Cinque Terre is one of those places in Italy that you hear about a lot, but not as much as Rome or Florence. You sort of know what there is to do there, but not really. And then once you really find out about Cinque Terre, and you start Googling pictures of what it looks like, you have to go there. There is no turning back.
But somehow, we've lived in Italy for almost two years now and had not made the short 3.5 hour drive down to Cinque Terre. There was just something really intimidating and overwhelming about the trip. Cinque Terre — literally meaning "five lands" — is five very small towns located on the precarious cliffsides along the Italian Riviera. And right after you find out about the magic of Cinque Terre, you start hearing about how overrun the cities have become with tourists, overwhelming the infrastructure of each individual town where literally 500 people may live during the offseason. It's gotten so bad that the government has proposed putting limits on the amount of tourists that can visit during peak season (though, knowing the Italian government, we'll see how long that takes to implement).
So we knew that if we were going to go to this magical national park of colorful houses, with its sea breezes, beautiful ocean views, plethora of lemon trees, and breathtaking hikes, we were going in the offseason. Because nothing gets me more curmudgeon-y than being crowded on a train with a bunch of white socks-wearing, sweaty, mouth breathing tourists, whether I'm one of them or not.