Cinque Terre was supposed to be a highlight of the trip for us. Except it ended up being one of the worst day trips we ever took. I know I’m bitching when on an Italian vacation, but when you pay for something; you expect to be guaranteed what you paid for right? The terrible day trip aside, Cinque Terre is really beautiful and I managed to capture what I could in just the little time I was there.
We booked our small group Cinque Terre through Viator and then a company FlorenceTown was handling it. We met there at 8am, and 2 guys were there and told us to split up and get into the vans. No introductions or anything. No, Hi my name is such and such and we’re going to such and such. Nothing like that. They could have just said get in the damn van and put a bag over our heads, felt like the same thing. So Kristen and I get in a van with 5 other women and a guy who never introduced himself. To this day, I still don’t know his name!
Everything is fine and we’re driving out of Florence in the rush hour traffic, and the tour guide driving the mini-van kept pulling over. I thought he was just letting the other van catch up, but then he tells us. “Um, we have to go back and switch vans. there’s a problem with the van.” I was in shock and didn’t know what that was going to mean for our trip. The logical thing to do was have someone meet us with another van and then we didn’t have to lose so much time on the day trip. But nope, we went almost all the way back where I asked the guide, “so what exactly happened?” The van has an issue and was stalling and we had to switch he tells me. I just nodded and faced facts that this trip was going to be a disaster. I was thinking to myself, isn’t this something you should check first before you take a bunch of people on a tour for the day?
3 of the women who were with our tour, decided to go back to Florence with the other van and not do the trip. So it was just the 4 of us left. In the end, they were the smart ones because we got gipped out of seeing 1 or 2 villages in Cinque Terre. I asked the Tour Guide With No Name what was going to happen to the tour now, and he said we’d still see the same stuff but just be pushed back until later. I was okay with that. So the entire time we were under the impression we would be seeing the stuff we paid over 200 dollars each for.
So we started to drive back to Cinque Terre area and that was over a 2 hour drive. It was a nice scenic drive, and I thought we saw the Alps from afar unless that was some other mountain range. As we were going through toll booths, our guide was having problems with his EZ pass type of thing. So on top of all the problems, he was having issues with the damn toll booth pass now too. He was having a really bad day but no need to take it out on us. We finally got out of the mini-van and then parked in some garage, we then had to take a train to the next village since you can’t drive to Cinque Terre. We were told we were meeting up with the other group that already saw 1 or 2 villages. So essentially they got to see a lot more stuff and we ended up getting screwed over and tagging along to their trip. So by the time we got to Cinque Terre, it was almost 1pm!
So the first thing the rest of the group wanted to do was eat lunch. 2 fucking hours later and no more blue skies, we had only a half hour to see the one village we were at and take pictures. The way the day was going, I was not surprised it started to drizzle a little. I was just so annoyed at this point that this tour guide barely told us anything that was going on, barely gave us any time to see anything and was too busy chatting with the local restaurant owners. I’d tried to strike up a conversation with this guy and he was just not personable in any way. I have bad days at work too but geez, at least make the rest of the day enjoyable for your paying customers.
We got back on the train again and had to take it to the next stop, of course we barely knew that since the tour guide barely told us. We had to watch what he was doing to see where he was going to go. We then made a trek through the street and up the hill, and the Unknown Tour Guide was zooming pass everybody and went way ahead. Apparently he wanted us to follow him and I said fuck it, I’m going to take pictures and I’ll catch up in a minute. I’m glad I did that or else I wouldn’t have gotten any pictures. I don’t know what the rush was, because we just ended up going to a Gelato shop. Like I haven’t had that on the trip yet.
Once we had gelato, we were all standing around for 5 minutes or so and I had to go get the tour guide, who was talking with the owner. I said, “um can we walk around now??!” “Ok guys, you have 15 minutes to walk around but back here because we have a train to catch.” 15 freakin’ minutes! I couldn’t even take a bathroom break in that time and see anything special. Kristen and I ended up just standing around and went to the beach and didn’t venture too far. We were trying to make the best of the situation and take fun photos. We ended up seeing the nice couple from Wisconsin there and talked to them about the nightmare of a tour we were having. We got some photos of them and they got a bunch of photos of us, and then we had to go back to meet with the Worst Tour Guide Ever.
Kristen and I were still under the impression that we would be seeing the other villages. We got on the train but it was going back the way we came, so then I knew that wasn’t the case anymore. What a freakin’ disappointment that was. The sight-seeing of Cinque Terre was over and we only (barely) had 45 minutes to see it. We separated from the other group and asked if we could actually use the bathroom before we got in the van. We did that and then it was a long 2 hours of silence and awkwardness. The guide didn’t say anything to us. Not a sorry, not a goodbye, just oh that’s where the office was earlier in the day. Gee thanks, I think I’ll go there right now and complain about how you suck. We just walked out of the mini-van and went right to the FlorenceTown office to file a complaint. I hate to be one of those people that complains about something like this but there was just so many things that went wrong today and the Tour Guide didn’t help either. The people in the office were sorry about what unfolded throughout the day and then they wanted us to come in again to talk to a supervisor, or we could just email them. I said I’ll just email since we had another busy day. So I did that, and got no response at all. I wrote what happened on Viator.com but of course they didn’t publish the review. Hmm wonder why?
So if anyone is planning a trip to Cinque Terre via the small group option, and hoping to get more time to explore. Yeah, that’s won’t happen and it will be a 50/50 chance something will go wrong. Since FlorenceTown didn’t respond to my email, I highly recommend booking a Cinque Terre trip on your own or through another company.
Prints in this set are available for purchase! You’ll certainly help me out if you bought a print or two! They make lovely gifts. Just Let me know which photo(s) you’re interested in (please provide alt tag or #) and I’ll give you a quote. Photos are also available for licensing to your website, magazine, facebook page, etc. as well.