Backpacker versus Tourist

One of my favorite locations in Italy sits along the Mediterranean coastline, also known as the Italian Rivera. Cinque Terre looks over the Sea while each village sits on a separate looping hill..

In order to get the best view of each small town nestled into each hill, you need to take the winding and steep hiking trail. I stayed in Monterosso, but hiking to the next town proved to be no walk in the park. The trails going to Vernazza incline quickly on what appears as a stair-master hike; the sideways logs that compose the stairs stay distanced in height from each other. I had to stop and take breaks at least six times to catch my breath. Getting to the first few cities takes a determined and in shape hiker – luckily I had been already been walking numerous miles a day from being a backpacker.

During one of my first stops to catch my breath from the hike on the way to Vernazza, I met a couple who were originally from Hawaii. We ended up hiking all the way through to Riomaggiore together – the end of the five cities. Through talking with them, I found many clear differences between a tourist and a backpacking traveler.

First of all, they hadn’t brought any water bottles with them on the hike; as a backpacker, I always had a liter of water on hand.

Second, they brought a thick travel book wanting to locate the highest starred restaurants along the journey; that sounded like a travel cheat sheet. I thought bringing a book telling you where to go was hilarious because the whole fun of travelling is the thrill of discovering places on your own. And I hadn’t even as much used a map by this point. Also, there would be no way I would carry a chunky book around taking up valuable space in my pack and adding all that extra weight to lift around.

The third difference involved how much a tourist chooses to pay and how they look for accommodations versus what a backpacker does. This couple researched all the hotels in Monterosso and found the “cheapest” one for a little over two hundred a night. I walked into town, talked to a local, whose uncle owned a little hotel/hostel and bam: cheap place to stay for about $40 a night. When I told the tourist couple this, they basically went into shock that I could stay there for that price.

Clearly, backpackers save more money, pack a bit more efficiently, and tend to be more prepared even though we don’t always plan for an advance.


3 thoughts on “Backpacker versus Tourist

  1. We worked in opposite directions – you started in Monterossa and headed southeast. I started in the last town (coming down by train from Genoa – Riomaggiore, and headed back the other way. Though I spent most of my vacation walking – but wasn’t a backpacker. I stayed in Milan, Varenna, Bellagio, and Genoa. I visited those towns plus Stressa, plus Bergamo, plus Como. I enjoy being on the ferries on Lake Como, or riding the trains between cities.

    I guess I’m not as adventurous as you are. Thanks for the nice writieup of your travels in Italy. Am enjoying them.



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