I am sure there are multiple opinions on how to explore Italy’s Cinque Terre region. But here is my tiny bit of wisdom: rent a private boat or semi-private boat and view the beautiful towns tucked between cliffs from the water. If that is too expensive, you can still see the villages by using the “5 Terre” ferry boats. But they are huge and busy, particularly on the weekend and holidays. At each village stop (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Montirosso) a crowd of people pour out of the boats and flood the city. If you do take the ferries opt for weekdays, or off-season.
We were a little late booking a private boat. So our skipper showed up in a more antiquated excursion boat. To be honest, I was delighted with it. Painted blue with a large captain’s cabin in its center, the whole boat was lined with wooden railings and planking. Like our floating transport, our skipper also had character. I always worry with private excursions whether we will be stuck with some overly talkative tour guide. But Patricio was a fisherman, not a tour guide. He told us about the region without flourish and mainly just let us soak in the beauty.