I’ll start out by saying this: Cinque Terre, Italy is one of the most beautiful little corners of the world.
Yes, that picture is real. And no, it hasn’t been photoshopped! “Cinque Terre”, meaning in Italian the “Five Lands”, refers to the 5 coastal Mediterranean towns in Italy’s Liguria region, made famous for its rainbow houses. Historically fishing villages, there’s truly something magical about the array of pastel colored houses built on towering steep cliffs, overlooking the bright blue, endless sea. Ahhhh…
Now, the problem: Where there’s jaw dropping beauty like that of Cinque Terre, well…there’s tourists. LOTS of them. I mean, the place is inundated with tourism. And you guys know how I feel about beautiful places overrun by tourists; it starts to feel like Disney Land. Every restaurant menu comes in 5 different languages, every house is perfectly painted and polished, and it’s nearly impossible to hear Italian in the streets. So, Cinque Terre; beautiful? Hell yea. Authentic? Hell no.
So, my search began to comb the region and find a hidden gem with the same stunning beauty as Cinque Terre, minus all those sunburnt tourists with oversized cameras and sun hats. And thanks to a Ligurian local’s recommendation, I found the perfect place:
It’s called Lerici.
Similar in size and feel to the towns in Cinque Terre, this still-active fishing village is painted in the same gorgeous rainbow palette as its internationally famous next door neighbor. The difference? Well, to start, real Italians live there! There’s real fishermen, real Italian restaurants, real boats docked by locals, and a super cool castle with gorgeous views.
The rainbow town has its very own beach and dock, with hundreds of little fishing boats and sail boats peacefully floating on the water, while the castle guards them from high above. Ohhhh, bella Lerici…
So, why does it remain unknown?
Glad you asked! First of all, the 5 towns of Cinque Terre are all connected by one train line. The way tourists get from one to the next is by train, or the brave can hike. In fact, there’s even a special Cinque Terre Day Pass for 16 euros that allows you to ride the train and hike from village to village as much as you want! Now, Lerici is not on this train line, which prevents the inundation of tourists. In fact, there’s not even a direct train that goes to Lerici! But no fear, it’s easy to get there by bus. (Read info below for bus details).
Secondly, Lerici doesn’t have the same international “ring” as Cinque Terre. Plain and simple.
Mangia! Where to eat:
En Tragia– I stumbled across this little tavern-like restaurant about a 3-minutes walk outside the Lerici center, and it had “AWC” written all over it. The smell of roasted garlic wafted out the door, the waiter was yelling something in Italian, and the place was packed with locals. BINGO! As suspected, the food was delicious, authentic, and really reasonably priced. I recommend the pesto gnocchi (pesto comes from the region!) and a fresh fish catch of the day.
Practical Info & Recommendations:
Where to stay: When visiting the Cinque Terre region, I recommend staying in the port town of La Spezia, the capital of the area and the biggest city of the province. Unlike its neighboring towns, La Spezia is less tourist-driven and more of a local city. It gets an overflow of tourists who want to stay in Cinque Terre, but don’t want to pay those crazy high tourist prices! You’ll also find more options for hotels and Air BnB‘s, as it’s a much bigger city than its small, picturesque neighbors. La Spezia is also very accessible to all the main sights: It’s a 10 minute train ride to Cinque Terre and a 20 minute bus ride to Lerici.
How to get to Lerici: From La Spezia take the L or S bus. You’ll be there in a short 20 min!
BONUS TIP! While in La Spezia: There is an awesome outdoor market that sells everything from fresh produce, to fine Italian cured meats and cheeses! Before heading to Cinque Terre, I went to the market in the morning and stacked up on salami, prosciutto, pesto, a variety of Italian cheese and some grapes, and had a KILLER picnic in Cinque Terre. Needless to say, everyone who passed me was extremely jealous 😉
And last but not least! When in Lerici, don’t forget to catch a sunset…
Have you been to Cinque Terre? What was your experience like? Have you discovered a Cinque Terre hidden gem?! Comment below!