you a crash course on tipping in Italy.


Here’s the deal: We don’t tip in Italy.  Wait, I take that back.  We tip only if we’ve had what we consider excellent service.  In that case, we round the bill (unlike other areas of the world, it’s not based on a percentage).  For example, if your bill comes to €56 you could round to €60, or if it’s €89 you could round to €100.  It’s very subjective and based on your level of satisfaction (and generosity).

Italians working in the service industry in top travel destinations (think: Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Amalfi, etc.) have become quite spoiled by international travelers (that are so accustomed to leaving tips at home that they leave them here, too).  People in the service industry here love these international tippers, but tipping is by no means obligatory.  A pet peeve of mine is when a waiter specifies to diners at the end of their meal that servizio (a charge for “service,” which is oftentimes itemized on the bill) has not been included.  This is a roundabout (and cheeky) way to insinuate that a tip should be left. Mind you, they would never dare say this to an Italian.

Why aren’t tips customary in Italy?  The explanation is simple. Wages are dignitoso (decent) so those working in the service industry can make a living without needing tips to round out their income.

The PSA I wish I didn’t have to make

Security warning for theft

Here in the Cinque Terre we have a *big* thorn in our side: pickpockets that ride the trains and circulate amongst passengers at the railway stations.

As toursim in our area has dramatically increased in recent years, so have the thieves that have come to prey on said tourists.  It’s incredibly frustrating and infuriating (not only for visitors but also for locals).  And for the pickpockets it has become quite a lucrative business.


You will find warning signs posted and voice recordings playing throughout the train stations in the Cinque Terre, La Spezia and Levanto, cautioning visitors of the danger of pickpockets and thieves.  Local law enforcement agencies have tried to increase their presence in the stations and on the trains but they are outnumbered (and oftentimes outsmarted) by the young thieves.  Most of these pickpockets are young females from nomad camps in Genoa, some even sport baby bumps (*gasp*).  These thieves (or should I say those that send them?) are astute and they know their way around Italian law (which, due to a loophole, is basically “catch & release” with Roma minors and pregnant women).

On a positive note, these pickpockets know not to enter the villages themselves as they are quickly spotted by locals (who have an eye for recognizing them despite their attempts to blend in by dressing like tourists), so the villages themselves are still very safe.


Here are some tips to help keep your belongings safe while on the trains and at the stations:

  • Do not leave your luggage or personal items unattended. Ever.  It takes just a matter of seconds for those items to disappear.
  • Be especially vigilant in crowded areas and when there’s a rush to get on or off the train.  This is the easiest moment for pickpockets to snag wallets or other valuables as you are distracted (and so is everyone else, too).  The thieves usually work in teams and while one is pushing the crowd towards the door the other is using quick hands to lighten pockets and purses.
  • Keep an eye out for faces in the crowd that are watching people’s personal belongings more than people’s faces.  If you notice bag watching taking place take it as a sign and be on high alert.  Don’t forget that these thieves usually work in teams so you might see them making eye contact with a second (or third) person.
  • Be cautious when using the overhead racks on the trains or when storing a bag under your seat.  You can’t imagine how easy it is for these trained thieves to simply pull a bag out from underneath you (without you even noticing!).  And I can’t begin to tell you how many times people get up to exit the train only to remember that they left something on the overhead rack.  By the time they go back for it, it’s gone.

My recommendations for you…

  1. Do not keep all of your valuables (cash, credit cards, passports, etc.) in one spot.  The old adage, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket” definitely applies here.  Spread your valuables out in multiple places, leaving just one credit card and limited cash handy in your purse or wallet.  Once you get to your accommodations, leave valuables there rather than toting around everything with you (just bring the bare necessities when you’re out & about).
  2. If you do place your luggage on the overhead rack or beneath your seat on the train, try to wrap or clip the strap in such a way that your bag can’t be easily removed.  When I put something beneath my seat on the train I usually will have a strap wrapped around my ankle.  I am also well aware when someone sits behind me (in the back-to-back seats) and I’ll make a point of moving my belongings and making eye contact with them if they seem suspicious.
  3. I know you might cringe at the thought, but money belts really can be a lifesaver.  As mentioned previously, keep only the essentials in your purse or wallet while traveling (one credit card and enough cash to get you through your day).  Everything else (like your passport, remaining credit cards and cash) should be either tucked safely in your money belt or deep within a larger piece of luggage.  Don’t put anything you’ll need to use frequently in your money belt (because there’s nothing worse than having to partially undress in public each time you need to get something out).  In my opinion, your money belt really is the safest place for your passport.  There are lots of options for money belts out there, but this one that goes around your neck or this one that goes around your waist are both available on Amazon and have fab reviews.  For the love of all things holy, do not wear your money belt outside of your clothing (this totally defeats its purpose).
  4. Have photocopies of everything (the main page of your passport, front and back of your credit cards, etc.).  This will be really handy in the unlucky event that your belongings are stolen.  Of course, that means you should store these photocopies in a different place from the originals.  It’s also a good idea to leave a copy of these things at home with someone else, too (just in case).
  5. Buy travel insurance.   Make sure that it includes theft and be sure to read the fine print so you know what’s included (and what’s not).  If you have travel insurance and you’ve been pickpocketed you will need to file a police report for your claim.

Keep in mind that this problem is persistent throughout Italy in any of the touristic hot spots (like Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, etc.), not just the Cinque Terre. Spare yourself the heartache and headache by always being vigilant.

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Local and national holidays in Italy

Carnevale 2015

Carnevale in Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

So, you’re heading to Italy.  Maybe you want to relish in our country’s holidays.  Or, maybe you want to avoid them (and the crowds they can bring).  Here’s a listing of both local and national holidays to help you out.


  • January 1st:  New Year’s Day
  • January 6th: Epiphany                                                                                                                         
  • Carnevale: Not an official public holiday, but festivities are celebrated throughout Italy six weeks prior to Easter Sunday
  • Easter Sunday and Easter Monday: Dates change each year based on the religious calendar
  • April 25th: Liberation Day
  • May 1st: Labor Day
  • June 2nd: Anniversary of the Republic
  • August 15th: Ferragosto (Assumption of Mary)
  • November 1st: All Saints’ Day
  • December 8th: Feast of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25th:  Christmas Day
  • December 26th:  Santo Stefano (commonly known as the 2nd day of Christmas)


Each city or village in Italy has its own patron saint and will have special festivities on their saint’s day.  The Cinque Terre villages are no exception with suggestive religious processions along the narrow streets, some ending with fireworks over the water (like for San Lorenzo in Manarola).  See below for each village’s patron saint and their day of celebration.

Riomaggiore:  San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), June 24th

Manarola:  San Lorenzo (St. Laurence), August 10th

CornigliaSan Pietro (St. Peter), June 29th

Vernazza: Santa Margherita di Antiochia (St. Margaret of Antioch), July 20th

Monterosso: San Giovanni Battista (St. John the Baptist), June 24th

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Just outside of the Cinque Terre but most definitely worth a visit for their patron saint festivities:

Portovenere:  Madonna Bianca (Miracle of the White Madonna), August 17th

Levanto: San Giacomo (St. James), July 25th